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Monday
Mar032008

Federal Immigration Policies Cripple U.S. Border Region

An in-depth assessment of the economic, political and social conditions of the 24 U.S. counties that border Mexico exposes the devastating impact that illegal immigration has had on those communities.

Failed federal immigration policies have crippled their justice system, allowed a record number of deadly diseases—tuberculosis and hepatitis among them--to infest their communities and made them number one nationally in serious crimes.

The crucial analysis was conducted by a nonpartisan coalition of elected officials from the 24 county governments located on the U.S.-Mexico border. The group (United States/Mexico Border Counties Coalition) is dedicated to addressing the huge challenges faced by U.S. municipalities located near the southern border.

Its latest report is the result of lengthy research conducted by scholars at two major universities, in the border states of California and Arizona. It reveals that the 24 counties studied spent well in excess of $1 billion in less than a decade to respond to the federal government’s failure to secure the nation’s borders and the figure includes more than $800 million annually to provide emergency health care to uninsured populations. The counties are located in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

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Monday
Mar032008

Expert: White House Derelict With E-Mail

For President Bush, who expresses disdain for e-mail, the White House system of electronic record-keeping is a good match.

Even if Bush used e-mail, it might get lost in the problem-plagued White House computer system.

"I don't want you reading my personal stuff," the president explained to newspaper editors three years ago on why he doesn't send electronic messages.

On Capitol Hill and in federal court, a congressional committee and two private groups are pushing for information on how the White House has handled its e-mail for the past six years and whether officials there complied with records-retention laws.

The picture emerging from testimony and court filings is one of disregard for fundamental principles that well-run private companies adhere to routinely. By one estimate, over 1,000 days of e-mail are missing from various White House offices.

"I would call this negligence," said Mark Epstein, director of technical services for Cataphora Inc., a California company that specializes in retrieval and analysis of electronic information.

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Monday
Mar032008

Federal Report: Preservative in Vaccine may be Linked to Disease

art.flu.jpg height=A vaccine preservative may have contributed to a case of autism, the federal government conceded after years of denying a link.

In its written concession statement, the government said the child had a pre-existing mitochondria disorder that was “aggravated” by her shots, resulting in an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis.

Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell, converting oxygen and food into energy for every life function.

The news site Huffington Post at www.huffingtonpost.com reported in November that federal officials had confirmed the link to thimerosal Nov. 9.

The government then sealed records of its statement, the Web site reported.

“The vaccinations received on July 19, 2000, significantly aggravated an underlying mitochondrial disorder, which predisposed [the child] to deficits in cellular energy metabolism, and manifested as a regressive encephalopathy [brain disease] with features of ASD,” the concession obtained by Huffington Post states.

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Monday
Mar032008

The New Art of War

If there were any doubts that the United States is preparing for war in space and cyberspace, testimony before the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee last week would have wiped them away.

According to Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, head of U.S. Strategic Command, "our adversaries understand our dependence upon space-based capabilities, and we must be ready to detect, track, characterize, attribute, predict and respond to any threat to our space infrastructure."

Although space threats have received much attention in the past, it was the possibility of cyberspace warfare that was given new emphasis at the hearing.

Chilton described cyberspace as an "emerging war-fighting domain." He said that "potential adversaries recognize the U.S. reliance on . . . [its] use and constantly probe our networks seeking competitive advantage," providing the reasons for developing defensive and offensive systems in this area.

U.S. cyberspace, in Pentagon terms called the Global Information Grid, serves as "a conduit that links human activity and facilitates the exchange of information," Chilton said.

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Monday
Mar032008

Gold Beats Financial Assets on Growing Global Distrust of Central Bankers!

By Millie Munshi and Pham-Duy Nguyen / Bloomberg

Gold, silver, platinum and palladium may be the best-performing financial assets this year as inflation and slowing growth erode the value of the world's major currencies, bonds and stocks.

Precious metals have risen at least twice as fast as the euro and yen in 2008 and returned six to 20 times as much as U.S. Treasuries. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index and all other major gauges of equities are down. Gold for immediate delivery reached an all-time high of $984.95 an ounce today, while silver traded at $20.19, the most expensive since 1980.

Investors are using metals to preserve their buying power as the U.S. dollar falls to a record and inflation accelerates. Gold, platinum and palladium may gain at least 30 percent this year as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke prioritizes cutting interest rates over controlling consumer prices, said Ron Goodis, a trader at Equidex Brokerage Group Inc. in Closter, New Jersey, who has been buying and selling gold since 1978.

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Monday
Mar032008

U.S. Launches Missile Strike in Somalia

Two U.S. missiles hit a house in southern Somalia on Monday, according to local officials, in a strike Washington said was directed at "known terrorists". It was the fourth U.S. air strike in 14 months on Somalia, where Washington believes local Islamist insurgents are giving shelter to wanted al Qaeda figures. "We launched a deliberate strike against a suspected bed-down of known terrorists," a senior U.S. official, who declined to be named, told Reuters in Washington.

Residents of Dobley, a remote Somali town 220 km (140 miles) from the southern port city of Kismayu on the Kenyan border, believed the missiles were targeting senior Islamist leaders meeting nearby. Dobley district commissioner Ali Hussein Nur said six people were killed, but a local politician who had visited the scene and who asked not to be named, said only three people were wounded. The U.S. official said it was too early to know what damage had been inflicted, or whether any people were injured or killed.

The official declined to give details on the type of weapon used. The Somali politician said Sheikh Hassan Turki, a local militant cleric, and other leaders from a militant Islamist group from Mogadishu were meeting in the vicinity.

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Monday
Mar032008

'Iraq war is the reason for US recession' says Nobel Laureate

The Iraq war has contributed to the U.S. economic slowdown and is impeding an economic recovery, Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government is severely underestimating the cost of the war, Stiglitz and co-author Linda Bilmes write in their book, "The Three Trillion Dollar War" (W.W. Norton), due to be published on 3-3-08.

The nearly 5-year-old war, once billed as virtually paying for itself through increased Iraqi oil exports, has cost the U.S. Treasury $845 billion directly.

"It used to be thought that wars are good for the economy. No economist really believes that anymore," Stiglitz said in an interview.

Stiglitz and Bilmes argue the true costs are at least $3 trillion under what they call an ultraconservative estimate, and could surpass the cost of World War Two, which they put at $5 trillion after adjusting for inflation.

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Monday
Mar032008

Iran blames US for Iraq 'terror'

He also called on Washington to change its standpoint towards Iran and said it had to understand that the Iraqi people did not like America.

A BBC correspondent says many Iraqis see the visit as the culmination of a process of normalisation in ties.

The two countries fought a war when Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in 1980.

The BBC's Jim Muir adds that Mr Ahmadinejad has not been welcomed by all Iraqis, since some agree with the Americans' view that Iran supports extremist militias in Iraq and is to blame for much of the trouble there.

US weapons call

Mr Ahmadinejad, who arrived in Baghdad on Sunday, made his remark about the US and terrorism after US accusations that Iran was supporting militants.

"Six years ago, there were no terrorists in our region," he said after talks with Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, head of Iraq's largest Shia Muslim political bloc, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri).

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Sunday
Mar022008

AirAmerica Host & Attorney Richard Greene Endorses NYC 9/11 Ballot Initiative

Sunday
Mar022008

Israel Defiant on Gaza Onslaught Amid International Outcry

Israel vowed to press its campaign against militants in the Gaza Strip on Sunday despite an international outcry over the deadly onslaught that prompted even the moderate Palestinian leadership to cut off all peace talks.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed to continue the ground and air operation that has killed 73 Palestinians since Saturday following the death of one Israeli civilian last week and earned the Jewish state international condemnation for disproportionate use of force.

Even Israel's closest ally the United States called for a halt to the violence and a return to the negotiating table.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas suspended all contacts with Israel over the assault, which apart from killing dozens of militants has also claimed the lives of many Palestinian women and children.

The announcement came just days before US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is to arrive in the region on her latest attempt to push forward the troubled peace negotiations revived just three months ago.

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Sunday
Mar022008

American Bar Assn. Criticizes Trials of 9/11 Detainees

Reacting to Pentagon plans to stage its first death-penalty trial, the American Bar Association has written President Bush, again, protesting the war court at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

ABA President William Neukom cited inadequate resources at the office of the Chief Pentagon Defense Counsel as well as an inherent lack of due process at the upcoming trials.

''Detainees who plotted terrorist attacks against our country and killed thousands of innocent Americans should be brought to justice and be held fully accountable for their horrific crimes,'' Neukom wrote in the letter dated Feb. 27. ``At the same time, no matter how outrageous the conduct, we must ensure that detainees receive fair trials that meet the highest standards of due process and justice.''

Specifically, he wrote, Guantánamo detainees ``cannot challenge their detention by habeas corpus, and the standards for admissibility of evidence could allow for convictions based on rank hearsay.''

Moreover, he said, ``statements secured through coercion could be introduced against a defendant.''

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Sunday
Mar022008

State Department Concealing from Congress Info on Baghdad Embassy Project

By Warren P. Strobel / Miami Herald

None of the 26 buildings in the new $740 million U.S. Embassy complex in Baghdad is ready to be occupied. Fire alarms intended to safeguard more than 1,000 U.S. government employees aren't working. Kitchens in some of the buildings are fire hazards.

A senior State Department official in December certified that construction was ''substantially complete,'' but department inspectors found ''major deficiencies'' at the unoccupied embassy, according to their inspection report, which Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., released Friday.

McClatchy reported earlier this week that the new chief of the State Department's embassy-building arm, Richard Shinnick, has voided the Dec. 16 certification -- made under his predecessor, retired Army Gen. Charles Williams -- that the embassy is nearly ready to be occupied.

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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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