Guantánamo Detainees Freed, Toxic FEMA Trailers, AIG Execs Grilled
Revealing News Articles
October 10, 2008
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on the federal court decison ordering 17 Guantanamo detainees to be freed, the demotion by the Centers for Disease Control of a whistleblower on the toxic FEMA trailers, Congressional hearings at which top execs at AIG were grilled for protecting their lavish compensation as their company failed, and more. Each excerpt is taken verbatim from the major media website listed at the link provided. If any link fails to function, click here. Key sentences are highlighted for those with limited time. By choosing to educate ourselves and to spread the word, we can and will build a brighter future.
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Judge Orders 17 Detainees at Guantanamo Freed
October 7, 2008, New York Times
A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the Bush administration to release 17 detainees at Guantanamo Bay by the end of the week, the first such ruling in nearly seven years of legal disputes over the administration's detention policies. The judge, Ricardo M. Urbina of Federal District Court, ordered that the 17 men be brought to his courtroom on Friday from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where they have been held since 2002. He indicated that he would release the men, members of the restive Uighur Muslim minority in western China, into the care of supporters in the United States, initially in the Washington area. "I think the moment has arrived for the court to shine the light of constitutionality on the reasons for detention," Judge Urbina said. Saying the men had never fought the United States and were not a security threat, he tersely rejected Bush administration claims that he lacked the power to order the men set free in the United States and government requests that he stay his order to permit an immediate appeal. The ruling was a sharp setback for the administration, which has waged a long legal battle to defend its policies of detention at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, arguing a broad executive power in waging war. Federal courts up to the Supreme Court have waded through detention questions and in several major cases the courts have rejected administration contentions. The government recently conceded that it would no longer try to prove that the Uighurs were enemy combatants, the classification it uses to detain people at Guantanamo, where 255 men are now held.
Note: For many disturbing reports from reliable, verifiable sources on threats to civil liberties, click here.
Fuming over formaldehyde
October 7, 2008, Los Angeles Times
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention failed to act for at least a year on warnings that trailers housing refugees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita contained dangerous levels of formaldehyde, according to a House subcommittee report released [on October 6]. Instead, the CDC's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry demoted the scientist who questioned its initial assessment that the trailers were safe as long as residents opened a window or another vent, the report said. That appraisal was produced in February 2007 at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which had received thousands of complaints about fumes since providing the trailers to families left homeless by the devastating 2005 hurricanes. Formaldehyde is known to cause cancer, chronic bronchitis, eye irritation and other ailments. It was used in glue for rugs, plywood, fiberboard and other materials. The subcommittee's report came three days after a federal judge in New Orleans ruled that FEMA can be sued by hurricane victims who claim they were exposed to toxic fumes. The subcommittee report noted that the agency took eight months to revise its initial finding and did so only after Christopher De Rosa, then director of the CDC agency's Division of Toxicology and Environmental Medicine, publicly flagged scientific errors. "We believe that Dr. De Rosa is a whistle-blower and was removed from his position, which he had held for 16 years, in retaliation for his persistent attempts to push the agency's leadership to take more substantive actions to protect the public's health," the report said.
Note: For more revealing reports on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, click here.
After Bailout, AIG Execs Head to California Resort
October 7, 2008, ABC News
Less than a week after the federal government committed $85 billion to bail out AIG, executives of the giant AIG insurance company headed for a week-long retreat at a luxury resort and spa, the St. Regis Resort in Monarch Beach, California, Congressional investigators revealed today. "Rooms at this resort can cost over $1,000 a night," Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) said. AIG documents obtained by Waxman's investigators show the company paid more than $440,000 for the retreat, including nearly $200,000 for rooms, $150,000 for meals and $23,000 in spa charges. "They're getting their pedicures and their manicures and the American people are paying for that," said Cong. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). Appearing before the committee, Martin Sullivan, the AIG CEO until June, said the company was overwhelmed by a "financial global tsunami," and that "no simple or single cause" was to blame. "I am heartbroken at what has happened," Sullivan said. Robert Willumstad, the CEO from June to September, 2008, maintained AIG was a victim of a "crisis in confidence" and an "unprecedented global catastrophe." But Congressional investigators raised questions of "mismanagement" and whether AIG executives sought to "cook the books" and hide negative information from outside auditors. Waxman also said there is evidence the two men changed the bonus schedule once the company began to post losses, so that executives under the "Senior Partners Plan" would continue to make multi-million dollar salaries. Sullivan was given a $15 million "golden parachute" payment after being replaced as CEO in June.
Note: For lots more on corporate corruption from reliable sources, click here.
Despite Ruling, Detainee Cases Facing Delays
October 5, 2008, New York Times
When the Supreme Court ruled in June that detainees at Guantanamo had the right to challenge their detention in federal court, the justices said that after more than six years of legal wrangling the prisoners should have their cases heard quickly because "the costs of delay can no longer be borne by those who are held in custody." But nearly four months later, as the Bush administration has opened a new defense of its detention policies in federal court, none of the scores of cases brought by detainees have been resolved by any judge. Since the Supreme Court issued its ruling, lawyers for most of the 255 detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have pressed ahead with habeas corpus lawsuits, yet most of those cases have been delayed by battles over issues like whether some court sessions will be held in secret, whether detainees can attend and what level of proof will justify detention. Some of the arguments made by the Justice Department appear to challenge the Supreme Court's conclusion that the federal courts have a role in deciding the fate of the detainees. Officials and lawyers inside and outside of the government say the new legal confrontation suggests that the Bush administration will most likely continue its defense of the detention camp until the end of President Bush's term and is not likely to close the camp, as administration officials have said they would like to do. Detainees' advocates say that the administration is using the legal battle to delay judicial review of its evidence.
Note: For many disturbing reports from reliable, verifiable sources on threats to civil liberties, click here.
New, controversial FBI guidelines go into effect
October 5, 2008, Agence France Presse
US Attorney General Michael Mukasey has signed new guidelines for FBI operations he said are designed to better protect the country from terrorist attacks, but that raise concern of some lawmakers and civil rights groups. The new, revised regulations -- the original version met strong criticism from congressional committees last month -- comprise 50 pages dealing with five areas of FBI investigation, including criminal, national security and foreign intelligence. Despite Mukasey's assurances that the new regulations "reflect consultation with Congress as well as privacy and civil liberties groups," not all concerns over their effect on privacy rights were dispelled. [The] Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Democrat Patrick Leahy, said the new guidelines expand the FBI's powers of surveillance. "It appears that with these guidelines, the attorney general is once again giving the FBI broad new powers to conduct surveillance and use other intrusive investigative techniques on Americans without requiring any indication of wrongdoing or any approval even from FBI supervisors," Leahy said in a statement. "The American people deserve a ... Justice Department that does not sacrifice or endanger their rights and privacy," he added. The American Civil Liberties Union, who had called for an investigation into the first version of the FBI regulations, said the new rules "reduce standards for beginning 'assessments.'" "More troubling still," it added, "the guidelines allow a person's race or ethnic background to be used as a factor in opening an investigation, a move that the ACLU believes may institute a racial profiling as a matter of policy."
Note: For many reports on increasing government surveillance and threats to privacy, click here.
Charles targets GM crop giants in fiercest attack yet
October 5, 2008, The Independent (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
Prince [Charles] has [made] his most anti-GM speech yet, in delivering ... the Sir Albert Howard Memorial Lecture to the Indian pressure group Navdanya. "I believe fundamentally that unless we work with nature, we will fail to restore the equilibrium we need in order to survive on this planet," [he stated]. He plunged straight into the most controversial and emotive of all the debates over GM crops and foods by highlighting the suicides of small farmers. Tens of thousands killed themselves in India after getting into debt. The suicides were occurring long before GM crops were introduced, but campaigners say that the technology has made things worse because the seeds are more expensive and have not increased yields to match. The biotech industry strongly denies this, but two official reports have suggested that there "could" be a possible link. Prince Charles expressed no doubts in his lecture, delivered at the invitation of Dr Vandana Shiva, the founder of Navdanya, and one of the leading proponents of the technology's role in the deaths. He spoke of "the truly appalling and tragic rate of small farmer suicides in India, stemming in part from the failure of many GM crop varieties". Broadening his offensive, he said that "any GM crop will inevitably contaminate neighbouring fields", making it impossible to maintain the integrity of organic and conventional crops. For the first time in history this would lead to "one man's system of farming effectively destroying the choice of another man's" and "turn the whole issue into a global moral question." He quoted Mahatma Gandhi who condemned "commerce without morality" and "science without humanity".
Note: For many powerful reports on the dangers of genetically modified organisms, click here.
Command for Africa Is Established by Pentagon
October 5, 2008, New York Times
For decades, Africa was rarely more than an afterthought for the Pentagon. But since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a new view has gained acceptance among senior Pentagon officials and military commanders: that ungoverned spaces and ill-governed states ... pose a growing risk to American security. Last week ... Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, inaugurated the newest regional headquarters, Africa Command [AFRICOM], which is responsible for coordinating American military affairs on the continent. Already ... analysts at policy advocacy organizations and research institutes are warning of a militarization of American foreign policy across Africa. Mr. Gates said the new command was an example of the Pentagon's evolving strategy of forging what he called "civilian-military partnerships," in which the Defense Department works alongside and supports the State Department and the Agency for International Development. While that thinking has influenced the work of all of the military's regional war-fighting commands, it is the central focus of Africa Command. And over the past two years, it has quietly become the central focus of the military's Southern Command, once better known for the invasions of Grenada and Panama. A number of specialists in African and Latin American politics at nongovernmental organizations express apprehension, however, that the new emphasis of both these commands represents an undesirable injection of the military into American foreign policy, a change driven by ... desires for natural resources.
Note: For lots more on war and war planning from reliable sources, click here.
Standard Warfare May Be Eclipsed By Nation-Building
October 5, 2008, Washington Post
The Army on [October 6] will unveil an unprecedented doctrine that declares nation-building missions will probably become more important than conventional warfare and defines "fragile states" ... as the greatest threat to U.S. national security. The doctrine ... holds that in coming years, American troops are not likely to engage in major ground combat against hostile states as they did in Iraq and Afghanistan, but instead will frequently be called upon to operate in lawless areas. Such "stability operations" will last longer and ultimately contribute more to the military's success than "traditional combat operations," according to the Army's new Stability Operations Field Manual. The stability operations doctrine is an engine that will drive Army resources, organization and training for years to come ... and Army officials already have detailed plans to execute it. The operations directive underpinning the manual "elevated stability operations to a status equal to that of the offense and defense," the manual reads, describing the move as a "fundamental change in emphasis" for the Army. Today, such fragile states, if neglected, will pose mounting risks for the United States, according to Lt. Col. Steve Leonard, the manual's lead author. Weak states "create vast ungoverned areas that are breeding grounds for the threats that we fear the most." The manual adds to a growing body of doctrine focused on the military's nontraditional skills, most notably the Army's 2006 counterinsurgency manual. Civilian officials and nongovernmental groups voice [concern] that the military's push to expand its exercise of "soft power" ... marks a growing militarization of U.S. foreign policy.
Army combat unit to deploy within U.S.
October 3, 2008, CNN
The United States military's Northern Command [NORTHCOM], formed in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, is dedicating a combat infantry team to deal with catastrophes in the U.S., including terrorist attacks and natural disasters. The 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry, which was first into Baghdad, Iraq, in 2003, started its controversial assignment [on October 1]. The First Raiders will spend 2009 as the first active-duty military unit attached to the U.S. Northern Command since it was created. They will be based in Fort Stewart, Georgia, and focus primarily on logistics and support for local police and rescue personnel, the Army says. The plan is drawing skepticism from some observers who are concerned that the unit has been training with equipment generally used in law enforcement, including beanbag bullets, Tasers, spike strips and roadblocks. That kind of training seems a bit out of line for the unit's designated role as Northern Command's CCMRF (Sea Smurf), or CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force. CBRNE stands for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive incidents. Use of active-duty military as a domestic police force has been severely limited since passage of the Posse Comitatus Act following the Civil War. Bloggers are criticizing the new force, saying that because it has been training in law enforcement tactics it could be be used for domestic law enforcement.
Global Warming: Beyond the Tipping Point
October, 2008, Scientific American
James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has [co-authored a] paper saying that [future global warming] is likely to turn out worse than most people think. The most recent major report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007 projects a temperature rise of three degrees Celsius, plus or minus 1.5 degrees–enough to trigger serious impacts on human life from rising sea level, widespread drought, changes in weather patterns, and the like. But according to Hansen and his nine co-authors ... the correct figure is closer to six degrees C. "That's the equilibrium level," he says. "We won't get there for a while. But that's where we're aiming." And although the full impact of this temperature increase will not be felt until the end of this century or even later, Hansen says, the point at which major climate disruption is inevitable is already upon us. "If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted," the paper states, "CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm [parts per million] to at most 350 ppm." The situation, he says, "is much more sensitive than we had implicitly been assuming." Back in 1998 ... Hansen was arguing that the human impact on climate was unquestionable, even as other leading climate scientists continued to question it. He was subsequently proved right, not only about the human influence but about the approximate pace of future temperature rise.
Note: For lots more on global warming from reliable sources, click here.
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Guantanamo Detainees Freed, Toxic FEMA Trailers, AIG Execs Grilled