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Saturday, January 31, 2009

UN Anti-Drugs repeats warning that banks are laundering drug cash...

UN Anti-Drugs/Crime Head Repeats Warning: Crisis-Hit Banks Are Laundering Drug Cash
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January 31, 2009 (LPAC)--UN Office of Drugs and Crime Director Antonio Maria Costa has again warned that huge international drug money flows are bailing out the crisis-hit banking system. This is Costa's second warning this week.

Costa told Associated Press yesterday in Vienna, that organized crime is using the financial crisis "as a golden opportunity" to launder funds through bank deposits and buying shares. He again would not identify any institution by name, but said that this money laundering is "certainly happening across the board.... The money is available and the need for that money is there. I think the whole system is infected."

On Jan. 27, the Vienna, Austria weekly Profil published an interview with Costa, in which he said that banks had been saved from collapse by injections of drug money, in the second half of 2008.

Costa said that the bank managers know what is going on. "I'm pretty sure that when someone knocks at the door of a banker with a few million, or tens of millions of dollars in a briefcase, the bank has plenty of reasons to doubt the origin," he told AP. He is using information from prosecutors in a number of countries, discussions with banking representatives and years of experience tracking organized crime, as the basis for his warning. Not only the $320 billion world drug trade, but arms and human trafficking profits are involved, he said.

How training exercises foretold the attacks of September 11...

Rehearsing 9/11: How Training Exercises Foretold the Attacks of September 11
by Shoestring
January 27, 2009
911Blogger.com

The idea of such an attack was well known [and] had been
wargamed as a possibility in exercises before September 11.
- Professor John Arquilla of the Naval Postgraduate
School, Monterey, California

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, senior U.S. government and military officials repeatedly claimed that what happened that day was unexpected. In May 2002, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said, "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon; that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile." [1] Two years later, President Bush stated, "Nobody in our government, at least, and I don't think the prior government, could envision flying airplanes into buildings on such a massive scale." [2] General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD on September 11, said, "Regrettably, the tragic events of 9/11 were never anticipated or exercised." [3]

Yet these claims were untrue. Not only had the U.S. military and other government agencies discussed the possibility of such attacks, they also conducted numerous training exercises in the year or two before September 11 based around scenarios remarkably similar to what occurred on 9/11. As John Arquilla, a professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, said, "No one knew specifically that 20 people would hijack four airliners and use them for suicide attacks against major buildings ... but the idea of such an attack was well known [and] had been wargamed as a possibility in exercises before September 11." [4]

The existence of these training exercises proves that official claims that the events of September 11 were unimaginable have been false. However, future investigations of 9/11 will need to determine whether these exercises served a more nefarious purpose. For example, might they have been intended as a smokescreen for rogue individuals working within the military and other government agencies who were involved in planning the attacks? Thus, if colleagues overheard these individuals discussing matters such as planes hitting the World Trade Center or crashing into the Pentagon, they could have claimed they were simply talking about a forthcoming training exercise.

The following summary outlines three specific categories of training exercises and preparations that took place before September 11. Firstly, those that dealt with terrorists deliberately crashing a plane into the World Trade Center. Secondly, those that considered an aircraft crashing into the Pentagon. And thirdly, those that resembled other aspects of the 9/11 attacks, such as the use of planes as weapons more generally.

1) PREPARING FOR AN ATTACK ON THE WORLD TRADE CENTER

i) Military Personnel Briefed on Possible Attack on the WTC

At some point before 9/11, members of staff at NORAD's Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York appear to have been briefed on the possibility of terrorists deliberately crashing a plane into the World Trade Center. In her book Touching History: The Untold Story of the Drama that Unfolded in the Skies Over America on 9/11, author Lynn Spencer described the actions of Trey Murphy, a former Marine who on September 11 was a weapons controller at NEADS. Murphy learned of the first plane hitting the WTC while still at home. According to Spencer: "The news brought to mind one of his briefings: What if a terrorist flies an airplane with a weapon of mass destruction into the World Trade Center? It had always been one of the military's big fears." She added, "The image on the [television] screen certainly reminded him of his briefing." [5]

ii) NORAD Trains for Terrorists Crashing a Hijacked Plane into the WTC

At unspecified times during the two years prior to September 11, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD, the military organization responsible for defending U.S. airspace) conducted training exercises that simulated hijacked aircraft being deliberately crashed into targets so as to cause mass casualties. As USA Today later reported, "One of the imagined targets was the World Trade Center." NORAD stated that "Numerous types of civilian and military aircraft were used as mock hijacked aircraft" in these exercises. Among other things, the exercises tested "track detection and identification" (presumably on military radar screens); "scramble and interception" by fighter jet planes; and "hijack procedures." According to NORAD, the exercises were regional drills, not regularly scheduled continent-wide exercises, and unlike what happened on 9/11, the planes in the simulated scenarios were coming from a foreign country rather than from within the United States. [6]

NORAD added that, before 9/11, "At the NORAD headquarters' level we normally conducted four major exercises a year, most of which included a hijack scenario." [7] Shortly after September 11, the New Yorker similarly reported, "During the last several years, the government regularly planned for and simulated terrorist attacks, including scenarios that involved multiple-plane hijackings." [8]

In spite of these specific concerns and preparations, the 9/11 Commission Report claimed that NORAD was "unprepared for the type of attacks launched against the United States on September 11, 2001. [It] struggled, under difficult circumstances, to improvise a homeland defense against an unprecedented challenge [it] had never before encountered and had never trained to meet." [9]

2) PREPARING FOR A PLANE HITTING THE PENTAGON

The number of training exercises based around a plane crashing into the Pentagon is particularly notable. In the 12 months prior to 9/11, we know of three such exercises that were conducted, and a fourth exercise that considered, but rejected, this scenario.

i) The Pentagon Mass Casualty Exercise

Between October 24 and October 26, 2000, emergency responders gathered at the Office of the Secretary of Defense conference room in the Pentagon for the Pentagon Mass Casualty Exercise. Responses to several scenarios were rehearsed, including the possibility of a passenger aircraft crashing into the Pentagon. A military news service described the exercise: "The fire and smoke from the downed passenger aircraft billows from the Pentagon courtyard. Defense Protective Services Police seal the crash sight. Army medics, nurses, and doctors scramble to organize aid. An Arlington Fire Department chief dispatches his equipment to the affected areas." It sounds almost like a description of what happened on September 11. But then "Don Abbott, of Command Emergency Response Training, walks over to the Pentagon and extinguishes the flames. The Pentagon was a model and the 'plane crash' was a simulated one." [10]

ii) Medics Practice for a Plane Hitting the Pentagon

Little over six months later, in May 2001, the U.S. Army's DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic and the Air Force Flight Medicine Clinic--which are both located within the Pentagon--along with Arlington County Emergency Medical Services, held a tabletop exercise. The scenario they practiced for was an airplane crashing into the Pentagon's west side--the same side as was hit on September 11. [11] There have been some contradictions between reports, regarding the exact details of this exercise. But according to U.S. Medicine newspaper, the plane in the scenario was a hijacked Boeing 757, the same kind of aircraft as allegedly hit the Pentagon on 9/11. [12] The Defense Department's book about the Pentagon attack, Pentagon 9/11, reported that the plane in the exercise scenario was a twin-engine aircraft (Boeing 757s are twin-engine aircraft), but that it crashed into the Pentagon by accident, rather than as a consequence of a hijacking. [13] The commanders of the two Pentagon clinics that participated later said this exercise "prepared them well to respond" to the attack on 9/11. [14] And Air Force Surgeon General Paul Carlton Jr. commented, "We learned a lot from that exercise and applied those lessons to September 11." [15]

iii) Practice Evacuation Conducted in Response to Simulation of a Plane Hitting the Pentagon

Just one month before September 11, a third plane-into-Pentagon training exercise was held. General Lance Lord, the assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force, later recalled his experiences of 9/11, commenting, "Fortunately, we had practiced an evacuation of the building during a mass casualty exercise just a month earlier, so our assembly points were fresh in our minds." He added, "Purely a coincidence, the scenario for that exercise included a plane hitting the building." [16]

iv) Military Considers, but Rejects, Exercise Scenario of a Hijacked Plane Being Crashed into the Pentagon

For another exercise, military planners actually considered the possibility of a commercial aircraft being hijacked by terrorists and then crashed into the Pentagon. [17] From April 17-26, 2001, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff conducted the exercise Positive Force 01, which was designed "to test, evaluate, and train the national defense community in decision making and execution of mobilization and force deployment in response to multiple crises." [18] Positive Force was a "continuity of operations exercise," dealing with government contingency plans to keep working in the event of an attack on the U.S. [19] NORAD was one of the agencies invited to participate. [20]

During the planning of this exercise, special operations officers had to think like terrorists and plot unexpected attacks that would test NORAD's air defenses. According to an officer who was temporarily assigned to NORAD in the spring of 2001, "the NORAD exercise developers wanted an event having a terrorist group hijack a commercial airline and fly it into the Pentagon." [21] The NORAD employee who suggested this had been asked for a scenario in which the Pentagon was rendered inoperable and part of its functions had to be moved to another location. [22] However, the U.S. Pacific Command didn't want the scenario, "because it would take attention away from their exercise objectives." Joint Staff action officers then rejected the scenario as being "too unrealistic." [23]

3) OTHER PREPARATIONS AND EXERCISES

There were other training exercises and emergency preparations that are noteworthy. Few specific details have been disclosed of these. They have not been reported to have included scenarios of aircraft hitting the World Trade Center or Pentagon, but they relate to what happened on 9/11 in other ways.

i) Department of Transportation Exercise Involves a Cell Phone Call from a Hijacked Plane

Less than two weeks before September 11, on August 30, 2001, an exercise was held at the Department of Transportation in Washington, DC, as part of its preparations for the 2002 Winter Olympics. According to Ellen Engleman, the administrator of the DOT's Research and Special Programs Administration, this was a "full intermodal exercise" (although she did not explain what exactly that meant). Engleman has recalled: "During that exercise, part of the scenario, interestingly enough, involved a potentially hijacked plane and someone calling on a cell phone, among other aspects of the scenario that were very strange when 12 days later, as you know, we had the actual event [of 9/11]." [24] (As has been widely reported, numerous passengers on the hijacked planes allegedly were able to make calls using cell phones to people on the ground.) The Department of Transportation was subsequently much involved in the emergency response on September 11, with its Crisis Management Center being activated less than 30 minutes after the first attack on the WTC. [25]

Although further details of this exercise are unknown, the fact that Engleman referred to "other aspects of the scenario that were very strange" indicates that it resembled the 9/11 attacks in other ways.

ii) Threat of Planes as Weapons Considered During Preparations for 'Special Security Events'

The possibility of attacks resembling those that occurred on 9/11 was considered during the preparations for what are called "National Special Security Events" (NSSEs). This is particularly notable, since preparations were underway in the two cities targeted in the attacks--New York and Washington--the morning of September 11, for National Special Security Events due to take plane later that month. Considering that only four or five events per year were being designated as NSSEs, it seems hard to dismiss this as just coincidence.

Since 1998, the National Security Council has had the authority to designate any important upcoming public event as an NSSE. [26] Events such as the 2000 Republican and Democratic National Conventions and the 2000 presidential inauguration were designated as NSSEs. [27] Once an event has been designated as an NSSE, the Secret Service becomes the lead agency for designing and implementing its security plan, while the FBI and FEMA also have major security roles. [28]

According to the Secret Service, there would be "a tremendous amount of advance planning and coordination" for NSSEs. A variety of training initiatives would be conducted, including "simulated attacks and medical emergencies, inter-agency tabletop exercises, and field exercises." [29] Most significantly, according to Louis Freeh, the director of the FBI from September 1993 to June 2001, in the years 2000 and 2001, the subject of "planes as weapons" was always one of the considerations in the planning of security for "a series of these, as we call them, special events." Freeh told the 9/11 Commission that "resources were actually designated to deal with that particular threat," and confirmed that "the use of airplanes, either packed with explosives or otherwise, in suicide missions" was "part of the planning" for NSSEs. [30] Although Freeh did not state it, it seems a quite likely possibility that the "simulated attacks ... inter-agency tabletop exercises, and field exercises" held during 2000 and 2001 in preparation for NSSEs would therefore have included the scenario of planes being used as weapons.

Furthermore, the morning of September 11, Secret Service employees in New York were "about to attend meetings to prepare for the upcoming meeting of the United Nations General Assembly." [31] An additional 100 Secret Service employees were in New York to help prepare for the event. [32] The General Assembly's annual gathering of world leaders was scheduled for September 24 to October 5, with President Bush due to give his address on September 24. [33] Significantly, this event was designated as an NSSE. [34] Since the UN's previous 'Millennium Summit' in New York in September 2000 was an NSSE, it seems logical to assume that the 2001 gathering received NSSE status before 9/11, and not simply as a result of the attacks. [35]

Preparations were also underway in Washington, DC on September 11 for the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which were scheduled to take place on September 29-30. Many of the agencies that would be involved in the emergency response to the Pentagon attack later that morning were taking part in these preparations. [36] It was reported several weeks before 9/11 that these meetings had been designated as an NSSE. [37]

The question therefore arises, might preparations for the threat of planes being used as weapons have been taking place around the time of the 9/11 attacks? Were "simulated attacks ... inter-agency tabletop exercises, and field exercises" based around planes used as weapons scheduled in New York and Washington around that period? Further research and investigation is required to answer these questions.

OTHER EXERCISES?

The above summary describes training exercises and preparations that have been reported or publicly discussed. But it seems reasonable to assume that there were other exercises held in the year or two before 9/11 that have not yet been reported and that also resembled the attacks that took place that day. If they occurred, we need to know about these other exercises and we must consider what role they might have played in the planning and execution of the September 11 attacks.

PBS documentary NOVA: NSA could have prevented 9/11 hijackings...

PBS: NSA could have prevented 9/11 hijackings
Muriel Kane
January 27, 2009
RawStory.com

The super-secretive National Security Agency has been quietly monitoring, decrypting, and interpreting foreign communications for decades, starting long before it came under criticism as a result of recent revelations about the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program. Now a forthcoming PBS documentary asks whether the NSA could have prevented 9/11 if it had been more willing to share its data with other agencies.

Author James Bamford looked into the performance of the NSA in his 2008 book, The Shadow Factory, and found that it had been closely monitoring the 9/11 hijackers as they moved freely around the United States and communicated with Osama bin Laden's operations center in Yemen. The NSA had even tapped bin Laden's satellite phone, starting in 1996.

"The NSA never alerted any other agency that the terrorists were in the United States and moving across the country towards Washington," Bamford told PBS.

PBS also found that "the 9/11 Commission never looked closely into NSA's role in the broad intelligence breakdown behind the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. If they had, they would have understood the full extent to which the agency had major pieces of the puzzle but never put them together or disclosed their entire body of knowledge to the CIA and the FBI."

In a review of Bamford's book, former senator and 9/11 Commission member Bob Kerrey wrote, "As the 9/11 Commission later established, U.S. intelligence officials knew that al-Qaeda had held a planning meeting in Malaysia, found out the names of two recruits who had been present -- Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi -- and suspected that one and maybe both of them had flown to Los Angeles. Bamford reveals that the NSA had been eavesdropping for months on their calls to Yemen, yet the agency 'never made the effort' to trace where the calls originated. 'At any time, had the FBI been notified, they could have found Hazmi in a matter of seconds.'"

Former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer told PBS, "None of this information that we're speaking about this evening's in the 9/11 Commission report. They simply ignored all of it."

Not only was then-Director Michael Hayden never held accountable for the NSA's alleged failure, but he went on to oversee the Bush administration's vast expansion of domestic surveillance. In 2006, he was appointed as director of the CIA.

When asked whether the NSA's warrantless eavesdropping violated FISA law, Hayden insisted, "I have an order whose lawfulness has been attested to by the attorney general, an order whose lawfulness has been attested to by NSA lawyers who do this for a living. No, we're not violating the law. ... I'm asserting that NSA is doing its job."

NSA's power to eavesdrop on ordinary Americans has vastly increased since 2001, and the government's secret watch list now includes over a half a million names. PBS raises serious questions about whether important clues are still being missed simply as a result of the sheer volume of data being collected.

The Spy Factory will be shown over most PBS stations on February 3, 2009 at 8 pm.

The following preview was posted by NOVAonline at YouTube.

Obama order could present problems for Rove...

Obama order could present problems for Rove
John Byrne
January 27, 2009
RawStory.com

A little-noticed twist in an order issued by President Barack Obama the day after his inauguration may present problems for former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and other Bush Administration officials that have been targeted for their alleged role in various scandals.

Rove was subpoenaed Monday afternoon by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI). When the dogged Democrat subpoenaed him last year, Bush Administration lawyers invoked "executive immunity" to prevent Rove from testifying.

This year, however, George W. Bush is no longer in the president's chair. Determination of executive privilege must now also be examined by President Obama's lawyers. In fact, Rove's lawyer made direct reference to Obama's role in any future decision to enjoin Rove's appearance on the congressional witness stand Monday night.

"It's generally agreed that former presidents retain executive privilege as to matters occurring during their term," Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, told The Washington Post. "We'll solicit the views of the new White House counsel and, if there is a disagreement, assume that the matter will be resolved among the courts, the president and the former president."

Luskin doesn't concede that Rove isn't covered by Bush's blanket immunity, but appears to acknowledge that the question of keeping Rove off the witness stand has become more complex.

"The Attorney General and the Counsel to the President, in the exercise of their discretion and after appropriate review and consultation under subsection (a) of this section, may jointly determine that invocation of executive privilege is not justified," Obama said in his executive order Jan. 21. "The Archivist shall be notified promptly of any such determination."

In addition, a White House counsel to President Bill Clinton told The Washington Post late Monday that a recent executive order issued by President Obama directing the National Archives to consult with Justice Department and White House lawyers "concerning the Archivist's determination as to whether to honor the former president's claim of privilege or instead to disclose the presidential records notwithstanding the claim of privilege," could open the door to the release of more information relating to controversies under the Bush Administration.

"The language," the Post wrote, "according to W. Neil Eggleston, a White House associate counsel during the Clinton administration, leaves open the possibility that more information could emerge in some long-running controversies."

Whether Rove can stay off the witness stand indefinitely is an open question. He could certainly plead the Fifth -- invoking his constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination -- and refuse to answer questions. But Obama's order opened the door to the release of presidential records the Bush Administration fought aggressively to keep out of the public eye.

On the flip side, Vice President Dick Cheney recently won a court case seeking his vice presidential records; the court said that the Vice President alone gets to make the determination as to which records are personal and which records should become public. The Presidential Records Act, which requires Administrations to surrender their files to the National Archives upon leaving office, provides an exemption for records of a personal nature.

Obama might also effectively protect Rove and President Bush by retaining a broad interpretation of executive privilege. Such an interpretation wouldn't be designed to save Rove from congressional investigators -- instead, it would allow Obama to protect himself and his team upon his own departure from the Oval Office.

60 Minutes report: Is peace out of reach?


Watch CBS Videos Online

Study finds High-Fructose Corn Syrup contains mercury...

Study Finds High-Fructose Corn Syrup Contains Mercury
Posted: 27 Jan 2009 05:57 PM CST
The Washington Post
January 27, 2009

Almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first- or second-highest labeled ingredient, according to two new U.S. studies.
HFCS has replaced sugar as the sweetener in many beverages and foods such as breads, cereals, breakfast bars, lunch meats, yogurts, soups and condiments. On average, Americans consume about 12 teaspoons per day of HFCS, but teens and other high consumers can take in 80 percent more HFCS than average.

"Mercury is toxic in all its forms. Given how much high-fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered. We are calling for immediate changes by industry and the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply," said the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy's Dr. David Wallinga, a co-author of both studies.

In the first study, researchers found detectable levels of mercury in nine of 20 samples of commercial HFCS. The study was published in current issue of Environmental Health.

In the second study, the agriculture group found that nearly one in three of 55 brand-name foods contained mercury. The chemical was most common in HFCS-containing dairy products, dressings and condiments.

The use of mercury-contaminated caustic soda in the production of HFCS is common. The contamination occurs when mercury cells are used to produce caustic soda.

"The bad news is that nobody knows whether or not their soda or snack food contains HFCS made from ingredients like caustic soda contaminated with mercury. The good news is that mercury-free HFCS ingredients exist. Food companies just need a good push to only use those ingredients," Wallinga said.

The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry has more about mercury and health.

CIA station chief in Algeria accused of rapes...

Exclusive: CIA Station Chief in Algeria Accused of Rapes
'Ugly American'? Spy Boss Allegedly Drugged Muslim Women, Made Secret Sex Videos
By BRIAN ROSS, KATE McCARTHY, and ANGELA M. HILL
Jan. 28, 2009

The CIA's station chief at its sensitive post in Algeria is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for allegedly raping at least two Muslim women who claim he laced their drinks with a knock-out drug, U.S. law enforcement sources tell ABC News.

The suspect in the case is identified as Andrew Warren in an affidavit for a search warrant filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. by an investigator for the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service.

Officials say the 41-year old Warren, a convert to Islam, was ordered home by the U.S. Ambassador, David Pearce, in October after the women came forward with their rape allegations in September.

According to the affidavit, the two women "reported the allegations in this affidavit independently of each other."

The affidavit says the first victim says she was raped by Warren in Sept. 2007 after being invited to a party at Warren's residence by U.S. embassy employees.

She told a State Department investigator that after Warren prepared a mixed drink of cola and whiskey, she felt a "violent onset of nausea" and Warren said she should spend the night at his home.

When she woke up the next morning, according to the affidavit, "she was lying on a bed, completely nude, with no memory of how she had been undressed." She said she realized "she recently had engaged in sexual intercourse, though she had no memory of having intercourse."

According to the affidavit, a second alleged victim told a similar story, saying Warren met her at the U.S. embassy and invited her for a "tour of his home" where she said he prepared an apple martini for her "out of her sight."

The second victim said she suddenly felt faint and went to the bathroom where "V2 [victim 2] could see and hear, but she could not move," the affidavit says.

She told investigators Warren "was attempting to remove V2's her pants." The affidavit states, "Warren continued to undress V2, and told her she would feel better after a bath."

The alleged victim said she remembers being in Warren's bed and asking him to stop, but that "Warren made a statement to the effect of 'nobody stays in my expensive sheets with clothes on.'" She told investigators "as she slipped in and out of consciousness she had conscious images of Warren penetrating her vagina repeatedly with his penis."

The second victim told investigators she sent Warren a text message accusing him of abusing her and he replied, "I am sorry," the affidavit says.

According to the affidavit, when Warren was interviewed by Diplomatic Security investigators, he claimed he had "engaged in consensual sexual intercourse" and admitted there were photographs of the two women on his personal laptop. He would not consent to a search or seizure of the computer, leading investigators to seek the warrant.

According to the affidavit, a search of Warren's residence in Algiers turned up Valium and Xanax and a handbook on the investigation of sexual assaults.

The affidavit says toxicologists at the FBI laboratory say Xanax and Valium are among the drugs "commonly used to facilitate sexual assault."

"Drugs commonly referred to as date rape drugs are difficult to detect because the body rapidly metabolizes them," said former FBI agent Brad Garrett, an ABC News consultant. "Many times women are not aware they were even assaulted until the next day," he said.

The CIA refused to acknowledge the investigation or provide the name of the Algiers station chief, but the CIA Director of Public Affairs, Mark Mansfield, said, "I can assure you that the Agency would take seriously, and follow up on, any allegations of impropriety."

State Department Acting Spokesman Robert Wood issued a statement saying, "The U.S. takes very seriously any accusations of misconduct involving any U.S. personnel abroad. The individual is question has returned to Washington and the U.S. Government is looking into the matter."

U.S. officials were bracing for public reaction in the Muslim world, following the report of the allegation.

"It has the potential to be quite explosive if it's not handled well by the United States government," said Isobel Coleman, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who specializes in women's issues in the Middle East.

"This isn't the type of thing that's going to be easily pushed under the carpet," she said.

U.S. Officials Say They Found Video Tapes

Both women have reportedly since given sworn statements to federal prosecutors sent from Washington to prepare a possible criminal case against the CIA officer.

Following the initial complaints, U.S. officials say they did obtain a warrant from a federal judge in Washington, D.C. in October to search the station chief's CIA-provided residence in Algiers and turned up the videos that appear to have been secretly recorded and show, they say, Warren engaged in sexual acts.

Officials say one of the alleged victims is seen on tape, in a "semi-conscious state."

The time-stamped date on other tapes led prosecutors to broaden the investigation to Egypt because the date matched a time when Warren was in Cairo, officials said.

As the station chief in Algiers, Warren played an important role in working with the Algerian intelligence services to combat an active al Qaeda wing responsible for a wave of bombings in Algeria.

In the most serious incident, 48 people were killed in a bombing in Aug. 2008 in Algiers, blamed on the al Qaeda group.

The Algerian ambassador to the United Nations, Mourad Benmehid, said his government had not been notified by the U.S. of the rape allegations or the criminal investigation.

Repeated messages left for the Warren with his parents and his sister were not returned.

No charges have been filed, but officials said a grand jury was likely to consider an indictment on sexual assault charges as early as next month.

"This will be seen as the typical ugly American," said former CIA officer Bob Baer, reacting to the ABC News report. "My question is how the CIA would not have picked up on this in their own regular reviews of CIA officers overseas," Baer said.

"From a national security standpoint," said Baer, the alleged rapes would be "not only wrong but could open him up to potential blackmail and that's something the CIA should have picked up on," said Baer. "This is indicative of personnel problems of all sorts that run through the agency," he said.

"Rape is ugly in any context," said Coleman, who praised the bravery of the alleged Algerian victims in going to authorities. "Rape is viewed as very shameful to women, and I think this is an opportunity for the U.S. to show how seriously it takes the issue of rape," she said.

Obama is a two-faced liar. Aw-RIGHT!

Obama is a two-faced liar. Aw-RIGHT!
by Greg Palast
January 29, 2009

Republicans are right. President Barack Obama treated them like dirt, didn't give a damn what they thought about his stimulus package, loaded it with a bunch of programs that will last for years and will never leave the budget, is giving away money disguised as "tax refunds," and is sneaking in huge changes in policy, from schools to health care, using the pretext of an economic emergency.

Way to go, Mr. O! Mr. Down-and-Dirty Chicago pol. Street-fightin' man. Covering over his break-your-face power play with a "we're all post-partisan friends" BS.

And it's about time.

Frankly, I was worried about this guy. Obama's appointing Clinton-droids to the Cabinet, bloated incompetents like Larry Summers as "Economics Czar," made me fear for my country, that we'd gotten another Democrat who wished he were a Republican.

Then came Obama's money bomb. The House bill included $125 billion for schools (TRIPLING federal spending on education), expanding insurance coverage to the unemployed, making the most progressive change in the tax code in four decades by creating a $500 credit against social security payroll deductions, and so on.

It's as if Obama dug up Ronald Reagan's carcass and put a stake through The Gipper's anti-government heart. Aw-RIGHT!

About the only concession Obama threw to the right-wing trogs was to remove the subsidy for condoms, leaving hooker-happy GOP Senators, like David Vitter, to pay for their own protection. S'OK with me.

And here's the proof that Bam is The Man: Not one single Republican congressman voted for the bill. And that means that Obama didn't compromise, the way Clinton and Carter would have, to win the love of these condom-less jerks.

And we didn't need'm. Nyah! Nyah! Nyah!

Now I understand Obama's weird moves: dinner with those creepy conservative columnists, earnest meetings at the White House with the Republican leaders, a dramatic begging foray into Senate offices. Just as the Republicans say, it was all a fraud. Obama was pure Chicago, Boss Daley in a slim skin, putting his arms around his enemies, pretending to listen and care and compromise, then slowly, quietly, slipping in the knife. All while the media praises Obama's "post-partisanship." Heh heh heh.

Love it. Now we know why Obama picked that vindictive little viper Rahm Emanuel as staff chief: everyone visiting the Oval office will be greeted by the Windy City hit man who would hack up your grandma if you mess with the Godfather-in-Chief.

I don't know about you, but THIS is the change I've been waiting for.

Will it last? We'll see if Obama caves in to more tax cuts to investment bankers. We'll see if he stops the sub-prime scum-bags from foreclosing on frightened families. We'll see if he stands up to the whining, gormless generals who don't know how to get our troops out of Iraq. (In SHIPS, you doofusses!)

Look, don't get your hopes up. But it may turn out the new President's ... a Democrat!

California pension funds close to bankruptcy...

California pension funds close to bankruptcy
By Kevin Martinez
30 January 2009

The two largest pension funds in California, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), have lost billions of dollars in value. Hundreds of thousands of retiring state employees and teachers now face the stark choice of accepting much reduced pension checks or working past their retirement age.

CalPERS is the largest pension fund in the US and the fourth largest in the world. At its height in October 2007 it had $260 billion in assets, comparable to the GDP of Poland, Indonesia or Denmark. At the end of 2008 CalPERS was worth $186 billion, one of its worst annual declines since the fund’s inception in 1932. It is one of the latest casualties of the financial collapse on Wall Street.

After years of gambling in real estate investments, the state workers pension fund has lost more than 41 percent of its value, after peaking last fall. Its real estate holdings have dropped from $9 billion to $5.8 billion, according to the Sacramento Bee.

CalPERS manages pension and health benefits for more than 1.6 million retirees and their families. The pensions are guaranteed by law, but given the current economic malaise employers may be asked to contribute more from their payrolls. The average employer, a taxpayer-funded government agency, contributes 12.7 percent of their payroll to CalPERS, while workers must contribute 5 to 7 percent of their salaries.

For now, a “rainy day fund” is being used to offset the worst in losses. It is likely, however, that CalPERS will ask for additional funds starting in July 2010 from state employers and July 2011 from local employers. The increases could be from 2 to 5 percent. Since the employers are public entities, the money will have to come from taxpayers or from budget cuts to other social programs.

CalPERS’s losses are intimately tied with the collapse of the housing bubble and the economic downturn in general. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has dropped 39.8 percent during the same period that CalPERS fell 31 percent. Because of the fund’s aggressive purchasing of real estate during the property bubble, CalPERS is now the largest owner of undeveloped residential land in America, much of it purchased in Arizona, California and Florida, some of the states hardest hit by the real estate crash. Many of these properties were purchased when their prices were at their peak.

The pension fund is expected to report paper losses of 103 percent on its residential investments in the fiscal year that ended June 30. It is estimated 80 percent of these investments were paid with borrowed money, which means that CalPERS will eventually be obligated to pay them back at the original market price.

The second largest pension fund in the US, CalSTRS, covers 794,812 teachers. Its value has fallen from $162.2 billion to $129.3 billion. CalSTRS’s pension funds are guaranteed just like CalPERS, but unlike CalPERS, it does not have the authority to ask for increased contributions from employers. CalSTRS is funded by school districts contributing 8.25 percent of its payroll. The state general fund pays 2 percent and a further 8 percent comes from the members’ salaries. Any contribution changes would have to be added by the state legislature and approved by the governor.

While CalPERS’ losses are currently being defrayed by the rainy-day fund, state administrators are hoping that the economic situation will improve, otherwise CalPERS and other pension funds will have to ask for further contributions. California Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who sits on the CalPERS board, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the current crisis means “both state and local government employers would be spending more on retirement than on some immediate program needs. Paying the commitments to pension obligation is a high priority, and it would take precedence over many other spendings.”

He added, “You either cut some other program expenditures or you tax something.” In other words, the pension deficit will be placed on the backs of working people who had no control over the investment decisions made by the government, let alone the recklessness and avarice of the banking executives and Wall Street speculators who are responsible for the crisis.

In the midst of a severe recession, this will only add to social anxiety and financial insecurity, particularly since hundreds of thousands of public school teachers and state employees covered by these massive pension funds have seen the value of their personal retirement savings, including 401(k)s and IRAs, reduced by 25 percent or more.

Pacific Grove, a coastal town north of San Francisco, highlights what cities and towns are being forced to do. In fiscal 2002, Pacific Grove paid less than $100,000 to CalPERS, only 1 percent of the town’s general fund revenue. By 2006, this cost shot up to more than $2.2 million, or 15 percent of its revenue.

The city of 15,000 would have to spend $10 million or more to pay its pension obligations if it were to pull out of CalPERS. The recreation department staff has already been reduced from seven to one and budgets for the library and Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, a 125-year-old institution, were cut in half.

Joanne Nolan Stewart, a 48-year-old with two children, told the Wall Street Journal, “The people who used to run the recreation programs grew up here and sheltered the kids like they were their own.” Joanne is also an account manager for AT&T and said, “If I were to retire, my retirement would be one-quarter of what I make today for the rest of my life.”

California’s pension and budget defaults are not isolated phenomena. All across the US state pension funds have been collapsing due to the broader economic crisis. According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, state governments have run up pension fund losses totaling $865.1 billion. Assets for 109 pension funds dropped 37 percent to $1.46 trillion in the 14-month period ending December 16. By comparison, the S&P 500 fell 41 percent in the same period.

To return to 2007 funding levels by 2010, the 109 funds would need annual returns of 52 percent, the center found. Alicia Munnell, the center’s director, told Bloomberg.com, “Even if markets recover, this will be a one-time loss that will have to be made up in the future by taxpayers.”

State and local governments contributed more than $64.5 billion to pension plans in fiscal 2005-2006, according to the US Census Bureau, which is about 57 percent of the $113.2 billion spent on police and firefighters. A report by the Pew Center on the States did a survey in December 2007 that found that states owed $2.35 trillion in pension payments over 30 years.

Unsurprisingly, state authorities are attempting to cut benefits for new state hires in order to ameliorate the crisis. In Kentucky, lawmakers set the minimum age of retirement at 57 for employees hired after September 1, and required 30 years of service, up from 27, to receive full benefits. They also capped cost-of-living adjustments, tied to the Consumer Price Index, at 1.5 percent. Democratic Governor of New York David Paterson, trying to close a $15.4 billion gap over 15 months, also wants to reduce new workers’ benefits while raising the retirement age from 55 to 62.

Rhode Island state and local governments were scheduled to make contributions to their pension funds equaling 25 percent of their payroll expenses in 2010, and the contributions may increase up to 30 percent in 2011 with a deepening recession. With increasing membership growth in state pension plans, these defaults will be even more exacerbated. State funds have been experiencing 12 percent growth since 2002, with 23.1 million now participating.

Company pension funds, or so-called defined benefit plans, have also been starved by the economic crash, falling to $1.2 trillion as of December 31 compared to $1.6 trillion a year earlier.

Chevron posts profit records for 2008...

Chevron's 2008 profit new record
By George Avalos
Staff Writer
Posted: 01/30/2009 07:59:26 AM PST

SAN RAMON - Chevron Corp. powered to a gusher of record profits in 2008 that totaled $23.9 billion, the company reported Friday, fueled in large measure by sky-high crude oil and gasoline prices for much of last year.

The full-year earnings for 2008 soared 28 percent above the 2007 profits of $18.69 billion - also a record at that time.

Chevron dropped 10 cents to $70.52, down 0.1 percent. The stocks rose more than 2 percent Friday morning before falling along with other U.S. equities. The broad-based S&P 500 index fell 2.3 percent.

"We achieved much success in 2008," said David O'Reilly, Chevron's chairman and chief executive.

San Ramon-based Chevron, though, quickly drew criticism from a consumer group that believes Chevron is too profitable and is using its cash improperly.

"Chevron's robust health is no help at all to the rest of the country," said Judy Dugan, research director with Santa Monica-based Oil Watchdog. "They reached deep into our wallets for these profits. They are using the profits to buy back their stock. They are just sitting on the cash."

Company officials, though, responded that the company will spend $22.8 billion on capital projects in 2009, roughly the levels of 2008.

"Our earnings reflect the scale of the industry, which is a large industry with large earnings, but also very large expenses," said Chevron spokesman Lloyd Avram. "We are investing a substantial amount of money in the search for new energy.

From 2002 through 2008, Chevron earned a cumulative $96 billion, but also spent $96 billion in the search for more crude oil and natural gas, according to Avram. "We are investing at our full capacity in the United States and internationally," Avram said. "We are putting all our capital into projects we are involved in." The company's return on revenues is 8.3 percent, Avram said. That compares with an average return on sales of 8.5 percent for the U.S. manufacturing industry. "What is good for the oil companies is not always good for Americans," Dugan said.

Chevron will curb efforts, for now, to buy back its own shares. The company had spent about $8 billion in buying its shares, O'Reilly said.

"That program has been suspended in the first quarter of 2009, owing to the need to preserve cash in very difficult economic times," Avram said. He added, "Our company is very strong financially. We have a healthy underlying business."

In the fourth quarter, Chevron earned $4.9 billion, or $2.44 a share, up 1 percent from a year-ago profit of $4.88 billion, or $2.32 a share.

Much of the profit was bolstered by a one-time gain of $600 million for a transaction. Still, even excluding the gain on an asset exchange, per-share profits were $2.14. That topped projections from analysts for a per-share profit of $1.82.

To be sure, Chevron has been forced to walk a tightrope that oscillates as crude oil and gasoline prices veer between highs and lows.

Yet the company seems to be balancing challenges in its upstream — exploration, development and production — operations and its downstream — refining and marketing — business, said Robert Sweet, a portfolio manager with Horizon Investment and editor of Dow Theory Forecasts.

"Chevron looks pretty well-positioned," Sweet said. "They are poised to out-perform expectations."

The profit picture for Chevron's refinery and retail business brightened in the October-December period, primarily due to the largest plunge on record for crude oil prices. That helped to swell profit margins for the company's refineries and sales of gasoline products.

But because oil prices declined and production drooped, Chevron's fourth-quarter earnings dwindled for exploration, production and development.

And production will be a key to Chevron's profit picture in 2009. Chevron has invested heavily in new oil and natural gas projects overseas and in the U.S. But Chevron hasn't realized as much return on those investments compared with other oil companies, primarily because many Chevron projects are large and complex, Sweet said.

"Chevron has been promising production growth for years and they haven't been delivering," Sweet said.

However, in the final months of 2008, some big new fields came on line. Production from those projects could ramp up. More fields may blossom in 2009.

"I like the trends going forward," Sweet said. "We are seeing they are delivering more than just promises. There are reasons to be optimistic about Chevron."

Exxon breaks own annual profit record...

Exxon breaks own annual profit record
By Isabel G
30 January 2009 @ 10:02 am EST

Exxon Mobil Corp. said its fourth-quarter net income fell 33 percent to $7.82 billion, on lower oil prices in the last months of 2008, but managed to break its own profit record for a U.S. company.

Exxon, the world's biggest nongovernmental oil company, reported a profit of $45.2 billion for 2008, in spite of fourth-quarter earnings dropping 33 percent from a year ago.

The previous record for annual profit was $40.6 billion, which it set in 2007.

The profit was largely due to soaring oil prices, which reached nearly $150 a barrel in July before dropping around 70 percent in the second half of the year amid the growing global economic crisis.

"ExxonMobil's financial strength continued to support its disciplined capital investment approach in the midst of a growing global economic slowdown," Exxon chief Rex Tillerson said in a statement.

The Irving, Texas-based company reported fourth quarter net income of $7.82 billion or $1.55 per share, compared to $11.66 billion or $2.13 per share in the same quarter of last year.

Revenue in the most-recent quarter fell 27 percent to $84.7 billion.

On average, analysts expected the company to earn $1.45 per share in the latest quarter on revenue of $69.1 billion.

Shares rose $1.50 or 1.95 percent to $78.50 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pharmaceuticals dumping toxic stew of chemicals in India's waterways...

India's Waterways A Toxic Stew of Pharmaceutical Chemicals Dumped from Big Pharma Factories
Monday, January 26, 2009 by: Mike Adams, NaturalNews Editor

(NaturalNews) Many of the pharmaceuticals consumed in the United States are made in India, where labor is cheap and environmental laws are lenient on powerful corporations. U.S. drug companies are exploiting this situation to manufacture hundreds of millions of doses of high-profit pharmaceuticals in India, where ingredients purchased for a few cents can be re-sold to U.S. health patients for hundreds of dollars (the markup on some drugs is literally over 500,000%).

There's something else Big Pharma doesn't want you to know about its drug operations in India: Big Pharma's manufacturing facilities dump millions of doses of toxic pharmaceutical chemicals directly into India's waterways.

Researchers were recently stunned to discover that 100 pounds of a powerful antibiotic called ciprofloxacin was being dumped into a local stream every day! That's a quantity of antibiotics that could treat an entire city of 90,000 people every day.

But that's not all: The same waterway contained an astonishing 21 pharmaceutical chemicals reports the Associated Press, some at levels that were 150 times the highest levels of contamination found in U.S. waterways. (And even the levels found in the U.S. were quite alarming.)


Big Pharma as a major chemical polluter

These findings are now added to the revelations of pharmaceutical contamination unveiled by the Associated Press last year, which found that the public water supplies in virtually all U.S. cities tested were contaminated with pharmaceutical chemicals.

What's emerging from these disturbing discoveries is a picture of Big Pharma as a global corporate polluter that's dumping chemicals into the world's sensitive waterways, polluting villages, cities and aquatic ecosystems around the world.

Under the Bush Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency outright refused to regulate pharmaceuticals as environmental hazards. With Obama in the White House, it remains to be seen whether the new administration will clamp down on pharmaceutical pollution.

Big Pharma now has something in common with Exxon, Cargill, Alcoa and Chevron: The outrageous pollution of the environment with toxic chemicals. But in many ways, Big Pharma's chemicals are far more dangerous. HRT drugs, for example, are toxic at parts per billion, and they're now being found in public water supplies around the world.

Municipal water treatment facilities, by the way, don't remove pharmaceutical chemicals from the water! Whatever HRT drugs, psychiatric drugs or other chemicals that exist in the water are passed right through the water treatment centers which unwisely add yet more chemicals (fluoride and chlorine, typically) to the toxic brew. Citizens drinking public water supplies in India, the U.K., Canada and the United States are now verifiably participating in a grand experiment involving the mass medication of the population with low levels of utterly untested pharmaceutical combinations.

How long will this be allowed to continue before the environmental protection authorities clamp down on pharmaceutical dumping?

So far, environmental regulators have done nothing to stop the dumping of drugs into public water supplies. This is true even in America, where hospitals routinely dispose of drugs by simply flushing them down the toilet (injecting them directly into the water supply consumed downstream).

Consumers also need to realize that the drugs you swallow are also environmental pollutants. Many drugs pass right through the human body unaltered, where they are flushed back into the water supply that's consumed downstream. (Yes, the toilet water from one city becomes the drinking water of the next city down the river. If you didn't know this, you have a LOT to learn about the water supply, and you probably won't like what you learn... especially if you live downstream...)


Big Pharma is contaminating our planet

It's becoming quite clear that the pharmaceutical industry is now directly contributing to the mass chemical contamination of our planet. By allowing factories to dump drugs into local waterways, by tolerating a "flush it" mentality at hospitals and pharmacies, and by drugging consumers with an endless brew of vaccines, medications and toxic substances such as chemotherapy agents, the pharmaceutical industry has "achieved" the distinction as a major world polluter.

Those who take pharmaceuticals are, in fact, directly contributing to the chemical contamination of the planet. That's why getting off medications is not only good for your health; it's also good for the planet.

You can't be "green" if you're taking medications. Consuming pharmaceuticals is simply incompatible with sustainable life on Earth. And the more drugs are manufactured and consumed, the worse this problem will become.

Let me put it this way: The survival of our planet depends on the demise of Big Pharma.

You can save the planet, or you can save Big Pharma. But not both.

Which would you rather have around for future generations? Living oceans, blue skies, clean water and healthy species? Or sterile oceans, dwindling aquatic life, mutant human babies and widespread cancer, infertility and shortened lifespans?

It's your choice: Mother Nature, or Big Pharma.


Centuries of the chemical destruction of our planet

The devastating long-term effects of this chemical contamination of our world's waterways have yet to be truly understood at all. The chemicals being dumped into our environment by Big Pharma today may pollute our planet for hundreds of years, destroying aquatic ecosystems, killing fish populations and causing widespread physical deformities across many species. Combine this with all the pesticide runoff already being used across the planet and it becomes quite clear that the human race has set itself on a path of self destruction.

How's that? Because humans don't exist in isolation from the natural world. When we destroy or disrupt the planet's delicate ecosystems through chemical contamination, we unleash a backlash of effects that put the entire human race in jeopardy: Outbreaks of infectious disease, plummeting fish stocks in ocean waters, rising risks of superbugs across the population and even long-term disruptions in the food supply due to pharmaceutical contamination of food crops and soil microorganisms. (Irrigation water being sprayed on crops is now also contaminated with pharmaceuticals...)

Stated bluntly, what's happening is that the pharmaceutical industry is poisoning our world -- and it's doing it for profit. While their factories in India are dumping millions of doses of antibiotics (and a brew of twenty other drugs) into the water supply each year, they're importing those drugs into the U.S. and selling them at monopoly prices to gullible consumers, all while pretending they're on some sort of humanitarian mission to help people.

The truth is that Big Pharma is committing crimes against Nature, and we'll all end up paying the price for allowing these crimes to continue under our watch. Every living thing in our world is interconnected: You can't poison the waterways with a toxic brew of dangerous chemicals and expect to be insulated from the effects of that forever.

Sometimes I stand back in sheer astonishment at how short-sighted human civilization truly is. Today our population demonstrates a striking lack of understanding about the web of life on our planet combined with an outright abandonment of ethics and morals. Companies (and many people) simply do whatever benefits them at the moment, regardless of the long-term consequences. The pharmaceutical industry exemplifies this destructive philosophy best, as it actually works to trap people in a cycle of disease treatment, all while raking in obscene profits for poisoning the people and the planet.

What a shameful business model. It's beyond shame, really. It's a crime. And it's time we put an end to these crimes against the People and against the planet.

Once again, I call for the arrest and prosecution of Big Pharma CEOs and executives for their role in planning and executing these crimes against humanity and Nature. In the U.S., this must be pursued by the Dept. of Justice, since the FDA, EPA and FTC remain in a tight conspiracy with the drug industry and will do nothing to bring their protected corporations to justice.

You can help support the effort to bring these criminals to justice (and end the chemical contamination of our planet by Big Pharma) by contacting your elected representatives (in any country) and letting them know how outraged you are about the widespread chemical pollution caused by the pharmaceutical industry.

Save the planet. End the era of Big Pharma.

Why an a**hole is always in charge(Greg Palast)...

Why An A**Hole is Always in Charge.
Greg Palast for SuicideGirls.com
Sunday 25, 2009

John Thain is the guy that looks like a Clark Kent doll you saw grinning from page one of your paper Friday morning. Thain was just fired by Bank of America because the square-jawed executive demanded a $30 million bonus after losing $5 billion in just three months at the bank's Merrill Lynch unit. In addition, Thain spent over a million dollars redecorating his office - including installation of a $35,000 toilet bowl - while the U.S. Treasury was bailing out his company.

There is no justice. Thain shouldn't have been fired; he should have gotten a $60 million bonus -- and Obama should immediately hire him as Secretary of the Treasury in place of that tax-dodging lightweight that's been nominated, Timothy Geithner.

Here's the facts, ma'am.

Thain was CEO of Merrill Lynch, the big brokerage firm. On a good day, Merrill is worth zero. A week before it was about to go out of business, Thain sold this busted bag of financial feces to Bank of America for $50 BILLION.

I'd say that's worth a bonus.

But it gets better. When the bag broke and another $5 billion in losses were discovered at Merrill, Thain went to the U.S. Treasury and got ANOTHER $20 BILLION to cover Bank of America's bad financial bet -- from us, the taxpayers.

Now that certainly deserves a bonus. And let's face it, a butthole that big needs a $35,000 toilet. Instead, the guy that paid the $50 billion, Bank of America Chairman Kenneth Lewis, is keeping his job. Lewis is the same guy that just spent billions more on buying Countrywide Financial, the sub-prime mortgage loan sharks that have brought America to its knees and put Bank of America into effective bankruptcy. (Note to Mr. Lewis: the only thing worse than getting cancer is PAYING for it.)

But dumber than Lewis is the loser who OK'd paying Bank of America for its losses on Merrill, who traded a pile of turds for a stack of gold -- our gold from the U.S. Treasury. That was Tim Geithner, Obama's pick for Treasury Secretary, who's now answering questions at Senate confirmation hearings about his funky tax filings. Tiny Tim was head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank during the Bush regime. Along with Bush's Secretary of the Treasury, Geithner came up with that $700 billion bail-out that loaded banks with loot on their way to insolvency. Bank of America got $25 billion of it to spend on Thain's company Merrill. That was before the extra $20 billion was weedled by Thain.

So why, President Obama, have you given us Tiny Tim to save our sorry nation's economic behind? What's with that?

In another life I was an economist. Really. So here's the economic facts of life: Our valiant young president is going to have to borrow a trillion dollars to bring our economy back from the grave. He's got to borrow it, no choice about that. But who in their right minds will lend it to us? I can tell you the number one job of a new Treasury Secretary will be to con Saudi sheiks and Chinese apparatchiks into lending us another trillion (they've already lent $2 trillion).

Who in the world can talk them into it?

The answer came to me after I went this afternoon to see my proctologist, a brilliant doctor with one eye and really long fingers. (OK, I made that up.) The good doctor told me that hoary old joke about the heart and brain and rectum getting into a fight about which one was more important. When the higher organs made fun of the butt-end, the rectum went on strike. After a month, the brain and heart couldn't take it any more -- the whole body was about to explode. So they told the rectum, 'You win.' And the rectum said, 'Now you know why an asshole's always in charge.'

There's our answer. Instead of an easily duped, incompetent weasel like Geithner for Secretary of the Treasury, what we really need is a lying bucket of evil snot, a flaming red take-no-prisoners asshole. A guy like Thain that can sell a piece of crap like Merrill for billions -- twice -- is just what we need to shake down the sheiks. "America for Sale! Cheap!"

And Thain comes with his own gold-plated toilet.

Karl Rove subpoenaed by House Committee chairman...

House Judiciary chairman subpoenas Karl Rove
By LARRY MARGASAK – 4 hours ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Judiciary Committee chairman subpoenaed former White House adviser Karl Rove on Monday to testify about the Bush administration's firing of U.S. attorneys and prosecution of a former Democratic governor.

The subpoena by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., continues a long-running legal battle with ex-President George W. Bush's former White House political director. Rove previously refused to appear before the panel, contending that former presidential advisers cannot be compelled to testify before Congress.

The subpoena commanded Rove to appear for a deposition on Feb. 2 on the firings of U.S. attorneys for political reasons. Conyers also demanded testimony on whether politics played a role in the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, a Democrat.

Bush upheld Rove's legal position, but Conyers said times have changed.

"That 'absolute immunity' position ... has been rejected by U.S. District Judge John Bates and President Obama has previously dismissed the claim as 'completely misguided,'" Conyers said in a statement.

Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.

"I have said many times that I will carry this investigation forward to its conclusion, whether in Congress or in court, and today's action is an important step along the way," Conyers said.

The change in administrations may affect the legal arguments available to Rove, Conyers said.

"Change has come to Washington, and I hope Karl Rove is ready for it. After two years of stonewalling, it's time for him to talk," Conyers said.

Iceland government falls...

Icelandic government falls; asked to stay on

(CNN) -- Iceland's ruling coalition resigned Monday, three months after the collapse of the country's currency, stock market and several major banks, and following months of public protests, Kristjan Kristjansson, a spokesman for the prime minister told CNN.

President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson officially accepted Prime Minister Geir Haarde's resignation but asked him and other Cabinet members to continue in an interim capacity until a new government can be formed.

It was not immediately clear when that might happen, but last week Haarde -- citing illness -- said he would not seek re-election.

Monday's developments followed weeks of demonstrations in the streets, and a weekend of meetings in government chambers as the two parties in Iceland's governing coalition grappled with the financial collapse and its aftermath.

About 6,000 to 7,000 people demonstrated on Saturday calling for the government to step down. Watch iReport of Saturday demonstration

Protests have been staged regularly since the collapse, but Saturday's was one of the biggest to date, Kristjansson said.

Saturday's demonstration was peaceful, he said, but riot police intervened during protests earlier in the week, using pepper spray and arresting some demonstrators.

Haarde announced Friday that he has a malignant tumor on his esophagus and would not run for re-election as chair of the Independence Party.

Senior government officials from the two parties that make up Iceland's coalition government -- the Independence Party and the Social Democrats -- met Sunday to discuss the government's future after the commerce minister resigned.

The minister, Bjorgvin Sigurdsson, said the government had failed to restore confidence in the three months since the financial crisis began in October.

In his resignation letter to the prime minister, Sigurdsson said he was taking his share of responsibility for the economic situation in Iceland.

But he also said that there were many more who shared responsibility, Urdur Gunnarsdottir, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told CNN. No other officials were named.

Before resigning, Sigurdsson dismissed the head of the country's financial supervisory authority, and he requested that the entire board of the agency resign.

The president will next meet with the leaders of Iceland's political parties to find out what type of government they think should be formed. Grimsson will then give the task of forming a new government to whichever party he feels best suited to do that.

The chosen party will then try to form a new coalition government. If unsuccessful, the president will give the task to another party. If all attempts of forming a new government failed, the president would call for new elections, Kristjansson told CNN.

Iceland's financial system and currency collapsed in October after a series of bank failures, prompting the International Monetary Fund to intervene.

Iceland sought IMF help after its government was forced to nationalize three banks to head off a complete collapse of its financial system. Trading on the country's stock market was suspended for nearly a week, and inflation jumped to more than 12 percent.

The IMF announced in November it would pump about $827 million into the Icelandic economy immediately, with another $1.3 billion coming in eight installments.

Iceland's Nordic neighbors -- the governments of Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden -- announced they would lend Iceland another $2.5 billion.

Is military spending crippling America?

January 26, 2009, 8:51
Is military spending crippling America?

The United States spends hundreds of billions of dollars each year on its military. Part of the budget funds a worldwide network of bases, including sites in former Soviet republics.

The U.S. has 6,000 military bases on its own territory and huge numbers of military facilities abroad - more than any other country in the world.

Experts estimate the number of units to be from 600 to over 800 spread over 130 countries.

Investigative journalist Wayne Madsen believes many of the locations are kept secret.

"Recently, there was an incident where an Air Force enlisted man crashed into a wedding procession in Lithuania. It turns out he was attached to an air base in Lithuania. So every day we find out about additional U.S. bases that we haven't heard of in the past," Madsen said.

Why the secrecy? Author and expert in U.S. military bases overseas, Alexander Cooley, says host countries often prefer to keep quiet about the bases.

"As U.S. legitimacy has declined, host country governments have been less willing to publicly be associated with the U.S.," Cooley says.

However, that is not true for all governments.

Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili welcomes the idea of an American presence on Georgian territory and has reportedly offered the U.S. several thousand hectares of land to use for military bases.

Often, smaller countries like former soviet republic, Kyrygyzstan, allow bases to be set up on their territory for financial reasons.

However, the Georgian president is willing to waive rent and has offered the land with a 90-year lease.

"Georgia wants continuous and prolonged security engagement with the United States and with the West more broadly. Especially now that it sees that its path to EuroAtlantic integration has in some way been stymied. It perceives that a security relationship with the U.S. is the best way to guarantee that EuroAtlantic orientation," Cooley said.

"So, any offer of Georgian territory or facilities to the United States or to NATO members is an attempt to lock in that kind of security interest and that type of engagement." he added.

Meanwhile, some analysts say the United States doesn’t need about a quarter of the military bases it has around the world.

Moreover, as Wayne Madsen says, the US simply can’t afford them any more.

“We won’t be able to pay for many of these bases and we may soon see many of these being closed down," he said.

Last year, the United States spent almost as much on its military as the rest of the world put together devoted to defence.

And all this at a time when taxpayers have been counting pennies to make ends meet.

But cutting spending on the military, the United States could massively increase the amount it invests in the needs of ordinary people.

But there are analysts who warn that the new president will not dramatically curtail America’s ambitious military policies.

Did drug money provide funds for saving banks?

Did Drug Money Provide Funds For Saving the Banks?

January 26, 2009 (LPAC)--In an exclusive interview with Austria's weekly Profil, printed this week, Antonio Mario Costa, General Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said, "In many cases, drug money at present is the only liquid investment capital available.... During the second half of the year 2008, liquidity however was the biggest problem of the banking system, thereby liquid capital became an important factor."

Not naming any particular banks, Costa said that his agency had found evidence that "interbank loans were financed by capital that came from drug trade and other illegal activities. There are hints that some banks were saved in this way."

LPAC is pursuing this story.

Afghanistan: Dope,Inc.'s heroin machine...

Afghanistan: Dope, Inc.'s Heroin Machine

January 26, 2009 (LPAC)--The London-centered international narcotics enterprise which Lyndon LaRouche refers to as "Dope, Inc." has converted Afghanistan into a giant opium and heroin producing machine for the global drug market London has created. Afghan opium production soared by 140% over the last five years--from 3,400 metric tons in 2002 to some 8,200 metric tons in 2007--and its share of world production leapt from 75% to 92% in the same period.

This is not a question of local production as such, Lyndon LaRouche stressed today. "The problem lies in the distribution of it internationally. It's because of the shipment of the crop to its market." If you are serious about addressing the problem, LaRouche stated, "you have to destroy the system of drug pushing. The question is how do you make the whole system inoperable. And that depends on the export of the drug, and on obliterating the financial side" of Dope, Inc.'s operations.

Dope, Inc. has a lot going for it in Afghanistan. Opium yields there are about 40 kilograms per hectare, which is substantially higher than in other producing countries, where it is about 15 kg/ha. It is widely known that half of Afghan opium is grown in the British-occupied Helmand province, which is only 9% of the country's land area.

Furthermore, since about 2002 Afghanistan has improved the efficiency of its conversion of opium into heroin, by about 15%. Instead of requiring 10 kg of opium to produce 1 kg of heroin (which has been the standard historic average around the world for decades), Afghanistan now requires only 8.5 kg of opium to produce 1 kg of heroin.

This means that out of an estimated world production of about 795 tons of heroin in 2007, Afghanistan produced some 753 tons (95% of the total), and the rest of the world only 42 tons. The "Afghan bonus" due to the increased conversion efficiency since 2002, added about 110 tons to what they otherwise would have produced--which alone is nearly 3 times what the rest of the world produced!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Swiss nuclear smuggling suspect claims CIA link...

Swiss nuclear smuggling suspect claims CIA link
By Frank Jordans/The Associated Press

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 GENEVA (AP) — A Swiss man suspected of being involved in the world's biggest nuclear smuggling ring claims he supplied the CIA with information that led to the breakup of the black market nuclear network led by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.

In a documentary airing Thursday on Swiss TV station SF1, Urs Tinner says he tipped off U.S. intelligence about a delivery of centrifuge parts meant for Libya's nuclear weapons program.

The shipment was seized at the Italian port of Taranto in 2003, forcing Libya to admit and eventually renounce its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.

The 43-year-old Tinner is suspected, along with his brother Marco and father Friedrich, of supplying Khan's clandestine network with technical know-how and equipment that was used to make gas centrifuges.

Khan — the creator of Pakistan's atomic bomb — sold the centrifuges for secret nuclear weapons programs in countries that included Libya and Iran before his operation was disrupted in 2003.

Tinner was freed by Swiss authorities last month after almost five years in investigative detention and he has yet to be charged.

Tinner's account echoes that of the book "The Nuclear Jihadist," by U.S. investigative reporters Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins. Frantz says, based on interviews with sources in the U.S. intelligence community, Urs Tinner was recruited by the CIA as early as 2000.

A CIA spokesman, George Little, refused to discuss the Tinner case. The agency has said in the past that "the disruption of the A.Q. Khan network was a genuine intelligence success, one in which the CIA played a key role."

In the Swiss documentary, Tinner also claims he sabotaged equipment destined for uranium enrichment facilities so it would malfunction on first use. He does not say which country the sabotaged parts were destined for.

Former Swiss Justice Minister Christoph Blocher told the SF documentary that he traveled to Washington in 2007 — three years after Urs Tinner's arrest — to discuss the case with then-U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Blocher says he refused a U.S. request to hand over thousands of files of evidence in the case, but the Swiss Cabinet later decided to shred the files after it learned they contained information that could endanger national security, including nuclear warhead designs.

On Thursday, a parliamentary panel criticized the government for destroying the files, saying there was no immediate danger to Switzerland's internal or external security.

The Swiss government also refused to let federal prosecutors investigate whether the Tinners had engaged in espionage for a foreign state, a punishable offense.

Urs Tinner is waiting to see whether prosecutors will file charges against him for breaking Swiss laws on the export of sensitive material — a crime that carries a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment.

The federal criminal court in Bellinzona on Thursday ordered Marco Tinner released on a bail of 100,000 Swiss francs ($87,000), rejecting an appeal by prosecutors to keep him in prison pending a possible trial.

Swiss weekly NZZ am Sonntag reported last month that prosecutors objected to Marco Tinner's release because of concerns he might still possess sensitive information on the construction of nuclear bombs.

Jeanette Balmer, a spokeswoman for the federal prosecutor's office in Bern, refused to comment on the newspaper report.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has said its investigation into the Khan network, which operated in 30 countries, showed that some members possessed highly sensitive information. The information was in electronic form, making it easy to disseminate, and the agency was concerned that some of the documents may still be out in circulation.

Italy to increase by ten-fold the troops in cities...

Italy may put '10 times' more troops in cities: Berlusconi
1 day ago

ROME (AFP) — Italy could increase by ten-fold the estimated 3,000 troops patrolling major cities and sensitive areas across the country since August, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Saturday.

Berlusconi said Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa and Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, "proposed to multiply by 10 the number of soldiers" to "fight the army of evil" and rampant crime, according to the ANSA agency.

A commission will be set up look into the issue "in the next few days", after which point the number of troops could be progressively stepped up, La Russa said.

In August, Berlusconi ushered in the controversial move to deploy the troops amid a series of measures aimed at cracking down on both crime and illegal immigration, issues his right wing government has tied together.

The Italian left and police unions criticised the use of troops, accusing Berlusconi's government of seeking to "militarize" city centres and cover up cuts in spending on defence and security.

The safety of Italy's streets once again made headlines after two highly-publicised rape cases Wednesday.

A 41-year-old woman was raped by two men near in a bus stop in Rome, and five men beat a couple, raping the woman, in Guidonia, near Rome.

Veracity of Pentagon report on Gitmo detainees returning to terrorism questioned...

January 24, 2009 -- Updated 2122 GMT (0522 HKT)
Security experts skeptical on Gitmo detainee report

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Security experts are questioning information released by the Pentagon last week, saying 61 former detainees from its detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, may have returned to terrorist activities.

The report, released days before President Obama took office, says 18 former detainees are confirmed to have participated in attacks, and 43 are suspected to have been involved in attacks.

That figure would be about 11 percent of the roughly 520 prisoners who have been released from the Guantanamo facility, which Obama on Thursday ordered be shut down.

On Friday, a Pentagon spokesman defended the integrity of the report but would not directly answer questions about where the figures come from.

"We don't make these figures up. They're not done willy-nilly," spokesman Geoff Morrell said.

Pentagon officials have said they would not discuss how the statistics were derived because of security concerns that such information could give clues to how U.S. intelligence officers collect their data.

"It is painstakingly done by the Defense Intelligence Agency, and they go over this with great care," Morrell said.

He said evidence of someone being "confirmed" to have returned to terrorism could include fingerprints, a conclusive photograph or "well-corroborated intelligence reporting."

CNN has learned that some former Guantanamo detainees have returned to the fight.

An al Qaeda video viewed by CNN's Nic Robertson showed militants labeled with their former prisoner numbers. Saeed Shihri, Prisoner No. 372, is believed to have been responsible for an attack on the U.S. embassy in Yemen that killed nearly a dozen people in September, barely a year after he was released from Guantanamo.

A U.S. counter-terrorism expert said Shihri is one of al Qaeda's top leaders in Yemen.

Others have included Abdullah Mahsud, who blew himself up to avoid capture by Pakistani forces in July 2007, and Ruslan Anatolivich Odizhev, who was transferred to Russia in March 2004 and killed in a June 2007 gunbattle with Russian security forces.

Peter Bergen, a national security expert and CNN analyst, notes that of the 18 people the Pentagon says are confirmed to have engaged in terrorism, only a handful of names have been released.

If one accepts that all 18 on the "confirmed" list have returned to the battlefield, that would be 4 percent of the detainees who have been released, Bergen said.

Bergen also noted Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics data that show the recidivism rate for U.S. state prisoners who have been released is more than 65 percent. Those same numbers show that about half of the released prisoners are returned to prison.

Bergen said that some of the prisoners at Guantanamo may not have been terrorists at all but were singled out by vengeful villagers who told U.S. authorities they were al Qaeda.

"We know that a lot of people who were in Guantanamo don't qualify as being the 'worst of the worst,'" he said, quoting former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's assessment.

Bergen said some of those "suspected" to have returned to terrorism are so categorized because they publicly made anti-American statements, "something that's not surprising if you've been locked up in a U.S. prison camp for several years."

In a briefing Thursday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates -- an advocate for closing Guantanamo while serving under President Bush and, now, under President Obama -- seemed to downplay the number of former detainees who have returned to fighting.

"It's not as big a number if you're talking about 700 or a thousand or however many have been through Guantanamo," he said.

As the Pentagon begins the work of closing the facility and finding places to send, or release, detainees there, Gates stressed that security will remain his top concern.

"Clearly, the challenge that faces us, and that I've acknowledged before, is figuring out how do we close Guantanamo and, at the same time, safeguard the security of the American people," he said. "That's the challenge that we will continue to face."

Conflict of interest plagues Dennis Ross,in contention for post of special envoy to Iran...

Mother Of All Conflicts Of Interest Plagues Dennis Ross

January 25, 2008 (LPAC)--While Dennis Ross remains in contention for the critical post of Obama Administration special envoy to Iran, new evidence suggests that Ross is caught up in such a blatant conflict of interest that he should remove himself immediately from consideration. As initially reported on Col. Patrick Lang's authoritative website, Ross is currently the Chairman of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, a think tank established in 2002 by the Jewish Agency. The organization is directed by a team of top Israeli military and diplomatic personnel, including at least one figure with ties to the Larry Franklin/AIPAC spy ring. Prof. Uzi Arad, a director of the JPPPI, is the head of the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzliya, and is a former Mossad officer. Arad was deeply implicated in the Larry Franklin spy case, having brought Franklin to Herzliya conferences, and having met with him at the Pentagon on at least one occasion. U.S. intelligence sources had told EIR, at the time that the Franklin case first surfaced, that Arad was being positioned to be the "handler'' of Franklin. The argument was that an "ex'' Mossad officer, working at a "think tank'' could give Israeli intelligence plausible deniability of any role in the ongoing spying efforts, should Franklin be caught. Arad's name appeared in the Franklin indictment, and it is unclear what further details have emerged in the probe into the two AIPAC officials, still awaiting trial. Franklin pled guilty and agreed to cooperate with Federal prosecutors.

The Arad issue aside, the fact that Ross is the Chairman of an organization that is a virtual branch of the Israeli government, should be reason enough for his name to be removed from consideration for such a sensitive diplomatic assignment as special envoy to Iran. The Israeli government has made it clear that they have a very different policy towards Iran than the United States, as evidenced by the fact that JCS Chairman Adm. Mullen and Defense Secretary Gates made it clear, throughout 2008, that the United States was totally opposed to any Israeli preventive military strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities.

Obama promises tougher bank oversight...

Obama Administration Promises Tougher Bank Oversight

January 24, 2009 (LPAC)-- The White House is signaling that the big banks will have to face something they didn't face under the recently departed Bush/Cheney regime: Oversight of how they spend U.S. taxpayer-supplied money. Prior to meeting with Congressional leaders yesterday morning, President Obama noted "the lack of accountability and transparency in how we are managing some of these programs to stabilize the financial system." White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs later told reporters that Obama has directed his advisors to come up with new restrictions on the second half of the $700 billion rescue plan. "The American people need to be greatly assured that their hard-earned money is not going to the bonuses or the remodeling of an office at a bank that's in trouble," he said, referring to news reports that former Merrill Lynch chief John Thain spent $1.2 million to remodel his Manhattan office, including $1,400 on a wastepaper basket.

Bloomberg reports that Obama aides are saying that banks that get additional aid won't be allowed to acquire other banks and will be pressed to provide more credit to consumers and businesses. Larry Summers, the head of Obama's National Economic Council, also reported to Congress, last week, that up to $100 billion of the remaining funds will be used for foreclosure relief and he promised that the administration will restrict executive pay and dividends for institutions that get the money.

The Obama Administration also plans to move quickly in restoring some forms of financial regulation, reports an article for publication the Sunday edition of the New York Times. Some of the proposals that the administration is preparing draw from the report of a committee led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. The theme of that report, according to the Times, is that many major companies and financial instruments have been mostly unsupervised and need to be pulled back under a larger regulatory umbrella. Some of the measures include eliminating conflicts of interest at credit rating agencies, issuing Federal standards for mortgage brokers and requiring derivatives like credit default swaps to be traded through a central clearinghouse or on one or more exchanges, making them much easier to regulate. Under the proposals, hedge funds would also be required to register with and be more closely supervised by the SEC.

According to the Times, "Officials said that the proposals were aimed at the core regulatory problems and gaps that have been highlighted by the market crisis," including lax government oversight of financial institutions, the creation of exotic financial instruments and so on. While discussion of the regulation of derivatives and hedge funds is undoubtedly useful, it is not enough without the bankruptcy reorganization of the system, as only Lyndon LaRouche is proposing.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Merrill Lynch and Bank of America: Stealing on the way to hell...

Merrill Lynch and Bank of America: Stealing on the Way to Hell
Increase Decrease

January 22, 2009 (LPAC) -- New ammunition for the Pecora Commission was made public this week, when it was revealed that former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain, as his bankrupt firm was being taken over by Bank of America, succeeded in pocketing $4 billion in non-existent money from its coffers, confident that BOA would make it up in Federal bailouts -- i.e., if there's no money left on the road to hell, steal it from the taxpayers along the way.

Here's the chronology, as reported in the Financial Times (and others):

Dec. 5 - BofA shareholders approved the planned takeover of Merrill, as worked out by Paulson and Bernanke during the "weekend at Bernanke's" in which Lehman was allowed to fail, but BofA would save Merrill.

Dec. 8 - Merrill approved bonuses amounting to about $4 billion -- fully two months before bonuses are usually dispersed, in February.

Dec. 29 - The bonuses were paid.

Jan. 1 - BofA took over Merrill Lynch, only to "discover" that Merrill's losses for the fourth quarter were far greater than expected, at $21.5 billion. BofA immediately began new talks with Treasury to get more money, since the mere $25 billion passed out last year wouldn't be enough.

Jan. 16 - TARP agrees to another $20 billion of taxpayer's money for BofA -- easily covering the cost of the bonuses.

Jan 22 - With the story breaking in the press, BofA CEO Ken Lewis canned former Merrill CEO John Thain from his new post as president of the merged company's global operations. Also, NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is reported to have launched an investigation of the Merrill Lynch bonuses, according to Bloomberg News.

Mystery prison buses in Tucson...

Mystery Prison Buses in the Desert
Ellen Brown
Web of Debt
January 22, 2009

On a recent visit to Tucson, where I was invited to give a presentation on monetary reform, I was disturbed by a story of strange goings on in the desert. A little over a year ago, it seems, a new industrial facility sprang up on the edge of town. It was in a remote industrial zone and appeared to be a bus depot. The new enterprise was surrounded by an imposing security fence and bore no outward signs identifying its services. However, it soon became apparent that the compound was in the business of outfitting a fleet of prison buses. Thirty or so secondhand city buses were being reconfigured with prison bars in the windows and a coat of fresh paint bearing the “Wackenhut G4S” logo on the side.

The new Wackenhut operation is shrouded in mystery. It has been running its fleet of empty prison buses night and day, apparently logging miles on a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) contract. Multiple buses can be seen driving all over town and even on remote desert back roads. Oddly, except for the driver and one escort guard seated in front, these buses are always empty.

Wackenhut Services was founded by George Wackenhut in 1954 to provide prison guard services to state and federal governments. Mr. Wackenhut was reported to be something of a brawler himself, having once earned distinction beating up his business partner in a fist fight. Now owned by the Danish corporation G4S, Wackenhut Services has a sinister reputation for hiring thugs. It has been said that it’s hard to tell which is more dangerous, the prisoners or the guards.

Observers originally thought that the purpose of the new Wackenhut operation was to outfit prison buses to be distributed in other parts of the country. But it soon became apparent that none of the buses was leaving the Tucson depot. Recently, a passerby observed what appeared to be a training operation there. In what seemed to be strange activity for 10:30 PM on a Saturday night, the depot yard was fully illuminated, the entire fleet of buses was up and running, and drivers and guards were scrambling around the yard. The question is, what were they training for?

Wackenhut has never officially announced itself to the community, and the local news media have never mentioned its presence. Hiring has been discreetly conducted via the Internet, and an apathetic general public has taken little notice. Among the few who have noticed, one theory is that the prison bus depot is simply infrastructure for border security. But if so, where are the illegal aliens? Why are these buses always empty? What is the alleged justification for burning thousands of gallons of diesel fuel to run thirty decrepit, smoking buses night and day without passengers?

There is another interesting piece to this puzzle. On the desolate plain between Phoenix and Tucson is a tiny town called Florence, Arizona, which features a population consisting largely of prisoners. For decades, Florence has been the home of two of the largest county and federal prisons in the state; and in 2007, a vast new DHS prison was built there as well. Like the Wackenhut buses, this shiny new facility, which literally disappears into the horizon, has gone unannounced and unnoticed by the general public. A new facility for imprisoning illegal aliens? It is hard to imagine such expensive infrastructure being built for that purpose when U.S. policy has been to simply return illegals to their home countries.

Fraud and waste aside, this mysterious activity has sinister implications. Why the obvious secrecy? Since the World Trade Center disaster in 2001, the Department of Homeland Security has grown to monster proportions, claiming a projected $50 billion of the federal budget in 2009. DHS includes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which earned notoriety in 2005 for its gross mishandling of the Katrina disaster in New Orleans. Al Martin, a retired naval intelligence officer and former contributor to the Presidential Council of Economic Advisors, has linked the remilitarization of FEMA to the civil unrest anticipated along with economic collapse. He wrote in a November 2005 newsletter called “Behind the Scenes in the Beltway”:

“FEMA is being upgraded as a federal agency, and upon passage of PATRIOT Act III, which contains the amendment to overturn posse comitatus, FEMA will be re-militarized, which will give the agency military police powers. . . . Why is all of this being done? Why is the regime moving to a militarized police state and to a dictatorship? It is because of what Comptroller General David Walker said, that after 2009, the ability of the United States to continue to service its debt becomes questionable. Although the average citizen may not understand what that means, when the United States can no longer service its debt it collapses as an economic entity. We would be an economically collapsed state. The only way government can function and can maintain control in an economically collapsed state is through a military dictatorship.”1

Of course, there may be another, more innocent explanation for all this. But anyone living near one of these facilities should be asking to hear it. In the meantime, the ominous implications would seem to warrant exploring alternative sources of funding for the federal budget and the federal debt. There are other ways to deal with the national debt than relying on the waning appetites of the Chinese and the Japanese for U.S. securities. Some innovative possibilities for funding both the federal debt and President Obama’s new economic stimulus package will be the subject of future articles. Stay tuned.

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