Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2655 on: Jan 22nd, 2011, 07:32am »
New York Times
January 21, 2011 G.O.P. Grants Reprieve to House Ethics Office By RON NIXON
WASHINGTON — Before the 2010 midterm elections, speculation was rampant that if the Republicans took over the House, they would kill the fledgling Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent body that investigates complaints of misbehavior.
John A. Boehner, who is now House speaker, and other Republican leaders had vigorously opposed the creation of the office, which was the brainchild of Mr. Boehner’s predecessor, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in 2008. Anticipating its demise, Leo Wise, the office staff director and chief counsel, announced in October that he was leaving for a job with the United States attorney’s office for the District of Maryland.
But since assuming control, House Republicans have left the office largely intact, much to the surprise of lawmakers in both parties. Omar Ashmawy, the new staff director and chief counsel, said the office would continue to pursue complaints as aggressively as it did under Mr. Wise.
Good-government groups are taking a wait-and-see attitude on whether the office will be as persistent in going after Republicans now as it was in investigating Democrats when they were in the majority.
“The question is how is the Republican leadership going to react when the O.C.E. starts going after its people,” said Norman J. Ornstein, an ethics expert at the American Enterprise Institute who lobbied for the creation of the office.
In an e-mail, Michael Steel, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner, said the speaker had no plans to change the office’s mandate or mission. Mr. Steel also said its financing would not be cut.
Mr. Ashmawy, who was appointed staff director on Friday after serving as acting director, said he did not feel the need to modify office operations. Several lawmakers have criticized the office for overreaching in its investigations.
“Despite the controversies about the status of the office, in the 112th Congress we are going to do the mission we were asked to do before,” he said. “There will be no change.”
Controversial cases are nothing new for Mr. Ashmawy, who joined the ethics office in 2009 as an investigator. As a former senior judge advocate general for the Air Force, he helped successfully try the case against Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a driver for Osama bin Laden, before the first United States war crimes tribunal since World War II.
In 2007, Mr. Ashmawy won national attention when he defended a young airman, Cassandra Hernandez, who said she was gang-raped at a party but was herself charged with committing indecent acts with the men she said had attacked her. Those charges were dropped.
Mr. Ashmawy will be working for the ethics office’s original board, although the two top board members have switched jobs. The board, largely made up of former members of Congress, is appointed by the House speaker and the minority leader. Porter J. Goss, a Republican who represented Florida in the House and is a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, will take over as chairman. The co-chairman will be another former congressman, David E. Skaggs, a Democrat from Colorado. Mr. Skaggs served as the board’s chairman for the past two years under the Democratic majority.
The office has repeatedly clashed with the House Committee on Standards and Official Conduct, commonly known as the ethics committee. The office looks into cases against members of Congress and refers them to the ethics committee for further investigation. The committee has been accused of being soft on members of Congress, while some lawmakers have complained that the ethics office has been overly aggressive and inconsistent in deciding which allegations to pursue and which to ignore.
No one has been more critical of the ethics office than the Congressional Black Caucus. At least eight black lawmakers have been the focus of its investigations, most prominently Representatives Charles B. Rangel of New York and Maxine Waters of California, both Democrats.
One member of the black caucus, Representative Marcia L. Fudge, Democrat of Ohio, introduced a bill that critics said would have crippled the office. The legislation, which died when the previous Congressional session ended, would have prevented the ethics committee from issuing public statements in cases in which the ethics office had recommended that a complaint be dismissed. The existing rule gives the ethics committee discretion to release information in such situations.
The measure also would have prevented the ethics office from looking into any matter except on the basis of “a sworn complaint from a citizen asserting personal knowledge of any alleged violation.” Currently, a preliminary review can be started if two board members, one from each party, ask for it.
Representative Emanuel Cleaver II, a Democrat from Missouri who is the new chairman of the black caucus, said it continued to have issues with the ethics office.
“We want to ensure justice and fairness,” he said.
Mr. Cleaver and other caucus members did not respond to questions about what specific changes they would propose.
Mr. Ashmawy said he had not tried to talk to caucus members; nor, he added, had they reached out to him.
“We are very concerned about effects of an investigation on members’ reputations,” he said.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2656 on: Jan 22nd, 2011, 07:35am »
Who's your seat buddy? Congress pairs off for State of the Union
By Jordy Yager 01/22/11 06:00 AM ET
Dozens of lawmakers are getting a second dose of high school as they venture across the aisle and ask colleagues to sit with them for President Obama’s State of the Union address next week.
In a petition circulated to members earlier this month, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) called on his colleagues to sit with a lawmaker of the opposing party as a way to heal Congress’s increasingly divisive rhetoric, which at times can erupt into hateful and even violent debate in the public arena.
The bipartisan gesture carries a serious tone for nearly all who have pledged to do away with the typical seating arrangement, which is not assigned but generally gets divided by party. But the humor of asking one of their fellow lawmakers to attend the event as their “date” has not escaped members.
“It’s a little like prom,” joked one Democrat, who asked not to be identified. “You just hope they don’t turn you down.”
As of this weekend, nearly 60 lawmakers had pledged to sit with a member of the opposite party, according to Udall’s office. In a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the lawmakers said that the bipartisan seating arrangement would remind members of their common commitment to serve the American people.
“Beyond custom, there is no rule or reason that on this night we should emphasize divided government, separated by party, instead of being seen as united as a country,” the letter reads. “Perhaps, by sitting with each other for one night, we will begin to rekindle that common spark that brought us here from 50 states and widely diverging backgrounds to serve the public good.”
Nearly two dozen lawmakers have already announced who they plan to sit with during the address next Tuesday, according to an analysis done by The Hill, with some others saying they will wait until the day of the speech to track down a member of the opposite party.
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) plans to sit next to House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) after endorsing the idea last week. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is planning to sit with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). And Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) plans to sit with Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).
Many of the seating buddies seem to find their match through work that they do on committees together or by being part of the same state delegation, such as Reps. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), Joe Heck (R-Nev.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.).
On Wednesday, after Republicans voted to repeal the healthcare measure that Democrats passed last year, Berkley asked Heck, who is a freshman, if he wanted to sit with her and Heller for the address. Berkley said she’d be happy to sit with them on the “Republican” side of the House, but she was concerned about making sure the seat was reserved because it’s first-come, first-serve, said Heck’s spokesman, Darren Littell.
“They both looked at [Heck] and said, ‘Well, someone’s going to have to get down there 2 hours early to get the seats,’” said Littell.
“And Joe [Heck] looked back at them and said, ‘That means me, doesn’t it?’”
In what some are calling a right-of-passage, several freshman lawmakers seem to be getting tasked with reserving the seats. Of course, that’s up for grabs in the case of freshman Rep. John Carney (D-Del.) who is planning to sit next to freshman Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.). Carney and Meehan did an event at a Boeing facility last year when they were congressmen-elect and Meehan’s Pennsylvania district borders Carney’s in Delaware, so they expect to be working together in the future, according to Carney’s spokesman.
Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) approached Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), one of the first Republican members to sign onto the letter, on the House floor on Tuesday, thinking that because of their work together on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Cancer Caucus, they would make an excellent seating pair. Myrick agreed.
The night may be somewhat uncomfortable as the president’s party typically stands and applauds his words more often than the opposing party, which has been known to remain seated. During some joint sessions of Congress, some in the opposing party have booed or shouted at the president, as Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) did during President Barack Obama’s speech on healthcare in 2009.
But levity may be had, at least in one section of the House. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) is planning to sit with her fellow members of the Congressional Women’s Softball Team, such as Republican Reps. Shelley Moore-Capito (W.V.), Jean Schmidt (Ohio) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.).
Other members who have announced plans to sit together are as follows:
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) plans to sit with Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) plans to sit with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y) plans to sit with Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.).
Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) plans to sit with Rep. Renee Elmers (R-N.C.).
Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) is sitting next to Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).
Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) plans to sit with Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas).
Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) plans to sit with Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.).
Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam) plans to sit next to Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.).
Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.) plans to sit next to Reps. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) and Howard Coble (R-N.C.). Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) plans to sit on the other side of Coble.
Rep. Charles Bass (R-N.H.) plans to sit next to Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.).
Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) plans to sit with Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.).
Rep. Sanford Bishop’s (D-Ga.) office said he doesn’t know who he’ll sit next to, but he does support the bipartisan move.
Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) office said that he has not announced who he will sit next to yet.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2657 on: Jan 22nd, 2011, 07:40am »
West makes no headway in Iran nuclear talks
By David Brunnstrom and Parisa Hafezi ISTANBUL Sat Jan 22, 2011 8:10am EST
ISTANBUL (Reuters) - World powers failed to make progress with Iran in two days of talks on its nuclear program, with the EU calling the discussions disappointing and saying no further meetings between the two sides were planned.
"This is not the conclusion I'd hoped for," European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said at the conclusion of the talks in Istanbul on Saturday.
"We'd hoped to embark on a discussion of practical ways forward and have made every effort to make that happen," she added. "I am disappointed."
An aide to Iran's chief negotiator Saeed Jalili told Reuters that the talks would resume, even if the timing and venue were still undecided. However, Ashton said further talks depended on a more constructive approach from Tehran.
"The process can go forward if Iran chooses to respond positively," she said. "The door remains open. The choice remains in Iran's hands."
The West suspects Iran wants to develop nuclear weapons while Tehran says its atomic energy program is peaceful.
The standoff has dragged on for eight years and expectations were low heading into the Istanbul talks between Iran and the six powers -- the United States, France, Germany, China, Russia and Britain -- whose delegations were led by Ashton.
The talks were a follow-up to a meeting in Geneva last month which was the first set of discussions between the two sides in more than a year.
Iran appears to have insisted on preconditions that were unacceptable to the West, including the lifting of sanctions and recognition of its right to enrich uranium.
Jalili said after the talks ended that any agreement would have to be based on Iran's right to pursue enrichment.
"I think for the purposes of these talks, Iran came with its pre-conditions very firmly in its mind and what it has gone away with is a total understanding that those are not acceptable," Ashton told reporters.
ESCALATION IN PAST YEAR
Iran has ignored U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding it suspend enrichment, with trade and other benefits offered in return, and refused to grant unfettered access for U.N. nuclear inspectors.
Uranium enriched to a low degree yields fuel for electricity or, if refined to a high level, the fissile core of a nuclear bomb.
Iran's nuclear standoff with the West has escalated in the past year, with the United Nations imposing new sanctions and Western states rejecting a revised proposal for Iran to swap some of its fuel abroad as too little, too late.
Ashton had outlined a possible revised offer for a nuclear fuel swap that would entail Iran handing over a large chunk of its stockpile of low enriched uranium. No offer was made as Iran's preconditions included the suspension of economic sanctions, a Western diplomat said.
The powers want to prevent Tehran from accumulating enough material for a nuclear weapon while negotiations proceed on a broader solution to the crisis.
(Additional reporting Fredrik Dahl; writing by Noah Barkin; editing by David Stamp)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2658 on: Jan 22nd, 2011, 07:45am »
Wired Threat Level
Defense Attorney Files Complaint Alleging Mistreatment of Bradley Manning By Kim Zetter January 21, 2011 | 3:39 pm Categories: Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks
Antiwar protesters rally for Bradley Manning in Quantico, Virginia, last October.
The attorney for suspected WikiLeaks source Pfc. Bradley Manning filed a formal complaint this week over Manning’s treatment at the Marine Corps brig where he is being detained.
Attorney David E. Coombs filed the complaint Wednesday, the day after Manning was abruptly placed on suicide watch by the commander of the U.S. Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia. During the suicide watch, Manning was confined to his cell around the clock, while a guard sat outside watching him.
Manning was stripped to his underwear, and his prescription eyeglasses were taken from him. The latter were returned only during the one hour he was permitted to watch television and when he was permitted to read, Coombs wrote on his blog.
The commander removed Manning from suicide watch Thursday, but Coombs said the development was only the latest issue in Manning’s seven months of highly restrictive pretrial confinement, where he’s been awaiting a mental-health hearing to determine if the court-martial case will proceed to the next step.
Manning has spent most of that time as a maximum-custody detainee under prevention-of-injury, or POI, watch. “Like suicide risk, he is held in solitary confinement, Coombs wrote on his blog Friday. “For 23 hours per day, he will sit in his cell.”
In his Article 138 complaint, Coombs asked that Manning’s custody level be lowered from maximum to medium security, and that he be removed from the POI watch.
The military’s concern over the 23-year-old Manning’s mental health dates back to late 2009, when Manning was deployed as an intelligence analyst at Forward Operating Base Hammer in Iraq. Coombs acknowledged last September that Manning’s Army unit “has in fact documented a history, if you will, from as early as December of 2009 to May of 2010 of behavior that they were concerned about.”
This included “prolonged periods of disassociated behavior, quite a bit of nonresponsiveness from Pfc. Manning … that progressed from the very beginning of the deployment and deteriorated somewhat toward the end,” he said. At one point, while Manning was deployed as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, his superiors grew concerned enough that they removed the bolt from his military weapon, disabling it, Coombs said at the time.
Coombs, who did not respond to a request for comment, wrote Friday that when Manning first arrived at the brig last July he was classified as a suicide risk. But shortly thereafter, following the recommendation of a brig psychiatrist, his classification was downgraded from suicide risk to prevention-of-injury watch.
The psychiatrist later recommended Manning’s classification be changed from maximum custody to medium custody, since he had adjusted well to his confinement. The Quantico brig commander has never acted on that recommendation, Coombs wrote.
Instead, on Jan. 18, the Quantico brig commander placed Manning under suicide watch again. Coombs maintained this occurred despite consistent assertions by two psychiatrists over many months that Manning is not a suicide risk. With assistance from the Judge Advocate’s office, Coombs managed to get the brig to reconsider and remove the suicide watch.
A brig spokesman told Threat Level that the status of detainees is under constant review and that determinations to change it come with input from many sources, not just psychiatrists.
“That is a determination that is made based on input from medical professionals, psychological providers, religious specialists and the marines that work in the brig,” said 1st Lt. Brian Villiard. “Each one of those different sources provide information for the brig commander to make what he thinks is the most appropriate action.”
Villiard wouldn’t discuss the specific details that caused the brig commander to put Manning on suicide watch, but said if a detainee “were to demonstrate something that caused somebody to be concerned,” it could be cause to place him on watch.
Manning was arrested last May in Iraq after telling a former hacker that he had leaked vast amounts of classified material to the secret-spilling site WikiLeaks. He was transferred to Kuwait, where he was detained for about two months before being moved to the brig in Virginia. Manning has been held there in maximum security waiting to see how the military plans to handle his case.
At the same time, U.S. prosecutors have reportedly been trying to develop a criminal case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on the theory that he conspired with Manning to siphon classified documents from a government network and publish them online. Assange has said he believes Manning is being mistreated in order to pressure him into cooperating in a case against Assange, and WikiLeaks supporters have decried Manning’s treatment as a form of torture.
Coombs told The Washington Post that, in addition to the complaint filed this week, he plans to file a motion alleging that the conditions under which Manning has been confined amount to unlawful pretrial punishment.
Writing on his blog, Coombs summarized the conditions.
The guards will check on him every five minutes by asking him if he is okay. PFC Manning will be required to respond in some affirmative manner. At night, if the guards cannot see him clearly, because he has a blanket over his head or is curled up towards the wall, they will wake him in order to ensure that he is okay. He will receive each of his meals in his cell. He will not be allowed to have a pillow or sheets. He will not be allowed to have any personal items in his cell. He will only be allowed to have one book or one magazine at any given time to read. The book or magazine will be taken away from him at the end of the day before he goes to sleep. He will be prevented from exercising in his cell. If he attempts to do push-ups, sit-ups, or any other form of exercise he will be forced to stop. He will receive one hour of exercise outside of his cell daily. The guards will take him to an empty room and allow him to walk. He will usually just walk in figure eights around the room until his hour is complete. When he goes to sleep, he will be required to strip down to his underwear and surrender his clothing to the guards.
Villiard said that these conditions are the same for all detainees who are classified under maximum-detention and prevention-of-injury status.
“The fact that it is Bradley Manning is not an issue for us, the fact that we have a maximum-custody detainee is the issue,” he said. “We have a responsibility to make sure that all detainees are safe, secure and make it to trial.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2659 on: Jan 22nd, 2011, 07:56am »
20 January 2011 NASA goes for Glory by Jeff Tollefson
Mission to monitor solar energy and aerosols set to join 'A-Train' of climate satellites.
Instruments on Glory will help researchers understand Earth's overall energy budget. NASA
NASA is preparing to launch an environmental monitoring satellite designed to maintain and bolster a continuous record of solar energy, while providing new details about aerosols, which reflect and absorb the Sun's rays passing through the atmosphere.
The Glory mission is scheduled to launch on 23 February aboard a four-stage Taurus XL 3110 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Once in space, Glory will join the Afternoon Constellation, or A-Train — an ensemble of satellites studying changes in Earth's climate system.
The A-Train, which orbits some 700 kilometres above Earth, travels at a speed of more than 24,000 kilometres per hour — managing a full orbit every 100 minutes to map the Earth roughly once every 16 days. There are currently four satellites in the ensemble.
Glory itself carries two scientific instruments. The Total Irradiance Monitor faces the Sun to measure its energy output — data then used to calculate, on an area basis, the total solar energy entering the Earth's atmosphere. The Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor points towards Earth and studies atmospheric aerosols.
Both instruments will help scientists to better understand Earth's overall energy budget, says Hal Maring, project scientist for the Glory mission at NASA headquarters in Washington DC. "This really is a climate mission," Maring says. "We've got to know how much energy is coming in, if it's changing and how that energy affects the climate system."
Beyond the SORCE
The monitor, built by the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder, is a second-generation instrument designed to extend a continuous record of space-based measurements dating back to 1978. Those data have proved critical as scientists try to gauge how the 11-year solar cycle and other smaller fluctuations affect Earth's climate. The monitor is roughly three times more accurate than its predecessor aboard the Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment, known as SORCE.
The sensor, built by Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems in El Segundo, California, will analyse the way airborne particles reflect and absorb light. Collecting data at nine wavelengths — from the visible to the near-infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum — the sensor will provide highly accurate estimates on the quantity and to a certain extent the location of aerosols in the atmosphere.
And, by analysing the polarization of light, which is highly dependent on the micro-physical properties of the particles, scientists should have a better idea of whether they are looking at disc-like particles of dust, crystal-shaped salts or spherical particles of sulphate pollution.
Although the aerosol sensor provides a measurement only of the total aerosols in a given column of air and cannot pinpoint their exact location, it will be flying with a suite of other instruments in the A-Train that can help to fill those gaps and extrapolate the data to a broader volume of the atmosphere.
"The data will be important, there's no question," says John Seinfeld, an expert on aerosols at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Aerosols are one of the largest areas of uncertainty in Earth's climate system, he says, "and the Glory aerosol instrument will provide key data to improve our knowledge of the quantity and type of aerosols worldwide".
Once Glory goes up next month, NASA will turn its attention to Aquarius, a joint effort with Argentina's National Space Activities Commission to measure salinity levels throughout the world's oceans. Aquarius is scheduled to launch in June, but not as part of the A-Train.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2660 on: Jan 22nd, 2011, 08:00am »
Director: David MacKenzie Screenwriter: Kim Fupz Aakeson Starring: Ewan McGregor, Eva Green, Connie Nielsen, Ewan Bremner, Stephen Dillane Genre: Romance, Thriller
Plot Summary: When Susan (Eva Green), an epidemiologist, reemerges from an affair gone sour, she encounters a peculiar patient—a Glasgow truck driver who experienced a sudden, uncontrollable crying fit. Now he is calm, but he has lost his sense of smell. Susan learns there are 11 cases like him in Glasgow, 7 in Aberdeen, 5 in Dundee, and 18 in Edinburgh. In fact, Great Britain has 100 cases, with additional ones reported in France, Belgium, Italy, and Spain, and they all appeared in the last 24 hours. Although Susan's encounter with Michael (Ewan McGregor), a local restaurant chef, holds the promise of new love, the world is about to change dramatically. People across the globe begin to suffer strange symptoms, affecting the emotions, then the senses.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2661 on: Jan 22nd, 2011, 08:32am »
Yeah, that's exactly what the world needs.
Fake UFO Hobbyist Scares People for Fun
Linn Murphy has a pretty awesome hobby: he's into flying a fake UFO over public gatherings, freaking people out and causing a ruckus. The flying disc, which has a 36-inch span and lights that flash and make it look like it's spinning, looks like a gigantic spacecraft high in the air from a height of 400 feet. Murphy gets his kicks by flying it over concerts, movie lines, beaches, and other places where he can scare the crap out of people. None of what he does is against the law, and, in fact, the cops seem kind of amused by it, saying "There's no ordinance that says it's illegal to fly a super-double-secret, gyroscoptic UFO in county airspace."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2664 on: Jan 22nd, 2011, 12:15pm »
Alien contact: Bird deaths due to CIA, UN targeting human life
Published: 22 January, 2011, 01:29
Given recent bizarre cases of birds and other animals dying in mass all over the world, many theories have been formed, from polar shifts to poisons.
Colleen Thomas, a former homemaker and now Pleiadian alien expert explained the deaths are due to toxic chemicals that are coating the Earth. “They are being sprayed daily from these large body planes,” she explained.
According to her, the chemical is Phosgene which was apparently stolen from Iraq and is now being used by secret undercover CIA operatives under the auspice of the Evergreen International Aviation Company.
“When John Waller III was found murdered for confronting the administration about Phosgene, that we stole from Iraq, and that are using it all over the place, they murdered him because he was demanding they either stop or he was going to Putin to tell him that we did not destroy that stockpile as we promised we would,” she said. “When I heard about that I put two and two together.”
Many on the planet claim the bird and animal deaths are an omen of death to come, death to the world entirely in as early as May.
“We are under attack, but we know who is attacking us,” she said. “We are under a global attack, it’s serious.” The US government, via the CIA, is the culprit, she said. The information is being cleaned and wiped out by the New World Order, and the media is not reporting the story because they are apart to the New World Order.
In addition, Thomas said she has been made aware the UN is attacking life on planet Earth. Phosgene is not the only weapon. The UN and world leaders have been using chemical, biological, and microwave weapons in an attempt to scale back human population.
“Human beings are really the target,” she said. Thomas’ advice is to wear a gas mark or relocate to areas not being targeted.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2668 on: Jan 23rd, 2011, 09:02am »
New York Times
January 22, 2011 Former Spy With Agenda Operates a Private C.I.A. By MARK MAZZETTI
WASHINGTON — Duane R. Clarridge parted company with the Central Intelligence Agency more than two decades ago, but from poolside at his home near San Diego, he still runs a network of spies.
Over the past two years, he has fielded operatives in the mountains of Pakistan and the desert badlands of Afghanistan. Since the United States military cut off his funding in May, he has relied on like-minded private donors to pay his agents to continue gathering information about militant fighters, Taliban leaders and the secrets of Kabul’s ruling class.
Hatching schemes that are something of a cross between a Graham Greene novel and Mad Magazine’s “Spy vs. Spy,” Mr. Clarridge has sought to discredit Ahmed Wali Karzai, the Kandahar power broker who has long been on the C.I.A. payroll, and planned to set spies on his half brother, the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, in hopes of collecting beard trimmings or other DNA samples that might prove Mr. Clarridge’s suspicions that the Afghan leader was a heroin addict, associates say.
Mr. Clarridge, 78, who was indicted on charges of lying to Congress in the Iran-contra scandal and later pardoned, is described by those who have worked with him as driven by the conviction that Washington is bloated with bureaucrats and lawyers who impede American troops in fighting adversaries and that leaders are overly reliant on mercurial allies.
His dispatches — an amalgam of fact, rumor, analysis and uncorroborated reports — have been sent to military officials who, until last spring at least, found some credible enough to be used in planning strikes against militants in Afghanistan. They are also fed to conservative commentators, including Oliver L. North, a compatriot from the Iran-contra days and now a Fox News analyst, and Brad Thor, an author of military thrillers and a frequent guest of Glenn Beck. For all of the can-you-top-this qualities to Mr. Clarridge’s operation, it is a startling demonstration of how private citizens can exploit the chaos of combat zones and rivalries inside the American government to carry out their own agenda.
It also shows how the outsourcing of military and intelligence operations has spawned legally murky clandestine operations that can be at cross-purposes with America’s foreign policy goals. Despite Mr. Clarridge’s keen interest in undermining Afghanistan’s ruling family, President Obama’s administration appears resigned to working with President Karzai and his half brother, who is widely suspected of having ties to drug traffickers.
Charles E. Allen, a former top intelligence official at the Department of Homeland Security who worked with Mr. Clarridge at the C.I.A., termed him an “extraordinary” case officer who had operated on “the edge of his skis” in missions abroad years ago.
But he warned against Mr. Clarridge’s recent activities, saying that private spies operating in war zones “can get both nations in trouble and themselves in trouble.” He added, “We don’t need privateers.”
The private spying operation, which The New York Times disclosed last year, was tapped by a military desperate for information about its enemies and frustrated with the quality of intelligence from the C.I.A., an agency that colleagues say Mr. Clarridge now views largely with contempt. The effort was among a number of secret activities undertaken by the American government in a shadow war around the globe to combat militants and root out terrorists.
The Pentagon official who arranged a contract for Mr. Clarridge in 2009 is under investigation for allegations of violating Defense Department rules in awarding that contract. Because of the continuing inquiry, most of the dozen current and former government officials, private contractors and associates of Mr. Clarridge who were interviewed for this article would speak only on the condition of anonymity.
Mr. Clarridge declined to be interviewed, but issued a statement that likened his operation, called the Eclipse Group, to the Office of Strategic Services, the C.I.A.’s World War II precursor.
“O.S.S. was a success of the past,” he wrote. “Eclipse may possibly be an effective model for the future, providing information to officers and officials of the United States government who have the sole responsibility of acting on it or not.”
A Pentagon spokesman, Col. David Lapan, declined to comment on Mr. Clarridge’s network, but said the Defense Department “believes that reliance on unvetted and uncorroborated information from private sources may endanger the force and taint information collected during legitimate intelligence operations.”
Whether military officials still listen to Mr. Clarridge or support his efforts to dig up dirt on the Karzai family is unclear. But it is evident that Mr. Clarridge — bespectacled and doughy, with a shock of white hair — is determined to remain a player.
On May 15, according to a classified Pentagon report on the private spying operation, he sent an encrypted e-mail to military officers in Kabul announcing that his network was being shut down because the Pentagon had just terminated his contract. He wrote that he had to “prepare approximately 200 local personnel to cease work.”
In fact, he had no intention of closing his operation. The very next day, he set up a password-protected Web site, afpakfp.com, that would allow officers to continue viewing his dispatches.
A Staunch Interventionist
From his days running secret wars for the C.I.A. in Central America to his consulting work in the 1990s on a plan to insert Special Operations troops in Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein, Mr. Clarridge has been an unflinching cheerleader for American intervention overseas.
Typical of his pugnacious style are his comments, provided in a 2008 interview for a documentary now on YouTube, defending many of the C.I.A.’s most notorious operations, including undermining the Chilean president Salvador Allende, before a coup ousted him 1973.
“Sometimes, unfortunately, things have to be changed in a rather ugly way,” said Mr. Clarridge, his New England accent becoming more pronounced the angrier he became. “We’ll intervene whenever we decide it’s in our national security interests to intervene.”
“Get used to it, world,” he said. “We’re not going to put up with nonsense.”
He is also stirred by the belief that the C.I.A. has failed to protect American troops in Afghanistan, and that the Obama administration has struck a Faustian bargain with President Karzai, according to four current and former associates. They say Mr. Clarridge thinks that the Afghan president will end up cutting deals with Pakistan or Iran and selling out the United States, making American troops the pawns in the Great Game of power politics in the region.
Mr. Clarridge — known to virtually everyone by his childhood nickname, Dewey — was born into a staunchly Republican family in New Hampshire, attended Brown University and joined the spy agency during its freewheeling early years. He eventually became head of the agency’s Latin America division in 1981 and helped found the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center five years later.
In postings in India, Turkey, Italy and elsewhere, Mr. Clarridge, using pseudonyms that included Dewey Marone and Dax Preston LeBaron, made a career of testing boundaries in the dark space of American foreign policy. In his 1997 memoir, he wrote about trying to engineer pro-American governments in Italy in the late 1970s (the former American ambassador to Rome, Richard N. Gardner, called him “shallow and devious”), and helping run the Reagan administration’s covert wars against Marxist guerrillas in Central America during the 1980s.
He was indicted in 1991 on charges of lying to Congress about his role in the Iran-contra scandal; he had testified that he was unaware of arms shipments to Iran. But he was pardoned the next year by the first President George Bush.
Now, more than two decades after Mr. Clarridge was forced to resign from the intelligence agency, he tries to run his group of spies as a C.I.A. in miniature. Working from his house in a San Diego suburb, he uses e-mail to stay in contact with his “agents” — their code names include Willi and Waco — in Afghanistan and Pakistan, writing up intelligence summaries based on their reports, according to associates.
Mr. Clarridge assembled a team of Westerners, Afghans and Pakistanis not long after a security consulting firm working for The Times subcontracted with him in December 2008 to assist in the release of a reporter, David Rohde, who had been kidnapped by the Taliban. Mr. Rohde escaped on his own seven months later, but Mr. Clarridge used his role in the episode to promote his group to military officials in Afghanistan.
In July 2009, according to the Pentagon report, he set out to prove his worth to the Pentagon by directing his team to gather information in Pakistan’s tribal areas to help find a young American soldier who had been captured by Taliban militants. (The soldier, Pfc. Bowe R. Bergdahl, remains in Taliban hands.)
Four months later, the security firm that Mr. Clarridge was affiliated with, the American International Security Corporation, won a Pentagon contract ultimately worth about $6 million. American officials said the contract was arranged by Michael D. Furlong, a senior Defense Department civilian with a military “information warfare” command in San Antonio.
To get around a Pentagon ban on hiring contractors as spies, the report said, Mr. Furlong’s team simply rebranded their activities as “atmospheric information” rather than “intelligence.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2669 on: Jan 23rd, 2011, 09:05am »
New York Times
January 23, 2011 Five Car Bombs Strike Baghdad Neighborhoods By JOHN LELAND
BAGHDAD — Five car bombs exploded in different neighborhoods around Baghdad on Sunday morning, killing at least eight people and injuring 30, and shattering a months-long period of relative calm in the capital. Officers from Baghdad Operational Command defused another three car bombs.
Recent days had seen large-scale attacks in other parts of the country, mainly against security forces and religious pilgrims, but Baghdad had been spared.
Within a few hours Sunday morning that distinction blew apart like the angry scraps of twisted metal strewn across the city’s busy streets.
The attacks began shortly after 7 a.m., despite heightened security for the Shiite holiday of Arbain, which has been an annual magnet for extremist violence. Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who began his second term in office last month, made security a main plank of his electoral campaign, and Shiite religious marches, which take place several times during the year, provide a test of the police and army’s effectiveness. Before Sunday’s attacks, Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, deputy commanding general for operations of American forces in Iraq, credited Iraqi security forces for keeping the violence out of Baghdad, saying that their successes had forced extremists to strike elsewhere.
Sunday’s bombs struck in Sunni neighborhoods as well as Shiite ones. Two appeared directed at security forces, one at Iranian pilgrims marching in commemoration of Arbain. The targets of the other two bombs were unclear.
Violence remains down in Iraq compared to previous years, but the last week has seen devastating attacks in Tikrit and Baquba, north of Baghdad, and Karbala to the south. The attacks follow recent large-scale arrests of alleged terrorists.
On Tuesday a suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest blew himself up in the middle of a crowd of police recruits in Tikrit, killing at least 49 and wounding 119. On Wednesday, an ambulance loaded with 450 pounds of explosives detonated outside a police headquarters in Baquba, killing at lest five people and wounding 76. On Thursday, three car bombs exploded nearly simultaneously on the roads to Karbala, where as many as 10 million Shiites gathered to commemorate the death of Imam Hussein ibn Ali, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and a central figure in Shiite Islam, killing at least 52 people and wounding three times as many.
Security forces on Saturday announced the arrest of a leader in the Sunni Awakening, the government-backed militia composed in part of former insurgents, for the attack against the Shiite pilgrims. Awakening leaders have long been frustrated by slow progress in being hired by the security forces or other government agencies.