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Posts Tagged ‘report

CIA torture report starts to leak from the Senate

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A still-secret Senate Intelligence Committee report calls into question the legal foundation of the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists, a finding that challenges the key defense on which the agency and the Bush administration relied in arguing that the methods didn’t constitute torture.

The report also found that the spy agency failed to keep an accurate account of the number of individuals it held, and that it issued erroneous claims about how many it detained and subjected to the controversial interrogation methods. The CIA has said that about 30 detainees underwent the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques.

The CIA’s claim “is BS,” said a former U.S. official familiar with evidence underpinning the report, who asked not to be identified because the matter is still classified. “They are trying to minimize the damage. They are trying to say it was a very targeted program, but that’s not the case.”

The findings are among the report’s 20 main conclusions. Taken together, they paint a picture of an intelligence agency that seemed intent on evading or misleading nearly all of its oversight mechanisms throughout the program, which was launched under the Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and ran until 2006.

Some of the report’s other conclusions, which were obtained by McClatchy, include:

_ The CIA used interrogation methods that weren’t approved by the Justice Department or CIA headquarters.

_ The agency impeded effective White House oversight and decision-making regarding the program.

_ The CIA actively evaded or impeded congressional oversight of the program.

_ The agency hindered oversight of the program by its own Inspector General’s Office.

RTFA and imagine what we wait to read in detail. Thugs acting on behalf of the United States government do our nation no service at all. Lying about what they did – in conjunction with a phony court called to order to justify crimes committed in our name – doesn’t change their deeds.

We need a government with sufficient backbone to keep this from happening again. We need laws that can’t be defeated by the usual expedient of crying “wolf” about national security.

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Written by Ed Campbell

April 12, 2014 at 2:00 am

Arizona Forestry Division cared more for property values than safety of firefighters who died

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A state safety agency recommended fines totaling $559,000 against the state’s Forestry Division on Wednesday, saying the agency wrongly put the protection of “structures and pastureland” ahead of the safety of firefighters battling a wildfire in Central Arizona last summer, including 19 who died while trapped by the flames on a mountain.

The report said the forestry division kept the firefighters on the mountains even after commanders realized they could not control the flames burning through parched, thick chaparral along the western edge of the old gold-mining village of Yarnell, 80 miles northwest of Phoenix

In a report, inspectors for the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health said the actions resulted in “multiple instances of firefighters being unnecessarily and unreasonably exposed to the deadly hazards of wildland firefighting.”

The report…also faulted the team running firefighting operations on June 30, when the 19 firefighters died, for being understaffed…

…The report cited several additional problems. Members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots — the 19 who died and their lookout, Brendan McDonough, who escaped — were tired, having just returned from fighting two fires. The report indicated that exhaustion could have affected their judgment.

Brave, brave firefighters, well remembered in New Mexico. The fires they had just returned from fighting – before this tragedy – were here. They did themselves proud.

No, you can’t say the same about Arizona bureaucrats who considered them expendable.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 6, 2013 at 8:00 am

Suffer the Children, Suffer the Country

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Children are every country’s most vital resource. This is true not just morally, but also economically. Investing in the health, education, and skills of children offers the highest economic returns to a country. A new study by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) shows which high-income countries are doing well when it comes to making these investments – and which are doing poorly.

The report, Child Well-Being in Rich Countries, takes a holistic view of the conditions of children in the United States, Canada, and Europe – 29 countries in all. The top-ranked countries, where children are best off, are the social democracies of Western Europe. The Netherlands heads the list, followed by Norway, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, and Germany.

At the bottom one finds a major surprise: the US, the richest large economy in the world, is in 26th place, followed by three much poorer countries: Lithuania, Latvia, and Romania. France and the United Kingdom are ranked in the middle.

The study assesses children’s well-being in terms of material conditions (related to household-income levels); health and safety; education; risky behavior (such as excessive alcohol consumption); and physical environment, including housing conditions. Although the study is limited to high-income countries, national governments – and even cities – in other parts of the world should replicate it to analyze their own children’s well-being…

The differences between the social democracies and the US show up strongly in category after category. In the social democracies, less than 10% of children grow up in relative poverty (meaning households with less than half of the country’s median income). In the US, the rate of relative poverty exceeds 20%.

The costs to the US of allowing so many of its children to grow up in poverty, poor health, poor schools, and poor housing are staggering. A shocking proportion ends up serving time in prison – especially in the case of non-white poor children. Even those fortunate not to fall into the trap of America’s vast prison system often end up unemployed and even unemployable, without the skills needed to obtain and keep a decent job.

The UNICEF findings are powerful. High national incomes are not enough to ensure children’s well-being. Societies that have a strong commitment to equal opportunity for all of their children – and that are prepared to invest public funds on their behalf – end up with much better outcomes.

American conservatives used to consider educating our children an asset. That conservative ethos has shriveled into elitism, contempt for everyone and anything that doesn’t muster enough dollars to catch the eye of corporate princes.

The footmen for the moneyed class assigned the task of keeping this nation’s politics tidy – see little need to educate the poor. After all, we can just just hire folks from other countries to fill necessary tasks. Or move the jobs closer to a supply of wage earners educated at some other nation’s expense.

Written by Ed Campbell

May 6, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Superstorm Sandy dumped 11 billion gallons of raw sewage into eastern United States waterways

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shitstorm

Hurricane Sandy dumped about 11 billion gallons of raw and untreated sewage into waterways from Washington DC to Connecticut, the science journalism group Climate Central said on Tuesday. That’s enough human waste to cover New York’s Central Park in 41ft of sewage, or fill 17,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools…

The group, which drew on data from the Environmental Protection Agency, state protection agencies and water treatment plants, said most of the outflow during the storm, which hit the eastern US in October last year, was caused by storm surges, which overwhelmed sewage treatment plants. But power shutdowns – and heavy rain in Washington DC – also played a part. A third of the sewage was untreated.

The scientists said the report exposed yet another risk factor to America’s crumbling infrastructure, due to climate change.

New York City authorities have been working for years to reinforce the city’s subway system, which is vulnerable to flooding, and to shore up power stations, which are located along the coast. The scientists said that in the wake of Sandy, when storm surges raised waters more than 9ft above the high tide mark, it was time to look at waste-treatment plants.

“Our sewage infrastructure isn’t built to withstand such surges and we are putting our property, safety and lives at risk if we don’t adequately plan for these challenges,” said Alyson Kenward, a senior scientist and research manager for Climate Central, adding that almost all of the sewage had ended up in New Jersey and New York…

The estimated cost of repairs to New York and New Jersey’s sewage treatment plants could reach $4.7 billion. “In the long run, sea-level rise is going to force us to rework our infrastructure physically if we are going to keep it intact,” she said.

There isn’t any part of superstructure repair, maintenance or upgrades that Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats in Congress care a rat’s ass about. They operate under the assumption that voters only care about dollars – like the money-grubbing thugs they’ve elected.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 30, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Smoking may be a sign of psychiatric illness — WTF?

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Smoking may be a sign of psychiatric illness, experts say. Doctors should routinely consider referring people who smoke to mental health services, in case they need treatment, they add.

The controversial recommendation from the British Lung Foundation, a charity, comes in response to a major report, Smoking and Mental Health, published this week by the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Psychiatrists with the Faculty of Public Health. It says that almost one in three cigarettes smoked in Britain today is smoked by someone with a mental disorder. When people with drug and alcohol problems are included the proportion is even higher.

The reason is that smoking rates have more than halved over the past 50 years, but the decline has not happened equally in all parts of society.

Smoking is increasingly becoming the domain of the most disadvantaged: the poor, homeless, imprisoned and those with mental disorder. This is a damning indictment of UK public health policy and clinical service provision,” the report says…

Professor Stephen Spiro, deputy chair of the British Lung Foundation, said persuading people with mental disorders to give up smoking was a major challenge. But so was identifying smokers who might need psychiatric treatment…

Smoking increases with the severity of mental disorder, and amongst those with a psychotic illness almost all smoke. Nicotine appears to provide some relief from symptoms of anxiety, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder which may explain why people with these conditions become smokers.

If the results in this report are reproducible, verifiable – then, the next question is “does this phenomenon owe its foundation uniquely to British society and culture?”

Written by Ed Campbell

March 30, 2013 at 8:00 am

Army ready to waste $1.8 Billion for a rifle we don’t need

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The Army risks wasting as much as $1.8 billion developing a replacement for the M4 carbine that it may not need, according to the Pentagon’s inspector general.

The carbine replacement program is one the Army and Pentagon “may want to re-evaluate,” as the service is “seeking to acquire more rifles during a time when their total force structure will be reduced,” Lynne Halbrooks, principal deputy inspector general, said in a statement provided today to a House committee. The Pentagon plans to reduce Army ground forces to 490,000 by 2017 from about 560,000 in 2011…

The carbine replacement is among programs Halbrooks highlighted as having questionable value in the statement to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform…

The inspector general’s efforts are focused on deficiencies in financial management, acquisition processes, contract management, readiness, information technology security and equipping and training Iraq and Afghan security forces, according to a staff memo prepared for lawmakers.

The Army carbine program is an example of decisions the Pentagon and military services face in culling savings from the projected $27 billion expected to be spent in fiscal 2012 on major acquisition programs…

Halbrooks’s statement summarized areas of potential savings in financial and contract management completed by her agency such as the finding in 2011 of spare parts overpricing by Boeing and Sikorsky Aircraft to support the helicopter maintenance at the Army’s Corpus Christi depot in Texas.

Those overcharges, which were previously disclosed, are cases in which the Army “did not effectively use” existing inventory before buying overpriced parts from the contractors, Halbrooks wrote…

In other words, the Pentagon doesn’t manage its purchases up to the standards of, say, Home Depot.

Anyone holding their breath until Congress and our military brass hats pay attention to the Inspector General’s report? Or should we just wait for the follow-up report which will detail continuing corruption on behalf of the military-industrial complex we have all come to know and revere?

Written by Ed Campbell

March 20, 2013 at 2:00 am

Two dozen Euro nations may face indictment for kidnapping and torture on behalf of the CIA

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Up to two dozen European countries including the UK could face proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights from their involvement in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition operations after 9/11, according to a human rights organisation that has documented worldwide secret support for the programme.

At least 54 different governments – more than a quarter of the world’s total – were covertly engaged with the global kidnap, detention and torture programme, according to a report published on Tuesday by the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), a New York-based NGO. The greatest number – 25 – were in Europe, while 14 were in Asia and 13 in Africa.

Among the European participants, Macedonia has been found guilty by the European Court of the illegal imprisonment and torture of a German national. Proceedings are being brought against Poland, Lithuania and Romania after they permitted the CIA to operate secret prisons on their territory. Italy is facing proceedings in the European court over the state’s involvement in the abduction of a Muslim cleric, who was kidnapped in Milan and flown to Egypt to be tortured. Last week an Italian appeal court upheld the conviction of the CIA’s local station chief and two other Americans involved in the kidnap.

Amrit Singh, the author of the OSJI report, said she believes that other European countries that were involved in the CIA’s rendition could also find themselves before the European Court. “The moral cost of these programs was borne not just by the US but by the 54 other countries it recruited to help,” she said…

“There is no doubt that high-ranking Bush administration officials bear responsibility for authorising human rights violations associated with secret detention and extraordinary rendition, and the impunity that they have enjoyed to date remains a matter of significant concern,” the report says.

“But responsibility for these violations does not end with the United States. Secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations, designed to be conducted outside the United States under cover of secrecy, could not have been implemented without the active participation of foreign governments. These governments too must be held accountable.”

The struggle for justice continues. Probably coming to courtrooms around the world long before our own government, present and future, gets sufficient courage to prosecute the criminals who defamed our standards, treaties and law with kidnapping and torture.

Written by Ed Campbell

February 6, 2013 at 2:00 am

Cost of combating climate change surges – politicians do nothing

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An agreement by almost 200 nations to curb rising greenhouse gas emissions from 2020 will be far more costly than taking action now to tackle climate change, according to published research.

Quick measures to cut emissions would give a far better chance of keeping global warming within an agreed U.N. limit of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times to avert more floods, heatwaves, droughts and rising sea levels…

The timing of cuts in greenhouse gases was more important than other uncertainties – about things like how the climate system works, future energy demand, carbon prices or new energy technologies.

The study indicated that an immediate global price of $20 a ton on emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, would give a roughly 60 percent chance of limiting warming to below 2C.

Wait until 2020 and the carbon price would have to be around $100 a ton to retain that 60 percent chance, Keywan Riahi told Reuters of the study made with other experts in Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia and Germany…

After the failure of a 2009 summit in Copenhagen to agree a worldwide accord, almost 200 nations have given themselves until 2015 to work out a global deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions that will enter into force in 2020.

Amid an economic slowdown, many countries at the last U.N. meeting on climate change in Qatar in December expressed reluctance to make quick shifts away from fossil fuels towards cleaner energies such as wind or solar power…

The report…showed that greener policies, such as more efficient public transport or better-insulated buildings, would raise the chances of meeting the 2C goal.

Being the world’s dominant economic power means we’re the focus of cause-and-effect relationships. Especially in politics. Failure of the United States to lead on the question of climate change is key to resolving the future costs – and increases.

Obama made mention of the question briefly in his inauguration. Republicans and Blue Dog Dems have started whining even before the introduction of any useful legislation. Power companies have lots of buck$. Most of the rest of corporate America is ready to pitch in – and do nothing constructive – as ever.

Written by Ed Campbell

January 22, 2013 at 12:00 pm

France court rules psychiatrist guilty of murder by her patient

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A French court has found a psychiatrist guilty of involuntary homicide over a murder by one of her patients…Daniele Canarelli was given a suspended prison sentence of one year, in the first case of its kind in France.

Her patient Joel Gaillard murdered a man in March 2004, 20 days after Gaillard fled a consultation with Canarelli at a hospital in Marseille…

While accepting that there was no such thing as “zero risk” in such cases and that doctors could not predict the actions of their patients, the court found that Canarelli had made several mistakes in Gaillard’s treatment.

In contrast to other medical professionals who have to make quick judgements about their patients, Canarelli had a longer period of time during which she should have realised Gaillard’s treatment was failing, the court found.

The court’s Fabrice Castoldi said Canarelli should either have placed him in a specialised unit for difficult patients or referred him to another team.

Gaillard killed 80-year-old Germain Trabuc with an axe in March 2004 in the town of Gap.

Sorry, but, I am automatically suspicious of courts ruling on science and medicine. Questions of law don’t have to produce answers about justice – and this could be one of those cases. Society – and the voices of those who assign themselves the role of overseer of law and order – demands someone be found guilty of the crime. Since they couldn’t do so to Gaillard, they chose his doctor.

Daniele Canarelli may be guilty of professional mistakes; still, I’m not certain if any doctor is supposed to be omniscient, especially dealing with mental illness. Laying criminal responsibility upon someone not sworn to protect and serve as a copper smells of everything but justice.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 19, 2012 at 8:00 am

Hypocrite conservatives have another number to whine about

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The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week to the lowest level in more than four and a half years, according to government data on Thursday that suggested improvement in the labor market…

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 30,000 to a seasonally adjusted 339,000, the Labor Department said.

It was the lowest number of new claims since February 2008, about a year before Obama took office in the midst of the global financial crisis…

A Labor Department analyst noted that seasonal factors had predicted a very large increase in claims last week, which he said would be typical for the first week of the calendar quarter. Unadjusted claims did rise, but far less than expected, resulting in the sharp drop in the seasonally adjusted figure…

Economists said the labor market was showing signs of getting stronger

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims edging up to 370,0000 last week. The four-week moving average for new claims, a better measure of labor market trends, fell 11,500 to 364,000…

Recent data on the U.S. labor market has been encouraging.

Employers added a modest 114,000 jobs to their payrolls in September, but the unemployment rate dropped sharply to 7.8 percent, also the lowest level since Obama took office…

One under-reported aspect of times changing oh-so-slowly for the better is the strength of Keynesian measures. Even in the face of a dogpile of cowards and craven Congressional conservatives dragging their feet – that portion of stimulus measures that was able to be implemented is having an effect.

It hasn’t happened in a vacuum. Quantitative easing from the Fed has added another small measure of positive economic force into the whole process. The proof of this particular pudding starts with the ideological whine from the Right. The companion piece on the Left – ranging from anarchists to tea party liberals can pretty much be laid at the feet of ignorance; but, the conservative flavor of criticism falls directly to ideologues who still cringe over the failure of Hayek and Hooverville Republicans.

As someone who spent way too many years criticizing Keynesian theory until day-by-day economic processes proved me wrong – I welcome any correction to the dismal science which ends up providing jobs for the workers of America, the class I’m pleased to be a part of. This doesn’t mean we can walk away from the reforms still needed in education, financial oversight, tax code revision, a foreign policy which stinks on ice. But, it’s a start.

Written by Ed Campbell

October 11, 2012 at 10:00 am

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