Mood: not sure
Now Playing: Coffee Shop - Police & Protesters
Zebra 3 Report by Joe Anybody
Sunday, 28 October 2007
Friday, 26 October 2007
USA WAR MONGERS RAMPING UP FOR IRAN WAR
Now Playing: Sanctions Against Iran = Good Job America (sic)
World Socialist Web Site www.wsws.org
US imposes unilateral sanctions on Iran:
One step closer to war
By Bill Van Auken
Man jailed for urinating on woman
Anthony Anderson also covered Christine Lakinski with shaving foam after she collapsed in a Hartlepool street.
The 50-year-old, who suffered from a number of medical conditions, was later pronounced dead at the scene.
Anderson, 27, and from Raby Road in the Teesside town, had earlier admitted outraging public decency.
The court heard how, on 27 July, Miss Lakinski was making her way home with a box of laminate flooring when she fell ill and stumbled into a doorway.
Anderson, a former soldier, had smoked a cannabis joint and been drinking when he and two friends spotted her.
He tried to rouse her by throwing a bucket of water over her, before urinating on her and covering her with shaving foam.
A crowd had gathered around, watching and laughing, and the incident was filmed on a mobile phone.
She was later declared dead at the scene, the cause of death being given as pancreatic failure.
Magistrates in Hartlepool had referred the case to Teesside Crown Court so a longer jail term could be handed out.
Judge Peter Fox, the recorder of Middlesbrough sitting at Teesside Crown Court, said: "You violated this woman in an incredible way, and the shocking nature of your acts over a prolonged period of time must mean that a prison sentence of greater length is appropriate in this case."
Outside court, Miss Lakinski's family said in a statement: "We remain totally shocked that anyone could behave in such an appalling way.
"The fact that Christine was dying makes this man's actions even more sick and inhumane.
"However, those who stood by and did nothing to stop Anderson are also guilty in our eyes.
"It beggars belief that these people chose not only to condone his cruelty, but also to walk away from a neighbor who was clearly in distress and needed help."
The family statement added that Christine had "faced immense challenges throughout her life", yet still had managed to "forge an independent life for herself".
This little orange Icon lets you know the webpage url is ……..supported by an RSS feed (which many news websites are) The orange Icon is usually is on the left side and near the bottom of websites that have this feature.
When ever I read a website I like I then look over the page for this little Icon, if its there I then know this website will work in my RSS reader client You click on the orange icon ….. then a new page will open ….. “Just copy that new page url address” and paste it into “your reader”
And here is the “reader” that I am using its called Sharpreader
(there are many other ones out there – and they all are FREE!!)http://www.sharpreader.net/
Just read the intro and download the installer – that would be “your RSS reader”This instruction on that page – for me …….. I just ignored the NET part reference I didn’t have to mess with NET Framework (But if you need to I think its simple to install) But first just try to install your reader and don’t worry about the NET issue ….. ……..unless you have problems – if you do then come back and install the NET….
Prior to running SharpReader, you will need to install the .NET Framework, version 2.0 or version 1.1 SP1. If you do not currently have the .NET Framework installed, you can get it at windowsupdate, or here. (If you can’t install Sharpreader then come back and do this NET Framework install)
(PS - if your Microsoft window updates are current you probably already have the NET Framework installed already)
Once you have installed the Shapreader client your ready to hunt for url’s that are supporting RSS or XML feeds
Copy past those url’s you find….. into your reader ……….at the top …………and then hit the “subscribe button”
Above in the screenshot / picture is my Sharpreader ….. see the Subscribe button near the top (Pink Arrow)And see the Green Arrow point to where you will paste the url for website you want to put into your reader
By double clicking on any article in your reader you open that original website, other wise scan headlines and read paragraphs all inside your reader client
Using a RSS reader make it easy to skim many sites looking at the article titles then seeing a short paragraph or if you want more just Double Click to go to that website and see the complete page “outside of your reader”
Here is a link to more info on RSS feeds http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS_(file_format)
(Which stands for really simple syndication)
Good Luck – Enjoy Reading All That News
If perplexed just drop me an email
This was copied for the Zebra3 Report from the link below
Monday, October 22, 2007; Page C01
My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House
By Valerie Plame Wilson
Simon & Schuster. 411 pp. $26
Mothers who are spies, it turns out, face the same juggling act as other working moms.
After a year at home following the birth of twins, Valerie Plame Wilson returned to work in April 2001 in the Iraq branch of the CIA's Counterproliferation Division. "When I had to deal with pressing operational issues I had no choice but to bring the toddlers into my office on a Saturday," she writes in her memoir, published this week. "Making decisions on how much money to offer a potential asset while handing crayons to my daughter who sat under my desk was strange indeed, but not without humor."
Since senior administration officials whispered "Valerie Plame" and "CIA" in the same breath to half a dozen journalists in 2003, some people have not very subtly suggested that her work couldn't really have been all that hush-hush if she had an office job, not to mention blond hair and little kids. "She was not involved in clandestine activities," Robert D. Novak, the syndicated columnist who first published her name, wrote earlier this year in his dueling memoir. "Instead, each day she went to CIA headquarters in Langley where she worked on arms proliferation."
There are lots of she said-he said moments in the Plame affair, matters on which an impartial observer can only conclude that, well, both sides have a point. But this is not one of them.
Before her retirement in 2006, Wilson spent more than 20 years in the CIA, including six years, one month and 29 days of overseas service. We know this because the agency, in a bureaucratic blunder, put it in an unclassified letter about her pension eligibility that it later tried desperately to recall, and that she has included as an appendix to "Fair Game."
We also know that she worked on the operations side, the part of the CIA that runs agents and covert activities, rather than on the analytical side, which tries to make sense of all the information flowing in. From her former CIA "classmates," we know that she went through the agency's elite Career Trainee program, including paramilitary training at the classified location known as the Farm, and was one of just three in her class of 50 who were chosen to be NOCs (pronounced "knocks"), or non-official cover officers, the most clandestine in the agency. And from her memoir, we now know how deeply secrecy was ingrained in her.
Imagine when, in her mid-20s, after a first CIA tour in Greece under diplomatic cover as a junior State Department official, she gave up her diplomatic passport and any public affiliation with the U.S. government and switched to being a NOC. Part of the transition involved coming home to the United States, ostensibly jobless, and moving back into her parents' house while studying French. How many 20-somethings still living with Mom and Dad fantasize about saying, "Actually, I work for the CIA"? In young Valerie Plame's case, it was true -- and she apparently didn't tell a soul. When she became famous a decade later, her dearest friends were stunned, and she feared they might not forgive her for all those years of lying.
True, the CIA recalled her from Europe in 1997, fearing that her name might have been passed to the Russians by the mole Aldrich Ames. But, she writes, she still took different routes to work each day, "traveled domestically and abroad using a variety of aliases" and continued to hope for another foreign posting.
There is no reason to doubt that Wilson wrote "Fair Game" herself. To put it kindly, the memoir lacks the sheen of a ghostwriter's work and has the voice of an ordinary person caught up in extraordinary events. It doesn't help that the CIA redacted the manuscript heavily before approving it for publication. Each time she is about to launch into a juicy anecdote, it seems, lines are blacked out, sometimes for pages on end.
The book is, however, greatly assisted by an afterword by Laura Rozen, a reporter for the American Prospect. Rozen faithfully echoes Wilson's point of view but fills in many of the censored dates, places and other details from published sources. Readers would be smart to turn to the afterword first, before tackling Wilson's disjointed narrative.
The outlines of the story are familiar: In 2002, the CIA sent her husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, on an unpaid, eight-day fact-finding trip to Niger. Within hours of his return, he told eager CIA debriefers (while Valerie Wilson was ordering takeout Chinese food for them) that there was no evidence that Iraq had tried to buy yellowcake uranium from the African nation.
When President Bush nevertheless included the uranium allegation in a State of the Union address, Joe Wilson wrote an op-ed for the New York Times accusing the administration of misleading the American people. Both of the Wilsons firmly believe that she was outed, in retaliation, by White House officials who sought to discredit him by telling reporters that his trip was arranged by his wife, who worked for the CIA. Tapped to investigate the leak of her name, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald put that theory before a jury, which never got to the heart of the matter but did convict the vice president's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, of perjury and obstruction of justice. Bush then commuted Libby's 30-month prison sentence.
The question remains: Was she behind her husband's trip to Niger? "Fair Game" gives a nuanced answer that is largely, but not entirely, in her favor.
She says that when the vice president's office asked the CIA about the uranium allegation, a "midlevel reports officer" suggested in a hallway conversation that the agency could send Joe Wilson to investigate. The suggestion made sense because Wilson had served as an ambassador in Africa, was the top Africa expert on the National Security Council in the Clinton administration and made a previous trip to Niger at the CIA's request in 1999. She and the midlevel officer brought the idea to their boss, who liked it and asked her to send an e-mail up the chain of command. "My husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity," she wrote.
Thus, by her own account, Valerie Wilson neither came up with the idea nor approved it. But she did participate in the process and flogged her husband's credentials. When Joe Wilson learned about her e-mail years later, she says, he was "too upset to listen" to her explanations.
"Fair Game" reveals some intimate details of the Wilsons' lives, including her battle with postpartum depression. Sudden fame and withering political attacks made Washington so "toxic" to them that they began fantasizing about moving to New Zealand and ultimately decamped to New Mexico. Relatives came forward, and, like Madeleine Albright, Valerie Wilson discovered she was part Jewish. But the book is less forthcoming about her politics; she does not mention, for example, that she made a $1,000 contribution to Al Gore's campaign in 1999.
One other matter begs clarification. As Rozen notes in the afterword, there is "an undeniable irony to Valerie Wilson later being exposed by the White House in a subterranean tussle" over prewar intelligence because "Valerie was not one of the intelligence community dissidents arguing against the threat posed by Saddam Hussein."
Quite the contrary: Wilson makes clear in "Fair Game" that she and her colleagues in the Counterproliferation Division were very worried that Iraq would use chemical or biological weapons on U.S. forces. They were dumbfounded when no weapons of mass destruction were found, and, in a telling passage, she says their spirits were "briefly buoyed" when coalition forces in northern Iraq discovered curious flatbed trailers that the CIA thought, at first, might be mobile bio-weapons labs.
Yet, in one of the memoir's deeper insights, "Fair Game" suggests that if you knew what she knew at the time, you would have feared both that Saddam Hussein had WMDs and that the Bush administration was overstating the case for war. In the bowels of the CIA, she and her colleagues clustered around a TV as Secretary of State Colin Powell laid the evidence before the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003. "It was a powerful presentation," she writes, "but I knew key parts of it were wrong."
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Waiting to Happen
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Waiting to Happen
Jim Morris and Frank Koughan
July/August 2006 Issue
The Following Article was copied from Mother Jones
Mark Fetherolf knows, in excruciating detail, how his 16-year-old daughter, Tara, died. Tara was one of the 229 people on board Swissair Flight 111, which crashed into the Atlantic off the coast of Nova Scotia on September 2, 1998. He knows that the Boeing MD-11 caught fire about an hour into the New York-to-Geneva flight and tried to make an emergency landing in Halifax. He knows that the plane struck the water at an approximate speed of 350 mph, causing it, and the people inside, to be shredded into small pieces. And he knows that the faulty installation of an electronic gambling system that is believed to have caused the fire was overseen by a now-defunct California firm called Santa Barbara Aerospace, which was standing in for the Federal Aviation Administration as a so-called designee. This meant the company could certify the work was done to FAA standards.
What Fetherolf doesn’t know is why the FAA, despite its own apparent misgivings before the accident, allowed Santa Barbara Aerospace to retain its designee status—a setup that amounts to industry self-regulation. His many inquiries proved fruitless, and he was dissatisfied with the FAA’s investigation into the matter. And so, when the 52-year-old software executive recently learned that the agency was about to give the aviation industry even greater freedom to self-regulate, he grew uneasy. "It scares me to death to think about a bunch of these fly-by-night companies being able to put even more distance between themselves and any real regulation," says Fetherolf, who lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. "There are just some people in the business who need scrutiny."
That scrutiny is coming from fewer and fewer FAA inspectors and increasingly from the industry the FAA oversees. In a March 2004 speech, Nick Sabatini, the agency’s associate administrator for regulation and certification, said, "We must evolve from the traditional role of regulator and regulated." While the FAA "will always be the regulator," he said, the new mantra was "collaboration." He reaffirmed the concept at a meeting with FAA employees in January 2005, at which he said the agency "will continue to depend very heavily on designees."
Sabatini calls it evolution. Others call it abdication. "It’s giving away the farm," says a veteran FAA inspector, who refused to be identified because he feared losing his job. "I don’t know that we’ve really learned the lesson we should have from Swissair 111."
LAST YEAR, cash-short airlines increased their outsourcing of maintenance, creating an extra layer for overworked inspectors to penetrate. At the same time, the FAA’s Office of Aviation Safety, facing a $30 million shortfall, shed more than 250 inspectors and is itself outsourcing safety functions long performed by the government. In October, the agency transferred operation of 58 flight service stations—which relay weather and navigational information to small-aircraft pilots—to Lockheed Martin. Thirty-eight of the stations are to be closed. The same month, the FAA decreed that manufacturers like Boeing soon would be able to approve their own designs and modifications, a concession the industry had been seeking for years. Self-policing "puts us on a slippery slope," warned Jim Hall, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). "The primary reason we’ve been able to build such a safe system is the structure we’ve had in place for years. The ultimate responsible party for safety is the government, and this new FAA policy essentially is trying to transfer that responsibility. It may work in the short term, but in the long term the public will see that what we have is a less safe system."
The FAA has never been entirely comfortable with its regulatory role and, in fact, has spent much of its 48-year lifetime promoting the aviation industry. It’s been derided as a "tombstone agency," inflicting real pain on the industry only after a catastrophe. For all its faults, however, the FAA serves a purpose: It is charged with policing aviation, from the smallest propeller repair shop to Boeing’s vast assembly lines. It issues licenses to pilots and mechanics, approves aircraft designs, makes sure repairs are done correctly and parts aren’t counterfeit. It identifies safety lapses, orders companies to correct them, and punishes them when they don’t. Some of the violations it finds are relatively minor; others are anything but. In April 2005, for example, the FAA proposed a $600,000 penalty against American Eagle Airlines, saying it allowed a regional jet to fly 20 times even after learning the plane had a faulty rudder system. On January 19, 2004, American Eagle Flight 4649 left Bangor International Airport in Maine and had to return immediately because the plane’s rudder and rudder pedals had jammed. American Eagle "had prior knowledge of an aircraft vibration, yet continued to dispatch and operate the aircraft until actual rudder control rod failure at Bangor," the FAA said in a letter to the airline. (American Eagle says it has since changed its procedures in response to the episode.) And in June 2004, the FAA proposed a $1 million penalty against United Airlines, saying it had allowed a Boeing 777 with nonworking emergency escape slides to fly 263 times during six months of 2001. An FAA inspector in Denver discovered that all eight doors on the plane had pins installed in their "escape slide packs," rendering them useless. Boeing should have removed the pins before the plane left the factory, United said, and steps were taken to ensure that no further slipups occurred. Without that inspector’s diligence, how many thousands of passengers would have traveled on a dangerous aircraft, for how many more months? Would American Eagle and United have found and swiftly fixed these problems without the FAA breathing down their necks? There’s no way to know. But as Greg Feith, a former investigator for the NTSB, points out, "The FAA exists because someone needs to put boundaries" on airlines, pilots, and manufacturers. "If you don’t give them a rule book, they start making up their own rules."
THE FAA’s ABILITY to maintain safe skies hinges on its relationships with its surrogates, known as designees, and on performing spot checks, if not full-scale investigations. In recent years, however, privatization has accelerated as the agency’s budget has been squeezed. Companies like Boeing, through their lobbying muscle and their presence on FAA advisory panels, have helped turn deregulatory dreams into rules, largely out of public view. "We’ve got an industry in crisis that needs more oversight and an administration that hates government," said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the senior Democrat on the House Aviation Subcommittee. "We’re skating on the edge here to save money, and it’s not right."
As evidence that its new approach works, the FAA notes aviation’s exceptional safety record of late—a fatal accident rate of 1 per 7 million takeoffs, an all-time low. There has been no major domestic airline crash since November 2001, when American Airlines Flight 587 went down in New York, killing all 260 passengers and crew. The agency, which barred officials from talking to Mother Jones, said it has replaced its traditional "kicking tires" method of inspection in favor of a data-driven auditing system designed to spot disturbing patterns. This system, said a spokesman in a prepared statement, helps the FAA stay on top of the ever-expanding industry, even with fewer inspectors. The FAA is also "encouraging industry to increase use of designees," the spokesman said. "This enables the FAA to leverage its workforce by focusing its resources on safety-critical areas while providing industry with timely, technical expertise."
Designees, however, are paid not by the FAA but by private industry. "To me, that’s giving somebody a loaded gun," said Randy Courtney, a retired 17-year FAA veteran. "If you were a designee working for Boeing and were threatened with firing for holding firm on a safety issue, what would you do? I was a damned good inspector, and I told people, ‘You’d better be thankful that there are people like me working in the FAA who care.’ I had no problem taking the responsibility and saying, ‘Bullshit. It’s not flying.’ There are inspectors now who won’t do that." And some aviation experts worry that the inspector workforce is already leveraged to the hilt. Consider the logistical challenges posed by maintenance outsourcing—the use of third-party repair stations to perform work historically done by the airlines. There are 4,305 FAA-approved repair stations and 3,081 FAA inspectors in this country, and another 687 stations abroad that are overseen by a mere 71 inspectors. According to the Department of Transportation’s inspector general, major airlines now contract out 53 percent of their maintenance work, up from 37 percent in 1996. The reason? It saves money.
In theory, the 4,992 repair stations that service U.S. aircraft are no less reliable, from a safety standpoint, than the airlines’ own maintenance shops. The FAA has the right to inspect them, cite them for violations, and even shut them down. This assumes, however, that FAA inspectors can actually get to them—and in many cases they can’t. Lyle Alexander, a Singapore-based inspector, is responsible for one of the world’s largest repair stations, SIA Engineering Co., a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines. In the United States, an operation the size of SIA might have as many as four inspectors keeping watch. But Alexander must keep tabs on SIA by himself—and that’s only a small part of his workload. "I have about four repair stations of equivalent size, plus about 10 medium-size and 10 smaller repair stations scattered around Asia—one-third of the world—without any help or assistance," he said. "I can scratch the surface, and that’s about it."
Since the fall of 2004, both the Department of Transportation’s inspector general and the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress’ watchdog agency, have jabbed at the FAA’s new regulatory strategy, questioning, among other things, whether the agency can maintain proper control of its sometimes-wayward designees and keep pace with the burgeoning number of contract repair stations. The FAA reacts defensively to such reports. In its written response to Mother Jones, for example, the agency challenged the accuracy of the inspector general’s figures on maintenance outsourcing and said, "The proportion of money spent on outsourced maintenance does not correlate to safety." It also stands by its data-intensive oversight system, which has gradually supplanted its old inspection strategy of combing through documents and interrogating workers. "With 3,152 inspectors," the FAA said, "we all recognize the futility of trying to police millions of flight operations and maintenance activities."
LAST FALL, one of us tagged along as Mike Gonzales, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based inspector, dropped in on two of the nation’s biggest repair stations: TIMCO, at Phoenix-Goodyear Municipal Airport, and Evergreen Air Center in Marana, Arizona, about 90 miles southeast of Phoenix. "We’re being overwhelmed," said Gonzales, who, like other FAA inspectors quoted, would speak only as a representative of their primary union, Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS). At TIMCO on this 90-degree October day, it is easy to see what he means: Dozens of mechanics and other workers scurry about the 250,000-square-foot Hangar 52. An America West Airlines Boeing 737 sits in one quadrant, looking as if it has been left in a bad neighborhood—jacked up, stripped down, wheels missing, interior gutted, the entrails of its engines exposed. TIMCO mechanics have been performing scheduled heavy maintenance on this aircraft 24 hours a day for four weeks, and there are still 10 days to go. In another corner, behind floor-to-ceiling curtains, a Boeing 767 is being sanded and repainted. Preparations are being made to bring a third plane into the hangar, replacing one that has just left. Three hundred mechanics work three shifts here, fixing or replacing thousands of parts, following manuals thicker than the Phoenix Yellow Pages.
Gonzales, a 54-year-old Air Force veteran in his 10th year with the FAA, scans the five-acre hangar and zeroes in on a pair of objects small enough to fit in his hands. "What do you see, real quick?" he asks, holding up two canisters used to supply oxygen masks. The canisters, both used, are nearly identical, save for the tags TIMCO has attached to them. One says "Discard," the other "Repairable." Gonzales shakes his head in disbelief. In the aviation maintenance business, if there’s a single word that has become shorthand for a worst-case screwup, it’s "ValuJet," the now-defunct low-cost carrier that outsourced its repair work to a firm called SabreTech. In the spring of 1996, SabreTech mechanics in Miami improperly handled—and mislabeled—dozens of oxygen canisters that ultimately found their way into the cargo hold of the DC-9 that would become ValuJet Flight 592. The canisters ignited, causing an onboard inferno that sent the plane, and its 110 occupants, to the bottom of the Everglades.
Gonzales wants answers: Why has a canister that should have been discarded been deemed fixable? He questions a supervisor, who offers little explanation. "Damn, Mike," the man says, chuckling. "I gotta start making this harder for you." The supervisor promises to retag the mislabeled canister and find out what happened. He and Gonzales fall into amiable chitchat. Deep down, however, Gonzales is irritated. "That’s, like, high, visible bullshit," he says out of earshot of the supervisor. More disturbing than the actual mix-up, he explains, is what the incident says about TIMCO’s ability to follow rigid, complex maintenance procedures. "It’s an indicator that somebody doesn’t know what they’re doing," Gonzales says. Still, he considers the matter resolved, and as his visit is primarily to show a reporter around, he does not pursue a penalty against TIMCO. Enforcement actions, he says, are "terribly time-consuming," sucking in all manner of lawyers, managers, and technicians. Better to simply make one’s presence known, like a state trooper with a radar gun: "If you see a cop sitting there on the highway, what’s everybody doing? They’re hitting the brakes." But what if the cop’s rarely around? "If these repair stations are not up to the level where you can feel warm and fuzzy about them putting out an airworthy product, you’re going to want to spend more time there," Gonzales says. "But if you don’t have the time to spend, how do you do that?" On the drive back to the FAA’s Flight Standards District Office in Scottsdale, Gonzales reflects on what he’s seen at TIMCO that day. He can’t stop thinking about the oxygen canisters in Hangar 52. "I mean, that’s what got SabreTech," he says. "Have they learned anything? I don’t think so."
At Evergreen the next day, some 200 planes are strewn about a 1,600-acre former Army Air Corps base that is larger than many Arizona towns. Driving across the complex is like driving the tarmac of a busy international airport: Ghana Airways, Philippines Air, China Airways, and Pakistan Air are all visible here. The facility has 550 employees and generates $62 million a year in business. Inside the control center, the brains of the operation, the walls are covered, floor to ceiling, with plastic file holders. Each holder contains the job card for a single repair task: a job description, some pages from the Boeing manual, and an easy-to-follow diagram, all color-coded and arranged by sections of the plane. The mechanic’s notes, detailing the completion of each step, are off to the side. Next to them, a supervisor’s stamp indicates the job has been signed off. The entire room, containing at least 1,000 files, is dedicated to a single aircraft—the 767 sitting 30 feet away.
Because there is no way an inspector can oversee the turning of every screw in every aircraft, the control center is an essential stop. "I usually just grab a few files and head out to the plane to see if they’ve been done," Gonzales says. He’s seeking reassurance that tasks are being performed by the book and carefully documented. "Is there any real method? No. Something will just grab your eye, and I can’t explain what it is." Mike Michels, Evergreen’s chief quality officer, laughs. "Safety inspectors have an uncanny knack for finding the thing that doesn’t look right," he says. "You could have 2,000 cards in here, and they’ll come in and pull the one that doesn’t have a signature."
Although he’s not here to conduct an official inspection, Gonzales declares that he’s generally pleased with what he sees. "Do I feel comfortable…? Yeah, I really do, because they have a very valid quality-control system in play." Airlines don’t send their planes to Evergreen strictly for the fine craftsmanship, however. Cost is a huge factor. Michels explains that for airlines, "payroll is your largest single expense, and if your payroll is two to three times that of a repair station, you see where the economics of that would severely impact your profitability." Driving back to Scottsdale, Gonzales says he doesn’t lose much sleep worrying about Evergreen. He does fret, however, over the airlines’ perpetual quest to trim maintenance costs. "You have an entity here that does millions of dollars in business," he says of Evergreen. "They have resources. But when these entities start operating in the red, it’s guaranteed they’re going to start taking shortcuts."
AS ACCIDENT INVESTIGATORS know all too well, even the smallest act or oversight—an insufficiently torqued bolt, an improperly tested engine—can cause a catastrophe. In the case of ValuJet, it was the mislabeled oxygen canisters. In the case of US Airways Express Flight 5481, which crashed in Charlotte, North Carolina, on January 8, 2003, it was the improper rigging of the plane’s elevator control system, which—along with a weight-related imbalance—caused the Beechcraft 1900D to plunge nose-first into the ground seconds after takeoff, killing all aboard. The NTSB found that the plane’s elevator control cables had been misadjusted days before the accident at a repair station operated by Raytheon Aerospace in Huntington, West Virginia. The work had been done by a mechanic employed by Structural Modification and Repair Technicians Inc. (SMART), a labor supplier used by Raytheon. According to the NTSB, "The mechanic skipped nine applicable steps in the Beechcraft 1900D elevator control system rigging procedure." Had just one of the missed steps—identified by the board as "step u"—been performed, the crash might have been avoided. The SMART mechanic had been working under the supervision of a Raytheon quality assurance inspector. But the board found that the inspector, too, was at fault: He "was aware that the mechanic was selectively performing steps from the rigging procedure…. In fact, the inspector stated, during a postaccident interview, that he did not think the [aircraft] manufacturer intended for mechanics to follow the entire rigging procedure…." In short, both the mechanic and the inspector were freelancing. Twenty-one people died as a result.
The Department of Transportation’s inspector general reported in December that "non-certificated" repair stations like Raytheon, which once performed only minor services, are now doing the same sort of critical work as FAA-certificated operations, without the same level of oversight. "It’s physically impossible for us to get to some of these repair stations," said Linda Goodrich, a PASS vice president and a maintenance inspector. "We’re totally dependent on airlines to tell us that they’ve done oversight on contractors." The problem is most acute for inspectors, like James Webb, who oversee foreign stations. "There’s me and my partner, two of us, for Taiwan," Webb said. He said he has identified a worrisome trend: Carriers are giving repair stations an increasingly free hand in creating their own maintenance routines. Federal regulations require the carrier, not the maintenance contractor, to develop detailed, FAA-approved "task cards" mapping out the procedures a mechanic is to follow when working on a plane. The task cards highlight the airline’s "required inspection items"—those items it believes too important to be allowed to fail. Unlike other components, these must be inspected and approved by a licensed supervisor after the work has been completed. "The air carriers are saying now they don’t want to spend the money to develop the task card system, so they let the repair stations do it," Webb said. "To me, that’s wrong, because they’re not approved by the FAA. The FAA never looks at it."
Webb sees this most often in "off wing" maintenance, where critical components like engines are removed from planes and sent out for repairs. During a recent inspection of Taiwan’s Evergreen Aviation Technologies (commonly known as EGAT; no relation to Evergreen in Arizona), Webb found mechanics working without carrier task cards on an engine belonging to Delta Air Lines—a practice he has seen at other repair stations. "Everything we have says they can’t do it, but they are, and I’m having a hell of a time trying to stop it," he said. "These air carriers are not little, and they have a lot of money and a lot of influence. I’m just a stupid little inspector." Webb told EGAT he would cite it for the violation. The company protested, Webb remembered, arguing that everybody does it. Webb urged EGAT to file a written complaint with his superiors, a move he hopes will force the FAA to clarify the policy. "I told them, ‘You can get more attention from the people in Washington than I can.’" The FAA, after all, refers to EGAT and other repair stations as its "customers," Webb said unhappily. "I think the flying public is my customer."
Webb’s angst is shared by other FAA field inspectors, who said they find the agency’s elimination of hundreds of jobs and its acquiescence to industry deeply troubling. Before Robert McCallister joined the FAA as a safety engineer 18 years ago, he was a designee. "At that time, we did the more mundane things," said McCallister, a Fort Worth-based representative of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. "We were limited in what we could do and what we could approve." No more. Under the new self-certification system, McCallister said, aircraft modifiers can install everything from toilets to sophisticated flight control systems, with nominal FAA supervision. Manufacturers like Boeing "will, in effect, approve their own designs with absolutely no second check."
Boeing downplays the risks. "They’re giving us permission to do part of their job," a company spokeswoman, Liz Verdier, said of the FAA. "They still very much oversee us. There is a huge burden on us, in that we still have to provide the same compliance, but we can use our own efficiencies and processes to get that done."
STILL, THE CRASH OF SWISSAIR FLIGHT 111, which killed 229 people, including Tara Fetherolf, should serve as a cautionary tale. The source of the fire that caused the crash is believed to have been an in-flight entertainment system that allowed first- and business-class passengers on Swissair’s long-haul flights to gamble. The installation of that system was overseen by an FAA designee, Santa Barbara Aerospace.
The installation process did not go smoothly. Postcrash investigations by Canadian and U.S. authorities revealed that it was hurried and ill conceived. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada concluded that the fire aboard Flight 111 most likely started with a "wire arcing event"—a continuous spark—precipitated by the inappropriate connection of the system to an electrical "bus" typically reserved for the plane’s navigational equipment and other essential avionics. The board also rebuked the FAA, saying, in effect, that the agency had given its designee too much authority.
Nine months after the crash, an FAA review team reported that Santa Barbara Aerospace did not follow proper certification procedures in "many instances," submitted data that were "inadequate or inaccurate," and, because the FAA did not require it, failed to tell the FAA about changes in the project’s scope. But even during the installation, the FAA had doubts about the company. On December 12, 1996, having concluded that the firm "does not provide adequate personnel who can perform, supervise, and inspect the work for which it is rated," the FAA issued an "emergency order of suspension" to Santa Barbara Aerospace. Certificate No. S3BR755J was immediately pulled. And then, inexplicably, it was reinstated five days later. The FAA told Mother Jones it no longer has all the records but that "legal action was initiated in error because the company took corrective measures prior to" the suspension.
In February 2004, Mark Fetherolf, who has filed upward of 75 Freedom of Information Act requests with the FAA in an attempt to learn what happened, wrote to two Republican congressmen from Florida, where he then lived, seeking answers to these questions: Why was the firm’s designee status suspended in 1996, and why was it reinstated? The lawmakers—John Mica, who chairs the House Aviation Subcommittee, and E. Clay Shaw Jr.—asked the FAA to explain itself. The response came on March 12, 2004, from the FAA’s deputy chief counsel, James Whitlow: "The FAA’s decision not to pursue the enforcement action against Santa Barbara Aerospace was based on the conclusion that the agency lacked sufficient evidence at that time to sustain our burden of proof." Fetherolf dismissed Whitlow’s response. "They had to have some reason for taking action against Santa Barbara Aerospace in the first place," he said. "It’s one of the most blatant cases of obfuscation I’ve ever seen."
THE FAA INISISTS THAT the Swissair accident was an anomaly and has pressed on with plans to give the industry more power to self-regulate. The latest incarnation of what the FAA calls collaboration was solidified in October 2005, when a program was established to permit companies like Boeing to self-certify, with the FAA auditing to make sure certain processes are followed. The rule change came after years of closed meetings among members of an FAA working group created to reduce the cost of airline certification. The group, chaired by Webster Heath, Boeing’s senior manager of technical affairs, transmitted its final recommendations to the FAA in 1998, asking for the "earliest possible issuance" of a rule to expand delEGATion authority. These recommendations were sent to Thomas McSweeny, then the FAA’s associate administrator for regulation and certification and now a lobbyist for Boeing. The FAA issued its proposed rule in January 2004, and Boeing hailed it as "an important building block toward increased delegation throughout the aviation industry." The Aerospace Industries Association remarked that it was "very close in content to the final product" put out by the working group.
Despite union objections, the final rule was adopted. Supporters say it will free up the resource-starved FAA to focus on the most important safety issues and leave the "common, everyday functions" to the industry. But already, the parties disagree on what constitutes a "common, everyday" task. The GAO has raised questions about the FAA’s ability to manage the 13,600 companies and individuals in the designee program. In an October 2004 report, GAO auditors found "inconsistent oversight" by the FAA, brought about by incomplete databases, heavy inspector workloads, and widely varying standards among field offices. And they found that "FAA offices do not always identify and remove inactive or poor performing designees expeditiously, which may be due to reluctance on the part of managers, engineers, and inspectors to take disciplinary action."
THE FAA’s REJIGGERED REGULATORY scheme will be tested in Everett, Washington, the final assembly point for Boeing’s next-generation jet, the 787 Dreamliner. Locked in a war with Airbus for domination of the commercial aircraft market, Boeing wants to put the sleek 250-passenger plane into service by 2008. About half of its body will be made of lightweight carbon-fiber composite materials—a higher proportion than in today’s mostly aluminum aircraft. Composites are popular with airlines because they save fuel and, therefore, money. But they also behave differently than aluminum, require a different method of testing for flaws, and have not been used for as many flight-critical components—the "wing boxes," for example—as they will be in the 787 or Airbus’ behemoth-in-development, the 555-passenger A380. "Do you really trust Boeing to have the integrity and the character and the sense of public stewardship to resist the schedule pressures of a program that is late, overbudget, overweight, or if there are serious technical issues that we don’t have solutions for?" asks Stan Sorscher, a Seattle-based representative of the Boeing engineers’ union. "All those problems exist in the 787 program. This is a time to be watching very carefully."
Jim Morris is a project manager with the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C. Long interested in regulatory agencies, he began covering aviation safety six years ago for U.S. News & World Report.
Frank Koughan is a New York-based investigative reporter and television producer. His work has been featured on Frontline and 60 Minutes.
The head of U.N. food agency operations in the violence-wracked Somali capital was taken away Wednesday by 50 to 60 heavily armed government security officers who stormed the U.N. compound, the agency said.
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- The head of U.N. food agency operations in the violence-wracked Somali capital was taken away Wednesday by 50 to 60 heavily armed government security officers who stormed the U.N. compound, the agency said.
The World Food Program suspended aid distribution in Mogadishu in response.
Interior Minister Mohamed Mohamoud Guled denied government officers carried out any operation at the U.N. compound.
But he added that the WFP last month distributed food aid without consulting the government, a reason that the government has in recent months used to block distributions to areas perceived to be against the government.
The detention followed some of the heaviest fighting in weeks in the capital. Overnight, at least eight civilians and one policeman died during an hours-long battle between Islamic insurgents and policemen, said residents and the police on Wednesday.
WFP's Idris Osman was being held in a cell at the National Security Service headquarters and the World Food Program has not received any explanation for the action, the agency said in a statement, adding his detention violated international law.
"In the light of Mr. Osman's detention and in view of WFP's duty to safeguard its staff, WFP is forced immediately to suspend these distributions and the loading of WFP food from our warehouses in the Somali capital," the statement said.
No shots were fired when the officers stormed the U.N. compound in Mogadishu, the statement said.
The civilians killed during the late Tuesday battle died when mortars crashed into their houses during fighting that began when 100 insurgents blasted a police station in the south of Mogadishu with heavy machine-guns and rocket propelled grenades, residents said.
"Buildings shuddered and weapons exchanged by the two sides illuminated the sky of the city," said Abdullahi Hussein Mohamud, who also said some mortars landed near his home that is some distance away from where the battle took place.
Abdi Haji Nur, a businessman, said that the insurgents captured the station, forcing about 30 policemen to flee.
Gen. Yusuf Osman Hussein, director of police operations in Mogadishu, denied the insurgents seized the station, saying policemen repelled "elements of peace-haters" and lost one of their colleagues during the fighting.
Mogadishu has been plagued by fighting since government troops and their Ethiopian allies chased out the Council of Islamic Courts in December. For six months, the Islamic group controlled much of southern Somalia and remnants have vowed to fight an Iraq-style insurgency. Thousands of civilians have been killed in the fighting this year so far.
Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991, when rival warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other.
This guy is causing trouble while he promotes murder and the occupation
TALK ABOUT A SPIN DOCTOR
Speaking last week to journalists in Washington, retired General Ricardo Sanchez, former commander in Iraq, hammered the Bush administration for its poor war planning and then issued a shocking accusation against the press:
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
LT. GEN. RICARDO SANCHEZ (RET.), FMR. COMMANDER IN IRAQ: What is clear to me is that you are perpetuating the corrosive partisan politics that is destroying our country and killing our service members who are at war. For some of you just like some of our politicians, the truth is of little to no value if it does not fit your own preconceived notions, biases, or agendas.
Wow. Now the general, I believe, is talking about liberal media outlets like The New York Times and NBC News, both of which trumpeted the general's criticism of the Bush war plan, but ignored his media attack.
Now last Friday on the Brian Williams broadcast, NBC News spent about 25 percent of the entire program on Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize and then did another story on Sanchez's negative assessment of the war.
The New York Times also gave the Sanchez war view and Mr. Gore extensive coverage, but completely ignored medal of honor winner Navy Seal Michael Murphy, who was killed in Afghanistan.
Now since Lieutenant Murphy lived on Long Island —in The Times' coverage area — it is simply hard to believe the paper would not mention this incredible honor. Also, The Times initially reported on murder accusations against two Green Berets in Afghanistan, but ignored the conclusion of the story as the men were acquitted of any wrongdoing. Come on, this is bull!
Now we asked Times editor Bill Keller for a comment. As usual, he wouldn't appear, but a spokesperson says the paper will mention Lieutenant Murphy later. Great.
In yesterday's Washington Post, an article documents the improvement in Iraq ran on page one. In that article, statistics were printed that show a dramatic downturn in American military casualties and big losses for Al Qaeda in Iraq. It is very possible that Iraq is turning around for the USA, but will the left-wing media report that? Who knows?
What "Talking Points" does know is that hatred of the Bush administration has skewed much of the reporting on Iraq and Afghanistan. And the American people no longer are getting honest reporting from some news agencies. Any improvement in Iraq, of course, helps the Republicans. And that is anathema to the left.
General Sanchez was right on both counts: The Bush administration relied far too heavily on Iraqi cooperation. And when it didn't come, there was no Plan B. And at this point in history, the U.S. media is full of corrupt ideologues who put their world view above honest information. This is not only putting our military in danger, ladies and gentlemen, it puts all of us in danger.
And that's "The Memo."
Pinheads and Patriots
The brand new Fox News Business Network — just FOX Business Channel, no "News" in there — debuted today. Headed up by Neil Cavuto, the 24-hour service hopes to dominate cable business, like FOX News Channel dominates cable news.
We believe this will happen, but of course, we are biased in this area. However, Cavuto is a patriot, and even if he were a pinhead, you couldn't tell but for all that hair.
On the pinhead front: Governors Bill Richardson of New Mexico and Elliot Spitzer in New York continue to believe that giving driver's licenses to people in this country illegally is a good idea. Neither governor is willing to debate the issue with us, which makes them both pinheads, but maybe smart pinheads, because their position is indefensible.
Watada's Double Jeopardy
by JEREMY BRECHER & BRENDAN SMITH
[posted online on October 12, 2007]
The double jeopardy clause of the US Constitution ensures that no American can be tried twice for the same offense. But at a time when our civil liberties are rapidly eroding, a drama is unfolding in Washington State over whether that constitutional protection applies to a US soldier.
After his February court-martial ended in a mistrial, Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse to serve in Iraq, seemed certain to face a second court-martial on October 9 at Fort Lewis, an Army base near Tacoma. Three military courts had rejected Watada's claim of double jeopardy, finding no abuse of discretion by the military judge in declaring a mistrial. But in an unusual civilian intervention in a military legal process, US District Court Judge Benjamin Settle issued a last-minute stay October 5 in Tacoma, temporarily blocking the trial.
Settle will hear Watada's double jeopardy claim
Nationwide Iraq Moratorium protests are scheduled for that day, many of which will feature Watada's case and his stand against the war.
Watada has consistently maintained that the Iraq War is illegal under international law and the US Constitution, and that to participate in it would make him guilty of a war crime. At the video press conference on June 7, 2006, in which he first announced his refusal to go to Iraq, he explained, "It is my conclusion as an officer of the armed forces that the war in Iraq is not only morally wrong but a horrible breach of American law."
Watada was tried in a military court in February for failing to deploy and conduct unbecoming an officer for his statements opposing the war. After the prosecution had completed its case, the military judge, Lt. Col. John Head, intervened, declared a mistrial and ordered Watada to be retried. [See our report on that trial here.]
The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution states that no person shall be "subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb." As the Supreme Court explained in a seminal 1978 double jeopardy case, United States v. Scott, "The underlying idea, one that is deeply ingrained in at least the Anglo-American system of jurisprudence, is that the State with all its resources and power should not be allowed to make repeated attempts to convict an individual for an alleged offence."
Like the erosion of the right to habeas corpus, the denial of the protection against double jeopardy represents one more Bush-era encroachment of the all-powerful state on basic human rights and the rule of law.
While the legal arguments about double jeopardy are quite complicated, Watada's lawyers are convinced their arguments are strong. They wrote in their emergency motion, "This is a remarkably clear case of an egregious violation of the double-jeopardy clause." Judge Settle's opinion states, "The Court has not been presented any evidence showing that Petitioner's double jeopardy claim lacks merit. On the contrary, the record indicates that Petitioner's double jeopardy claim is meritorious."
Watada's term of military service was scheduled to expire on December 4, 2006. He has not been discharged, however, because of the pending court-martial charges against him. If convicted, he could face up to six years in prison.
In an October 4 editorial, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer declared, "However the defense appeals turn out, we think there is a case for letting Watada leave the Army without further ado."
There's no evidence yet that the Army is listening. But Judge Settle's ruling has energized Watada's supporters. They have formed a new national steering committee with representatives from regions around the country. Michael Wong, a military resister during the Vietnam era who took much of the initiative to mobilize the current wave of support, explained in an interview, "We have three demands. The first is to bar the Army from trying Ehren Watada again. The second is to drop all charges against him. The third is to let him leave with an honorable discharge."
Wong asks peace groups to incorporate Watada's defense in local and national demonstrations and encourages individuals to write letters to the editor and articles to educate the public about the case. "They had a chance to try him once. They blew it. The prosecution's case was so weak that declaring a mistrial may have been the only way that Judge Head could save the Army from humiliation and defeat," he said. "They should just drop the charges and let him go."
San Francisco organizer and lawyer Bill Simpich has been active in both the Iraq Moratorium and the Watada defense. He is working to make Watada's stand against the war a central theme of the monthly Iraq Moratorium Day October 19. "The Iraq Moratorium and the Watada Support Campaign are moving tightly with plans to get the word out to stop the war now so soldiers like Lieutenant Watada aren't forced to choose between supporting the Constitution and going to prison," he said.
Simpich said the signature event of the Iraq Moratorium Day in the Bay Area will be a dramatic end-of-workday event outside the downtown office of Senator Dianne Feinstein, co-sponsored by the Iraq Moratorium and the Watada Support Committee. Community events and leafleting at transportation hubs such as BART and CalTrain will also link the Moratorium and the Watada case.
In Washington, activists plan demonstrations and a counterrecruiting effort outside a Seattle-area recruitment center.
"The US government and military is waging two illegal wars and is actively planning for a third," said organizer Gerry Condon, referring to increasing hostilities between the United States and Iran. "It is more important than ever that we support GIs who follow their own consciences and obey international law."
The Watada case is also drawing international attention. Amnesty International issued a statement October 5 warning that a guilty verdict would make Watada "a prisoner of conscience who should be immediately and unconditionally released."
Watada's case is different from typical conscientious objector cases because the US military recognizes as conscientious objectors only those who oppose war in any form. Watada did not apply for conscientious objector status because he said as a soldier he would be willing to fight in a war--unlike Iraq--that was necessary, legal and just.
Amnesty International argues in its statement that the right to refuse to perform military service for reasons of conscience, thought or religion is protected under international human rights standards, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)--treaties that have been ratified by the United States.
The Watada case has presented a serious challenge to the military. As Daniel Ellsberg put it, "Lt. Ehren Watada--who still faces trial for refusing to obey orders to deploy to Iraq, which he correctly perceives to be an unconstitutional and aggressive war--is the single officer in the United States armed services who is taking seriously...his oath."
Despite strong traditions in the military against publicly criticizing the government, more than twenty retired US generals have criticized the Commander in Chief about Iraq or spoken out against the war. In 2005, five retired military panelists discussed the war at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. Retired Brig. Gen. John Johns told the San Diego Union-Tribune, "Four out of five of us retired military panelists there said it was a moral duty for us to speak out in a democracy against policies which you think are unwise." One of the participants, retired Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, said, "When you feel the country--to its extreme detriment--is going in the wrong direction, and that your views might have some impact, you have a duty to speak out."
In a video press conference announcing his refusal to deploy to Iraq, Watada noted, "Although I have tried to resign out of protest, I am forced to participate in a war that is manifestly illegal. As the order to take part in an illegal act is ultimately unlawful as well, I must as an officer of honor and integrity refuse that order."
While evidence of the war's illegality was barred in Watada's court-martial, his position is grounded in military law and doctrine. At a National Press Club luncheon February 17, 2006, just a year before Watada's court-martial, Gen. Peter Pace, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked, "Should people in the US military disobey orders they believe are illegal?"
Pace's response: "It is the absolute responsibility of everybody in uniform to disobey an order that is either illegal or immoral."
The Army wants to sentence Ehren Watada to six years in the brig for the crime of trying to fulfill that absolute responsibility.