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Archive for February 8th, 2009

Guantanamo’s Last Terror Trial

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 8th, 2009 5:41 am by HL

Guantanamo’s Last Terror Trial

The legacy of terror trials at Guantanamo Bay has potentially come to an end, as a judge has dropped the charges for the last case at the naval base in accord with President Obama’s executive order to halt all court proceedings there.

The Guardian:

The last terror trial at Guantánamo Bay had been halted after the senior military judge dropped charges against a suspect in the 2000 USS Cole bombing, the Pentagon has said.

The military charges against suspected al-Qaida bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri marked the last active war crimes case at the US Navy base in Cuba.

The decision by Susan Crawford, the top legal authority for military trials at Guantánamo, brings all cases into compliance with Barack Obama’s executive order to halt terror court proceedings at the base.

A Pentagon spokesman said Crawford dismissed the charges against al-Nashiri without prejudice. That means new charges can be brought again later. He will remain in prison for the time being.

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Biden Cautious, Conciliatory in Message to Russia

Kremlin

Will the Obama administration take a different tack than the Bush team did when it comes to relations with the Kremlin? It’s hard to say at this stage, but Vice President Joe Biden has suggested that it’s “time to press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can and should be working together with Russia.” He made the comment Saturday in a speech at a security conference in Germany.


The New Tork Times:

The highly anticipated speech, seen as the first major outline of the new administration’s relations with the world, came just days after Kyrgyzstan’s president announced a decision to close a United States base there that is crucial to the war in Afghanistan, which President Obama has made his top foreign policy priority. That announcement was made in Moscow, and many American officials concluded that the Russians had pressured Kyrgyzstan as part of their campaign to reassert control over former Soviet republics.

Some Western diplomats had expected Mr. Biden to announce a strategic review of the planned missile defense system as a way to defuse tensions between Washington and Moscow. Although Mr. Biden did not go that far, he did leave room in both the speech — and an interview afterward — for unspecified changes in the plan put forward by the Bush administration.

“We will continue to develop missile defenses to counter a growing Iranian capability, provided the technology is proven and it is cost-effective,” Mr. Biden said during the speech.

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Kellogg Customers More Concerned With Phelps Than Tainted Peanut Butter (AUDIO)

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 8th, 2009 5:40 am by HL

Kellogg Customers More Concerned With Phelps Than Tainted Peanut Butter (AUDIO)
The Kellogg Company may have thought it was making the smart public-relations play by announcing it was not renewing its contract with Michael Phelps, the…

Arianna Huffington: Sunday Roundup
This week offered some tough calls. What was the scariest audio tape: Christian Bale’s f-bomb-filled Terminator tirade or Dick Cheney’s bone-chilling mutterings on the “high probability” of a coming nuclear 9/11 and preemptive finger-pointing? Who showed the worst parental judgment: 14-is-not-enough single mother Nadya Suleman or the father who thought it was a good idea to post video of his drugged up 7-year old on YouTube (paging child protective services)? And who is most in need of a racial sensitivity class: Miley Cyrus, Bishop Richard “What Holocaust?” Williamson, or Florida Republican Carol Carter, who sent around an email questioning how “2,000,000 blacks get into Washington, D.C. in 1 day in sub zero temps when 200,000 couldn’t get out of New Orleans in 85 degree temps with four days notice”? Discuss.

Emanuel Replacement Race: Fritchey’s Past Lobbying Clients Include Bank Of America, Cash America
[John] Fritchey was registered as a lobbyist for Bank of America in November 2006. This is the same bank that the Republic Windows workers had…

U.S. Commanders Favor Slower Iraq Pullout
U.S. military planners have drawn up three options to allow President Barack Obama to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq, with senior commanders favoring the…

Kathleen Sebelius Near Top For Health And Human Services Secretary
WASHINGTON — Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius was very near the top of President Barack Obama’s list of candidates to head the Health and Human Services…


NY Times reported claim that 61 Guantánamo detainees have “returned to the fight” without noting DOD made different claim in January

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 8th, 2009 5:39 am by HL

NY Times reported claim that 61 Guantánamo detainees have “returned to the fight” without noting DOD made different claim in January

A February 7 New York Times article uncritically reported that “the Pentagon delayed making public its latest report on the released Guantánamo detainees it classifies as having ‘returned to the fight’ ” and added that “[o]n Friday, Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, put the number at 61, but said that the Defense Department was still struggling to provide names and specific examples without compromising intelligence-gathering sources.” However, the Times did not note that Morrell previously stated that the Department has confirmed that 18 have “returned to the fight,” with another 43 merely suspected of having done so.

As Media Matters for America noted, during a January 13 press conference, Morrell stated: “The new numbers are, we believe, 18 confirmed and 43 suspected of returning to the fight. So 61 in all former Guantánamo detainees are confirmed or suspected of returning to the fight.” Further, according to a January 23 American Forces Press Service article, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman stated, “Of the more than 500 detainees who have been transferred from Defense Department custody, 18 allegedly have resumed terrorist activities and another 43 former detainees are suspected of having resumed their former lives.” The Times gave no indication of whether Morrell has stated that the Department of Defense has subsequently confirmed that more than 18 detainees have “returned to the fight.”

Moreover, even the Pentagon’s claim that it has confirmed that 18 former Guantánamo detainees have “return[ed] to the fight” has been questioned by experts. CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen stated on the January 23 edition of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 that “returning to the fight, in Pentagon terms, could be engaging in anti-American propaganda, something that’s not entirely surprising if you have been locked up in a prison camp for several years without charge.” Bergen further stated: “[W]hen you really boil it down, the actual number of people whose names we know are about eight out of the 520 that have been released [from Guantánamo], so a little above 1 percent, that we can actually say with certainty have engaged in anti-American terrorism or insurgence activities since they have been released. … If the Pentagon releases more information about specific people, I think it would be possible to — to potentially agree with them. But, right now, that information isn’t out there.”

Additionally, as Media Matters has noted, Seton Hall University School of Law professor Mark Denbeaux — who has written several reports about Guantánamo detainees, including some challenging the Pentagon’s definition of “battlefield” capture and published detainee recidivism rates — has disputed the Pentagon’s figures, asserting: “[The Defense Department’s most recent] attempt to enumerate the number of detainees who have returned to the battlefield is false by the Department of Defense’s own data and prior reports.”

From the February 7 Times article:

The president spoke for about 10 minutes before taking questions and talking individually with the participants, many of whom brought pictures of their loved ones who were killed in the attacks. The meeting was closed; participants described it as intense but civil.

Although some of the family members have disagreed openly with the president’s decision to close the prison at Guantánamo, participants said there was no hostility at the meeting.

“It went far better than I had imagined,” Kirk Lippold, a retired Navy commander who is a senior military fellow at Military Families United and was the commanding officer of the Cole at the time of the attack in 2000, said Friday evening.

Commander Lippold had been critical of the president’s decision to close the prison, but after the meeting said he was pleased with what he called Mr. Obama’s commitment to bringing the suspects to justice.

John Clodfelter of Mechanicsville, Va., whose son was among the 17 sailors killed in the Cole bombing, said he arrived at the meeting with apprehension over the decision to close the prison. But after listening to the president and being assured that the terrorism suspects would not be released, Mr. Clodfelter said his opinion changed.

“I did not vote for the man,” Mr. Clodfelter said, “but the way he talks to you, you can’t help but believe in him. He left me with a very positive feeling that he’s going to get this done right.”

Mr. Obama’s outreach to the families came as the Pentagon delayed making public its latest report on the released Guantánamo detainees it classifies as having “returned to the fight.” On Friday, Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, put the number at 61, but said that the Defense Department was still struggling to provide names and specific examples without compromising intelligence-gathering sources.

Mr. Morrell said there had been no concern from the White House about releasing a report that could undermine its argument for closing the prison.

“There is no pressure at all,” he said. “This is our own internal process that we are working through as we always do.”


Obama Praises Stimulus Deal, Expresses Urgency

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 8th, 2009 5:38 am by HL

Obama Praises Stimulus Deal, Expresses Urgency
President Obama’s Weekly Radio Address Yesterday began with some devastating news with regard to our economic crisis. But I’m pleased to say it ended on a more positive note. In the morning, we received yet another round of alarming employment figures – the worst in more than 30 years. Another 600,000 jobs were lost in January. We’ve now lost more than 3.6 million jobs since this recession began.

Calm and Cool on a No Good, Very Bad Day
Tuesday, Feb. 3, was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for Barack Obama. First, his appointee for White House chief performance officer resigned, apparently because she had failed to pay unemployment taxes on household help several years ago. Then, in the early afternoon, before the president was scheduled to have interviews with five television news anchors, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle wrote Obama asking that his nomination to be secretary of health and human services (and to serve as a White House staffer on health) be withdrawn because of his tax problems.


Another AG Probing Merrill Bonuses

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 8th, 2009 5:37 am by HL

Another AG Probing Merrill Bonuses
It looks like New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Neil Barofsky, the inspector general for the bailout, aren’t the only people interested in looking into those bonuses Merrill gave senior execs just before the company came under the control…

What, No Subpoena? Frank Invites Bailed Out CEOs To Testify
Barney Frank, the chair of the House Financial Services committee, has invited the heads of the first eight banks that received bailout funds to testify at a hearing next Wednesday on the bailout, reports CNNMoney.com. Those CEOs are: Ken Lewis…






Israel Goes Right: Makes It Easier for Obama

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 8th, 2009 5:35 am by HL

Israel Goes Right: Makes It Easier for Obama
Next week’s Israeli election will be viewed as delivering a blow, perhaps fatal, to the peace process. Powerful showings by both the Likud and the neo-fascist Yisrael Beteinu party will be read as indicating that Israel has decided to embrace…

Bi-partisan or Mono-plus?
All the reports I’ve seen about the dissenting Senators trying to gouge a hundred billion or more out of the House stimulus package talk about a “bipartisan” or “postpartisan” group. But the only Democrats named as having attended any of…





Concept of Global Leadership is Obsolete
Professor Smith writes in his post: “Bacevich’s belief (Chapter 1) that empire pays, and that the public appreciates a payoff from it under the name of ‘freedom,’ does not persuade me.” The problem here is one of verb tense….


Supporters Of $1.3 Trillion Bush Tax Cuts In 2001 Now Call $900 Billion Recovery Plan Billion ‘Too Much’

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 8th, 2009 5:34 am by HL

Supporters Of $1.3 Trillion Bush Tax Cuts In 2001 Now Call $900 Billion Recovery Plan Billion ‘Too Much’
As the senate version of the economic recovery package makes its way through Congress, a significant (though misguided) criticism of the package from Senate Republicans is that it is “too big.” For example, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claimed, “from the very first moment of this debate, there’s been strong bipartisan agreement on one […]

As the senate version of the economic recovery package makes its way through Congress, a significant (though misguided) criticism of the package from Senate Republicans is that it is “too big.” For example, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claimed, “from the very first moment of this debate, there’s been strong bipartisan agreement on one thing: the original version of this bill was too big.”

Similarly, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) lamented, “[T]his bill spends far too much,” while Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said, “It’s very wasteful…if you throw in the interest it’s about $1.3 trillion.” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) called passing such a large package this week “just unthinkable.” Watch a compilation of these and other complaints about the size of the package:

Such objections are indeed ironic coming from some of the greatest advocates for President Bush’s $1.35 trillion tax cut package in 2001. Indeed, when Bush introduced his tax cuts he declared, “A warning light is flashing on the dashboard of our economy, and we just can’t drive on and hope for the best. We need tax relief now.” The Republicans who now call the $800 billion recovery package “too big” jumped on the Bush bandwagon claiming his $1.35 trillion in tax cuts were just what was needed to jump start a sluggish economy:

Kyl: “I was there when the president signed into law the tax cut. … [I]f that isn’t one of the best things we can do to get this economy going again, then it seems to me that the American people might well lose confidence in what we’re doing, which would be the worst thing to do for the economy.” [Finance Committee Hearing, 10/3/2009]

Ensign: “Well, I don’t know that we’re going to get to the — you know, the total $1.3 trillion tax cut. I do think the tax cuts are necessary right now.” [CNN, 1/3/01]

Graham thought the cuts were so effective he wanted to make them permanent. But the tax cuts they championed proved to be extremely ineffective, leading to the slowest period of economic growth in decades.

If you compare the condition of the economy in 2001 to the current state of the economy, the numbers show that those who now call the recovery package too big, were willing to spend far more when the economic situation wasn’t nearly as precarious:

2001 2009
Cost of package: $1.35 trillion $900 billion
Unemployment: 4% 7.6%
Percent of Population Living In Poverty: 12.7% 17%
Foreclosure Rates: .48% 1.19%
Americans Relying On Food Stamps: 17 million Over 30 million

Edging towards a depression.
The current recession that the United States economy finds itself in is, by far, dramatically worse than the recessions of 1990-91 and 2001. How much worse? The economy has lost 3.6 million jobs in the last 13 months. The Gavel compares these numbers to the two most recent recessions:

The current recession that the United States economy finds itself in is, by far, dramatically worse than the recessions of 1990-91 and 2001. How much worse? The economy has lost 3.6 million jobs in the last 13 months. The Gavel compares these numbers to the two most recent recessions:

newgavel.jpg


Double Blow for Police: Less Cash, More Crime

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 8th, 2009 5:33 am by HL

Double Blow for Police: Less Cash, More Crime
Philadelphia officials are leaving 200 police positions unfilled and cutting back on overtime.

In Geithner’s Overhaul, Aggressive Use of All Available Tools Expected
The nation’s top economic policymakers were putting the finishing touches yesterday on a financial rescue plan that will deploy hundreds of billions of dollars to spur the flow of credit to consumers and businesses.

Obama’s NSC Will Get New Power
President Obama plans to order a sweeping overhaul of the National Security Council, expanding its membership and increasing its authority to set strategy across a wide spectrum of international and domestic issues.

The Dissenter Who Changed the War
Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno was an unlikely dissident, with little in his past to suggest that he would buck his superiors and push the U.S. military in radically new directions.


A Small But Important Step Forward for Iraq

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on February 8th, 2009 5:29 am by HL

A Small But Important Step Forward for Iraq

Stimulus Deal is Reached in Senate
Janet Hook & Richard Simon, LA Times

Obama’s Populist Tone
Charles Mahtesian, Politico