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Sunday
Mar022008

Inside the World of War Profiteers

By David Jackson and Jason Grotto / Chicago Tribune

Inside the stout federal courthouse of this Mississippi River town, the dirty secrets of Iraq war profiteering keep pouring out.

Hundreds of pages of recently unsealed court records detail how kickbacks shaped the war's largest troop support contract months before the first wave of U.S. soldiers plunged their boots into Iraqi sand.

The graft continued well beyond the 2004 congressional hearings that first called attention to it. And the massive fraud endangered the health of American soldiers even as it lined contractors' pockets, records show.

Federal prosecutors in Rock Island have indicted four former supervisors from KBR, the giant defense firm that holds the contract, along with a decorated Army officer and five executives from KBR subcontractors based in the U.S. or the Middle East.

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Sunday
Mar022008

Judge Dismisses Suit Against Pentagon's Forced Vaccination Policy

An attorney for six Defense Department employees said yesterday that they will appeal a federal judge's dismissal of their lawsuit challenging the Pentagon's policy of compulsory anthrax vaccinations for certain troops.

The employees had argued that, as military personnel, they should not be forced to take the vaccine because there is no scientific proof that it is effective for humans, said Mark Zaid, their attorney. The class-action lawsuit had asked the court to block the Pentagon from inoculating the plaintiffs and to rule that the vaccine was improperly licensed by the Food and Drug Administration.

But U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer ruled yesterday that the FDA "did not act arbitrarily or capriciously" and granted the government's request to dismiss the case.

Zaid said the FDA incorrectly drew conclusions about the effectiveness of the vaccine in people based on old studies involving animals. "This case has repercussions far beyond the anthrax program," he said. "Anyone who is concerned about vaccine safety should be wary of this judicial decision."

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Sunday
Mar022008

Robotics Prof Sees Threat in Military Robots

The increasing deployment of gun-toting robots by the U.S. military and other armed forces around the world could end up endangering civilian lives and giving terrorists new ideas, warns a U.K. robotics professor.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has outlined plans to ramp up the use of remotely controlled robotic vehicles on land, undersea and in the air. The goal is to field increasingly autonomous robots—without a human controller—to dispose of explosives, stand guard and spot targets to attack. Nations such as South Korea and the Republic of South Africa have also begun adopting armed robotic systems.

The prospect of armed, autonomous robots is enough to rattle Noel Sharkey, professor of computer science at the University of Sheffield, England. "One of the fundamental laws of war is being able to discriminate real combatants and noncombatants," he says. "I can see no way that autonomous robots can deliver this for us." Even today's unmanned air and ground vehicles could do harm, he cautions, by teaching insurgents new ways to mount devastating attacks from a safe distance.

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Sunday
Mar022008

Bush Moves to Shield Telecommunications Firms

President Bush said last week that telecommunications companies that helped government wiretapping efforts need protection from "class-action plaintiff attorneys" who see a "financial gravy train" ahead. Democrats and privacy groups responded by accusing the Bush administration of trying to shut down the lawsuits to hide evidence of illegal acts.

But in the bitter Washington dispute over whether to give the companies legal immunity, there is one thing on which both sides agree: If the lawsuits go forward, sensitive details about the scope and methods of the Bush administration's surveillance efforts could be divulged for the first time.

Nearly 40 lawsuits, consolidated into five groups, are pending before a San Francisco judge. The various plaintiffs, a mix of nonprofit civil liberties advocates and private attorneys, are seeking to prove that the Bush administration engaged in illegal massive surveillance of Americans' e-mails and phone calls after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and to show that major phone companies illegally aided the surveillance, including the disclosure of customers' call records.

If the cases are allowed to proceed, plaintiffs' attorneys say, the courts could review, in secret if necessary, any government authorizations for the surveillance. The process might also force the disclosure of government memos, contracts and other documents to a judge, outlining the legal reasoning behind the warrantless wiretapping program.

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Sunday
Mar022008

Female Involvement In Nation-Building Can Lead To Economic And Political Stability In Post-Conflict Countries

Women's participation in post-conflict nation-building is an important ingredient in achieving an equitable, peaceful and more prosperous society, according to a RAND Corporation study.

While many policymakers and development agencies fear that pursuing a stronger role for women in nation-building "too soon" will lead to instability, RAND researchers say that the available information suggest otherwise.

A society that shows greater concern for the rights of the weaker strata of its society -- including women -- will be less likely to initiate violence, while economic and social development are strongly elevated when women enter the marketplace, according to the report from the RAND National Security Research Division.

"Gender equity and women's inclusion play a central role both as a litmus test and as an active variable shaping a more democratic, stabilized and developed society," said Cheryl Benard, the study's lead author and a senior political scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "Incorporating women in the nation-building process as early on as possible will help make these improvements happen sooner."

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Sunday
Mar022008

EADS Lands $35bn US Defense Deal

EADS, the European defense company, scored a stunning victory in its campaign to penetrate the US defense market on Friday by winning a $35bn (£17.6bn) contract to supply the US air force with refuelling tankers.

EADS and Northrop Grumman, its US partner, beat Boeing in a competition that could ultimately be worth more than $100bn.

The winning team will initially supply 179 air-to-air refuelling tankers using a modified version of the Airbus A330 passenger jet.

But the air force may select the same aircraft to replace its entire fleet of about 600 tankers over the coming decades.

Louis Gallois, EADS chief executive, told the Financial Times that it was “just great” to beat Boeing, saying: “I think it is the best contract I have won in my life.” Ronald Sugar, Northrop’s chief executive, said he was “delighted”.

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Saturday
Mar012008

Marion Cotillard Doubt's U.S. Government's 9/11 Yarn

The 32-year-old French star has swept this year’s best actress awards, also receiving a Bafta, Golden Globe and a César for her performance as singer Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose.

Miss Cotillard, who earned under £1 million in 2007, could expect her Oscar success to significantly increase her earning power. She is due to start filming Public Enemies with Johnny Depp.

But the actress faces a potential backlash in the US over comments she made in an interview in France. Footage which surfaced on the internet showed her questioning the New York terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the 1969 moon landing.

"I think we’re lied to about a number of things," she said, singling out September 11.

Referring to the two passenger jets flown into the World Trade Centre, Miss Cotillard said: "We see other towers of the same kind being hit by planes, are they burned? There was a tower, I believe it was in Spain, which burned for 24 hours.

It never collapsed. None of these towers collapsed. And there [New York], in a few minutes, the whole thing collapsed."

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Saturday
Mar012008

Forensic Evidence From Twin Towers Destroyed & Made into Latest Warship

Thousands of people, including families of those who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, gathered today (3-1-08) for an at-times chilling and rallying service to christen a Navy ship built with twisted steel from the ruins of the World Trade Center.

The hulking grey USS New York, which abruptly rose from the horizon, bore a seal on the bow bearing 7.5 tons of steel from the site. The shield included two gray bars to symoblize the Twin Towers; a banner over that declared "Never Forget."

"May God bless this ship and all who sail on her," ship sponsor, Dotty England, said before smashing a bottle of champagne against it, producing a loud thump to go with the spurting liquid and flying streamers.

Story after story of lives lost, and touched, by the attacks peppered the ceremony, held under the blazing sun and broadcast on large screens.

"To New York, we say thank you for lending your sacred seal, your name," U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., said. More importantly was that New York lent its spirit, he said.

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Saturday
Mar012008

Are Jews Being Set Up for Another Holocaust?

by Henry Makow Ph.D.

In 1938-39,
just before Europe erupted in an inferno for Jews, all the exits were sealed shut. The Nazis had no problem allowing Jews to leave.  The problem was that no country allowed them to enter.

In May 1939, the passenger liner “St. Louis” carrying 900 German Jewish refugees was turned away from Havana. The passengers'  costly tourist visas had been revoked by Cuban authorities. The liner lingered near the coast of Florida but FDR refused to let it dock. Reluctantly, the ship returned to Europe where the refugees were divided among four Allied countries, of which three soon were overrun.

The image of unwanted Jews was seared into the collective Jewish psyche. It argued the necessity of a homeland in Israel as insurance against anti-Semitism. Millions of Jews devoted their money and lives to wresting Israel from its rightful owners and building a Jewish sanctuary there. Millions of non-Jews were recruited to this cause. World peace has hung in the balance ever since. 

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Saturday
Mar012008

Alleged Hijacker Booked On Post-9/11 Flights

Astounding newly released FBI documents obtained via the Freedom Of Information Act show that alleged 9/11 hijacker Hamza Al-Ghamdi had booked future flights to San Francisco and Riyadh, suggesting that he was unaware of his eventual fate aboard United Airlines Flight 175, the plane that hit the World Trade Center’s south tower.

The papers consist of a 300 page Federal Bureau of Investigation timeline (PDF link) that was used by the 9/11 Commission but not made public until now.

The 9/11 Commission failed to mention in its final report that Al-Ghamdi was booked onto several flights scheduled to take place after 9/11, including another flight on the very day of the attacks.

The fact that Al-Ghamdi had booked post-9/11 flights obviously gives rise to doubts about whether the alleged hijacker knew the 9/11 attack was a suicide mission and even brings into question if he was on the flight at all.

Citing “UA passenger information," on page 288 under an entry pertaining to “H AlGhamdi,” the FBI timeline reads: "Future flight. Scheduled to depart Los Angeles International Airport for San Francisco International Airport on UA 7950," reports Raw Story (excerpt below).

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