Saturday, October 14, 2006
Gaithersburg, Maryland Approves Day Laborer Site
I currently live in Gaithersburg, but I work in Herndon, Virginia, and lived nearby when they opened a day laborer site last winter. The place in Herndon caused a huge uproar, even drawing the Minutemen to the site (as noted here). Now it looks like I get to relive the fun all over again. Yay!
On the other hand, I do think this is a great idea, as our neighborhood seems to have a lot of potential laborers for the site.
After a lengthy and tense public hearing, Gaithersburg leaders last night approved an empty storefront in the Festival at Muddy Branch shopping center as a day laborer center.
The City Council’s 3-1 decision clears the way for Montgomery County to negotiate the center’s lease with Nellis Corp., which owns the shopping center off Muddy Branch Road near Interstate 270.
The decision opens a new phase in the city’s two-year struggle to resolve one of its most divisive issues. The city now must clarify several details with the county, including who will run the center and whether the city will pick up any of the tab in opening the center.
Supporters of the center were gratified that the city finally made a decision.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Another Republican Under Investigation: Weldon (R-PA) Scrutinized
When it rains, it pours. And it sounds lovely, it does:
WASHINGTON - The Justice Department is investigating whether Republican Rep. Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania traded his political influence for lucrative lobbying and consulting contracts for his daughter, according to sources with direct knowledge of the inquiry.
The FBI, which opened an investigation in recent months, has formally referred the matter to the department's Public Integrity Section for additional scrutiny. At issue are Weldon's efforts between 2002 and 2004 to aid two Russian companies and two Serbian brothers with ties to strongman Slobodan Milosevic, a federal law enforcement official said.
The Russian companies and a Serbian foundation run by the brothers' family each hired a firm co-owned by Weldon's daughter, Karen, for fees totaling nearly $1 million a year, public records show.
Karen Weldon was 28 and lacked consulting experience when she and Charles Sexton, a Weldon ally and longtime Republican leader in Delaware County, Pa., created the firm of Solutions North America Inc. in 2002. Both are registered with the Justice Department as representatives of foreign clients.
U.S. Forces Unlawfully Killed UK Reporter
What a tragedy. From CNN International:
OXFORD, England (CNN) -- A coroner ruled on Friday that a British journalist who died in Iraq at the start of the war was unlawfully killed by American forces.
Terry Lloyd, a correspondent with the British TV network ITN , was killed outside Basra in southern Iraq in March 2003.
Oxfordshire Assistant Deputy Coroner Andrew Walker said he'll be writing the director of public prosecutions to seek to bring the perpetrators to justice.
"Terry Lloyd died following a gunshot wound to the head. The evidence this bullet was fired by the Americans is overwhelming," Walker said.
The U.S. Department of Defense said its forces had followed proper rules of engagement.
Lebanese interpreter Hussein Osman also was killed in the ITN crew, and cameraman Fred Nerac remains missing. ITN cameraman Daniel Demoustier survived.
Lloyd -- who was aged 50 -- was shot in the back during U.S. and Iraqi crossfire and was apparently shot by U.S. forces when he was taken away in a minibus for treatment.
"There is no doubt that the minibus presented no threat to the American forces. There is no doubt it was an unlawful act of fire upon the minibus," Walker said.
Sleeping with the Government: The AT&T/Bellsouth Deal
First of all, I have to say I'm surprised at the FCC for delaying a decision on AT&T. Maybe they're trying to draw concessions from the companies involved in an attempt to protect other companies who are "expressing" their "needs ($)? That couldn't be, could it? Oh wait, it certainly could be:
Meanwhile, the DOJ offers us a view into why business and government should not be so damn entwined. I think it's awesome that AT&T is doing Government contracting these days, because it leads to things like this: the DoJ approved the AT&T/Bellsouth merger with absolutely no reservations on Thursday. You don’t suppose the whole deal with sharing information with the NSA (which is basically just an arm of the Administration, along with the DOJ, who also probably got some of that information) had anything to do with this, do you?
AT&T Inc. wants unanimous approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to acquire BellSouth Corp. and has offered some concessions to the agency, a top company lawyer told Reuters Thursday.
The FCC was scheduled to vote on the $80.6 billion acquisition Thursday. However, the vote was postponed until Friday while Republican FCC Chairman Kevin Martin tried to broker a deal on conditions sought by the two Democratic commissioners.
Martin had initially proposed approving the deal with no conditions, according to sources, but later offered one requiring the company to provide competitors access to at least 30 commercial buildings in BellSouth's territory so they can offer service.
"We have put a full set of conditions on the table that are reasonable and protect consumers," Robert Quinn, AT&T's senior vice president for regulatory affairs, told Reuters. "I want a deal with these guys; we want a 4-0 vote."
Quinn declined to elaborate on the conditions offered. He took the unusual step of pressing AT&T's case by attending an FCC commissioners' meeting that went forward with votes on other issues and did not address the merger.
There's certainly nothing suspicious about that, especially when you consider this:
The Department of Justice (DoJ) on Wednesday approved the $67 billion merger of AT&T Inc. and BellSouth Corp. Tomorrow, the FCC is expected to do the same. The DoJ did not impose any conditions on the combination, and it was not known whether the FCC would follow suit.
"The presence of other competitors, changing regulatory requirements and the emergence of new technologies in markets for residential local and long- distance service indicate that this transaction is not likely to harm consumer welfare," Assistant Attorney General Thomas Barnett said in a statement. "The proposed acquisition does not raise competition concerns with respect to Internet services markets or 'net neutrality.'"
An AT&T executive called the “unequivocal and unconditional approval” a sign of the competitive nature of the industry. “AT&T is focused on bringing more video choices and next-generation broadband services to as many consumers as possible and our merger with BellSouth will help deliver these benefits to more consumers, more quickly,” said AT&T General Counsel James D. Ellis.
The Competition Coalition, an alliance composed of various competitive carriers and pro-consumer organizations, decried the move.
“Unfortunately, by endorsing the largest telecommunications merger in history, the DoJ ignored the interests of consumers and the valid concerns raised by many experts and organizations that the reconstitution of Ma Bell will lead to higher prices, job cuts, violations of customer privacy and a widening of the digital divide,” said Andrew Schwartzman of the Competition Coalition. He also serves as president and
CEOof the Media Access Project. “AT&T, with the help of a complicit government, is poised to control nearly half of the nation’s phone lines, and will also be the largest wireless and broadband Internet company in the country. … If the FCC joins DoJ in shirking its responsibilities, all Americans will be beholden to this massive beast.”
AT&T seeks change in NSA caseNothing funny going on here at all, is there, AT&T?
October 13, 2006
By Louis Porter Vermont Press BureauMONTPELIER – The phone company AT&T has proposed moving to California a federal lawsuit that seeks to block Vermont from investigating whether phone companies improperly provided phone records to the National Security Administration.
If successful, the request filed in Washington D.C. before a group of federal judges called the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation would add Vermont's case to a growing list of related litigation being heard in San Francisco.
All of the cases involve lawsuits over access to records of domestic phone calls. They allege that phone companies provided records of calls to the federal government without going through established procedures.
Vermont is involved because phone customers, the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont and the state's Public Service Department, which advocates for customers, have asked the Public Service Board to investigate whether two companies which operate in the state, AT&T and Verizon, made such records available or violated the state's consumer protection rules.
The U.S. Department of Justice sued the state to stop the inquiry, arguing that the investigation could threaten national security. Walt Sharp, a spokesman for AT&T, said the Vermont suit should be consolidated with at least 17 other cases in the federal court district of Northern California. The panel of judges hearing those lawsuits has recommended combining them, he said.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Fordham Completes Testimony
From Yahoo! News:
WASHINGTON - Former Rep. Mark Foley (news, bio, voting record)'s one-time aide, in the House ethics committee, didn't waver Thursday from his contention that he told the speaker's chief of staff about Foley's approaches to male pages at least three years ago, the witness' lawyer said.
Kirk Fordham would not comment after emerging from nearly five hours of closed-door testimony, but his lawyer, Timothy Heaphy, said Fordham was "consistent in his accounts." Fordham has spoken out publicly on his timeline and was questioned by the FBI.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert has said he personally learned of the inappropriate approaches by Foley in late September and his aides found out in the fall of 2005. The speaker's chief of staff, Scott Palmer, has denied that Fordham contacted him at least three years ago, contradicting Fordham and creating one of the major conflicts the committee will have to resolve.
Heaphy told reporters Kirk was "forthcoming" in his testimony. "He has been consistent in his accounts of these events when he talked to the FBI and today met with the ethics committee.
"He's been truthful and cooperative and will continue to be throughout this and other investigations."
Heaphy said Fordham has been asked not to comment on the substance of the inquiry because of the ongoing investigation.
Foley resigned from Congress Sept. 29, after being confronted with sexually explicit instant messages.
This makes me a really, really sad panda.
Democrat Mark R. Warner, the former governor of Virginia, has decided not to run for president in 2008, Democratic officials said Thursday.
Warner, 51, scheduled a late morning news conference in Richmond to make the announcement, according to two Democratic officials who refused to be identified because they did not want to upstage Warner's announcement.
Since Warner left the governor's office in January, he has busily toured key states in the Democratic nomination process, particularly New Hampshire and Iowa. His political action committee, Alexandria-based Forward Together, has raised money for Warner's exploratory effort and for other Democratic candidates in this year's midterm elections.
The reason for Warner's announcement was not immediately known.
The centrist governor who had won in a Republican-leaning state was seen as a viable Democratic alternative to perceived front-runner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. Warner's decision still leaves a crowded field of potential Democratic candidates.
Warner was elected governor in 2001, defeating Republican Attorney General Mark Earley. The former state Democratic Party chairman, who made a fortune in the infancy of the cellular telephone industry, had never held elected public office.
After a difficult start with a Republican-controlled General Assembly, Warner in 2004 brokered a compromise between Democrats, moderate senators and 17 House Republicans to pass a budget-balancing $1.4 billion tax increase. The tax increase was widely regarded as the signature initiative of his four-tear term.
Warner then returned to private business. Virginia does not allow its governor to seek re-election.
The Foley Case Hits the HillWelcome to the first installment of Congress Watch, a weekly feature here at the Junkheap. This is also the first of its kind, as the Junkheap will now feature general news and more concentrated bursts of big stories or uncovered aspects of the news.
Today, with Kirk Fordham set to testify before the laughable House ethics panel, we'll be focusing on the Foley scandal and its reverberations. First, how about a sample of what to expect from that testimony? From CNN:
An ex-congressional aide will tell a House ethics panel Thursday that he delivered warnings about former Rep. Mark Foley to House Speaker Dennis Hastert's top aide years ago.
Kirk Fordham, who once served as Foley's chief of staff, plans to testify under oath that he warned more than one congressional official several times about Foley's inappropriate behavior with pages and that the warnings came much earlier than Republican leaders have reported.
And now it seems that there is a bit of doubt (shock shock) about Foley's alcoholism. How could this be?? See, one of the keys of his defense is that the poor fellow was a secret drinker, ashamed of his addiction. But...well, it just turns out not to be so. So sayeth The Hill:
Meanwhile, the case seems to be dragging down the re-election effort of yet another, as yet mostly uncovered, member of the House: Ohio Representative Deborah Pryce, one of Foley's close friends:
When former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) entered alcohol-abuse treatment amid scandal over his relationships with congressional page boys, his attorney said the ex-lawmaker never drank alcohol in public.
Attorney David Roth categorically stated that the disgraced lawmaker hid his abuse by drinking alone.
But the photograph from The Hill’s archives shows Foley holding a glass of wine at a Capitol Hill reception on May 19, 2004.
He went to the reception with several other House members. This and other evidence suggests Foley was a social drinker and a wine aficionado.
The photograph and first-hand accounts of Foley’s public drinking told by acquaintances in Washington and Florida could reinforce doubts about the veracity of the claim that a drinking problem fueled his behavior, which included carrying on sexually explicit instant-message chats with former pages.
COLUMBUS, Ohio, Oct. 11 — Representative Deborah Pryce is a former municipal court judge, a Republican and a member of the House leadership who has represented her central Ohio district for 14 years. She is also friends with Mark Foley, the congressman who resigned in the page scandal, as she told Columbus Monthly for a feature it published just last month.
Ms. Pryce always thought she would have a difficult re-election campaign this year in a state raked by Republican scandals. But since Mr. Foley quit, she said in an interview on a tense day of campaigning here, her own internal polls have measured a steady drop in support under the weight of attacks by Mary Jo Kilroy, her Democratic opponent.
Ms. Kilroy has emphasized Ms. Pryce’s connections to Mr. Foley, who was on a list of five people Ms. Pryce said she considered Washington friends in the Columbus Monthly interview.
“I’m totally convinced,” Ms. Pryce said, her voice faint, as she described why her support had declined. “All our polling showed we were going in the right direction until this happened. It fell precipitously.”
To take a step away from the House and the Foley scandal, here's another so-far-neglected story from the Senate: Arlen Specter and one of his top aides are being investigated for funneling $48.7 million in Pentagon spending to clients of the aide's lobbyist husband, Michael Herson. From the Seattle PI:
WASHINGTON -- Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter has acknowledged the FBI is looking into allegations that one of his aides illegally helped her lobbyist husband get federal dollars for his clients.
The Republican lawmaker on Wednesday provided The Associated Press a copy of a letter sent by the FBI in August to his office that said staff member Vicki Siegel Herson is under investigation in connection with allegations reported earlier this year.
USA Today first reported in February that Specter helped direct $48.7 million in Pentagon spending over the past five years to clients of the staff member's lobbyist husband, Michael Herson. Specter has said the institutions that ultimately got the money were represented by people not associated with Herson. He added that he was never lobbied by Herson or his firm.
Siegel Herson was Specter's legislative assistant for appropriations at the time.
Specter said the FBI asked for and received the findings of an internal investigation of the matter conducted by his former chief of staff.
Specter, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has denied violating any Senate ethics rules.
Makes you wonder what was really going on when Specter changed his convinctions and votes so often.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Unbelievable. From the motion filed by his laywer...
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
CASE NO. 04-60001-CR-COOKE/BROWN(s)(s)(s)(s)(s)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
MOTION TO DISMISS FOR OUTRAGEOUS GOVERNMENT CONDUCT
Mr. Jose Padilla, through undersigned counsel, moves this Court to dismiss the
indictment based on outrageous government conduct and in support thereof states:
Mr. Padilla was arrested on May 8, 2002, in Chicago O'Hare International Airport, as he stepped off an airplane from Zurich, Switzerland. The arrest was purportedly authorized by a material witness warrant issued by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in connection with the grand jury investigation into the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Mr. Padilla was transported to New York where he was held in custody. He was appointed counsel, and a motion was filed to vacate the material witness warrant.
On June 9, 2002, President George W. Bush declared Mr. Padilla an A enemy combatant and directed Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld to take custody of Mr. Padilla from the Attorney General. Mr. Padilla was transferred to the Naval Consolidated Brig at the Naval Weapons Station in Charleston, South Carolina (hereinafter A Naval Brigade), where he was denied all access to counsel. The government argued that Mr. Padilla should not be allowed to see a lawyer because he might pass illicit communications through his attorney. The government also asserted that allowing Mr. Padilla access to counsel or to learn that a court was hearing his case could provide him with the expectation that he would some day be released:
Only after such time as Padilla has perceived that help is not on the way can the United States reasonably expect to obtain all possible intelligence information from Padilla Y Providing him access to counsel now Y would break B probably irreparably B the sense of dependency and trust that the
interrogators are attempting to create.
Declaration of Vice Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, sworn to January 9, 2003, p. 8, available at
http://www.justicescholars.org/pegc/archive/Padilla_vs_Rumsfeld/Jacoby_declaration_20030109.pdf#search=%22%22Jacoby%20Declaration%22%22 (hereinafter AJacoby Declaration@).
In an effort to gain Mr. Padilla’s "dependency and trust," he was tortured for nearly the entire three years and eight months of his unlawful detention. The torture took myriad forms, each designed to cause pain, anguish, depression and, ultimately, the loss of will to live. The base ingredient in Mr. Padilla’s torture was stark isolation for a substantial portion of his captivity. For nearly two years – from June 9, 2002 until March 2, 2004, when the Department of Defense permitted Mr. Padilla to have contact with his lawyers – Mr. Padilla was in complete isolation. Even after he was permitted contact with counsel, his conditions of confinement remained essentially the same. He was kept in a unit comprising sixteen individual cells, eight on the upper level and eight on the lower level, where Mr. Padilla’s cell was located. No other cells in the unit were occupied. His cell was electronically monitored twenty-four hours a day, eliminating the need for a guard to patrol his unit. His only contact with another person was when a guard would deliver and retrieve trays of food and when the government desired to interrogate him.
His isolation, furthermore, was aggravated by the efforts of his captors to maintain complete sensory deprivation. His tiny cell – nine feet by seven feet – had no view to the outside world. The door to his cell had a window, however, it was covered by a magnetic sticker, depriving Mr. Padilla of even a view into the hallway and adjacent common areas of his unit. He was not given a clock or a watch and for most of the time of his captivity, he was unaware whether it was day or night, or what time of year or day it was.
In addition to his extreme isolation, Mr. Padilla was also viciously deprived of sleep. This sleep deprivation was achieved in a variety of ways. For a substantial period of his captivity, Mr. Padilla’s cell contained only a steel bunk with no mattress. The pain and discomfort of sleeping on a cold, steel bunk made it impossible for him to sleep. Mr. Padilla was not given a mattress until the tail end of his captivity. Mr. Padilla’s captors did not solely rely on the inhumane conditions of his living arrangements to deprive him of regular sleep. A number of ruses were employed to keep Mr. Padilla from getting necessary sleep and rest. One of the tactics his captors employed was the creation of loud noises near and around his cell to interrupt any rest Mr. Padilla could manage on his steel bunk. As Mr. Padilla was attempting to sleep, the cell doors adjacent to his cell would be electronically opened, resulting in a loud clank, only to be immediately slammed shut. Other times, his captors would bang the walls and cell bars creating loud startling noises. These disruptions would occur throughout the night and cease only in the morning, when Mr. Padilla’s interrogations would begin.
Efforts to manipulate Mr. Padilla and break his will also took the form of the denial of the few benefits he possessed in his cell. For a long time Mr. Padilla had no reading materials, access to any media, radio or television, and the only thing he possessed in his room was a mirror. The mirror was abruptly taken away, leaving Mr. Padilla with even less sensory stimulus. Also, at different points in his confinement Mr. Padilla would be given some comforts, like a pillow or a sheet, only to have them taken away arbitrarily. He was never given any regular recreation time. Often, when he was brought outside for some exercise, it was done at night, depriving Mr. Padilla of sunlight for many months at a time. The disorientation Mr. Padilla experienced due to not seeing the sun and having no view on the outside world was exacerbated by his captors’ practice of turning on extremely bright lights in his cell or imposing complete darkness for durations of twenty-four hours, or more.
Mr. Padilla’s dehumanization at the hands of his captors also took more sinister forms. Mr. Padilla was often put in stress positions for hours at a time. He would be shackled and manacled, with a belly chain, for hours in his cell. Noxious fumes would be introduced to his room causing his eyes and nose to run. The temperature of his cell would be manipulated, making his cell extremely cold for long stretches of time. Mr. Padilla was denied even the smallest, and most personal shreds of human dignity by being deprived of showering for weeks at a time, yet having to endure forced grooming at the whim of his captors.
A substantial quantum of torture endured by Mr. Padilla came at the hands of his interrogators. In an effort to disorient Mr. Padilla, his captors would deceive him about his location and who his interrogators actually were. Mr. Padilla was threatened with being forcibly removed from the United States to another country, including U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he was threatened his fate would be even worse than in the Naval Brig. He was threatened with being cut with a knife and having alcohol poured on the wounds. He was also threatened with imminent execution. He was hooded and forced to stand in stress positions for long durations of time. He was forced to endure exceedingly long interrogation sessions, without adequate sleep, wherein he would be confronted with false information, scenarios, and documents to further disorient him. Often he had to endure multiple interrogators who would scream, shake, and otherwise assault Mr. Padilla. Additionally, Mr. Padilla was given drugs against his will, believed to be some form of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or phencyclidine (PCP), to act as a sort of truth serum during his interrogations.
From the Houston Chronicle...with body counts like this, it becomes much easier to believe the statistics from Johns Hopkins.
Baghdad: another bloody day
Bombs kill 17; bullets, torture claim 50 more
By MICHAEL LUO
New York Times
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - Dozens of bodies turned up in Baghdad and a series of bombs killed at least 17 people on Tuesday, indicating that the sectarian violence in the capital showed little sign of easing, despite efforts by the U.S. military and its Iraqi counterparts to quell it.
At least 50 bodies, riddled with bullets and many bearing signs of torture, were discovered across Baghdad, an Interior Ministry official said. About 60 bodies were discovered the day before.
Meanwhile, a troubled neighborhood at the center of the U.S. military's push to secure the capital was hit by three deadly bomb blasts, including one at a busy bakery, the authorities said.
The bombings came in addition to a series of huge explosions that shook the capital over several hours late Tuesday evening, apparently caused by a fire inside an ammunition holding area at a U.S. military base in southern Baghdad.
The deadly blasts took place in the southern Baghdad neighborhood of Dora. The area was one of the earliest to experience the sectarian bloodletting in Baghdad.
U.S. and Iraqi soldiers moved into the neighborhood in force in August, as part of a new security plan for the capital that involved neighborhood-by-neighborhood sweeps in which troops would secure and hold areas.
Dora had been mostly quiet over the past two months, aside from periodic explosions that killed small numbers of people. Residents were able to sleep on their rooftops again. Garbage crews moved through and cleaned its streets for the first time in months.
On Tuesday, at about 12:30 p.m. a bomb exploded outside a bakery and killed 10 civilians and wounded four others. The blast reduced the bakery to rubble.
About the same time, six policemen were killed when, as they responded to a report about a body in a car, the car exploded, he said. Four others were wounded.
A half hour earlier, a roadside bomb killed one policeman and wounded four others, according to an Interior Ministry official.
The Iraqi immigration minister, Abdul-Samad Sultan, said that more than 300,000 Iraqis have fled their homes since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, the Associated Press reported. Half of them left after the February bombing of a sacred Shiite shrine in Samarra set off cascades of sectarian violence.
He estimated that about 890,000 Iraqis have moved to Jordan, Iran and Syria since 2003, after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the government of Saddam Hussein.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military reported that a joint U.S. and Iraqi patrol killed 11 militants Monday evening in a clash in the southern Shiite city of Diwaniya, a stronghold of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his militia, the Mahdi Army.
Abdul Razzaq al-Nedawi, the head of al-Sadr's office in Diwaniya, insisted no Mahdi Army members were killed in Monday's clash. He said it was provoked by U.S. and Iraqi troops.
The Iraqi defense ministry issued a statement denying the patrol had raided the mosque and said militants had opened fire on the soldiers.
The military announced the death of an U.S. soldier in Tikrit on Sunday from a roadside bomb.
I know this is not a huge site by any stretch of the imagination; I consider myself fortunate if I garner 100 visitors a day, but I still like to think that I'm getting the information out there in numerous search engines, if nothing else, which truly lives up to the original concept of the site, as a repository of information that might have been overlooked during the crush of the media to certain other facets of news stories.
So I am going to be overhauling both the site design and the format and tenor of entries beginning very soon. I find that, often, people are more likely to be held by a story that features a related image, so every story will feature either a video or image related to the story, as well as a return to covering some of the lesser-known facts of bigger stories, which will most likely necessitate two articles in most posts. I will also offer deeper analysis of the stories, but will still maintain my distance as more of an observer rather than an overwhelming personality, as so many political blogs have devolved into cults of personality.
So keep reading - good things are coming!
Study estimates 600,000 Iraqis dead by violence
By Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY
More than 600,000 Iraqis have died by violence since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, according to a study released today by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.
The figure is based on surveys of households throughout most of the country. It vastly exceeds estimates cited by the Iraqi government, the United Nations, aid and anti-war groups, and President Bush.
The new estimate was immediately challenged by the Pentagon. Lt. Col. Mark Bellesteros, a Pentagon spokesman, said the Iraqi government "would be in a better position ... to provide more accurate information on deaths in Iraq."
Frederick Jones, a spokesman for the National Security Council said "many experts" found that a 2004 study by the same group "wildly inflated the findings." That study said the war had caused 100,000 Iraqi deaths.
"This study appears to be equally flawed," he said. The new study said the deaths have resulted from coalition military activity, crime and religious violence.
Iraq's Health Ministry estimated 50,000 violent deaths since the war began, through June. Last December, President Bush put the figure at 30,000. The Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, estimated the death toll at 60,000.
Overall, the analysis estimates that 2.5% of the Iraqi population has died as a result of the conflict.
The research relied on random sampling of 1,800 Iraqi households by researchers from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the School of Medicine at Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. Based on deaths suffered by those households, analysts calculated an average of about 600 deaths a day since the invasion.
"I think it's perfectly plausible," said the study's lead author, Gilbert Burnham, professor of international health at Johns Hopkins.
Then-British foreign secretary Jack Straw was among those who criticized the earlier study.
This time the researchers doubled the size of their random survey. In 92% of the homes in which residents reported deaths, families had death certificates, they said.
Beyond violent deaths, the study said about 53,000 deaths from other causes, such as accident and illness, were attributable to the war because of its effect on health care.
Gunfire was the leading cause of violent death; car bomb fatalities are rising, the study said.
James Fearon, a Stanford University political scientist and Iraq expert, said, "One thing (the study may) certainly do is confirm the view that there is a very, very serious civil war going in Iraq."
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
AP learns Gitmo guards brag of beatings
By THOMAS WATKINS, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 19 minutes ago
Guards at Guantanamo Bay bragged about beating detainees and described it as common practice, a Marine sergeant said in a sworn statement obtained by The Associated Press.
The two-page statement was sent Wednesday to the Inspector General at the Department of Defense by a high-ranking Marine Corps defense lawyer.
The lawyer sent the statement on behalf of a paralegal who said men she met on Sept. 23 at a bar on the base identified themselves to her as guards. The woman, whose name was blacked out, said she spent about an hour talking with them. No one was in uniform, she said.
A 19-year-old sailor referred to only as Bo "told the other guards and me about him beating different detainees being held in the prison," the statement said.
"One such story Bo told involved him taking a detainee by the head and hitting the detainee's head into the cell door. Bo said that his actions were known by others," the statement said. The sailor said he was never punished.
The statement was provided to the AP on Thursday night by Lt. Col. Colby Vokey. He is the Marine Corps' defense coordinator for the western United States and based at Camp Pendleton.
Calls left for representatives at Guantanamo Bay on Friday were not immediately returned. A Pentagon spokesman declined immediate comment.
Other guards "also told their own stories of abuse towards the detainees" that included hitting them, denying them water and "removing privileges for no reason."
"About 5 others in the group admitted hitting detainees" and that included "punching in the face," the affidavit said.
"From the whole conversation, I understood that striking detainees was a common practice," the sergeant wrote. "Everyone in the group laughed at the others stories of beating detainees."
Vokey called for an investigation, saying the abuse alleged in the affidavit "is offensive and violates United States and international law."
Guantanamo was internationally condemned shortly after it opened more than four years ago when pictures captured prisoners kneeling, shackled and being herded into wire cages. That was followed by reports of prisoner abuse, heavy-handed interrogations, hunger strikes and suicides.
Military investigators said in July 2005 they confirmed abusive and degrading treatment of a suspected terrorist at Guantanamo Bay that included forcing him to wear a bra, dance with another man and behave like a dog.
However, the chief investigator, Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall M. Schmidt, said "no torture occurred" during the interrogation of Mohamed al-Qahtani, a Saudi who was captured in December 2001 along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Last month, U.N. human rights investigators criticized the United States for failing to take steps to close Guantanamo Bay, home to 450 detainees, including 14 terrorist suspects who had been kept in secret CIA prisons around the world.
Described as the most dangerous of America's "war on terror" prisoners, fewer than a dozen inmates have been charged with crimes. This fall, the Navy plans to open a new, $30-million maximum-security wing at its prison complex there, a concrete-and-steel structure replacing temporary camps.