Edward Snowden

Open Letter To Obama

July 26, 2013 President Barack Obama The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20500 Re: Civil Disobedience, Edward J. Snowden, and the Constitution Dear Mr. President: You are acutely aware More »

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U.S. Companies Pay Just One-Third Of The Legal Tax Rate: GAO Study

Huffington Post July 1, 2013 By Mark Gongloff Big, profitable U.S. companies paid an average federal tax rate of less than 13 percent in 2010, according to a new study — or More »

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Man Tried for Chalk Drawings Found Not Guilty

NBC San Diego July 1, 2013 By Christina London The man accused of vandalism for drawing with chalk outside banks has been found not guilty on all charges. A jury returned its More »

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The Bigger Story Behind the AP Spying Scandal

Washington’s Blog/Global Research May 20, 2012 By George Washington Attack on the Press You know that the Department of Justice tapped scores of phone lines at the Associated Press. You might have More »

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‘Anonymous’ Hacker Explains Why He Fled The US

Business Insider Mar. 2, 2012 By Michael Kelley Anonymous is front and center these days: the amorphous hacktivist group has been publishing internal data of U.S. banks while prominent members are prosecuted More »

Monthly Archives: August 2010

Halliburton wins Eni contract in Iraq

Reuters
August 31, 2010

HOUSTON, Aug 31 (Reuters) – Halliburton (HAL.N: Quote), the No. 2 oilfield services group, said on Tuesday it won a contract from Italian oil company Eni (ENI.MI: Quote) to help squeeze more oil from 20 wells in the Zubair field in southern Iraq.

Oil producers and oilfield services companies, including Halliburton peer Schlumberger Ltd (SLB.N: Quote), are ramping up operations in Iraq, which is hoping to use its vast oil resources to rebuild the country.

Halliburton did not give financial details on the deal, citing a confidentiality clause. It described the job as a “multimillion dollar” contract involving “rigless” services such as wire-line logging, perforating and acidizing used to increase production at existing wells.

Work on the contract has already begun and the company’s base is fully operational, Halliburton said in an email.

Eni sealed the final contract with Iraq on Jan. 22 for the 4 billion-barrel Zubair oilfield. Eni and its partners, U.S.-based Occidental Petroleum Corp (OXY.N: Quote) and state-run Korea Gas Corp (KOGAS), set an output target of 1.2 million bpd. The consortium planned to invest more than $20 billion and accepted a remuneration fee of $2 a barrel.

Full Article Here – http://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFN3120073620100831

Oregon Guard suit against KBR goes forward on hexavalent chromium exposure

The Oregonian
August 31, 2010
By Julie Sullivan

A federal judge ruled Monday that a lawsuit by Oregon Army National Guard veterans against war contractor Kellogg Brown & Root can proceed.

The decision makes the federal court in Portland the apex of a legal battle that stretches from Oregon to West Virginia, and from Indiana to Texas, over who is responsible for exposing American soldiers to a known cancer-causing chemical early in the Iraq war.

Already, the Oregon case has opened a window into the government’s unprecedented use of private companies in Iraq and the lucrative contracts that have remained secret until now.
Beginning in May 2003, hundreds of U.S. and British troops guarded KBR workers as they worked to restore Iraqi oil flows. At a decrepit Qarmat Ali water treatment plant, piles of a toxic orange-yellow powder stained the soil, water and walls.

The powder was a rust-fighter, sodium dichromate, which contains hexavalent chromium. Exposure to 40 micrograms of hexavalent chromium per cubic meter — about the size of a grain of salt in about a cubic yard — has shown a high increase in lung, stomach, brain, renal, bladder and bone cancers.

In 2009, 26 Oregon Guard veterans sued KBR, claiming its managers downplayed or dismissed the presence of the chemical.

U.S. District Magistrate Paul Papak denied KBR’s second motion to dismiss the suit. His fact-finding refutes three of KBR’s long-time assertions. He found:

 KBR brought additional sodium dichromate to Qarmat Ali in June 2003, stored and worked with it. KBR has consistently claimed the chemical was left by Iraqis after Saddam Hussein’s overthrow.

 KBR knew of the sodium dichromate before most of the soldiers ever arrived, warning a subcontractor — but not the U.S. military or soldiers — that areas of the water plant were contaminated. The Oregon Guard weren’t notified of the chemical until August 2003, two months after they had guarded employees at the plant.

Full Article Here – http://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2010/08/oregon_guard_suit_against_kbr.html

Predator drones to patrol entire US-Mexico border

AFP
August 30, 2010

Investigation reveals undocumented workers, unsafe conditions in oil spill cleanup

Photo: AP

Subcontractor buses in hundreds for 100 hour weeks, OSHA safety violations

Michigan Messenger
August 30, 2010
By Todd Haywood

BATTLE CREEK — An oil spill cleanup contractor from Texas has been busing in possibly hundreds of undocumented workers to Battle Creek to work on the cleanup of the Calhoun County oil spill — and having them work nearly 100 hours a week in unsafe conditions, an investigation by Michigan Messenger has found.

The Texas company, Halmark, has brought hundreds of workers to Battle Creek, putting them up in hotels and putting them to work cleaning oil-soaked islands and shorelines along the Kalamazoo river. The workers are expected to work 12 to 14 hour shifts, seven days a week, for which they receive $800 a week — in cash — a hotel room, and food while on the job sites.

After receiving an initial tip from a Halmark worker who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals, the Michigan Messenger visited the rally site on Saturday where the workers are picked up every morning. While speaking to about two dozen men there, half of them admitted to being undocumented workers. All of them asked not to be identified.

On Sunday, a busload of 150 new workers arrived by bus from Texas. The immigration status of these new workers is unknown, but the conditions under which they will work was confirmed by Halmark workers and by multiple photographs of the worksite.

Workers are kept on the river for 12 to 14 hours a day, seven days a week, and photographs show what appear to be a number violations of safety standards. In those photos, undocumented workers are seen covered in oil and mud getting food and water. In one photo, a worker covered in oil is seen sitting on the white cooler from which workers get their water.

Messenger has submitted the photos, which one oil spill certified worker has identified as proof of violations of OSHA rules, to the Environmental Protection Agency and Enbridge for comment. The EPA is the lead agency in the cleanup response.

In an e-mail responding to the submitted photos, David Polish, spokesperson for the EPA wrote, “Thank you for bringing your concerns about worker safety to our attention. The United States Environmental Protection Agency takes the issue of worker health and safety very seriously. We have instructed Enbridge to investigate the circumstances surrounding these pictures. Once they complete their review, we will direct corrective actions if warranted.”

Enbridge spokesperson Terri Larson said, “We definitely identified a few things that we consider safety issues. Some were minor, some were more important.”

As a result, Larson said worker safety specialists would be working to address those safety concerns promptly.

In addition, workers told Michigan Messenger that they are forced to use the bathroom in the wooded areas they are cleaning up. Portable toilets are not placed on the islands, and supervisors refuse to ferry workers to a worker rallying point where they have access to toilet facilities.

Halmark company officials say that all the workers are legal. However, when pressed Phil Halmark, a supervisor on site for the company, admitted none of the workers were required to fill out I-9 or other immigration verification documents.

Halmark said the workers merely provided their names, addresses and social security numbers. They were not required to show identification nor were they required to show verification they had completed federally mandated clean up trainings. Halmark said the workers are not submitted to the E-verify system for verification either.

Full Article Here – http://michiganmessenger.com/41384/alleged-undocumented-workers-bused-from-texas-to-work-on-oil-spill-in-battle-creek

Investigation reveals undocumented workers, unsafe conditions in oil spill cleanup

Subcontractor buses in hundreds for 100 hour weeks, OSHA safety violations 

Michigan Messinger

August 30, 2010

EXCLUSIVE: Tests find sickened family has 50.3 ppm of Corexit’s 2-butoxyethanol in swimming pool

— JUST ONE HOUR NORTH OF TAMPA (lab report included)

Florida Oil Spill Law
August 30, 2010

“Our heads are still swimming,” stated Barbara Schebler of Homosassa, Florida, who received word last Friday that test results on the water from her family’s swimming pool showed 50.3 ppm of 2-butoxyethanol, a marker for the dispersant Corexit 9527A used to break up and sink BP’s oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

The problems began for the Scheblers a few weeks after the April 20 blow-out. “Our first clue were rashes we both got early in May. Both my husband and I couldn’t get rid of the rashes and had to get cream from our doctor,” Schebler noted, “I never had a rash in my life.”

Then, on “July [23], my husband Warren mowed the lawn. It was hot so he got in the pool to cool off afterward. That afternoon he had severe diarrhea and very dark urine. This lasted about 2 days,” she revealed.

Initially, they reasoned this was caused by the heat. The following week Mr. Schebler again mowed the lawn and went in the pool, and again he was sickened with the same severe symptoms.

Suspicious that the pool may be a problem, the family set out to get the water tested. “We have a 15 year old and felt we owed it to him to live in a clean, healthy environment,” said Mrs. Schebler.

The Scheblers found Robert Naman, a Mobile, Alabama chemist who’s performed multiple tests (1, 2, 3) for WKRG Channel 5, also out of Mobile.

“Warren collected a water sample from the pool filter on August 17th… packed the sample according to Mr. Naman’s instructions, and overnighted it to his Mobile, Ala. lab that same day,” she noted.

The results were delivered by Naman over the phone on August 27 at 11:00 a.m. EDT. A copy of the findings were then e-mailed to the Scheblers. To view the document, click here.

“Naman [said] our pool water sample we sent him contained 50.3 ppm [parts per million] 2-butoxyethanol marker for Corexit,” according to Mrs. Schebler. Tests for arsenic came back at less than .02 ppm.

A July letter from four top scientists noted, “Corexit 9527A contains 2-BTE (2-butoxyethanol), a toxic solvent that ruptures red blood cells, causing hemolysis (bleeding) and liver and kidney damage (Johanson and Bowman, 1991, Nalco, 2010).”

Full Article and Lab Report Here – http://www.floridaoilspilllaw.com/exclusive-tests-find-sickened-family-has-50-3-ppm-of-corexits-2-butoxyethanol-in-swimming-pool-just-one-hour-north-of-tampa-lab-report-included 

FBI: No Probable Cause Required For Surveillance

Inter Press Service
August 30, 2010
By William Fisher

NEW YORK, AUg 30, 2010 (IPS) – The bitter controversy over the building of a Muslim community centre and mosque near the site of the terrorist attacks in New York on September 11, 2001, is sparking new fears of government snooping on Islamic holy places – which it now claims it can do without a warrant.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Asian Law Caucus (ALC), and the San Francisco Bay Guardian newspaper, are suing the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in San Francisco over the agency’s failure to respond to a five-month-old request for information on its investigation of Bay Area Muslim groups.

The groups are seeking details of any surveillance the FBI has carried out since 2005 on area mosques and Islamic centres, as well as information on the recruitment of Muslim school children into the agency’s Junior Agent Program.

Julia Harumi Mass, Staff Attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, told IPS, “The FBI should focus its resources on targets for whom it has specific facts that support a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, rather than using undercover informants to spy on people in their houses of worship.”

She added, “The lawsuit we have brought is one seeking records, so that we – - and the public — can evaluate the FBI’s policies and practices to make sure they enhance national security without undermining our civil liberties. We have not sued for any misconduct other than failing to provide governmental records as required by law.” 

But, according to the FBI itself, the agency needs no suspicion of wrongdoing before it initiates surveillance.

In a July 28 letter addressed to Senate Judiciary committee Democratic members Dick Durbin of Illinois and Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont – following the testimony of FBI director Robert Mueller – the agency said that suspicion of wrongdoing was not necessary to launch an investigation against an individual or organisation.

“No particular factual predication is required” for the initiation of a preliminary investigation, according to the FBI’s operational guidelines.

“This is intelligence gathering run amok,” said Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. “The FBI is saying it can initiate surveillance without a reason.”

“This is a dragnet way of uncovering information and a dramatic step backwards in the history of civil rights,” he charged.

“The FBI has made an admission that we’ve known all along: that the agency is allowed to surveil without any suspicion of criminality,” according to Nura Maznavi, counsel for the Program to Combat Racial and Religious Profiling at Muslim Advocates.

Muslim Advocates, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) are among the organisations claiming that the FBI’s guidelines use race as a basis for determining whether to initiate surveillance, thereby unfairly targeting Muslims.

But Mueller told the Senate Judiciary committee that race and religion could not be used as sole criteria for initiating an investigation of a person or organisation.

Maznavi and Buttar have accused the FBI of initiating investigations in Muslim homes and mosques that they characterised as “general fishing expeditions” that could lead to clues about other members of the community.

The FBI also visits people at their jobs, said Maznavi, adding that such surveillance impacts a person’s reputation at their place of employment.

The agency also frequently sends informants into mosques, alleged Maznavi, pointing to two high-profile cases in California and Florida. Such a practice makes congregants suspicious of one another and promotes fear within the community, she said.

The basis of the FBI’s contention is unclear. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights, guards against unreasonable searches and seizures. It specifically requires search and arrest warrants be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.

The ACLU of Northern California made its initial request for records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in March, according to their complaint. The plaintiffs hope to persuade the court to force the FBI to process their FOIA request and release the records immediately.

The plaintiffs first sought out the FBI records after area Muslims contacted the ACLU and the Asian Law Caucus with concerns that the Bureau was scrutinising their activities and attempting to recruit “informants and infiltrators,” according to the ALC. In a statement, the group said the FBI had failed to produce its records despite admitting in March that media attention on the investigation of Muslim groups entitled his clients to expedited processing of their FOIA request. 

Full Article Here - http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=52660 

Rights Groups File Challenge To Targeted Killing By U.S.

ACLU
August 30, 2010

ACLU And CCR Charge That Practice Violates The Constitution And International Law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2689; media@aclu.org

NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) today filed a lawsuit challenging the government’s asserted authority to carry out “targeted killings” of U.S. citizens located far from any armed conflict zone.

The authority contemplated by the Obama administration is far broader than what the Constitution and international law allow, the groups charge. Outside of armed conflict, both the Constitution and international law prohibit targeted killing except as a last resort to protect against concrete, specific and imminent threats of death or serious physical injury. An extrajudicial killing policy under which names are added to CIA and military “kill lists” through a secret executive process and stay there for months at a time is plainly not limited to imminent threats.

“The United States cannot simply execute people, including its own citizens, anywhere in the world based on its own say-so,” said Vince Warren, Executive Director of CCR. “The law prohibits the government from killing without trial or conviction other than in the face of an imminent threat that leaves no time for deliberation or due process. That the government adds people to kill lists after a bureaucratic process and leaves them on the lists for months at a time flies in the face of the Constitution and international law.”
The groups charge that targeting individuals for execution who are suspected of terrorism but have not been convicted or even charged – without oversight, judicial process or disclosed standards for placement on kill lists – also poses the risk that the government will erroneously target the wrong people. In recent years, the U.S. government has detained many men as terrorists, only for courts or the government itself to discover later that the evidence was wrong or unreliable.

According to today’s legal complaint, the government has not disclosed the standards it uses for authorizing the premeditated and deliberate killing of U.S. citizens located far from any battlefield. The groups argue that the American people are entitled to know the standards being used for these life and death decisions.

“A program that authorizes killing U.S. citizens, without judicial oversight, due process or disclosed standards is unconstitutional, unlawful and un-American,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU.

“We don’t sentence people to prison on the basis of secret criteria, and we certainly shouldn’t sentence them to death that way. It is not enough for the executive branch to say ‘trust us’ – we have seen that backfire in the past and we should learn from those mistakes.”

CCR and the ACLU were retained by Nasser Al-Aulaqi to bring a lawsuit in connection with the government’s decision to authorize the targeted killing of his son, U.S. citizen Anwar Al-Aulaqi, whom the CIA and Defense Department have targeted for death. The complaint asks a court to rule that using lethal force far from any battlefield and without judicial process is illegal in all but the narrowest circumstances and to prohibit the government from carrying out targeted killings except in compliance with these standards. It also asks the court to order the government to disclose the standards it uses to place U.S. citizens on government kill lists.

Today’s lawsuit was filed against the CIA, Defense Department and the president in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Attorneys on the case are Jameel Jaffer, Ben Wizner and Jonathan Manes of the ACLU; Pardiss Kebriaei, Maria LaHood and Bill Quigley of CCR; and Arthur B. Spitzer of the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital. Co-counsel in Yemen is Mohammed Allawo of the Allawo Law Firm and the National Organization for Defending Human Rights (HOOD).

Full Article Here – http://www.aclu.org/national-security/rights-groups-file-challenge-targeted-killing-us 

Swarms of marine turbines could ‘tap the Gulf Stream’

BBC
August 30, 2010
By Lakshmi Sandhana

Darris White is a deep thinker.

The engineer at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in the US is currently finalising designs for a series of turbines that could be used to harness the immense energy of the Gulf Stream, flowing deep in the Atlantic Ocean.

The underwater stream roughly contains around 21,000 times more energy than the Niagara Falls and by some estimates, could potentially provide up to one-third of the US’s electricity needs.

“Hydrokinetic power from the Gulf Stream can provide enough power for over a million households in Florida,” said Professor White.

But that is easier said than done: harnessing that energy needs to happen 1,200m below the surface of the ocean in turbulent and constantly changing conditions.

The “marine energy” industry has come up with a number of ideas to make use of the movement of water around the globe, be it from ocean waves, tides slipping into and out of inlets, or regular ocean currents like the Gulf Stream.

The more common solution to the problem has been to build large turbines, to be anchored to the seabed.

But the nature of the Gulf Stream presents different challenges, said Professor White.

“Even though the Gulf Stream is constrained between two bodies of land, the flow rate and location of peak velocity will change, based on seasonal and weather conditions.”

The solution, Professor White and his team suggest, are autonomous turbines with so-called “swarm intelligence” that can navigate through the ocean currents, similar to a school of fish searching for food.

“Swarm intelligence can achieve two goals. One is to find the ‘sweet spot’ of the Gulf Stream, which is the location where the array will achieve maximum power output,” he said.

“The other goal is to find the array orientation and alignment that provides optimal efficiency.”
Current thinking
A prototype is currently under construction and should be complete within the next 18 months, he said.

The team plans to equip the turbines with sensors that detect the change of hydrodynamics and the swarm’s own movements, along communication mechanisms so that turbines can “talk” to one another and share their position.

The entire swarm will either be tethered to the sea floor with anchors, allowing them to migrate within a limited area, or be attached to a movable platform for fixing and transferring the power.

Power from all the turbines will be integrated into a single transmission line and transmitted to a substation on land through high-voltage power lines.

Full Article Here - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-10914462

Police detain 4 reporters

Global Times
August 30, 2010
By Zhu Shanshan and Lin Meilian

Four reporters were detained by police over the weekend for probing the plane crash in Yichun, Heilongjiang Province, the Beijing News Reported Sunday.

Police stationed near a Yichun funeral home detained four reporters, who are from Chinese Business Morning, Legal Mirror and CBNweekly, on Saturday where relatives of the people that died in the crash came to view the bodies.

Police held Shang Qinshuo, a reporter for CBNweekly, on Saturday morning for about two hours while he was trying to interview victims’ families at the funeral home.

“Two police came to me and asked if I am a reporter; I said ‘yes,’ and then they asked me to go with them without telling me why,” Shang told the Global Times.

After being taken to an office inside the funeral home along with another female reporter, Lin Chenyin of the
Legal Mirror, Shang was told that the families didn’t want to be bothered.

The two were released two hours later without charge or explanation after a group of reporters from 10media outlets protested outside the funeral home and demanded the reporters’ freedom.

Photographer Wang Shuntian, from the Chinese Business Morning, encountered the same harassment without even taking out his camera 50 meters away from the guard line in front of the funeral home after he identified himself as a reporter to the police.

“They forcefully dragged me to the police car and pushed me into it by pressing my neck. When they asked me if I was reporter or not, I said yes, and they claimed that they were catching reporters,” he told the Beijing News.

Wang was put into custody at Chaoyang police station in Yichun together with Wang Nan, a journalist from the Legal Mirror, and the police said they could only leave if it was approved by their superiors, according to the Beijing News.

According to Hua Jingwei, head of Yichun’s publicity department, the detention was a misunderstanding, and the ban on covering the funeral homes came too late from the investigation team to inform all the reporters.

The deputy chief of police in Yichun, surnamed Cui, admitted that he ordered the police on duty to control the four reporters, but he didn’t know they were journalists, according to the Beijing News.

Cui said it took two hours to free the reporters because the police on duty could not reach him by phone due to bad signals.

Reporters flooded to Yichun after a Henan Airlines flight, with five crew members and 91 passengers aboard, crashed last Tuesday night at Lindu Airport in Yichun, killing 42 people.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation and doubts were raised about the safety of the air route where the crash occurred.

“After the accident, reporters were not allowed to interview injured passengers at the hospital,” said Cui Muyang, a reporter with the Beijing News. “They said it in the name of victims’ families.”

“The police blocked us from entering the scene. They are afraid of cameras,” Wang Wei, a journalist from the Shanghai-based Dongfang Daily, told the Global Times.

They are trampling on the public’s right to know, as journalists have a responsibility to play a supervisory role for the public, Chen Zuoping, a journalism professor with the Communication University of China, told the Global Times.

“As long as journalists report in a legal and reasonable manner, there is no reason to detain them,” Chen said.

At a national meeting in Beijing on lawful administration on Friday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiaobao urged government departments to protect civilians’ rights to directly supervise the government, and support media exposure on illegal activities and improper behavior by government officials.

Peng Pu contributed to this story

Full Article Here – http://china.globaltimes.cn/society/2010-08/568249.html