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Member since: Wed Mar 16, 2005, 11:12 AM
Number of posts: 60,364

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Washington’s Revolving Door Is Hazardous to Our Health


Washington’s Revolving Door Is Hazardous to Our Health
by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship
Published on Friday, December 14, 2012 by Common Dreams

We’ve seen how Washington insiders write the rules of politics and the economy to protect powerful special interests, but now as we enter the holiday season, and a month or so after the election, we’re getting a refresher course in just how that inside game is played, gifts and all. In this round, Santa doesn’t come down the chimney — he simply squeezes his jolly old self through the revolving door.

It’s an old story, the latest chapter of which came to light a few days ago with a small item in Politico: “Elizabeth Fowler is leaving the White House for a senior-level position leading ‘global health policy’ at Johnson & Johnson’s government affairs and policy group.”

A familiar name. We had talked about Liz Fowler on Bill Moyers Journal in 2009, during the early stages of Obama’s health care reform. She was at the center of the action, sitting behind Montana Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee at committee hearings. We noted, “She used to work for WellPoint, the largest health insurer in the country. She was Vice President of Public Policy. And now she’s working for the very committee with the most power to give her old company and the entire industry exactly what they want: higher profits, and no competition from alternative non-profit coverage that could lower costs and premiums.”

After Obamacare passed, Senator Baucus himself, one of the biggest recipients in Congress of campaign cash from the health care industry, boasted that the architect of the legislation was none other than Liz Fowler. “I want to single out one person,” he said.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Dec 14, 2012, 09:50 AM (2 replies)

Panetta Orders US Missiles, Boots on the Ground Along Syrian Border


Panetta Orders US Missiles, Boots on the Ground Along Syrian Border
- Common Dreams staff
Published on Friday, December 14, 2012 by Common Dreams

Amid a deepening involvement by the US in the ongoing civil war in Syria, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced he has ordered the deployment of two Patriot missile batteries and 400 US soldiers to Turkey as part of a wider NATO effort to militarize the border between the two countries.

Panetta signed the order shortly before an unannounced visit to the country on Friday. Speaking from the US Air Base in Incirlik, he said: "We are deploying two Patriot batteries here to Turkey along with the troops that are necessary to man those batteries."

As The New York Times reports, Panetta told the gathered personnel at Incirlik that the US "was working with Turkey, Jordan and Israel to monitor Syria's stockpiles of chemical weapons, and warned of 'serious consequences' if Syria used them, but he did not offer any specifics."

"We have drawn up plans for presenting to the president," Mr. Panetta said. "We have to be ready."
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Dec 14, 2012, 09:36 AM (0 replies)

The Secret Drone War


The Secret Drone War
Frankfurter Rundschau, Germany
By Barbara Lochbihler
Translated By Ron Argentati
11 December 2012
Edited by Kath­leen Weinberger

Is a drone actually nothing more than an airplane, as international lawyer Wolff Heintschel von Heinegg recently wrote in this newspaper? Does it really make no difference whether a pilot sits in the cockpit himself or sits with a joystick in his hand thousands of kilometers away wiping out his targets, i.e., human lives? It of course makes a great deal of difference, as the use of unmanned drones brings up basic ethical and human rights questions.

There's no disputing the fact that remote-controlled bombers make killing easier. The more distance an attacker has between himself and the target, the more willing he will be to act. If he operates from a support base in Nevada controlling a drone over Somalia, the inhibition level for pulling the trigger is extremely low. One mouse click is enough to take a human life.

Unfortunately, recent studies confirm that the remote drone war is producing more and more victims: Since President Obama made the unmanned aircraft the main weapon in the war on terror, more than 3,000 people have been killed in over 300 attacks, most of these apparently civilians. Studies done at Stanford University as well as at New York University calculate that between 2008 and 2011, attacks in Pakistan alone showed that up to 75 percent of all victims have been civilians. More conservative estimates say the number is closer to 30 percent. In other words, within three years the drone attacks have killed a minimum of 1,000 people.

While it's possible that the current generation of drones can be better controlled than earlier models, the principal beneficiaries of the new technology have been U.S. troops. This brings up another questionable aspect: Does drone use cause the least political damage to the attacker? A war in which the attacker suffers few or no casualties at all is easier to sell to the public back home. Is the use of unmanned drones meant to make military intervention more palatable to a war-weary population? Is Washington hoping to avoid the protests caused whenever coffins arrive at U.S. airports from foreign shores?
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Dec 14, 2012, 09:27 AM (0 replies)

America’s Afghanistan Odyssey: When will Enough be Enough? (Stevenson)


America’s Afghanistan Odyssey: When will Enough be Enough? (Stevenson)
Posted on 12/13/2012 by Juan

The US has been involved, covertly or openly, in military actions in Afghanistan since 1979, with no end in sight. Nor, after all these decades, is the news very good. A Taliban assassination attempt has put Afghanistan’s chief intelligence and security official in the hospital. A recent Pentagon review found that only one of the Afghanistan National Army’s 23 brigades can conduct operations independently of NATO. Violence is higher now than in 2009 before the “surge” ordered by President Barack Obama. And the Obama administration is negotiating for a 6,000 to 9,000-strong US troop presence in the country after the bulk of the American military withdraws by the end of 2014.

How long is long enough for this mission in a country that is not even as important to US security as the Congo?

Christmas Eve 1979. The Russians— the enemy America loved to hate— invaded Afghanistan. Jimmy Carter’s troubled presidency had one year remaining. President Carter signed a “presidential finding” authorizing the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to jump from intelligence gathering to an “operational” role in Afghanistan.

President Reagan reauthorized the Carter finding in 1981. Thus began 32 years of U.S. involvement in a belligerency in Afghanistan. The presidential finding authorized the CIA to ship weapons and other war materiel to the guerrillas and warlords who were willing to fight the Russians. Because America lacked direct access to Russian occupied Afghanistan and because the U.S. wanted to hide its involvement, American aid had to be delivered through Pakistan. The Pakistani military intelligence service (ISI) had extensive knowledge of Afghanistan, and the ISI routed the deliveries to the Afghan guerrillas.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Dec 14, 2012, 08:31 AM (1 replies)

UK government pays Libyan dissident’s family £2.2 million over MI6-aided rendition


Sami al-Saadi, wife and four children were secretly flown from Hong Kong to Tripoli where he was tortured by Gaddafi police

UK government pays Libyan dissident’s family £2.2 million over MI6-aided rendition
By Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian
Thursday, December 13, 2012 8:36 EST

Ministers have agree to pay more than £2m to the family of a prominent Libyan dissident abducted with the help of MI6 and secretly flown to Tripoli where he was tortured by the security police of the former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Having sought for years to avoid the agents of the Libyan dictator, Sami al-Saadi was forced on board a plane in Hong Kong with his wife and four young children in a joint UK-US-Libyan operation. They were then flown to Libya, where all of them were initially imprisoned. Saadi was held and tortured for years.

The Saadi family had accepted a settlement of £2.23m, the high court heard on Thursday. The government paid the sum by way of compensation and without admitting any liability.

Evidence of the UK’s role in the operation – believed to be the only case where an entire family was subjected to “extraordinary rendition” – came to light after Gaddafi’s fall in 2011.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Dec 14, 2012, 07:35 AM (0 replies)

Senate Intelligence Committee decries CIA torture as ‘terrible mistakes’


Senate Intelligence Committee decries CIA torture as ‘terrible mistakes’
By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, December 13, 2012 21:34 EST

The US Senate intelligence committee on Thursday approved the findings of an investigation into CIA “enhanced interrogation” — techniques the panel’s leader decried as “terrible mistakes.”

The committee voted nine to six to approve the 6,000-page report on the former use of the tactics, which have been deemed torture by President Barack Obama and Republican Senator John McCain among others.

But they made no immediate plans to de-classify the report for the public.

Investigators pored over six million pages in a 3.5-year review of Central Intelligence Agency practice, including the sending of detainees to so-called “black sites” around the world where they endured harsh interrogation.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Dec 14, 2012, 07:07 AM (2 replies)

Human rights court: CIA beat and sodomized wrongly detained German citizen


Human rights court: CIA beat and sodomized wrongly detained German citizen
By Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian
Thursday, December 13, 2012 19:54 EST

CIA agents tortured a German citizen, sodomising, shackling, and beating him, as Macedonian state police looked on, the European court of human rights said in a historic judgment released on Thursday.

In a unanimous ruling, it also found Macedonia guilty of torturing, abusing, and secretly imprisoning Khaled el-Masri, a German of Lebanese origin allegedly linked to terrorist organisations.

Masri was seized in Macedonia in December 2003 and handed over to a CIA “rendition team” at Skopje airport and secretly flown to Afghanistan.

It is the first time the court has described CIA treatment meted out to terror suspects as torture.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Dec 14, 2012, 06:45 AM (26 replies)

Canada to consider other planes besides F-35


Canada to consider other planes besides F-35
Associated Press / December 12, 2012

TORONTO (AP) — Canada is considering buying fighter jets other than U.S.-made F-35’s because of escalating costs associated with Lockheed Martin’s troubled Joint Strike Fighter program, the country’s defense minister said Wednesday.


MacKay said Canada needs to have all viable options on the table to replace the current fleet of 1980s-vintage CF-18s, which the government says will reach the end of their projected service life around 2020.

He reiterated that Canada wants to buy 65 jets for about $9 billion. But escalating costs and delays have dogged the F-35, which is now the most expensive U.S. Department of Defense procurement program ever.

A KPMG report says the lifetime cost of Canada owning 65 F-35’s is estimated at $45.8 billion over 42 years.

Previous December 2012 threads on this overpriced POS:

12/2 --> http://www.democraticunderground.com/11791765
12/5 --> http://www.democraticunderground.com/11791795
12/7 --> http://www.democraticunderground.com/11791847
12/9 --> http://www.democraticunderground.com/11791853
12/11 --> http://www.democraticunderground.com/11791887
12/12 --> http://www.democraticunderground.com/11791899
Posted by unhappycamper | Thu Dec 13, 2012, 10:56 AM (0 replies)

Defense Budget: Ripe for Reductions


Defense Budget: Ripe for Reductions
by Miriam Pemberton
Published on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 by Other Words

Here we are on brink of a major historical moment. We're beginning to wind down the longest period of war in our history. And we're about to turn around a 13-year-long surge in Pentagon spending.

It's not just longtime advocates for such changes like me who think so. William Lynn, a former Deputy Secretary of Defense who has lobbied for the military contractor Raytheon, likens this moment to the years right after World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War. In a recent speech at the U.S. Naval Institute, he suggested that big cuts to the military budget are in the cards.

But this isn't the precipice that's consuming Washington right now. Instead, the so-called "fiscal cliff," the package of tax increases and spending cuts that will begin in January unless Congress agrees on a way to stop them, is the big buzzword.


And we can afford to do that because, we're not broke. Our budget priorities just need fixing. In a recent report, my Institute for Policy Studies colleagues and I propose a framework for doing so. Our proposal includes $198 billion in yearly military cuts — from spending on things like wars we shouldn't fight and weapon systems and overseas bases we don't need.
Posted by unhappycamper | Thu Dec 13, 2012, 10:23 AM (2 replies)

Military judge allows total blackout of 9/11 plotters’ torture testimony


Military judge allows total blackout of 9/11 plotters’ torture testimony
By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, December 12, 2012 14:43 EST

A military judge presiding over the trials of the accused 9/11 plotters decided last week that any and all testimony relating to their treatment by U.S. personnel shall be censored, according to a ruling released Wednesday.

In a statement sent to reporters, the American Civil Liberties Union made it clear that they are deeply troubled by the judge’s ruling.

“The government wanted to ensure that the American public would never hear the defendants’ accounts of illegal CIA torture, rendition and detention, and the military judge has gone along with that shameful plan,” ACLU attorney Hina Shamsi said in an advisory.


“For now, the most important terrorism trial of our time will be organized around judicially approved censorship of the defendants’ own thoughts, experiences and memories of CIA torture,” Shamsi added. “The decision undermines the government’s claim that the military commission system is transparent and deals a grave blow to its legitimacy.”
Posted by unhappycamper | Thu Dec 13, 2012, 06:51 AM (10 replies)
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