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Obama Signs Military Bill That Allows Jailing of US Citizens Without Trial

December 31st, 2011 - by admin

Sara Sorcher / The National Journal – 2011-12-31 20:15:33


Obama Signs Defense Authorization Bill

WASHINGTON, DC (December 31, 2011) — President Obama signed on Saturday the defense authorization bill, formally ending weeks of heated debate in Congress and intense lobbying by the administration to strip controversial provisions requiring the transfer of some terror suspects to military custody.

“I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists,” Obama said in a statement accompanying his signature.

The White House had originally threatened to veto the $662 billion bill, considered must-pass legislation, over the language that requires mandatory military custody for suspects linked to al-Qaida or its affiliates, even if they are captured in the US Just before the House and Senate passed the bill comfortably, the White House said it would support the bill’s compromise language that, as tweaked by conference committee, would not impede the administration’s ability to collect intelligence or incapacitate dangerous terrorists.

Still, administration officials have admitted publicly the final provisions were not the preferred approach of this administration.

“Ultimately, I decided to sign this bill not only because of the critically important services it provides for our forces and their families and the national security programs it authorizes, but also because the Congress revised provisions that otherwise would have jeopardized the safety, security, and liberty of the American people,” Obama said in Saturday’s satement.

Responding to the White House’s concerns that the provisions would limit the flexibility of law-enforcement and counterterrorism officials, lawmakers added written assurances the bill would not affect existing waivers of the FBI or any other domestic law-enforcement agency. They also gave the president the authority to waive the military-detention provisions, and dropped language requiring military tribunals for all cases.

Many Democrats and human-rights groups have decried the bill’s language that would allow indefinite detention for suspected terrorists without a tria l– including Americans arrested in the United States. Supporters of the detainee provisions argue that the bill merely codifies existing law as it applies to Americans and legal resident aliens, as they retain the right to challenge their detention in court.

The bill also sets in motion strong sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank, in an attempt to rein in Tehran’s nuclear program, by impeding Iran’s ability to process payments for the roughly $90 billion in oil and gas it sells each year. The measures, which would penalize any foreign financial institution that does business with the central bank, sparked threats by Iranian officials to cut off access to the Strait of Hormuz, which could block transportation of most oil exports from the Persian Gulf.

The administration retains a national security waiver for the sanctions – and one to waive the petroleum sanctions if it determines there isn’t enough global supply to offset the lost Iranian oil – but has said it opposes being held to a timeline that could fragment to the international coalition working to isolate Iran or potentially spike oil prices.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Indefinite Detention Law Hall of Shame – List of Senators Who Voted Yes on the NDAA Bill

December 31st, 2011 - by admin

Waiting for the Storm – 2011-12-31 20:00:17


(December 14, 2011) — Below is the list of the Senators who voted yes on the NDAA bill which provides for indefinite detention of “any person who has committed a belligerent act” (See section 1031 (b) 2 of s1867 (National Defense Authorization Act of 2012).

The term “belligerent act” is extremely wide and could applied to any form of resistance including protesting in the streets or even speaking out against the US government.

Be sure to also visit the list of the twitter ids for the senators who voted for NDAA below.

Voted Yes
Sen. Daniel Akaka [D, HI]
Sen. Lamar Alexander [R, TN]
Sen. Kelly Ayotte [R, NH]
Sen. John Barrasso [R, WY]
Sen. Max Baucus [D, MT]
Sen. Mark Begich [D, AK]
Sen. Michael Bennet [D, CO]
Sen. Jeff Bingaman [D, NM]
Sen. Richard Blumenthal [D, CT]
Sen. Roy Blunt [R, MO]
Sen. John Boozman [R, AR]
Sen. Barbara Boxer [D, CA]
Sen. Scott Brown [R, MA]
Sen. Sherrod Brown [D, OH]
Sen. Richard Burr [R, NC]
Sen. Maria Cantwell [D, WA]
Sen. Benjamin Cardin [D, MD]
Sen. Thomas Carper [D, DE]
Sen. Robert Casey [D, PA]
Sen. Saxby Chambliss [R, GA]
Sen. Daniel Coats [R, IN]
Sen. Thad Cochran [R, MS]
Sen. Susan Collins [R, ME]
Sen. Kent Conrad [D, ND]
Sen. Chris Coons [D, DE]
Sen. Bob Corker [R, TN]
Sen. John Cornyn [R, TX]
Sen. Michael Crapo [R, ID]
Sen. Jim DeMint [R, SC]
Sen. Richard Durbin [D, IL]
Sen. Michael Enzi [R, WY]
Sen. Dianne Feinstein [D, CA]
Sen. Al Franken [D, MN]
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand [D, NY]
Sen. Lindsey Graham [R, SC]
Sen. Charles Grassley [R, IA]
Sen. Kay Hagan [D, NC]
Sen. Orrin Hatch [R, UT]
Sen. Dean Heller [R, NV]
Sen. John Hoeven [R, ND]
Sen. Kay Hutchison [R, TX]
Sen. James Inhofe [R, OK]
Sen. Daniel Inouye [D, HI]
Sen. John Isakson [R, GA]
Sen. Mike Johanns [R, NE]
Sen. Ron Johnson [R, WI]
Sen. Tim Johnson [D, SD]
Sen. John Kerry [D, MA]
Sen. Mark Kirk [R, IL]
Sen. Amy Klobuchar [D, MN]
Sen. Herbert Kohl [D, WI]
Sen. Jon Kyl [R, AZ]
Sen. Mary Landrieu [D, LA]
Sen. Frank Lautenberg [D, NJ]
Sen. Patrick Leahy [D, VT]
Sen. Carl Levin [D, MI]
Sen. Joseph Lieberman [I, CT]
Sen. Richard Lugar [R, IN]
Sen. Joe Manchin [D, WV]
Sen. John McCain [R, AZ]
Sen. Claire McCaskill [D, MO]
Sen. Mitch McConnell [R, KY]
Sen. Robert Menéndez [D, NJ]
Sen. Barbara Mikulski [D, MD]
Sen. Jerry Moran [R, KS]
Sen. Lisa Murkowski [R, AK]
Sen. Patty Murray [D, WA]
Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE]
Sen. Bill Nelson [D, FL]
Sen. Robert Portman [R, OH]
Sen. Mark Pryor [D, AR]
Sen. John Reed [D, RI]
Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV]
Sen. James Risch [R, ID]
Sen. Pat Roberts [R, KS]
Sen. John Rockefeller [D, WV]
Sen. Marco Rubio [R, FL]
Sen. Charles Schumer [D, NY]
Sen. Jefferson Sessions [R, AL]
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen [D, NH]
Sen. Richard Shelby [R, AL]
Sen. Olympia Snowe [R, ME]
Sen. Debbie Ann Stabenow [D, MI]
Sen. Jon Tester [D, MT]
Sen. John Thune [R, SD]
Sen. Patrick Toomey [R, PA]
Sen. Tom Udall [D, NM]
Sen. Mark Udall [D, CO]
Sen. David Vitter [R, LA]
Sen. Mark Warner [D, VA]
Sen. Jim Webb [D, VA]
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse [D, RI]
Sen. Roger Wicker [R, MS]

Voted No
Sen. Rand Paul [R, KY]
Sen. Jeff Merkley [D, OR]
Sen. Ron Wyden [D, OR]
Sen. Mike Lee [R, UT]
Sen. Thomas Harkin [D, IA]
Sen. Thomas Coburn [R, OK]
Sen. Bernard Sanders [I, VT]

Here is a list of twitter IDs for senators who voted for S1867 Defense Authorization act. #NDAA
@senjohnbarrasso @senronjohnson @senrockefeller @sen_joemanchin @pattymurray @us_sen_cantwell @markwarner @senatorleahy @orrinhatch @kaybaileyhutch @senalexander @senbobcorker @johnthune @senronjohnson @grahamblo @senwhitehouse @sentoomey @senbobcasey @jiminhofe @robportman @sensherrodbrown @senjohnhoeven @kayhagan @senschumer @sengillibrand @tomudall @SenatorMenendez @senatorlautenberg @jeanneshaheen @senatorayotte @senatorreid @deanheller @mike_johanns @senbennelson @clairecmc @rogerwicker @alfranken @stabenow @sencarllevin @johnkerry @scottbrownma @senatorsnowe @senatorcollins @davidvitter @senlandrieu @mcconnellpress @moranforkansas @tomharkin @senatorlugar @sendancoats @senatorkirk @senatordurbin @daniel_inouye @senatorakaka @senatorisakson @saxby08 @senbillnelson @chriscoons @senatorcarper @joelieberman @senblumenthal @markudall @mbennet @barbaraboxer @johnboozman @senjohnmccain @lisamurkowski @senatorbigich @senshelbypress @senatorsessions @johncornyn @marcorubio @chuckgrassley @senatorburr @senatorsanders @jimdemint

Senators who voted for the NDAA who do not have twitter accounts:
Kohl (D-WI) Webb (D-VA) Reed (D-RI) Conrad (D-ND) Bingaman (D-NM) Cochran (R-MS) Klobuchar (D-MN) Cardin (D-MD) Mikulski (D-MD) Roberts (R-KS) Kirk (R-IL) Durbin (D-IL) Feinstein (D-CA) Pryor (D-AR) Kyl (R-AZ) Risch (R-ID) Crapo (R-ID)

Following are the senators who voted *against* the act who are on twitter:
@senrandpaul @tomcoburn @senmikelee @senjeffmerkley @ronwyden @senatorsanders

Senators who votes against who are *not* on twitter:
Harkin (D-IA)

Senators Targeted for Recall after Voting to Annul Basic Constitutional Rights

December 31st, 2011 - by admin

Ralph Lopez / Oath Keepers & Lindy Greene / IndyBay.org – 2011-12-31 19:57:01


Montanans Launch Recall of Senators Who Approved NDAA Military Detention
Ralph Lopez / Oath Keepers
Disclaimer: The author is a volunteer press contact for this campaign.

MONTANA (December 25, 2011) — Moving quickly on Christmas Day after the US Senate voted 86 – 14 to pass the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 (NDAA), which allows for the indefinite military detention of American citizens without charge or trial, Montanans have announced the launch of recall campaigns against Senators Max Baucus and Jonathan Tester, and Congressman Denny Reberg, who all voted for the bill.

Montana is one of nine states with provisions that say that the right of recall extends to recalling members of its federal congressional delegation, pursuant to Montana Code 2-16-603, on the grounds of physical or mental lack of fitness, incompetence, violation of oath of office, official misconduct, or conviction of certain felony offenses.

Section 2 of Montana Code 2-16-603 reads:
“(2) A public officer holding an elective office may be recalled by the qualified electors entitled to vote for the elective officer’s successor.”

The website Ballotpedia.org cites eight other states, which allow for the recall of elected federal officials: Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wisconsin. New Jersey’s federal recall law was struck down when a NJ state judge ruled that “the federal Constitution does not allow states the power to recall US senators,” despite the fact the Constitution explicitly allows, by not disallowing (“prohibited” in the Tenth Amendment,) the states the power to recall US senators and congressmen:
“The powers not…prohibited…are reserved to the States…or to the people.” — Tenth Amendment of the US Constitution.

Montana law requires grounds for recall to be stated which show conformity to the allowed grounds. The recall drive makes the following points:

1. “The Sixth Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees all U.S citizens: “a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed…”

2. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 (NDAA 2011) permanently abolishes the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial, “for the duration of hostilities” in the War on Terror, which was defined by President George W. Bush as “task which does not end” to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001.

3. Those who voted Aye on December 15th, 2011, Bill of Rights Day, for NDAA 2011 have attempted to grant powers which cannot be granted, which violate both the spirit and the letter of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

4. The Montana Recall Act stipulates that officials including US senators can only be recalled for physical or mental lack of fitness, incompetence, violation of the oath of office, official misconduct, or conviction of a felony offense.

5. Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act reads in substance:
“Congress affirms that the authority of the President to detain … A person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda…or associated forces…including any person who has…directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces… The disposition of a person…may include… Detention…without trial until the end of the hostilities…”

6. “Substantial support” of an “associated force” may imply citizens engaged in innocuous, First Amendment activities. Direct support of such hostilities in aid of enemy forces may be construed as free speech opposition to US government policies, aid to civilians, or acts of civil disobedience.

7. Section 1021 reads: “Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law.” But “existing law” may be construed to refer to Padilla v. Rumsfeld in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the government’s claim of authority to hold Americans arrested on American soil indefinitely.

8. Thus Senators Bacus, Tester, and Congressman Rehberg who voted Aye on December 15th, 2011, Bill of Rights Day, for NDAA 2011 have violated his Oath of Office to protect and defend the US Constitution which guarantees all citizens the right to a jury trial “In all criminal prosecutions.”

Montana residents William Crain and Stewart Rhodes are spearheading the drive. Mr. Crain is an artist. Mr. Rhodes is an attorney, Yale Law School graduate, and the national president of the organization Oath Keepers, who are military and law enforcement officers, both former and active duty, who vow to uphold their Oath to the US Constitution and to disobey illegal orders which constitute attacks on their fellow citizens. Rhodes said:

“These politicians from both parties betrayed our trust, and violated the oath they took to defend the Constitution. It’s not about the left or right, it’s about our Bill of Rights. Without the Bill of Rights, there is no America. It is the Crown Jewel of our Constitution, and the high-water mark of Western Civilization.”

Rhodes noted that:
“Two time Medal of Honor winner Marine General Smedley Butler once said “There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights.” Time to fight. “

Butler famously ended his career as a Marine General by touring the country with his speech and book denouncing war, War is a Racket. Butler confessed that he had spent most of his life as a “high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers…a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism…”

Eighteen states at present have recall laws, most of which do not apply to federal officials. For these and other states to recall federal officials, state legislatures would have to first pass or amend such laws.

Rising on the House floor to oppose the bill based on the military detention provisions for Americans, Rep. Tom McClintock said before the House vote:
” Yoday, we who have sworn fealty to that Constitution sit to consider a bill that affirms a power contained in no law and that has the full potential to crack the very foundation of American liberty.”

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said in opposing the final NDAA:
“This bill also contains misguided provisions that in the name of fighting terrorism essentially authorize the indefinite imprisonment of American citizens without charges.”

And in a New York Times op-ed piece by two retired four-star US Marine generals, Charles Krulak and Joseph Hoar, Krulak and Hoar said that “Due process would be a thing of the past.”

Rep. Justin Amash warned the NDAA was “carefully crafted to mislead the public,” The deceptions in the language of the NDAA, intended to allow defenders to argue that the provisions do not apply to American citizens, center around some of the wording in Sections 1021 and 1022. Rep. Tom McClintock opposed the bill on the House floor and said in a speech:

[The NDAA] specifically affirms that the President has the authority to deny due process to any American it charges with “substantially supporting al Qaeda, the Taliban or any ‘associated forces'” — whatever that means.

Would “substantial support” of an “associated force,” mean linking a Website to a Website that links to a Website affiliated with al-Qaeda? We don’t know.

(1) UNITED STATES CITIZENS.-The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.

However, although the section says it is not “required” that US citizens be held in military detention, it is nevertheless “allowed.”

Most worrisome, all accusations rest solely on the word of the government, with no witnesses, evidence, or any other form of due process available when the government is either wrong or lying.

Montana would be the first recall drive to be launched as a result of the vote for the NDAA military detentions provisions. A number of Facebook pages appeared after the passage of the bill from locations across the country.

Facebook: “Recall Every Congressman Who Voted for the NDAA”
“Recalling Senators and Congressmen” (PDF)
“How to Recall US Senators and Congressmen”

In Montana [Oath Keepers] will be filing for a recall of ALL of Montana’s Congressional Delegation, including Republican Denny Rehberg, since all three of them voted for the NDAA of 2012, which contains provisions authorizing military detention and trial of US citizens and lawful residents. The two Democratic Senators, Tester and Baucus, voted for it, but so did the Republican Congressman Rehberg. It’s not about left or right. It’s about our Bill of Rights. Montana Oath Keepers and Oath Keepers national will lead this campaign to recall two Montana Senators and one Montana Representative who committed treason against the people of Montana and of America in voting for the NDAA of 2011.

William Crain and Stewart Rhodes.
Elias Alias, president, Montana Oath Keepers, and member, Oath Keepers national Board of Directors

National Defense Authorization Act
Commentary by Lindy Greene / IndyBay.org

(December 24, 2011) — The US government feels the need to defend itself against its own citizens. They are waking up to the going-on of the 1%.

I’d like to preface this essay with the reminder that the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution mandates that no American citizen can be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process. There are no codicils, exceptions, extenuating circumstances, exclusions, or other special conditions appended to or encoded within this declaration. It applies uniformly, whether you are guilty of jaywalking or “working with terrorists.”

Congress’ most virulent assault on constitutional protections and safeguards is the recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It passed the House on December 14 — and, one day later, the Senate. It establishes the entire world, including domestic soil, as “part of the battlefield” and allows the US military to take American citizens into custody and hold them indefinitely without charge or trial if they are “suspected of terrorism.” For the moment, it appears to be restricted to those believed to be supporting, enabling, or interacting with Al Qaeda.

But let’s take a little detour here and look at how the government works. It scuttles your civil liberties in increments. First, only foreign “terror suspects” could be held indefinitely without due process. Then the policy expanded to include American citizens overseas “suspected of terrorism.” Now, it applies to Americans within the United States borders.

And if you are thinking that you don’t care about people accused of terrorism, I advance two caveats: It could easily be you so indicted for protesting or speaking; and, when you permit the abridgement of one group’s rights, all groups eventually fall under the same umbrella. I’m not a lawyer, but it is my conviction that anyone in US custody for any reason should have access to its legal system and be able to seek refuge under the Constitution’s wing.

The United States government feels that it has to defend itself against its own citizens. They are emerging from their long period of slumber to become conscious of the immoral and illegal machinations of the 1% as it impoverishes and disenfranchises the 99% at home and abroad. The government needs to shield itself against the greatest threat to any police state: revolution.

It is my conviction that political dissenters are and always have been the true intended targets of indeterminate detention. Imagine the chilling effect on one’s inclination to exercise his or her First Amendment rights as the fear of police brutality is superseded by that of arbitrary life imprisonment.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, is one of the shameful architects of the NDAA. And here’s the real slap in the face: Congress put through this evisceration of the Constitution on the 220th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights. Other writers are using the word “ironic” to refer to this occurrence. My choice would be “deliberate.”

Now, I want you to sit back, close your eyes, and imagine yourself sitting in a small cell in a US federal prison. All you did was attend an anti-war demonstration, say something negative online about the government, or publish an article such as this. You ask the guard (er, I mean “specialist”), “What are the charges against me?” He answers, “There are none.” You inquire, “When will I get out?” He replies, “You will never get out.” Your final incredulous question is, “How can I be incarcerated for life if I’m not charged with any crime?” How, indeed.

What I don’t understand is that the people who promote and implement police state tyrannies are so cocksure that such could never ultimately affect them or their loved ones. Is it impossible, for example, to conceive that the child of one of the proponents of indeterminate detention could grow up to become a political activist or commentator and be targeted by the very bill so obsequiously made law by his or her parental thrall to the 1%?

Remember, Obama has to feign service to and representation of the American citizenry. After all, his oath of office does require such a pledge and the defense of the Constitution against all comers, foreign and domestic. So, he donned his actor’s hat and threatened to veto the NDAA. But he knew he would ultimately go along with it in deference to his corporate and bankster re-election campaign handlers. (What if his own two daughters are future political activists?)

Maybe there is some real “terrorism” in the world — but, as far as I can see, most of it’s incited and manufactured by the US government. How would you like to have foreign soldiers occupy your country, kill your family and friends, and steal your nation’s resources? Would you sit quietly by or become radicalized and fight back? 9-11 was an obvious false flag op designed precisely to launch perennial war and implement an Orwellian police state. The United States is gone. It no longer exists. The 1% have orchestrated and carried out a very real legislative and economic coup d’etat.

If not for the false flag, we’d have no flag at all.

Soon, you and I will be labeled “terrorists” for daring to stand up and speak out against the police state. There will be FEMA camps, gas chambers, and federal prisons in store for the likes of us. See you there!

© 2000–2011 San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center.

In accordance with Title 17 USC. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Number of US Soldiers Wounded in Iraq: Unknown

December 31st, 2011 - by admin

Dan Froomkin / Nieman Watchdog – 2011-12-31 19:51:32


How Many US Soldiers Were Wounded in Iraq?
We Have No Idea

Dan Froomkin / Nieman Watchdog

(December 30, 2011) — The true number of military personnel injured in Iraq is in the hundreds of thousands — maybe even more than half a million — if you just go a bit beyond the Pentagon’s narrowly-tailored definition of ‘wounded in action’. So why isn’t anyone keeping track?

Reports about the end of the war in Iraq routinely describe the toll on the US military the way the Pentagon does: 4,487 dead, and 32,226 wounded.

The death count is accurate. But the wounded figure wildly understates the number of American servicemembers who have come back from Iraq less than whole.

The true number of military personnel injured over the course of our nine-year-long fiasco in Iraq is in the hundreds of thousands — maybe even more than half a million — if you take into account all the men and women who returned from their deployments with traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress, depression, hearing loss, breathing disorders, diseases, and other long-term health problems.

We don’t have anything close to an exact number, however, because nobody’s been keeping track.

The much-cited Defense Department figure comes from its tally of “wounded in action” — a narrowly-tailored category that only includes casualties during combat operations who have “incurred an injury due to an external agent or cause.” That generally means they needed immediate medical treatment after having been shot or blown up. Explicitly excluded from that category are “injuries or death due to the elements, self-inflicted wounds, combat fatigue” — along with cumulative psychological and physiological strain or many of the other wounds, maladies and losses that are most common among Iraq veterans.

The “wounded in action” category is relatively consistent, historically, so it’s still useful as a point of comparison to previous wars. But there is no central repository of data regarding these other, sometimes grievous, harms. We just have a few data points here and there that indicate the magnitude.

Consider, for instance:

• The Pentagon’s Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center reports having diagnosed 229,106 cases of mild to severe traumatic brain injury from 2000 to the third quarter of 2011, including both Iraq and Afghan vets.
• A 2008 study of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans by researchers at the RAND Corporation found that 14 percent screened positive for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 14 percent for major depression, with 19 percent reporting a probable traumatic brain injury during deployment. (The researchers found that major depression is “highly associated with combat exposure and should be considered as being along the spectrum of post-deployment mental health consequences.”) Applying those proportions to the 1.5 million veterans of Iraq, an estimated 200,000 of them would be expected to suffer from PTSD or major depression, with 285,000 of them having experienced a probable traumatic brain injury.
• A 2008 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 15 percent of soldiers reported an injury during deployment that involved loss of consciousness or altered mental status, and 17 percent of soldiers reported other injuries. (Using that ratio would suggest that 480,000 Iraq vets were injured one way or the other.) More than 40 percent of soldiers who lost of consciousness met the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.
• Altogether, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America group estimates that nearly 1 in 3 people deployed in those wars suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or traumatic brain injury. That would mean 500,000 of the 1.5 million deployed to Iraq.
• The single most common service-connected disability is actually hearing loss. A 2005 Department of Veterans Affairs research paper found that one third of soldiers who had recently returned from deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq were referred to audiologists for hearing evaluations due to exposure to acute acoustic blasts, and 72 percent of them were identified as having hearing loss. Richard Salvi, head of the University of Buffalo’s Center for Hearing and Deafness announced recently that “as many as 50 percent of combat soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who come back have tinnitus” because of the intense noise soldiers must withstand.
• The Department of Veterans Affairs’ list of potential deployment health conditions includes chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, fibromyalgia, hearing difficulties, hepatitis A, B and C, leishmaniasis (also known as the “Baghdad boil”), malaria, memory loss, migraines, sleep disorders and tuberculosis.
• The VA’s web page on hazardous exposures warns that “combat Veterans may have been exposed to a wide variety of environmental hazards during their service in Afghanistan or Iraq. These hazardous exposures may cause long-term health problems.” The hazards include exposure to open-air burn pits, infectious diseases, depleted uranium, toxic shrapnel, cold and heat injuries and chemical agent resistant paint. The VA provides no estimates of exposure or damage, however.
• A 2010 Congressional Research Service report, presenting what it called “difficult-to-find statistics regarding US military casualties” offers one indication of how the “wounded in action” category undercounts real casualties. It found that for every soldier wounded in action and medically evacuated from Iraq, more than four more were medically evacuated for other reasons.
• The Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center’s most recent monthly report found that the proportion of returned deployers who, around 3 months after their return, rated their health as “fair” or “poor” was 10 to 13 percent. More than 20 percent said their health was worse than before they were deployed; a similar number had “exposure concerns” and more than 27 percent reported depression symptoms.
• A March 2010 report from the Institute of Medicine concluded that many wounds suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan will persist over veterans’ lifetimes, and some impacts of military service may not be felt until decades later.
There are surely many other data points out there. But a comprehensive tally escapes us. In the meantime, the figure for “wounded” constantly cited by politicians and the media does not come close to reflecting the real cost to the servicemembers who went to fight in George W. Bush’s war of adventure and will never be the same again.

We owe it to them to make a full accounting of their sacrifice — and then never forget it.

Dan Froomkin is the deputy editor of the Nieman Watchdog Project. He is also Senior Washington Correspondent for the Huffington Post.


Iran to ‘Block’ Gulf Oil if Sanctions Proceed

December 27th, 2011 - by admin

Al Jazeera – 2011-12-27 20:45:54


TEHRAN (December 27, 2011) — No oil will be allowed to pass through the Strait of Hormuz if the West applies sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi has warned.

The threat was reported on Tuesday by the state news agency IRNA as Iran conducted its fourth day of naval drills near the Strait of Hormuz, at the entrance to the oil-rich Arabian Gulf.

“If sanctions are adopted against Iranian oil, not a drop of oil will pass through the Strait of Hormuz,” Rahimi was quoted as saying.

“We have no desire for hostilities or violence … but the West doesn’t want to go back on its plan” to impose sanctions, he said. “The enemies will only drop their plots when we put them back in their place.”

The threat underlined Iran’s readiness to target the narrow stretch of water along its Gulf coast if it is attacked or economically strangled by Western sanctions.

More than one-third of the world’s tanker-borne oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz. The US maintains a navy presence in the Gulf in large part to ensure that passage remains free.

War games

Iranian ships and aircraft dropped mines in the sea on Tuesday as part of the drill, according to a navy spokesman.

Although Iranian war games occur periodically, the timing of these is seen as a show of strength as the US and Europe prepare to impose further sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sectors.

The last round of sanctions, announced in November, triggered a pro-regime protest in front of the British embassy in Tehran during which Basij militia members overran the mission and ransacked it.

London closed the embassy as a result and ordered Iran’s mission in Britain shut as well.

Tehran in September rejected Washington’s call for a military hotline between the capitals to defuse any “miscalculations” that could occur between their military forces in the Gulf.

An Iranian lawmaker’s comments last week that the navy exercises would block the Strait of Hormuz briefly sent oil prices soaring before that was denied by the government.

While the foreign ministry said such drastic action was “not on the agenda”, it reiterated Iran’s threat of “reactions” if the current tensions with the West spilled over into open confrontation.

Sanctions intrigue

EU ministers said on December 1 that a decision on further sanctions would be taken no later than their January meeting but left open the idea of an embargo on Iranian oil.

Countries in the 27-member EU receive 450,000 barrels per day of Iranian oil, about 18 per cent of the Islamic Republic’s exports, much of which go to China and India.

China, the biggest buyer of Iranian crude, has warned against “emotionally charged actions” that might aggravate tension in the nuclear standoff with Iran.

Russia for its part has warned against “cranking up a spiral of tension”, saying this would undermine the chances of Iran co-operating with efforts to ensure it does not build atom bombs.

About a third of all sea-borne oil was shipped through the Strait of Hormuz in 2009, according to the US Energy Information Administration, and US warships patrol the area to ensure safe passage.

Most of the crude exported from Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq – together with nearly all the liquefied natural gas from lead exporter Qatar – must slip through the 6.4km-wide shipping channel between Oman and Iran.

Some analysts say Iran would think hard about sealing off the Strait since it could suffer just as much economically as Western crude importers.

Saudi steps in

Industry sources said on Tuesday that top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and other Gulf OPEC states were ready to replace Iranian oil if further sanctions halt Iranian crude exports to Europe.

Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi had said that Saudi Arabia had promised not to replace Iranian crude if sanctions were imposed.

“No promise was made to Iran, its very unlikely that Saudi Arabia would not fill a demand gap if sanctions are placed,” an industry source familiar with the matter told the Reuters news agency.

“If the sanctions take place, the price of oil in Europe would increase and Saudi and other Gulf countries would start selling there to fill the gap and also benefit from the higher price,” said a second industry source.

Brent crude oil futures jumped nearly a dollar to over $109 a barrel after the Iranian threat, but a Gulf OPEC delegate said the effect could be temporary.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

How Anti-War Ron Paul Will Change the GOP in 2012

December 27th, 2011 - by admin

Peter Beinart / The Daily Beast & Newsweek – 2011-12-27 20:31:12


(December 27, 2011) — We haven’t even said goodbye to 2011, but I want to be first in line with my person of the year prediction for 2012: Ron Paul. I don’t think Paul is going to win the presidency, or even win the Republican nomination. But he’s going to come close enough to change the GOP forever.

Washington Republicans and political pundits keep depicting Paul as some kind of ideological mutation, the conservative equivalent of a black swan. They’re wrong. Ask any historically-minded conservative who the most conservative president of the 20th Century was, and they’ll likely say Calvin Coolidge. No president tried as hard to make the federal government irrelevant. It’s said that Coolidge was so terrified of actually doing something as president that he tried his best not even to speak.

But in 1925, Silent Cal did open his mouth long enough to spell out his foreign policy vision, and what he said could be emblazoned on a Ron Paul for President poster: “The people have had all the war, all the taxation, and all the military service they want.”

Small government conservatism, the kind to which today’s Republicans swear fealty, was born in the 1920s not only in reaction to the progressive movement’s efforts to use government to regulate business, but in reaction to World War I, which conservatives rightly saw as a crucial element of the government expansion they feared. To be a small government conservative in the 1920s and 1930s was, for the most part, to vehemently oppose military spending while insisting that the US never, ever get mired in another European war.

Even after World War II, Mr. Republican — Robert Taft — opposed the creation of NATO and called the Korean War unconstitutional. Dwight Eisenhower worked feverishly to scale back the Truman-era defense spending that he feared would bankrupt America and rob it of its civil liberties.

Even conservative luminaries like William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater who embraced the global anti-communist struggle made it clear that they were doing so with a heavy heart. Global military commitments, they explained, represented a tragic departure from small government conservatism, a departure justified only by the uniquely satanic nature of the Soviet threat.

The cold war lasted half a century, but isolationism never left the conservative DNA. And when the Soviet Union collapsed, some of America’s most prominent conservative intellectuals — people like Irving Kristol, Jeane Kirkpatrick and Pat Buchanan — argued that the GOP should become the party of Coolidge and Taft once again.

The Republican Congress of the 1990s bitterly opposed Bill Clinton’s wars in the Balkans, and Buchanan, running on an isolationist platform, briefly led the GOP presidential field in 1996. Even the pre-9/11 Bush administration was so hostile to increased military spending that the Weekly Standard called on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign.

Given this history, it’s entirely predictable that in the wake of two disillusioning wars, a diminishing al Qaeda threat and mounting debt, someone like Ron Paul would come along. In Washington, Republican elites are enmeshed in a defense-industrial complex with a commercial interest in America’s global military footprint. But listen to Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh and see how often you hear them demanding that America keep fighting in Afghanistan, or even attack Iran.

According to a November CBS News poll, as many Republicans said the US should decrease its troop presence in Afghanistan as said America should increase it or keep it the same. In the same survey, only 22 percent of Republicans called Iran’s nuclear program “a threat that requires military action now” compared to more than fifty percent who said it “can be contained with diplomacy.”

Almost three-quarters of Republicans said the US should not try to change dictatorships to democracies.

The dominant storyline at the Republican convention will be figuring out how to appease Paul.

There are certainly Republicans out there who support the Bush-Cheney neo-imperialist foreign policy vision. But they’re split among the top tier presidential candidates. Paul has the isolationists all to himself. Moreover, his two top opponents — Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich — not only back a big-government foreign policy agenda, but have periodically backed a big-government domestic agenda as well. In other words, they personify the argument at the heart of Paul’s campaign: that if you love a powerful Pentagon, you’ll end up loving other parts of the government bureaucracy as well.

Since the Iowa caucuses generally reward organization and passion, I suspect Paul will win them easily. That would likely propel him to a strong showing in libertarian New Hampshire. Somehow, I think Romney and the Republican establishment will find a way to defeat him in the vicious and expensive struggle that follows.

But the dominant storyline at the Republican convention will be figuring out how to appease Paul sufficiently to ensure that he doesn’t launch a third party bid. And in so doing, the GOP will legitimize its isolationist wing in a way it hasn’t since 9/11.

In truth, the modern Republican Party has always been a house divided, pulled between its desire to crusade against evil abroad and its fear that that crusade will empower the evil of big government at home. In 2012, I suspect, Ron Paul will expose that division in a way it has not been exposed in a long time. And Republicans will not soon paper it over again.

Copyright 2011 The Newsweek/Daily Beast Company LLC

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Cities that Broke Up Occupy Camps Now Face Lawsuits over Free Speech, Use of Force

December 27th, 2011 - by admin

Associated Press & The Washington Post – 2011-12-27 19:58:48


WASHINGTON, DC (December 22, 2011) — Most major Occupy encampments have been dispersed, but they live on in a flurry of lawsuits in which protesters are asserting their constitutional rights to free speech and assembly and challenging authorities’ mass arrests and use of force to break up tent cities.

Lawyers representing protesters have filed lawsuits — or are planning them — in state and federal courts from coast to coast, challenging eviction orders and what they call heavy-handed police tactics and the banning of demonstrators from public properties.

Some say the fundamental right of protest has been criminalized in places, with protesters facing arrest and charges while doing nothing more than exercising protected rights to demonstrate.

“When I think about the tents as an expression of the First Amendment here, I compare it to Tahrir Square in Egypt,” said Carol Sobel, co-chairwoman of the National Lawyers Guild’s Mass Defense Committee.

“Our government is outraged when military forces and those governments come down on the demonstrators. But they won’t extend the same rights in this country,” she said. “They praise that as a fight for democracy, the values we treasure. It comes here and these people are riffraff.”

A handful of protesters began camping out in September in a lower Manhattan plaza, demanding an end to corporate excess and income inequality, and were soon joined by scores of others who set up tents and remained around the clock. Similar camps sprang up in dozens of cities nationwide and around the world, but patience wore thin, and many camps — including the flagship at Zuccotti Park and in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Oakland, Philadelphia and Portland, Ore. — were forcibly cleared.

Public officials and police unions have generally defended moves to break up the camps, citing health and safety concerns. They also said that responding to problems at Occupy encampments was draining crime-fighting resources.

Protester lawsuits are now beginning to wend their way through the legal system, and attorneys say more are likely on the way.

The National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California sued the Oakland Police Department in federal court in November, saying police and other agencies violated demonstrators’ Fourth Amendment rights by using excessive force — including “flash-bang” grenades — against demonstrators who posed no safety threat. The suit says officials also violated their First Amendment rights to assemble and demonstrate.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan on Wednesday announced an independent investigation into the police response.

In Austin, Texas, this week, a federal judge has been hearing the case of two Occupy protesters who were arrested and later barred from City Hall under a policy their attorneys call overly broad and say amounts to a ban on speech. The Texas Civil Rights Project says around 106 people have been banned since the protests began, in some cases for up to a year. The policy says a criminal trespass notice may be issued for “unreasonably disruptive” conduct.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Christmas Sermon: ‘Don’t Build Lives on Selfishness and Fear’

December 26th, 2011 - by admin

Rowan Williams / Archbishop of Canterbury – 2011-12-26 21:32:10


Christmas Sermon – ‘Don’t Build Lives on Selfishness and Fear’

CANTERBURY, UK (Sunday 25th December 2011) — The Archbishop of Canterbury says Christmas challenges individuals and whole societies alike not to build lives based on selfishness and fear, but to be open to searching questions about identity and solidarity, stark questions that are more pressing in the wake of falling confidence in institutions and challenges to social order.

In his Christmas Day sermon at Canterbury Cathedral, Archbishop Rowan Williams says that the coming of Christ still poses immense challenges to the way people understand their lives and the times they live in. The Gospels are still full of questions to us about who we are and how we respond to God’s love — and early Christian writings are full of the faltering attempts to give voice in response.

“Very near the heart of Christian faith and practice is this encounter with God’s questions, ‘who are you, where are you?’ Are you on the side of the life that lives in Jesus, the life of grace and truth, of unstinting generosity and unsparing honesty, the only life that gives life to others? Or are you on your own side, on the side of disconnection, rivalry, the hoarding of gifts, the obsession with control? …

“What we say or do in our response to Jesus is our way of discovering for ourselves and showing to one another what is real in and for us … the truth is still an uncompromising one: if you cannot or will not respond, you are walking away from reality into a realm of trackless fogbound falsehood.”

The challenge, he says, is not simply to individuals but to society as a whole to find words to respond and he cites the Book of Common Prayer, which is this year celebrating its 350th anniversary, as providing an example of how a society’s response came to be articulated.

It underlines, he says, notions of duty and common interest; speaking of and to a world in which the church, the state and the rich and powerful need continually to be aware of the immense obligations owed by those who have much to those who are poor and vulnerable. He says that, even though centuries old, the Prayer Book reflects far more than the social conventions of the day:

” … much of this language feels dated — we don’t live in the unselfconscious world of social hierarchy that we meet here. But before we draw the easy and cynical conclusion that the Prayer Book is about social control by the ruling classes, we need to ponder the uncompromising way in which those same ruling classes are reminded of what their power is for, from the monarch downwards.

“And the almost forgotten words of the Long Exhortation in the Communion Service, telling people what questions they should ask themselves before coming to the Sacrament, show a keen critical awareness of the new economic order that, in the mid-sixteenth century, was piling up assets of land and property in the hands of a smaller and smaller elite.’

“The Prayer Book is a treasury of words and phrases that are still for countless English-speaking people the nearest you can come to an adequate language for the mysteries of faith.”

He quotes from the communion service as a pointer to a developing understanding of mutual obligation:

“If ye shall perceive your offences to be such as are not only against God but also against your neighbours; then ye shall reconcile yourselves unto them; being ready to make restitution.”

The need to learn these lessons is all the more important, he argues, in the wake of the events of the past year:

“The most pressing question we now face, we might well say, is who and where we are as a society. Bonds have been broken, trust abused and lost. Whether it is an urban rioter mindlessly burning down a small shop that serves his community, or a speculator turning his back on the question of who bears the ultimate cost for his acquisitive adventures in the virtual reality of today’s financial world, the picture is of atoms spinning apart in the dark.

And into that dark the Word of God has entered, in love and judgment, and has not been overcome; in the darkness the question sounds as clear as ever, to each of us and to our church and our society: ‘Britain, where are you?’ Where are the words we can use to answer?”

The Full Text of the Archbishop’s 2011 Christmas Sermon
Rowan Williams / Archbishop of Canterbury

When the first Christians read — or more probably heard — the opening words of John’s gospel, they would have understood straight away quite a lot more than we do. They would have remembered, many of them, that in Hebrew ‘word’ and ‘thing’ are the same, and they would all have known that in Greek the word used has a huge range of meaning — at the simplest level, just something said; but also a pattern, a rationale, as we might say, even the entire structure of the universe seen as something that makes sense to us, the structure that holds things together and makes it possible for us to think.

Against this background, we can get a glimpse of just what is being said about Jesus. His life is what God says and what God does; it is the life in which things hold together; it is because of the life that lives in him that we can think. Jesus is the place where all reality is focused, brought to a point. Here is where we can see as nowhere else what connects all reality — all human experience and all natural laws.

Edward Elgar famously said about his Enigma Variations that they were all based on a tune that everyone knew — and no-one has ever worked out what he meant. But John’s gospel declares that the almost infinite variety of the life we encounter is all variations on the theme that is stated in one single clear musical line, one melody, in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. ‘In him was life, and the life was the light of men.’

But this shouldn’t make us forget entirely the underlying image. The life that lives in Jesus, the everlasting divine agency that is uniquely embodied in him, is like something that is said — a word addressed to us. Because, like any word addressed to us, it demands a response. And the gospel goes on at once to tell us that the expected response was not forthcoming.

Before we have even got to Christmas in the words of the gospel we are taken to Good Friday, and to the painful truth that the coming of Jesus splits the world into those who respond and those who don’t.

Once the word is spoken in the world, there is no way back. Your response to it, says the gospel again and again, is what shows who and what you really are, what is deepest in you, what means most. What we say or do in our response to Jesus is our way of discovering for ourselves and showing to one another what is real in and for us.

Like the other gospel writers, John hints very strongly that some people respond deeply and truthfully to Jesus without fully knowing who he is or what exactly they are doing in responding to him; this is not a recipe for tight religious exclusivism. But the truth is still an uncompromising one: if you cannot or will not respond, you are walking away from reality into a realm of trackless fogbound falsehood.

There is the question we cannot ignore. It’s been well said that the first question we hear in the Bible is not humanity’s question to God but God’s question to us, God walking in the cool of the evening in the Garden of Eden, looking for Adam and Eve who are trying to hide from him. ‘Adam, where are you?’

The life of Jesus is that question translated into an actual human life, into the conversations and encounters of a flesh and blood human being like all others — except that when people meet him they will say, like the woman who talks with him at the well of Samaria, ‘Here is a man who told me everything I ever did.’

Very near the heart of Christian faith and practice is this encounter with God’s questions, ‘who are you, where are you?’ Are you on the side of the life that lives in Jesus, the life of grace and truth, of unstinting generosity and unsparing honesty, the only life that gives life to others?

Or are you on your own side, on the side of disconnection, rivalry, the hoarding of gifts, the obsession with control? To answer that you’re on the side of life doesn’t mean for a moment that you can now relax into a fuzzy philosophy of ‘life-affirming’ comfort. On the contrary: it means you are willing to face everything within you that is cheap, fearful, untruthful and evasive, and let the light shine on it.

Like Peter in the very last chapter of John’s gospel, we can only say that we are trying to love the truth that is in Jesus, even as we acknowledge all we have done that is contrary to his spirit. And we say this because we trust that we are loved by this unfathomable mystery who comes to us in the shape of a newborn child, ‘full of grace and truth.’

Finding words to respond to the Word made flesh is and has always been one of the most demanding things human beings can do. Don’t believe for a moment that religious language is easier or vaguer than the rest of our language. It’s more like the exact opposite: think of St John writing his gospel, crafting the slow, sometimes repetitive pace of a narrative that allows Jesus to change the perspective inch by inch as a conversation unfolds.

Or of St Paul, losing his way in his sentences, floundering in metaphors as he struggles to find the words for something so new that there are no precedents for talking about it. Or any number of the great poets and contemplatives of the Christian centuries.

It isn’t surprising if we need other people’s words a lot of the time; and it’s of great importance that we have words to hand that have been used by others in lives that obviously have depth and integrity. That’s where the language of our shared worship becomes so important.

This coming year we celebrate the 350th anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer. It has shaped the minds and hearts of millions; and it has done so partly because it has never been a book for individuals alone. It is common prayer, prayer that is shared. In its origins, it was meant to be — and we may well be startled by the ambition of this — a book that defined what a whole society said to God together.

If the question ‘where are you?’ or ‘who are you?’ were being asked, not only individual citizens of Britain but the whole social order could have replied, ‘Here we are, speaking together — to recognize our failures and our ideals, to recognize that the story of the Bible is our story, to ask together for strength to live and act together in faithfulness, fairness, pity and generosity.’ If you thumb through the Prayer Book, you may be surprised at how much there is that takes for granted a very clear picture of how we behave with each other.

Yes, of course, much of this language feels dated — we don’t live in the unselfconscious world of social hierarchy that we meet here. But before we draw the easy and cynical conclusion that the Prayer Book is about social control by the ruling classes, we need to ponder the uncompromising way in which those same ruling classes are reminded of what their power is for, from the monarch downwards.

And the almost forgotten words of the Long Exhortation in the Communion Service, telling people what questions they should ask themselves before coming to the Sacrament, show a keen critical awareness of the new economic order that, in the mid-sixteenth century, was piling up assets of land and property in the hands of a smaller and smaller elite.

The Prayer Book is a treasury of words and phrases that are still for countless English-speaking people the nearest you can come to an adequate language for the mysteries of faith. It gives us words that say where and who we are before God: ‘we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep’, ‘we are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table’, but also, ‘we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people; and are also heirs through hope of the everlasting kingdom.’

It gives us words for God that hold on to the paradoxes we can’t avoid: ‘God… who art always more ready to hear than we to pray,’ ‘who declarest thy almighty power most chiefly in showing mercy and pity, whose property is always to have mercy.’

A treasury of words for God — but also a source of vision for an entire society: ‘Give us grace seriously to lay heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions’; ‘If ye shall perceive your offences to be such as are not only against God but also against your neighbours; then ye shall reconcile yourselves unto them; being ready to make restitution.’

The world has changed, the very rhythms of our speech have changed, our society is irreversibly more plural, and we have — with varying degrees of reluctance — found other and usually less resonant ways of talking to God and identifying who we are in his presence. If we used only the Prayer Book these days we’d risk confusing the strangeness of the mysteries of faith with the strangeness of antique and lovely language.

But we’re much the poorer for forgetting it and pushing it to the margins as much as we often do in the Church. And it is crucial to remember the point about the Prayer Book as something for a whole society, binding together our obligations to God and to one another, in a dense interweaving of love and duty joyfully performed.

The Prayer Book was once the way our society found words to respond to the Word, to say who and where they were in answer to God’s question. Those who prayed the Prayer Book, remember, included those who abolished the slave trade and put an end to child labour, because of what they had learned in this book and in their Bibles about the honour of God and of God’s children.

They knew their story; they knew how to give an answer for themselves, how to join up the muddle of their experience in a coherent pattern by relating it to the unchanging truth and grace of God. That’s why the coming year’s celebration is not about a museum piece.

The most pressing question we now face, we might well say, is who and where we are as a society. Bonds have been broken, trust abused and lost. Whether it is an urban rioter mindlessly burning down a small shop that serves his community, or a speculator turning his back on the question of who bears the ultimate cost for his acquisitive adventures in the virtual reality of today’s financial world, the picture is of atoms spinning apart in the dark.

And into that dark the Word of God has entered, in love and judgment, and has not been overcome; in the darkness the question sounds as clear as ever, to each of us and to our church and our society: ‘Britain, where are you?’ Where are the words we can use to answer?

(c) Rowan Williams 2011

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Ex-Army Major Gets 5 Years for Taking Bribes from Defense Contractors

December 26th, 2011 - by admin

Maureen O’Donnell / Chicago Sun-Times – 2011-12-26 19:06:36


CHICAGO (December 25, 2011) — A Chicago man who is a former major in the Army National Guard has been sentenced to five years in prison for taking kickbacks from military defense contractors while deployed in Afghanistan.

Christopher P. West is the eighth co-conspirator sentenced in the scheme. Ten more defendants still await sentencing.

West — who admitted taking tens of thousands of dollars in bribes — also was ordered by US District Judge Matthew Kennelly to pay $500,000 in restitution and given an additional two years of supervised release.

West had pleaded guilty in 2009 to eight counts of bribery, conspiracy and fraud.

West and his assistant, Illinois National Guard Lt. Robert Moore of Chicago, signed bogus approvals for bunkers and barriers that were never delivered to the US military’s Bagram Air Base, according to the US Department of Justice. The contractors made a profit by billing for the non-existent supplies, and West and Moore received kickbacks in return, according to court documents.

West, Moore and another defendant — Sgt. Patrick W. Boyd of Rockledge, Fla. — also approved contracts to three suppliers and then pocketed $30,000 each, according to the Justice Department.

West and Moore mailed their cash back to Chicago, prosecutors said. In 2005, a package belonging to Moore and containing more than $10,000 was intercepted by authorities at London’s Heathrow Airport, officials said.

Boyd has been sentenced to 40 months in prison, and Moore received a 15-month prison term.

The prosecution also netted an Afghan defense supplier who pleaded guilty to bribing West to arrange contracts worth $1 million. Noor Alam was arrested at O’Hare Airport in 2008 after investigators lured him and other Afghan contractors to the United States with an invitation to what turned out to be a bogus seminar in Columbus, Ohio. The fake invitation said Alam was to be honored at the event as a contractor “who best represent(s) the cooperative nature of our . . . reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.”

West allegedly told one contractor that he saw Afghanistan as his chance to get rich.

West and the contractor “discussed the history of America and how it was built on the back of others, ultimately concluding that ‘fleecing the government’ was the American way,” prosecutors said in a court filing.

Copyright 2011 — Sun-Times Media, LLC

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Why 2012 Could Be the Year of the Third-party Candidate

December 25th, 2011 - by admin

Daniel B. Wood / Christian Science Monitor – 2011-12-25 20:25:29


LOS ANGELES (December 20, 2011) — One bid to mount a serious third-party challenge in the 2012 presidential elections cleared an important hurdle Tuesday. Americans Elect, which intends to hold a nonpartisan nominating convention online and put the winner on the ballot in all 50 states, earned a spot on the California ticket.

The nonprofit group has already won ballot certification in 11 other states — including the swing states of Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, and Colorado. And some political analysts say that a confluence of factors — ranging from the weak economy to growing voter dissatisfaction with the two main parties – could lead to a third-party candidate potentially having a major impact.

Election 101: What’s the Republican primary calendar for 2012?

“The old adage is that third-party candidates act only as spoilers and make people mad with no chance to win, but this year may be different,” says Barbara O’Connor, director of the Institute for Study of Politics and Media at California State University, Sacramento.

Not only has voter angst created fertile ground for a third-party appeal, there has also been a rise in the number of voters who don’t identify themselves with either major party.

“They [Democrats and Republicans] have their work cut out because voters really deeply feel that the two main parties have not functioned, and people are tired of it and ready for the rise of a third party,” says Ms. O’Connor.

Some third parties develop around personalities — such as Ross Perot, Teddy Roosevelt, John Anderson, or George Wallace – who rally disaffected supporters from the Democrats or Republicans around an agenda ignored by both of the major parties. Others, like Greens and Libertarians are more ideological and endure from election cycle to election cycle.

“The problem for Americans Elect is they are neither personality-centered nor ideological,” says Villanova University political scientist Matthew Kerbel. “They are about process – about using the Internet to select a candidate. To that end, getting on the ballot in a large state like California is an accomplishment. But it is a triumph of process with no predictive value for the influence they may have next November.”

That is, unless a charismatic or well-known leader emerges from American Elect’s online nominating convention.

“The impact of Americans Elect will depend on the nominee. A well-known candidate might win a measurable share of the popular vote,” says Jack Pitney, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College.

And that would almost certainly change the political calculus.

“A reelection campaign is a referendum on the incumbent, so anything that splits the anti-Obama vote will work to the president’s advantage,” says Mr. Pitney.

Noting that Ralph Nader siphoned enough votes from Al Gore to tip Florida – and thus the presidency — to George W. Bush in 2000, analysts say that third party candidates usually hurt who they are closest to ideologically.

“Anyone to the left will take from the Democrats and hurt Obama and to the right will hurt his opponent,” says Jessica Levinson, former political reform director for the Center for Governmental Studies.

Still others think that this particular election is so polarized, it might make voters loath to give up their votes at all.

“The more Democrats and Republicans believe that the other party is not just wrong, but evil — as seems to be likely the sub rosa messages of both parties’ campaign strategies — then the less likely voters will vote for a third-party candidate,” says Villanova political scientist Lara Brown, author of “Jockeying for the American Presidency.” “I don’t imagine that when election day rolls around too many voters will feel they can waste their votes.”

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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