Wednesday, June 23, 2010
The mother of the slain football player and Army Ranger Pat Tillman sought to warn President Obama against making General Stanley McChrystal his commander in Afghanistan.
Mary Tillman said in an unpublished interview this year that she wrote to Obama and called Senators and members of Congress seeking to block McChrystal's appointment when she learned that he was under consideration for the post.
She called the lack of deliberation leading to his appointment "disgusting" in the interview, given before today's Rolling Stone article spurred intense tension between the general and the White House. An audio recording of the interview was provided to POLITICO by the interviewer, who asked to remain anonymous.
McChrystal has been accused of involvement in covering up of the fact that Tillman had been shot by his own comrades, having approved a citation for a posthumous medal that attributed his death to "enemy fire," though the general also penned a memo warning the White House against describing the circumstance of Tillman's death for fear of future embarrassment.
An official investigation blamed McChrystal for "inaccurate and misleading assertions" in the formal recommendation of Tillman for a Silver Star.
Mary Tillman said she emailed Obama a short letter saying that McChrystal was not what he seemed.
by Eugene Robinson
Congressman Tom Price of Georgia. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)
Joe Barton is not alone. The Texas congressman's lavish sympathy for BP -- which he sees not as perpetrator of a preventable disaster but as victim of a White House "shakedown" -- is actually what passes for mainstream opinion among conservative Republicans today.
The GOP leadership came down hard on Barton after he apologized to the oil company for the beastly way it was being treated by the White House, saying he was "ashamed" that BP was being pressured to put $20 billion into a "slush fund" to compensate victims of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Barton was reportedly threatened with losing his powerful position as ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee if he didn't retract his words, and pronto.
But Barton was only echoing a statement that Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., had issued a day earlier in the name of the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of House conservatives whose website claims more than 115 members. The statement groused that there is "no legal authority for the president to compel a private company to set up or contribute to an escrow account" and accused the Obama administration of "Chicago-style shakedown politics."
Just to review: A group comprising roughly two-thirds of all Republicans in the House takes the position that President Obama was wrong to demand that BP set aside money to guarantee that those whose livelihoods are being ruined by the oil spill will be compensated. In other words, it's more important to kneel at the altar of radical conservative ideology than to feel any sense of compassion for one's fellow Americans. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how today's GOP rolls.
"The federal judge who overturned Barack Obama's offshore drilling moratorium appears to own stock in numerous companies involved in the offshore oil industry—including Transocean, which leased the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig to BP prior to its April 20 explosion in the Gulf of Mexico—according to 2008 financial disclosure reports," Yahoo News reports.
According to Feldman's 2008 financial disclosure form, posted online by Judicial Watch [pdf], the judge owned stock in Transocean, as well as five other companies that are either directly or indirectly involved in the offshore drilling business.
It's not surprising that Feldman, who is a judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana, has invested in the offshore drilling business—an AP investigation found earlier this month that more than half the federal judges in the districts affected by the BP spill have financial ties to the oil and gas industry.
The report discloses that in 2008, Judge Feldman held less than $15,000 worth of stock in Transocean, as well as similar amounts—federal rules only require that judges report a range of values—in Hercules Offshore, ATP Oil and Gas, and Parker Drilling. All of those companies offer contract offshore drilling services and operate offshore rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Judge Feldman also owned between $15,000 and $50,000 in notes offered by Ocean Energy, Inc., a company that offers "concept design and manufacturing design of submersible drilling rigs," according to its web site. None of the companies were direct parties to the lawsuit seeking to overturn the ban.
US judge blocks Gulf deepwater drilling freeze
A US judge Tuesday ruled against a six-month freeze imposed on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, in a blow to the White House which immediately said it would appeal.
District judge Martin Feldman ruled in favor of 32 oil firms which challenged the moratorium on deepwater drilling and exploration imposed by President Barack Obama in the wake of the massive Gulf oil spill.
Feldman ruled the oil firms' motion for a "preliminary injunction is granted," saying he was persuaded it was in the public interest to lift the freeze by the Minerals Management Service and the Interior Department.
"The court has found the plaintiffs would likely succeed in showing that the agency's decision was arbitrary and capricious," Feldman said in his written ruling after Monday's hearing in a New Orleans court.
Describing the drilling decision as "invalid," Feldman said the moratorium would effect employment and energy supplies and "will clearly ripple throughout the economy in this region."
The agency decision "simply cannot justify the immeasurable effect on the plaintiffs, the local economy, the Gulf region and the critical present-day aspect of the availability of domestic energy in this country."
But White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said: "We will immediately appeal to the fifth circuit."
Early on a spring morning in the town of Damascus, in northeastern Pennsylvania, the fog on the Delaware River rises to form a mist that hangs above the tree-covered hills on either side. A buzzard swoops in from the northern hills to join a flock ensconced in an evergreen on the river's southern bank.
Stretching some 400 miles, the Delaware is one of the cleanest free-flowing rivers in the United States, home to some of the best fly-fishing in the country. More than 15 million people, including residents of New York City and Philadelphia, get their water from its pristine watershed. To regard its unspoiled beauty on a spring morning, you might be led to believe that the river is safely off limits from the destructive effects of industrialization. Unfortunately, you'd be mistaken. The Delaware is now the most endangered river in the country, according to the conservation group American Rivers.
That's because large swaths of landprivate and publicin the watershed have been leased to energy companies eager to drill for natural gas here using a controversial, poorly understood technique called hydraulic fracturing. "Fracking," as it's colloquially known, involves injecting millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals, many of them toxic, into the earth at high pressures to break up rock formations and release natural gas trapped inside. Sixty miles west of Damascus, the town of Dimock, population 1,400, makes all too clear the dangers posed by hydraulic fracturing. You don't need to drive around Dimock long to notice how the rolling hills and farmland of this Appalachian town are scarred by barren, square-shaped clearings, jagged, newly constructed roads with 18-wheelers driving up and down them, and colorful freight containers labeled "residual waste." Although there is a moratorium on drilling new wells for the time being, you can still see the occasional active drill site, manned by figures in hazmat suits and surrounded by klieg lights, trailers, and pits of toxic wastewater, the derricks towering over barns, horses, and cows in their shadows.
The real shock that Dimock has undergone, however, is in the aquifer that residents rely on for their fresh water. Dimock is now known as the place where, over the past two years, people's water started turning brown and making them sick, one woman's water well spontaneously combusted, and horses and pets mysteriously began to lose their hair.
Craig and Julie Sautner moved to Dimock from a nearby town in March 2008. They were in the process of renovating their modest but beautifully situated home on tree-canopied Carter Road when land men from Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas, a midsize player in the energy-exploration industry, came knocking on their door to inquire about leasing the mineral rights to their three and a half acres of land. The Sautners say the land men told them that their neighbors had already signed leases and that the drilling would have no impact whatsoever on their land. (Others in Dimock claim they were told that if they refused to sign a lease, gas would be taken out from under their land anyway, since under Pennsylvania law a well drilled on a leased piece of property can capture gas from neighboring, unleased properties.) They signed the lease, for a onetime payout of $2,500 per acrebetter than the $250 per acre a neighbor across the street receivedplus royalties on each producing well.
Drilling operations near their property commenced in August 2008. Trees were cleared and the ground leveled to make room for a four-acre drilling site less than 1,000 feet away from their land. The Sautners could feel the earth beneath their home shake whenever the well was fracked.
Within a month, their water had turned brown. It was so corrosive that it scarred dishes in their dishwasher and stained their laundry.
The Israeli Air Force recently unloaded military equipment at a Saudi Arabia base, a semi-official Iranian news agency claimed Wednesday, while a large American force has massed in Azerbaijan, which is on the northwest border of Iran.
Both reports follow by less than a week the Pentagon's confirmation that an unusually large American fleet sailed through the Suez Canal Saturday. Several reports stated that an Israeli ship joined the armada.
The Pentagon played down the news, saying the American maneuvers were routine. However, a report by Iran on Wednesday that it has enriched dozens of pounds of 17 per cent enriched uranium serves as a reminder that time is running out to stop Iran from being able to produce a nuclear weapon.
Iran's Fars News Agency said the Israeli military aircraft landed 10 days ago at the Saudi base near the city of Tabuk, located in northwest Saudi Arabia, one of the closest areas in the oil kingdom to Iran.
Fars said that the Tabuk base will be the central station for an Israeli attack on Iran. It quoted an Islamic news site that a commercial airline passenger said the airport in Tabuk was closed to all other traffic during the alleged Israeli landings. The passenger said that "no reasonable explanation" was given for shutting down the airport and those passengers were compensated financially and booked in four-star hotels.
"The relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel have become the talk of the town," the passenger added. The chief authority in Tabuk, Prince Fahd ben Sultan, was reported be coordinating the cooperation with Israel.
The Central Intelligence Agency has hired Xe Services, the private security firm formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, to guard its facilities in Afghanistan and elsewhere, according to an industry source.
The previously undisclosed CIA contract is worth about $100 million, said the industry source, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the deal, which is classified.
"It's for protective services guard services, in multiple regions," said the source.
The revelation comes only a day after members of a federal commission investigating war-zone contractors blasted the State Department for granting Blackwater with a new $120 million contract to guard U.S. consulates under construction in Afghanistan.
CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano stopped short of confirming the contract, saying only that Xe personnel would not be involved in operations.
"While this agency does not, as a rule, comment on contractual relationships we may or may not have, we follow all applicable federal laws and regulations," Gimigliano said.
The spokesman added, "We have a very careful process when it comes to procurement, and we take it seriously. We've also made it clear that personnel from Xe do not serve with CIA in any operational roles."
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Erik Prince, chairman of the board at Xe and owner of Prince Group which owns Xe said the firm would have no comment.
Investigators say as much as $4 million per week end up in the hands of the Taliban via local security companies in return for not attacking convoys carrying supplies to American troops based across Afghanistan.
The money allegedly ensures a safe passage for the Pentagon transport contractors in dangerous Afghan regions.
If the mafia-style protection payments are not made, the trucks responsible for transporting food, water, fuel and ammunition will allegedly come under attack.
The report carried out by the House Subcommittee for National Security further adds that armed groups are not the only beneficiaries of the hefty sum.
Google has released a statement announcing YouTube has been granted a "summary judgment" in Viacom's $1 billion lawsuit, effectively protecting YouTube under the Digital Copyright Millennium Act. Viacom plans an appeal. More details to come, here's a statement from Google:
"This is an important victory not just for us, but also for the billions of people around the world who use the web to communicate and share experiences with each other. We're excited about this decision and look forward to renewing our focus on supporting the incredible variety of ideas and expression that billions of people post and watch on YouTube every day around the world."
Viacom's statement: We believe that this ruling by the lower court is fundamentally flawed and contrary to the language of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the intent of Congress, and the views of the Supreme Court as expressed in its most recent decisions. We intend to seek to have these issues before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit as soon as possible. After years of delay, this decision gives us the opportunity to have the Appellate Court address these critical issues on an accelerated basis. We look forward to the next stage of the process.
From 1953 to 1963, poet Allen Ginsberg (below) snapped thousands of candid photos of his friends, documenting the personal, intimate, and spirited lives of the writers and artists who created the major works of Beat culture. His images of Jack Kerouac (above), William S. Burroughs, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Peter Orlovsky, and others are now on display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. The exhibition, titled "Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg," runs until September 16. The hardcover exhibition catalog is $32 from Amazon. From Smithsonian:
Ginsberg started taking photographs as a young man, in the 1940s, and kept doing so through 1963, when his camera was left behind on a trip to India. The result was a kind of Beat family photo album: informal, affectionate, full of personalityand personalities. We see, among others, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Neal Cassady and Orlovsky. Ginsberg liked to say he was "fooling around" with the camera (whether behind or before it). These were pictures, he felt, "meant more for a public in heaven than one here on earthand that's why they're charming...
Ginsberg resumed taking pictures, more seriously, in the early 1980s. He was inspired by the example of an old friend, the photographer Robert Frank, and a new one, the photographer Berenice Abbott...
Ginsberg began using better cameras and having his photographs printed professionally. "I had been taking pictures all along," he told an interviewer in 1991, "but I hadn't thought of myself as a photographer." The most noticeable difference was a simple yet distinctive way he found to marry image and text.
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