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Archive for June 19th, 2008

By- Suzie-Q @ 7:00 PM MST

Jeremy Scahill: Blackwater is Still in Charge, Deadly, Above the Law and Out of Control

By Antonia Juhasz, AlterNet Posted June 19, 2008

Think Blackwater’s days are numbered? Think again. Jeremy Scahill explains why its slaughter of Iraqis has not stopped the notorious mercenary firm.

On June 3, Jeremy Scahill’s bestselling Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army was released in fully revised and updated paperback form. The new edition includes reporting on the now-famous Nisour Square massacre on Sept. 16 of last year, in which Blackwater mercenaries opened fire in a Baghdad neighborhood, brutally murdering 17 Iraqi civilians. The killing spree, which the U.S. Army would label a “criminal event,” would reveal the extent of the lawlessnewss enjoyed by private contractors abroad and the lengths the Bush administration will go to protect its private army of choice.

Antonia Juhasz caught up with Scahill on the phone the day the new edition was released. A fellow at Oil Change International and author of The Bush Agenda, Juhasz is also the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Oil: The World’s Most Powerful Industry, and What We Must Do to Stop It. Juhasz and Scahill discussed, among other topics, the story behind Blackwater, congressional inaction, radical privatization, Barack Obama, corporate vs. independent media, GI resistance in the age of private mercenaries, getting real about challenging corporations and the power of dissent.

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GEF @ 4:28 PM MST

BRITANNIA AS WE KNEW HER IS GONE..

Last-ditch protests to kill off EU constitution ignored as Brown forces through Lisbon Treaty

Gordon Brown signed away swathes of British sovereignty last night after he refused to back attempts to kill off the European constitution.

He forced through the Lisbon Treaty despite a last-ditch attempt by Tory peers to delay its ratification until October.

They were out-voted in the Lords by Labour and Liberal Democrats.

The document, the near-identical replacement for the constitution that collapsed in 2005, now awaits the formality of Royal Assent to become the law of the land.

Britain is the 19th EU country to ratify the treaty without a referendum.

If it comes into force with ratification by all 27 states, it will eliminate the British veto in up to 61 areas of policy and will reduce British voting power in the EU by a third.

Mr Brown’s determination to press ahead appeared to fly in the face of a growing popular revolt breaking out against the treaty in the EU.

The Czech government confirmed last night that it has suspended ratification in the wake of last week’s shock ‘no’ vote in a referendum in Ireland.

Amid angry exchanges in the Commons, David Cameron accused the Prime Minister of showing less spine ‘than a jellyfish’ over the Irish result.

Ireland’s decisive vote against the Lisbon Treaty effectively stopped it in its tracks and plunged the EU into turmoil.

EU leaders, including Mr Brown, meet in Brussels tonight to try to find a way out of the impasse amid fears that France and Germany will try to ram the treaty past Irish objections.

Since the Irish result, Mr Brown has insisted that the EU rules requiring all 27 member states to approve a treaty before it comes into force should be observed.

But he has pointedly refused to declare the treaty dead. Instead he has said it is up to Ireland to resolve the problem.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Brown paraded his credentials as a Euro-enthusiast and accused the Tories of being ‘viscerally anti-EU’.

He told Mr Cameron: ‘If you want to lead your party, why are you being led by the backbencher anti-Europeans, who are dictating the tune every time?’

But the Tory leader said Irish voters had already expressed their view.

He accused Mr Brown and other European leaders of trying to pressurise Dublin into a second referendum to reverse the result.

‘Which part of “no” doesn’t the Prime Minister understand?,’ Mr Cameron demanded.

‘The Prime Minister says he doesn’t want to bully Ireland, but doesn’t he understand that continuing with the ratification process is doing precisely that?’

Czech president Vaclav Klaus, who opposes the treaty, questioned why Britain is continuing with ratification in the wake of Ireland’s referendum rejection.

‘Ireland clearly said with its ‘no’ that the treaty is finished. I think patients should be resuscitated and not treaties,’ he said.

Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, urged EU countries to act quickly to resolve the crisis and said the eight that have not yet ratified the treaty should do so soon.

But his comments went against those of Irish Premier Brian Cowen, who said Ireland could not be ‘rushed into a quick fix’.
—–

MEANWHILE: CZECH’S PUT RATIFYING EU LISBON TREAY ON HOLD

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Japanese Society In Serious Meltdown…

GEF @ 3:58 PM MST

Japan gripped by suicide epidemic

Japanese professionals in their thirties are killing themselves at unprecedented rates, as the nation struggles with a runaway suicide epidemic.

Newly published figures show that 30,093 people took their own lives in 2007 — a 2.9 per cent increase in a year — leaving the country as the most suicide-prone anywhere in the developed world and rendering government efforts to combat the problem a failure.

Suicide rates remained highest among men — at 71 per cent of the total — and very high among Japan’s rising population of over-60s. Geographically, most suicides took place in the prefecture of Yamanashi, where the forested foothills of Mount Fuji continue to attract the suicidal from around Japan.

Government analysis of the figures, for the tenth year consecutive in which suicides have remained above 30,000 mark, has exposed a series of new and troubling trends: people in their thirties are the most likely to kill themselves, and work-related depression is emerging as a prime motive.

Psychologists, sociologists and other close observers of Japanese society believe that the country is in the grip of a full-blown crisis among its young working population. Experts say that high suicide rates and the recent spate of random stabbings in public places are symptoms of a malaise that the country has ignored for too long.

Mika Tsutsumi, an economist and social analyst, said that the recent stabbings in Akihabara were worryingly predictable: the killing spree for which Tomohiro Kato was allegedly responsible was, she says, driven by a sense of hopelessness in the workplace. Underneath Japanese society is concealed “an invisible reserve army of Katos”, she said.

Even more disturbing than the raw suicide figures, said police, was the astounding recent surge in people who have taken their lives by generating highly poisonous hydrogen sulphide gas from a combination of standard household products.

Unlike more traditional methods such as hanging or drugs overdoses, the production of hydrogen sulphide endangers people in the same building and turns what used to be private despair into a public event.

Twenty-nine people used that method to end their lives last year, but after the formula for the gas was circulated widely on various “suicide websites”, it has taken on a sinister appeal to the desperate and lonely.

Since February this year, 517 people have killed themselves using the gas, about half of them in their twenties, and its macabre popularity as a method of self-destruction shows no sign of waning.

The crisis of despair gripping young working Japanese has triggered plenty of official and media hand-wringing, though little in the way of change in corporate Japan. Wages remain low, and hierarchies rigid.

“We live in an uncomfortable and restrictive society where trivial matters are important,” said Professor Kiyohiko Ikeda, a veteran social commentator at Waseda University. “The young feel a sense of deadlock; society does not accept minor mistakes.”

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Impeach Bush now?

Sudhan @22:05 CET

Congressional proceedings would help prevent another mistaken war

BY RAY McGOVERN | The Detroit Free Press, June 19, 2008

United States Rep. John Conyers, the Detroit Democrat who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, has a rendezvous with destiny. He is uniquely placed to thrust a rod through the wheels of a White House juggernaut to war with Iran by commencing impeachment proceedings against President George W. Bush.

A move to impeach would bolster the resistance to Bush among our senior military leaders who know that attacking Iran at this time would be the strategic equivalent of the marches into Russia by Napoleon and Hitler.

Since Conyers took the helm of Judiciary in January 2007, the train of abuses and usurpations by the Bush administration has gotten even longer. But oddly, Conyers has lost his earlier appetite for impeachment and begun offering all manner of transparent excuses not to proceed. On July 23, 2007, for example, Conyers told Cindy Sheehan, the Rev. Lennox Yearwood and me that he would need 218 votes in the House, and vociferously claimed the votes were not there.

Well, they are now. Last week, 251 members of the House voted to refer to Conyers’ committee the 35 Articles of Impeachment offered by U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio. Conyers should take them up.

When bombs are falling on Iran, it will be too late — and our commander in chief is likely to give that order within the next couple of months. As former White House press secretary Scott McClellan reminds us, when the president sets his mind on something, he is not going to let anything stop him.

What seems to be driving Bush comes through best when he ad-libs at press conferences. On June 10, in Slovenia, he was asked about the intensifying debate in Israel about a military option against the nuclear installations in Iran. Bush responded: “If you go to Israel and listen carefully, you’ll hear the urgency in their voice.”

What’s so urgent? Israel’s ambassador to the United States, speaking at an American Jewish Committee luncheon last Oct. 22, said the Iranians must not be permitted to conclude that, “come January ‘09 (after Bush leaves office), they have it their own way.”

Vice President Dick Cheney last summer pushed for air strikes on Revolutionary Guards bases in Iran, but was thwarted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to J. Scott Carpenter, a senior State Department official working on the Middle East at the time.

The Joint Chiefs also have strongly opposed attacking Iran’s nuclear sites, according to a former Iran specialist at the National Security Council, Hillary Mann, who has wide contacts among senior Pentagon officials. Mann reports that Admiral William Fallon, the former CENTCOM commander, joined the Joint Chiefs in opposing such an attack and made his views known to the White House. Fallon was forced to resign in March and will be replaced as CENTCOM commander by Gen. David Petraeus.

A “political general,” Petraeus has already demonstrated his willingness to do Cheney’s bidding — by, for example, making demonstrably false claims about Iranian weaponry in Iraq. Nonetheless, the U.S. military in Baghdad apparently remains under orders to blame any serious violence on “special groups” — code for those said to be supported by Iran.

Continued . . .

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John McCain Shower Scene On SNL

By- Suzie-Q @ 12:05 PM MST

The Chris Matthews Show: Acting!
Crooks & Liars

By: Nicole Belle on Sunday, June 15th, 2008 at 10:00 AM – PDT

Kathleen Parker has written a book on poor, put upon men (they suffer so much in this country), and for reasons obvious to only Chris Matthews’ psyche, it put him in mind of this 2002 Saturday Night Live skit where John McCain plays a sensitive, giving husband.

You know, he can’t read a teleprompter and he can do that? That is good stuff.

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Afternoon Jukebox… Boulevard of Broken Dreams

By- Suzie-Q @ 12:00 PM MST


Green Day – Boulevard of Broken Dreams

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Friends in High Places

anthony @ 18:17 BST

Truthdig – Boeing has friends in high places, as evidenced by the congressional Government Accountability Office siding Wednesday with the U.S. aviation giant in a protest against a multibillion-dollar refueling tanker contract that was awarded earlier this year to a U.S.-Europe team.

The position the GAO and Boeing offer is that errors were made during the bidding process. Others believe Boeing is creating controversy by using issues around national pride and jobs to derail an otherwise fair deal.

For a full discussion on this tanker deal and other military-industrial complex issues, check out Robert Scheer’s new book ”The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America.”

Audit Says Tanker Deal Is Flawed

Northrop Grumman, via Reuters
EADS and Northrop Grumman won out in February with plans for a refueling tanker, in a rendering above with a B-2 bomber.

LESLIE WAYNE | NYT | Published: June 19, 2008

In a stunning turnabout for the Boeing Company, government auditors on Wednesday upheld the company’s appeal of the Air Force’s decision to award a $35 billion contract to build midair refueling tankers to a partnership of Northrop Grumman and the European parent of Airbus.

The action is yet another twist in the competition for one of the modern military’s most expensive — and most controversial — procurement programs. In February, when the Air Force awarded the contract to the international partnership, it set off a trans-Atlantic battle over jobs and national pride.

Boeing quickly appealed the decision, and members of Congress, arguing that key military contracts should remain in American hands, rallied on behalf of Boeing.

The auditors, with the Government Accountability Office, agreed with Boeing that the Air Force unfairly evaluated the merits and overall cost of the Boeing bid, and urged the Air Force to reopen negotiations. The tanker contract, which could eventually grow to $100 billion to build a fleet of 179 refueling planes, is one of the most lucrative ever awarded by the Pentagon.

“Our review of the record led us to conclude that the Air Force had made a number of significant errors that could have affected the outcome of what was a close competition between Boeing and Northrop Grumman,” said the G.A.O., the agency that Congress has designated to review federal contract disputes. “We therefore sustained Boeing’s protest,” it added.
(more…)

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anthony @ 18:09 BST

Nick Juliano | Raw Story | Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Rep. Dennis Kucinich warned the House Judiciary Committee that it would be wise not to ignore the 35 articles of impeachment against President Bush last week. If the committee does not act within a month, he plans to introduce even more articles.

The Ohio Democrat and former presidential candidate tells the Washington Post’s Sleuth blog that he’s not giving up his fight to kick Bush out of the White House.

Kucinich tells us he’s giving the House Judiciary Committee 30 days to act on his resolution proposing 35 articles of impeachment against President Bush or else he’ll raise even more hell on the House floor. Thirty-five articles was just the tip of the iceberg. If Judiciary does nothing, he’ll go back to the House floor next month armed with nearly twice as many articles.

“The minute the leadership said ‘this is dead on arrival’ I said that I hope they believe in life after death; because I’m coming back with it,” Kucinich vowed in an interview with the Sleuth this week. “It’s not gonna die. Because I’ll come back with more articles. Not 35, but perhaps 60 articles.” (more…)

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By- Suzie-Q @ 7:00 AM MST

Exxon, oil giants prepared to sign no-bid oil deals in Iraq

Think Progress

By Faiz at 10:41 pm

Four Western oil companies — Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total, and BP — are in the final stages of “talks with Iraq’s Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq’s largest fields.” The New York Times writes:

The no-bid contracts are unusual for the industry, and the offers prevailed over others by more than 40 companies, including companies in Russia, China and India […]

There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract. The Bush administration has said that the war was necessary to combat terrorism. It is not clear what role the United States played in awarding the contracts; there are still American advisers to Iraq’s Oil Ministry.

These current contracts are reportedly a “foothold” in Iraq for companies striving for more lucrative, longer-term deals.

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