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Sunday
Mar022008

AirAmerica Host & Attorney Richard Greene Endorses NYC 9/11 Ballot Initiative

Sunday
Mar022008

Israel Defiant on Gaza Onslaught Amid International Outcry

Israel vowed to press its campaign against militants in the Gaza Strip on Sunday despite an international outcry over the deadly onslaught that prompted even the moderate Palestinian leadership to cut off all peace talks.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed to continue the ground and air operation that has killed 73 Palestinians since Saturday following the death of one Israeli civilian last week and earned the Jewish state international condemnation for disproportionate use of force.

Even Israel's closest ally the United States called for a halt to the violence and a return to the negotiating table.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas suspended all contacts with Israel over the assault, which apart from killing dozens of militants has also claimed the lives of many Palestinian women and children.

The announcement came just days before US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is to arrive in the region on her latest attempt to push forward the troubled peace negotiations revived just three months ago.

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Sunday
Mar022008

American Bar Assn. Criticizes Trials of 9/11 Detainees

Reacting to Pentagon plans to stage its first death-penalty trial, the American Bar Association has written President Bush, again, protesting the war court at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

ABA President William Neukom cited inadequate resources at the office of the Chief Pentagon Defense Counsel as well as an inherent lack of due process at the upcoming trials.

''Detainees who plotted terrorist attacks against our country and killed thousands of innocent Americans should be brought to justice and be held fully accountable for their horrific crimes,'' Neukom wrote in the letter dated Feb. 27. ``At the same time, no matter how outrageous the conduct, we must ensure that detainees receive fair trials that meet the highest standards of due process and justice.''

Specifically, he wrote, Guantánamo detainees ``cannot challenge their detention by habeas corpus, and the standards for admissibility of evidence could allow for convictions based on rank hearsay.''

Moreover, he said, ``statements secured through coercion could be introduced against a defendant.''

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Sunday
Mar022008

State Department Concealing from Congress Info on Baghdad Embassy Project

By Warren P. Strobel / Miami Herald

None of the 26 buildings in the new $740 million U.S. Embassy complex in Baghdad is ready to be occupied. Fire alarms intended to safeguard more than 1,000 U.S. government employees aren't working. Kitchens in some of the buildings are fire hazards.

A senior State Department official in December certified that construction was ''substantially complete,'' but department inspectors found ''major deficiencies'' at the unoccupied embassy, according to their inspection report, which Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., released Friday.

McClatchy reported earlier this week that the new chief of the State Department's embassy-building arm, Richard Shinnick, has voided the Dec. 16 certification -- made under his predecessor, retired Army Gen. Charles Williams -- that the embassy is nearly ready to be occupied.

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Sunday
Mar022008

Inside the World of War Profiteers

By David Jackson and Jason Grotto / Chicago Tribune

Inside the stout federal courthouse of this Mississippi River town, the dirty secrets of Iraq war profiteering keep pouring out.

Hundreds of pages of recently unsealed court records detail how kickbacks shaped the war's largest troop support contract months before the first wave of U.S. soldiers plunged their boots into Iraqi sand.

The graft continued well beyond the 2004 congressional hearings that first called attention to it. And the massive fraud endangered the health of American soldiers even as it lined contractors' pockets, records show.

Federal prosecutors in Rock Island have indicted four former supervisors from KBR, the giant defense firm that holds the contract, along with a decorated Army officer and five executives from KBR subcontractors based in the U.S. or the Middle East.

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Sunday
Mar022008

Judge Dismisses Suit Against Pentagon's Forced Vaccination Policy

An attorney for six Defense Department employees said yesterday that they will appeal a federal judge's dismissal of their lawsuit challenging the Pentagon's policy of compulsory anthrax vaccinations for certain troops.

The employees had argued that, as military personnel, they should not be forced to take the vaccine because there is no scientific proof that it is effective for humans, said Mark Zaid, their attorney. The class-action lawsuit had asked the court to block the Pentagon from inoculating the plaintiffs and to rule that the vaccine was improperly licensed by the Food and Drug Administration.

But U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer ruled yesterday that the FDA "did not act arbitrarily or capriciously" and granted the government's request to dismiss the case.

Zaid said the FDA incorrectly drew conclusions about the effectiveness of the vaccine in people based on old studies involving animals. "This case has repercussions far beyond the anthrax program," he said. "Anyone who is concerned about vaccine safety should be wary of this judicial decision."

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Sunday
Mar022008

Robotics Prof Sees Threat in Military Robots

The increasing deployment of gun-toting robots by the U.S. military and other armed forces around the world could end up endangering civilian lives and giving terrorists new ideas, warns a U.K. robotics professor.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has outlined plans to ramp up the use of remotely controlled robotic vehicles on land, undersea and in the air. The goal is to field increasingly autonomous robots—without a human controller—to dispose of explosives, stand guard and spot targets to attack. Nations such as South Korea and the Republic of South Africa have also begun adopting armed robotic systems.

The prospect of armed, autonomous robots is enough to rattle Noel Sharkey, professor of computer science at the University of Sheffield, England. "One of the fundamental laws of war is being able to discriminate real combatants and noncombatants," he says. "I can see no way that autonomous robots can deliver this for us." Even today's unmanned air and ground vehicles could do harm, he cautions, by teaching insurgents new ways to mount devastating attacks from a safe distance.

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Sunday
Mar022008

Bush Moves to Shield Telecommunications Firms

President Bush said last week that telecommunications companies that helped government wiretapping efforts need protection from "class-action plaintiff attorneys" who see a "financial gravy train" ahead. Democrats and privacy groups responded by accusing the Bush administration of trying to shut down the lawsuits to hide evidence of illegal acts.

But in the bitter Washington dispute over whether to give the companies legal immunity, there is one thing on which both sides agree: If the lawsuits go forward, sensitive details about the scope and methods of the Bush administration's surveillance efforts could be divulged for the first time.

Nearly 40 lawsuits, consolidated into five groups, are pending before a San Francisco judge. The various plaintiffs, a mix of nonprofit civil liberties advocates and private attorneys, are seeking to prove that the Bush administration engaged in illegal massive surveillance of Americans' e-mails and phone calls after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and to show that major phone companies illegally aided the surveillance, including the disclosure of customers' call records.

If the cases are allowed to proceed, plaintiffs' attorneys say, the courts could review, in secret if necessary, any government authorizations for the surveillance. The process might also force the disclosure of government memos, contracts and other documents to a judge, outlining the legal reasoning behind the warrantless wiretapping program.

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Sunday
Mar022008

Female Involvement In Nation-Building Can Lead To Economic And Political Stability In Post-Conflict Countries

Women's participation in post-conflict nation-building is an important ingredient in achieving an equitable, peaceful and more prosperous society, according to a RAND Corporation study.

While many policymakers and development agencies fear that pursuing a stronger role for women in nation-building "too soon" will lead to instability, RAND researchers say that the available information suggest otherwise.

A society that shows greater concern for the rights of the weaker strata of its society -- including women -- will be less likely to initiate violence, while economic and social development are strongly elevated when women enter the marketplace, according to the report from the RAND National Security Research Division.

"Gender equity and women's inclusion play a central role both as a litmus test and as an active variable shaping a more democratic, stabilized and developed society," said Cheryl Benard, the study's lead author and a senior political scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "Incorporating women in the nation-building process as early on as possible will help make these improvements happen sooner."

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Sunday
Mar022008

EADS Lands $35bn US Defense Deal

EADS, the European defense company, scored a stunning victory in its campaign to penetrate the US defense market on Friday by winning a $35bn (£17.6bn) contract to supply the US air force with refuelling tankers.

EADS and Northrop Grumman, its US partner, beat Boeing in a competition that could ultimately be worth more than $100bn.

The winning team will initially supply 179 air-to-air refuelling tankers using a modified version of the Airbus A330 passenger jet.

But the air force may select the same aircraft to replace its entire fleet of about 600 tankers over the coming decades.

Louis Gallois, EADS chief executive, told the Financial Times that it was “just great” to beat Boeing, saying: “I think it is the best contract I have won in my life.” Ronald Sugar, Northrop’s chief executive, said he was “delighted”.

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