Zebra 3 Report by Joe Anybody
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
Honduras and the USA air base
Now Playing: Mainstream Media and the facts of USA in Honduras occupation
|The Coup and the U.S. Airbase in Honduras |
|Written by Nikolas Kozloff, CounterPunch |
Zelaya, Negroponte and the Controversy at Soto Cano
The mainstream media has once again dropped the ball on a key aspect of the ongoing story in Honduras: the U.S. airbase at Soto Cano, also known as Palmerola. Prior to the recent military coup d’etat President Manuel Zelaya declared that he would turn the base into a civilian airport, a move opposed by the former U.S. ambassador. What’s more Zelaya intended to carry out his project with Venezuelan financing.
For years prior to the coup the Honduran authorities had discussed the possibility of converting Palmerola into a civilian facility. Officials fretted that Toncontín, Tegucigalpa’s international airport, was too small and incapable of handling large commercial aircraft. An aging facility dating to 1948, Toncontín has a short runway and primitive navigation equipment. The facility is surrounded by hills which makes it one of the world’s more dangerous international airports.
Palmerola by contrast has the best runway in the country at 8,850 feet long and 165 feet wide. The airport was built more recently in the mid-1980s at a reported cost of $30 million and was used by the United States for supplying the Contras during America’s proxy war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua as well as conducting counter-insurgency operations in El Salvador. At the height of the Contra war the U.S. had more than 5,000 soldiers stationed at Palmerola. Known as the Contras’ “unsinkable aircraft carrier,” the base housed Green Berets as well as CIA operatives advising the Nicaraguan rebels.
Palmerola has the best runway inHonduras
More recently there have been some 500-to-600 U.S. troops on hand at the facility which serves as a Honduran air force base as well as a flight-training center. With the exit of U.S. bases from Panama in 1999, Palmerola became one of the few usable airfields available to the U.S. on Latin American soil. The base is located approximately 30 miles north of the capital Tegucigalpa.
In 2006 it looked as if Zelaya and the Bush administration were nearing a deal on Palmerola’s future status. In June of that year Zelaya flew to Washington to meet President Bush and the Honduran requested that Palmerola be converted into a commercial airport. Reportedly Bush said the idea was “wholly reasonable” and Zelaya declared that a four-lane highway would be constructed from Tegucigalpa to Palmerola with U.S. funding.
In exchange for the White House’s help on the Palmerola facility Zelaya offered the U.S. access to a new military installation to be located in the Mosquitia area along the Honduran coast near the Nicaraguan border. Mosquitia reportedly serves as a corridor for drugs moving south to north. The drug cartels pass through Mosquitia with their cargo en route from Colombia, Peru and Bolivia.
A remote area only accessible by air, sea, and river Mosquitia is full of swamp and jungle. The region is ideal for the U.S. since large numbers of troops may be housed in Mosquitia in relative obscurity. The coastal location was ideally suited for naval and air coverage consistent with the stated U.S. military strategy of confronting organized crime, drug trafficking, and terrorism. Romeo Vásquez, head of the Honduran Joint Chiefs of Staff, remarked that the armed forces needed to exert a greater presence in Mosquitia because the area was full of “conflict and problems.”
But what kind of access would the U.S. have to Mosquitia? Honduran Defense Secretary Aristides Mejía said that Mosquitia wouldn’t necessarily be “a classic base with permanent installations, but just when needed. We intend, if President Zelaya approves, to expand joint operations [with the United States].” That statement however was apparently not to the liking of eventual coup leader and U.S. School of the Americas graduate Vásquez who had already traveled to Washington to discuss future plans for Mosquitia. Contradicting his own colleague, Vásquez said the idea was “to establish a permanent military base of ours in the zone” which would house aircraft and fuel supply systems. The United States, Vásquez added, would help to construct air strips on site.
Events on the ground meanwhile would soon force the Hondurans to take a more assertive approach towards air safety.
In May, 2008 a terrible crash occurred at Toncontín airport when a TACA Airbus A320 slid off the runway on its second landing attempt. After mowing down trees and smashing through a metal fence, the airplane’s fuselage was broken into three parts near the airstrip. Three people were killed in the crash and 65 were injured.
TACA flight crash at the Toncontín airport
In the wake of the tragedy Honduran officials were forced at long last to block planes from landing at the notoriously dangerous Toncontín. All large jets, officials said, would be temporarily transferred to Palmerola. Touring the U.S. airbase himself Zelaya remarked that the authorities would create a new civilian facility at Palmerola within sixty days. Bush had already agreed to let Honduras construct a civilian airport at Palmerola, Zelaya said. “There are witnesses,” the President added.
But constructing a new airport had grown more politically complicated. Honduran-U.S. relations had deteriorated considerably since Zelaya’s 2006 meeting with Bush and Zelaya had started to cultivate ties to Venezuela while simultaneously criticizing the American-led war on drugs.
Bush’s own U.S. Ambassador Charles Ford said that while he would welcome the traffic at Palmerola past agreements should be honored. The base was used mostly for drug surveillance planes and Ford remarked that “The president can order the use of Palmerola when he wants, but certain accords and protocols must be followed.” “It is important to point out that Toncontín is certified by the International Civil Aviation Organization,” Ford added, hoping to allay long-time concerns about the airport’s safety. What’s more, the diplomat declared, there were some airlines that would not see Palmerola as an “attractive” landing destination. Ford would not elaborate or explain what his remarks were supposed to mean.
Throwing fuel on the fire Assistant Secretary of State John Negroponte, a former U.S. ambassador to Honduras, said that Honduras could not transform Palmerola into a civilian airport “from one day to the next.” In Tegucigalpa, Negroponte met with Zelaya to discuss Palmerola. Speaking later on Honduran radio the U.S. diplomat said that before Zelaya could embark on his plans for Palmerola the airport would have to receive international certification for new incoming flights. According to Spanish news agency EFE Negroponte also took advantage of his Tegucigalpa trip to sit down and meet with the President of the Honduran Parliament and future coup leader Roberto Micheletti [the news account however did not state what the two discussed].
Needless to say Negroponte’s visit to Honduras was widely repudiated by progressive and human rights activists who labeled Negroponte “an assassin” and accused him of being responsible for forced disappearances during the diplomat’s tenure as ambassador (1981-1985). Moreover, Ford and Negroponte’s condescending attitude irked organized labor, indigenous groups and peasants who demanded that Honduras reclaim its national sovereignty over Palmerola. “It’s necessary to recover Palmerola because it’s unacceptable that the best airstrip in Central America continues to be in the hands of the U.S. military,” said Carlos Reyes, leader of the Popular Bloc which included various politically progressive organizations. “The Cold War has ended and there are no pretexts to continue with the military presence in the region,” he added. The activist remarked that the government should not contemplate swapping Mosquitia for Palmerola either as this would be an affront to Honduran pride.
Over the next year Zelaya sought to convert Palmerola into a civilian airport but plans languished when the government was unable to attract international investors. Finally in 2009 Zelaya announced that the Honduran armed forces would undertake construction.
To pay for the new project the President would rely on funding from ALBA [in English, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas] and Petrocaribe, two reciprocal trading agreements pushed by Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez. Predictably the Honduran right leapt on Zelaya for using Venezuelan funds. Amílcar Bulnes, President of the Honduran Business Association [known by its Spanish acronym COHEP] said that Petrocaribe funds should not be used for the airport but rather for other, unspecified needs.
In 2009 Zelaya announced that the Honduran armed forces would convert Palmerola into a civilian airport.
A couple weeks after Zelaya announced that the armed forces would proceed with construction at Palmerola the military rebelled. Led by Romeo Vásquez, the army overthrew Zelaya and deported him out of the country. In the wake of the coup U.S. peace activists visited Palmerola and were surprised to find that the base was busy and helicopters were flying all around. When activists asked American officials if anything had changed in terms of the U.S.-Honduran relationship they were told “no, nothing.”
The Honduran elite and the hard right U.S. foreign policy establishment had many reasons to despise Manuel Zelaya as I’ve discussed in previous articles. The controversy over the Palmerola airbase however certainly gave them more ammunition.
Nikolas Kozloff is the author of Revolution! South America and the Rise of the New Left (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2008)
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 12:01 AM PDT
Thursday, 20 August 2009
400,000 Military Personnel on city streets
Now Playing: Posse Comitatus Act ...is fading
Topic: CIVIL RIGHTS
Hi Z3-ers... Here comes more of what I have been saying for a long time, is going to happen on the streets of America, all in the name of "protecting you"....
The Pentagon Wants Authority to Post Almost 400,000 Military Personnel in U.S.
By Matthew Rothschild, August 12, 2009
The Pentagon has approached Congress to grant the Secretary of Defense the authority to post almost 400,000 military personnel throughout the United States in times of emergency or a major disaster.
This request has already occasioned a dispute with the nation’s governors. And it raises the prospect of U.S. military personnel patrolling the streets of the United States, in conflict with the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.
In June, the U.S. Northern Command distributed a “Congressional Fact Sheet” entitled “Legislative Proposal for Activation of Federal Reserve Forces for Disasters.” That proposal would amend current law, thereby “authorizing the Secretary of Defense to order any unit or member of the Army Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Navy Reserve, and the Marine Corps Reserve, to active duty for a major disaster or emergency.”
Taken together, these reserve units would amount to “more than 379,000 military personnel in thousands of communities across the United States,” explained
Paul Stockton, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and America’s Security Affairs, in a letter to the National Governors Association, dated July 20.
The governors were not happy about this proposal, since they want to maintain control of their own National Guard forces, as well as military personnel acting in a domestic capacity in their states.
“We are concerned that the legislative proposal you discuss in your letter would invite confusion on critical command and control issues,” Governor James H. Douglas of Vermont and Governor Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, the president and vice president of the governors’ association, wrote in a letter back to Stockton on August 7. The governors asserted that they “must have tactical control over all . . . active duty and reserve military forces engaged in domestic operations within the governor’s state or territory.”
According to Pentagon public affairs officer Lt. Col. Almarah K. Belk, Stockton has not responded formally to the governors but understands their concerns.
“There is a rub there,” she said. “If the Secretary calls up the reserve personnel to provide support in a state and retains command and control of those forces, the governors are concerned about if I have command and control of the Guard, how do we ensure unity of effort and everyone is communicating and not running over each other.”
Belk said Stockton is addressing this problem. “That is exactly what Dr. Stockton is working out right now with the governors and DHS and the National Guard,” she said. “He’s bringing all the stakeholders together.”
Belk said the legislative change is necessary in the aftermath of a “catastrophic natural disaster, not beyond that,” and she referred to Katrina, among other events.
But NorthCom’s Congressional fact sheet refers not just to a “major disaster” but also to “emergencies.” And it says, “Those terms are defined in section 5122 of title 42, U.S. Code.”
That section gives the President the sole discretion to designate an event as an “emergency” or a “major disaster.” Both are “in the determination of the President” alone.
That section also defines “major disaster” by citing plenty of specifics: “hurricane, tornado, storm, high water, wind-driven water, tidal wave, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, or drought,” as well as “fire, flood, or explosion.”
But the definition of “emergency” is vague: “Emergency means any occasion or instance for which, in the determination of the President, Federal assistance is needed to supplement State and local efforts and capabilities to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in any part of the United States.”
Currently, the President can call up the Reserves only in an emergency involving “a use or threatened use of a weapon of mass destruction” or “a terrorist attack or threatened terrorist attack in the United States that results, or could result, in significant loss of life or property,” according to Title 10, Chapter 1209, Section 12304, of the U.S. Code. In fact, Section 12304 explicitly prohibits the President from calling up the Reserves for any other “natural or manmade disaster, accident, or catastrophe.”
So the new proposed legislation would greatly expand the President’s power to call up the Reserves in a disaster or an emergency and would extend that power to the Secretary of Defense. (There are other circumstances, such as repelling invasions or rebellions or enforcing federal authority, where the President already has the authority to call up the Reserves.)
The ACLU is alarmed by the proposed legislation. Mike German, the ACLU’s national security policy counsel, expressed amazement “that the military would propose such a broad set of authorities and potentially undermine a 100-year-old prohibition against the military in domestic law enforcement with no public debate and seemingly little understanding of the threat to democracy.”
At the moment, says Pentagon spokesperson Belk, the legislation does not have a sponsor in the House or the Senate.
For more information on NorthCom, see Matthew Rothschild’s “What Is NorthCom Up To?” which ran on the cover of The Progressive’s February issue.
And to stay abreast of the military’s encroachment into domestic affairs and other civil liberties issues, please subscribe to The Progressive today for only $14.97 by clicking here.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 12:01 AM PDT
Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Are ya gonna Pay to read the Corporate News?
Now Playing: The cost of information from corporate media
Z3 Readers, get out your wallet or your search engine
Murdoch to Charge for All Newspaper Sites
- By Ian Paul - Thu Aug 6, 2009 9:21AM EDT
Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. has had a tough time making money this year, but Murdoch has a solution for the company's woes: online content protection and paywalls, which allow only paid subscribers to access certain content on a Web site.
News Corp yesterday reported its profits were down 8 percent this year compared to fiscal year 2008. In a press release, Murdoch said 2009 was "the most difficult [year] in recent history" for the company. To slow the financial bleeding, Murdoch has decided that all of News Corp's newspaper sites will institute a paywall by next summer, according to the Guardian.
Echoing the sentiment "content isn't free," Murdoch yesterday told reporters during News Corp's earnings call that all of the company's newspaper properties would model their paywalls after the structure currently in place on The Wall Street Journal's Web site, according to tweets from Paid Content's Staci D Kramer.
The paywall at WSJ.com is often seen as the most successful model of its kind in the news business. The online version of the WSJ features a mix of freely available content, with certain premium articles -- mostly financial news -- available only to paid subscribers. Since News Corp owns many popular newspapers around the world, it's likely Murdoch's decision will have a ripple effect across the newspaper industry. The News Corp media empire contains some of the biggest newspaper properties in the world including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post, as well as the U.K.-based papers The Times and News of the World.
Before Murdoch's statements, The New York Times was already thinking about reviving its own paywall -- even though its previous paywall models were relatively unsuccessful. And in May of this year, newspaper executives from across the country met in Chicago to discuss the fate of their industry. The common theme at the meeting was that most newspapers would eventually start charging for some online content in an attempt to earn some money online, according to the Atlantic.
During the earnings call Murdoch also said that once News Corp properties start charging for content, the media company will move to aggressively protect its copyrighted content. The Associated Press recently announced a similar content-protection policy. The AP intends to use a piece of software to monitor where its news content appears online, and then attempt to charge money to third-party Web sites that overuse its content.
But Will Charging for News Work?
The problem with paywalls is that these models have been unsuccessful in the past. Many newspapers have done away with this system in recent years opting for ad-supported Web sites; however, Web advertising has not been able to make up for lost revenue from its physical newspaper product. So far, the only response newspapers can think of to stem the tide of lost dollars is to charge for their content.
But will customers be willing to pay for content they are used to getting for free? I think it's possible, but it depends on how much newspaper content ends up behind paywalls.
The other question is whether newspapers would allow the common trick of using Google to get around the WSJ paywall. When you want to read something on WSJ.com that's behind its paywall, all you have to do is copy the headline, plug it into Google and follow Google's link to read the complete article for free. The WSJ allows this loophole so it can grow its readership, and the paper probably hopes some of those free readers will subscribe in the future. Since Google helps to increase WSJ readership, the Google loophole is likely to remain in place and could become a trend at least for News Corp sites. But if that's the case, I wonder whether readers will be willing to fork over subscription fees, or whether the "Googlewashing" technique to keep on getting free content will become a common tactic among online readers.
What do you say? Are you willing to pay for content or is the newspaper industry headed down the wrong path?
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 12:01 AM PDT
Cover Black Helicopters and the CIA end up in court
Now Playing: The secret Black Ops. Helicopter Scandle - Busted 7 years later
CIA’s ‘Black’ Helicopters Land in Court
- By Sharon Weinberger
- August 17, 2009 |
Sharon Weinberger is the author of "A Nuclear Family Vacation" (Bloomsbury).
[Photo: U.S. Air Force. The photograph, taken in March 2002, shows a CIA helicopter in Afghanistan. The tail number is traceable back to Maverick Aviation.]
More than seven years ago a group of Americans traveled to Siberia to buy a pair of Russian Mi-17 helicopters for the CIA’s post-9/11 clandestine operations in Afghanistan. As with many “black” programs, the contract had elements of craziness:
Contracting officials paid the multimillion-dollar contract on a credit card at a local El Paso bar and then used the credit card rebate to redecorate their office; the team traveled under the guise of being private contractors; and the charter crew transporting the group abandoned the team in Russia in the middle of the night.
Ultimately, a five-year investigation into the mission led to the conviction of the Army official in charge and the contractor who bought the helicopters on charges of corruption. The two men, currently in federal prison, are appealing their convictions.
At first glance, it’s a simple case: A few days after returning from Russia, the contractor paid off the second mortgage of the Army official in charge of the mission. Prosecutors argued that the contractor, Maverick Aviation, was unprepared for the mission, and the Army official helped cover up the problems in exchange for a payoff. The defendants at trial were barred from mentioning the CIA, Afghanistan or even 9/11.
In an article for The New York Post, this author looks at what really happened in Siberia based on over two dozen interviews with people involved in the mission and trial. It’s a story, that in some respects, is very different than the portrait painted by the government at trial.
One interesting comparison not mentioned in the article is worth noting in light of recent purchases of Russian helicopters: In 2001, Maverick Aviation was paid $5 million for two freshly overhauled Mi-17s and spare parts, as well as travel and logistics for team of Army/CIA personnel, and got the helicopters out of Russia in under 30 days. In 2008, ARINC, a major U.S. defense contractor, was paid $322 million dollars to buy 22 Russian helicopters under a U.S. foreign military sales contract.
Guess how many helicopters ARINC has delivered to Iraq after 18 months? Zero.
Check out this link full story at the New York Post. or read it below:
On Dec. 4, 2001, five members of a Las Vegas-based charter crew were detained by Russian authorities after they landed without visas in Petropavlovsk. The remote Russian city, located on the Kamchatka peninsula and surrounded by active volcanoes, is nine time zones east of Moscow and cannot be reached by road.
Three days earlier, the privately owned Boeing 737 had left Biggs Army Airfield in Texas, carrying the crew and 16 Americans traveling on tourist visas. The plane, a luxury aircraft outfitted with wood paneling and a three-hole putting green, had been chartered by a small company from Enterprise, Alabama, called Maverick Aviation.
What the plane and its passengers were really doing in Russia in the middle of winter is only hinted at in an appeal filed by two federal prisoners this year. But interviews with those involved in the case reveal a secretive, and sometimes comical, mission to strike back at the Taliban after 9/11 -- a rare glimpse into the CIA's efforts in Afghanistan.
According to unclassified court documents, the group was traveling to a helicopter plant in Siberia, where Maverick Aviation, which was experienced in acquiring Russian aircraft for the US military, was planning to buy two helicopters for a "customer."
Not mentioned: That "customer" was the Central Intelligence Agency.
The CIA needed Russian helicopters because of its clandestine operations in Afghanistan. On Sept. 24, 2001, a Russian-made helicopter loaded with $10 million in cash carried a small CIA team into Afghanistan's Panjshir Valley. Code-named "Jawbreaker," the mission was to cement support among tribal leaders and pave the way for US military operations. It was the first entry of Americans into Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
The aging helicopter, an Mi-17, was the team's only way of getting in or out of the country. Though hardly state-of-the-art, the Russian helicopter had a distinct advantage for the CIA: it allowed the agency to operate relatively unnoticed in an area where Russian equipment left over from the Soviet occupation was commonplace.
There was only one problem: The CIA owned only one Russian helicopter. It needed more, but a clandestine American agency couldn't exactly pick up the phone and call a Russian factory. So it turned to Jeffrey Stayton, then the chief of the Aviation Division at the US Army Test and Evaluation Command and an expert in Russian copters.
Stayton's plan was to find a private American company to buy the helicopters, send a team of people over to pick them up from a plant in Siberia, modify them to CIA standards, and then get them to Uzbekistan, a staging ground for CIA operations into Afghanistan. And they would do it all within a matter of weeks.
Eventually, the team included William "Curt" Childree, whose company, Maverick Aviation, won the contract to buy the helicopters and organize logistics; Army personnel and contractors from El Paso with experience modifying Russian aircraft for use by the US military; and then "six guys from the customer's office," as Stayton put it (a CIA team that included special operations personnel).
That's when things started to get complicated.
In an interview, the pilot, Fred Sorenson, said he thought visas they had ordered would arrive by FedEx by the time the plane landed. When he found out over satellite phone that the papers hadn't arrived, the plane was already descending, so he hid the fact from the crew for fear of a cockpit argument. The team was detained on arrival.
In the end, the visas came, and the crew was released the next day. But when the plane finally made it to Ulan Ude, in Siberia, the crew and passengers faced more challenges. To say merely that it was cold does not capture the Siberian winter, where temperatures that month approached 30 degrees below zero. Even worse, the team was in a Russian hotel with spotty electricity and limited heat.
The charter crew was shocked at the conditions (Siberia, after all, was off the beaten track of their typical VIP clients), but the Army personnel from El Paso also seemed woefully unprepared. None of them had ever been to Russia before -- some had never left Texas -- and the rough conditions shocked them. "I had the sense that I might end up in a Russian jail," Kimberly Boone, a Russian translator for the Army, later recounted in court testimony.
Several members of the team grew sick with flu-like symptoms. There was also a major hitch with the helicopters. According to the factory, there was the equivalent of a mechanic's lien on the helicopters, and they couldn't be released. While Stayton and Childree attempted to negotiate the release from the factory, the Army personnel were told to act like tourists on a winter getaway to Siberia: They visited a Buddhist monastery and shopped for fur coats.
Childree, by then suffering from pneumonia, flew to Moscow to meet with the broker, where he found that a competitor (no one knows for sure who) had apparently offered $30,000 to kill the deal.
After some heated discussions, the helicopters, which cost about $1.6 million each, were released.
Back in Siberia, meanwhile, Stayton was having problems with Brian Patterson, the Army warrant officer in charge of the El Paso team, who, according to multiple people on the trip, was drinking heavily.
Lisa Teuton, a flight attendant for the charter company, recalled several members of the El Paso team drinking and bragging about their work for the CIA. "It just blew me away," said Teuton. "I thought they would have been more professional and more secretive."
The charter crew, fed up with the delays and the conditions, threatened to leave, but the El Paso team was having none of it. According to Sorenson, chief warrant officer Patterson poked him in the shoulder and said: 'If you leave, we'll shoot you down.' "
Patterson laughed when asked about the incident. "I would like to know how I could accomplish that," he said.
That night, while the others were settled in their rooms, the crew surreptitiously checked out of the hotel. They used some of their remaining cash and alcohol to bribe airport personnel not to notify the Army of their departure. With no cash left for additional fuel, and no clearance to fly over China, the aircraft headed toward Japan, as the flight attendants kept watch out the windows to see if they really would be shot down.
The real question was: Did anyone not know it was a CIA trip? The CIA team had traveled under the amusingly obvious cover name of Donovan Aerial Surveys (William "Wild Bill" Donovan is regarded as the father of the CIA). The Russians in Ulan Ude were wondering what a group of private Americans were doing in Siberia in the middle of winter buying helicopters.
"They were very curious the whole time [about] why we were there; they would ask questions: 'What are you doing?' " Joe Perry, a master sergeant on the mission, recalled. "Our rooms were bugged . . . It was just unreal some of the things they were doing."
Relations with the Army team had been bad from the start. Stayton was unhappy with many of them, and the CIA considered them a nuisance. After one final argument, Stayton informed the Army's Patterson that his team was going home immediately on commercial flights. The CIA team would finish the work on the helicopters.
Less than a week later, the two helicopters were packed in an Antonov cargo plane. When Stayton and the CIA personnel left Russia on the evening of Dec. 31, 2001, they had just 30 minutes left on their visas.
From the perspective of the CIA, the mission to Siberia, whatever its quirks, was a success. But the contract, which was administered by Army officials in New Mexico unaware of CIA involvement, quickly attracted scrutiny from the Army Criminal Investigative Division.
Agents found some unusual things. For instance, Army officials paid the most of the $5 million contract in a credit card transaction in an El Paso bar called the "Cockpit Lounge." More troubling, the file was missing signatures; included few of the required supporting documents; and no invoices. When asked by investigators to explain why he allowed so many irregularities to go unnoticed, Edwin Guthrie, the contracting officer, responded: "Sleep apnea."
There were other strange aspects, all related to the CIA's secret involvement. Money allotted to pay expenses associated with mystery "subcontractors" (CIA personnel traveling under fictitious names); helicopters bought by the military being given civilian registration numbers (another quirk of CIA aircraft); and large cash transactions (typical of Russia). "They, the government, really leaned on me," said Childree, noting that provisions, such as support for the CIA personnel, were added on to the contract at the last minute.
Investigators also focused on all the problems that took place on the trip, which the El Paso team blamed on Maverick Aviation and Stayton. "It was a nightmare," recounted Boone, the Russian translator (it was Boone's first trip to Russia).
But John Wilson, whose company also competed for the helicopter contract and was interviewed by law enforcement officials, was surprised that anyone thought the problems were a big deal. Buying helicopters in Russia isn't easy. "I sat there going: Is that all?" he said. "That's a good trip; I mean, really, honestly and truthfully, that was a pretty good trip as far as normal stuff goes."
In December 2007, six years after the mission to Siberia, Army official Stayton and private contractor Childree went to trial in the Middle District of Alabama on charges of defrauding the government.
A five-year investigation into the mission that spanned from Ulan Ude to Enterprise revealed that just days after returning from the mission to Russia, Childree wired money from his bank account to pay off Stayton's second mortgage -- about $61,000.
Both Stayton and Childree maintain the payment was a loan between two friends of 30 years, and had nothing do with the contract. But Stayton never listed the financial relationship on a government disclosure form, and other than a thank-you note to Childree, the two men never memorialized the loan in any paperwork. Government prosecutors argued the problems on the mission were the result of Maverick Aviation's lack of planning. The payment was not a loan, they said, but a payoff made so that Stayton would steer the contract to Childree's company (although Maverick had the lowest price of three bidders) and to cover up his poor performance.
Complicating matters, the judge ruled that no classified information could be used at trial: no mention of the CIA, Afghanistan, or even "9/11."
While acquitted of bribery, both men were convicted of fraud, and Stayton was found guilty of the additional charge of obstruction of justice. Both Childree and Stayton, who are appealing their conviction, believe that if the jury had known the real purpose of the helicopters, they would have understood the seemingly strange parts of the mission were not a cover up.
Childree, now 70, is scheduled to be released from prison next year; Stayton, 59, won't be released until 2012. Both have been diagnosed with cancer and are receiving treatment in prison medical facilities.
Secrecy still has a weird effect on the case: Stayton, in interviews, won't use the name "CIA" when referring to the mission, even though the agency, for its part, treats its "secret" Mi-17s as an inside joke. The first Russian helicopter in Afghanistan was painted with the fictitious tail number 91101 -- a reference to the 9/11 attacks.
What never came out at trial was the crucial role the Mi-17s played in the early months of military operations, when they were used to transport and resupply CIA paramilitary teams in Afghanistan. One picture taken during Operation Anaconda in March 2002 shows one of the CIA aircraft bought by Maverick being used by special operations personnel to transport a wounded Northern Alliance member. Though widely available, the picture was classified by the government at trial.
In response to questions about the CIA's involvement in the mission to Siberia and its procurement of Mi-17 helicopters, George Little, a CIA spokesman, replied: "The CIA does not, as a rule, comment one way or the other on allegations regarding the agency's contractual relationships."
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 12:01 AM PDT
Updated: Tuesday, 18 August 2009 3:34 PM PDT
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
NY man defends himself with shotgun - kills two wounds two
Now Playing: 72 year old man kills armed robbers
Topic: CIVIL RIGHTS
NY shopkeeper who defended store recounts shooting
NEW YORK (AP) -- The sidewalk outside the Harlem store still was smeared with blood Friday, and the glass on the door still was blown out.
Above the entrance, someone had scribbled the words, "Abandon hope all ye who enter here."
Less than 24 hours after a deadly showdown at the shop worthy of a Clint Eastwood script, Charles "Gus" Augusto Jr. entered his store - oblivious of the inscription taken from Dante's "Inferno."
The 72-year-old wholesaler of commercial restaurant equipment had been up all night, questioned by police about how he'd drawn a shotgun and killed two of four armed robbery suspects who entered his Kaplan Brothers Blue Flame store Thursday afternoon.
Two of the young men died on the street. Two remained hospitalized in stable condition with gunshot wounds.
When they walked in at about 3 p.m. and confronted Augusto with guns, "I didn't want to shoot them," he said, sitting bleary-eyed in his dusty, windowless warehouse, with a fly swatter hanging above his head.
He said the bandits drew their handguns, yelling, "Where's the money? Where's the money?"
They pistol-whipped a worker and waved a weapon at a cashier's face, he said.
"There is no money," Augusto said he told them. "Go home."
Stashed away nearby was the 12-gauge shotgun he bought decades ago and said he had never used since a test-fire. He reached for it when he sensed one of the men was about to shoot, and pulled the trigger once.
"I hoped after the first shot they would go away," he said.
When they didn't, continuing to menace his employees, he fired again, and again.
Police said one of the men collapsed and died outside the door, just feet from a Baptist church.
"He died in the hands of God," said a neighborhood resident, Vincent Gayle, pointing to the blood-spattered pavement by the church. "But what goes around comes around."
Another fatally wounded suspect managed to cross the street, leaving a trail of blood before he collapsed. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital, police said.
More blood led police to the other two suspects, who were arrested and taken to the hospital. Charges against them were pending.
Police said Augusto didn't have a required permit for the weapon used in the headline-grabbing shooting the Daily News called a "Pump-Action Ending."
But he was a victim, police said, and no charges had been filed on Friday.
"I'd rather not have done it," Augusto said, "and I'm sad for those mothers who have no sons."
On Friday, pedestrians were still sidestepping pools of blood along Augusto's block on West 125th Street, a short walk from Bill Clinton's Harlem office.
Reactions to the shooting were mixed.
Frida Rodriguez called it "a sad day" for the neighborhood.
Augusto "was defending his work, his business, so you could perceive that as being heroic," she said. "But on the other hand, these kids died."
The shopkeeper was coy when asked whether, with his shotgun confiscated, he had a backup.
"I'm not going to tell you that," he said.
Associated Press Writer Tom Hays contributed to this report.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 12:15 AM PDT
Updated: Tuesday, 18 August 2009 3:38 PM PDT
Sunday, 16 August 2009
Cascadia to Caracas Event Itroduction by Joe Anybody
Now Playing: My video is introduced by me - 6 minutes long
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 8:24 PM PDT
Updated: Sunday, 16 August 2009 8:27 PM PDT
Now Playing: working for a living
Topic: SMILE SMILE SMILE
is an individual or member of an organization that undertakes to resolve violent conflict, prevent the rise of new violent conflicts, and rebuild societies damaged by war.
The term peaceworker is usually reserved for civilian, unarmed members of non-governmental organizations.
is a person or organization that attempts to reconcile parties involved in a dispute
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 8:23 PM PDT
Saturday, 15 August 2009
Dont ask the dead. They dont count.
Now Playing: Norman Solomon writes about " Dont ask the dead"
Don’t ask the dead
Days ago, under the headline "White House Struggles to Gauge Afghan Success," a New York Times story made a splash. "As the American military comes to full strength in the Afghan buildup, the Obama administration is struggling to come up with a long-promised plan to measure whether the war is being won."
Don’t ask the dead. They don’t count.
The Times article went on: "Those ‘metrics’ of success, demanded by Congress and eagerly awaited by the military, are seen as crucial if the president is to convince Capitol Hill and the country that his revamped strategy is working."
Don’t ask the dead. They won’t have a say.
"Without concrete signs of progress, Mr. Obama may lack the political stock — especially among Democrats and his liberal base — to make the case for continuing the military effort or enlarging the American presence."
Don’t ask the dead. They can’t hear you.
"We all share the president’s goal of succeeding in Afghanistan," said Senator John Kerry. "The challenge here is how we are going to define success in the medium term, given the difficult security environment we face."
Don’t ask the dead. You can’t hear them.
The White House "struggles to gauge Afghan success." People in the middle of the Afghan war struggle to survive.
A new ceiling of 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan hasn’t been reached yet, but leaks are now telling us that the Pentagon’s top commander there will soon request 45,000 more. Apparently, escalating the warfare is much more attractive to Washington’s policymakers than actually challenging the main supporters of the Taliban in Afghanistan — the Pakistani government.
"With the U.S. relationship with Pakistan still locked in a cold war embrace that accedes to Pakistani demands at the expense of Afghanistan, establishing a metric for anything is useless without reassessing the underlying assumptions," Elizabeth Gould and Paul Fitzgerald said last week. They’re authors of the new book Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story, published after nearly 30 years of research.
"With Pakistan’s creation of the Taliban, America’s concept of ‘winning’ entered a complicated phase that continues to haunt American decision-making to its core," Gould and Fitzgerald added. "Pakistani intelligence knows full well the American political system, its history of compliance with their wishes and the lack of appreciation for Afghan independence. America’s war in Afghanistan is an ongoing bait and switch where the U.S. fights against its own interests and Pakistan plays the Beltway like a violin."
Gould and Fitzgerald contend: "The only metric that matters is how far Pakistan’s military has moved from supporting Islamic extremism. With the insider relationship the United States has with Pakistan’s military intelligence, that should not be a difficult metric to establish."
Meanwhile, few Democrats with high profiles can bring themselves to challenge President Obama’s military escalation in Afghanistan. But an important statement has just come from John Burton, chairman of the California Democratic Party.
"Enough is enough," Burton wrote in an August 11 email blast that went to party activists statewide. "It’s time we learned the lessons of history. The British Empire, the most powerful empire in the world, could not subdue Afghanistan. Neither could the Soviet Union, the second most powerful country at that time and next-door neighbor to Afghanistan. Two of the great militaries in history found Afghanistan easy to conquer but impossible to hold. It’s time the people of Afghanistan assumed full control of their own country. It’s time for American troops to come home — not only from Iraq, but from Afghanistan too. And the first step is an exit strategy."
Burton made a key connection between the soaring costs of the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan and the domestic economy: "Already, $223 billion that could have gone to things like health care reform has been sunk into this war. . ."
Routinely, the dominant political and media calculus renders the dead as digits and widgets, moved around on spreadsheets and news pages. The victims of war are hardly seen as people by the numbed sophisticates who can measure just about anything but the value of a human life.
The dead can’t speak up. What’s our excuse?
Read more by Norman Solomon
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 12:01 AM PDT
Friday, 14 August 2009
Fish and Fish Oil Linked to Diabetes Risk
Now Playing: A new Harvard study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Fish and Fish Oil Linked to Diabetes Risk
A new Harvard study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition links fish and omega-3 oil consumption to type 2 diabetes. Following 195,204 adults for 14 to18 years, researchers found that the more fish or omega-3 fatty acids participants consumed, the higher their risk of developing diabetes. The risk increase was modest for occasional fish eaters, but rose to a 22 percent increased risk for women consuming five or more fish servings per week.
Prior studies have suggested that fat accumulation within muscle cells can lead to insulin resistance which, in turn, contributes to diabetes. People who eat no animal products have less fat in their cells and much less risk of developing diabetes. A low-fat vegan diet has been shown to improve type 2 diabetes.
Kaushik M, Mozaffarian D, Spiegelman D, Manson JE, Willett WC, Hu FB. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, fish intake, and the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jul 22. [Epub ahead of print]
Goff LM, Bell JD, So PW, Dornhorst A, Frost GS. Veganism and its relationship with insulin resistance and intramyocellular lipid. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2005;59:291-298.
Barnard ND, Cohen J, Jenkins DJ, Turner-McGrievy G, Gloede L, Green A, Ferdowsian H. A low-fat vegan diet and a conventional diabetes diet in the treatment of type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled, 74-week clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89:1588S-1596S.
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Posted by Joe Anybody
at 12:00 PM PDT
Privacy Protection and Minority Rights - (book)
Now Playing: EPIC - Minority Rights book
Z3 Readers here is a Human Rights Book Recommended by EPIC
EPIC Bookstore: "Privacy Protection and Minority Rights"
"Privacy Protection and Minority Rights"
Edited by Mate Daniel Szabo
The protection of a minority group in any country envisages the grant
of protection by the state and in some cases, preferential selection
in the grant of employment, education, and business from which such
group has been historically excluded. Conferring such benefits
necessarily begins with identifying members and then granting them
protections. However, according to the editor, the freedom of identity
means that the state does not have power to interfere with the decision
of an individual to affirm or conceal one's ethnic identity or force
someone to make a declaration to that effect.
This book is a collection of three essays and the compilation starts
off by educating the readers about the foundation of minority
registration in Hungarian Law. Ivan Szekely's article focuses on
affirmative action and data protection. Szekely highlights the conflict
when the realization of one fundamental right can conflict with another
- the ban on compiling registers of minority origin and identities under
data protection laws one the one hand is at cross purposes with fighting
the abuses of claiming election seats or a role in distributing state
subsidies on the other. As a solution, Szekely endorses the use of a
"central registration of aggregate data" which does not attract data
protection laws while allowing group-level realization of subsidies. The
author also suggests various other solutions like application of
unidirectional data transformation procedures, data dividing, application
of privacy enhancing technologies and then discusses consequent
The next essay of the book addresses whether ethnic data in Hungary
should be standardized. This article also examines the relationship
between protection of sensitive data and the free flow of ethnic data
required for unimpeded provision of additional rights. At the outset,
Balazs Majtenyi and Laszlo Andras Pap point out people in need of
protection are defined differently in cases of discrimination than when
affirmative measures are at stake. The writers then review the
constitutional background and regulatory environment with regard to
data processing and make suggestions that could be implemented under
Hungarian law. Majtenyi and Pap also suggest that although a
legislative effort may rectify human rights violations, a shift in the
mindset of lawyers would be equally desirable. The authors further call
upon lawmakers and officials to have the courage to create and run a
"genuinely functional system of minority protection."
The final essay of the compilation pertains to identification checks
based on racial or ethnic stereotypes. Written by Kadar, Korner,
Moldova and Toth, this paper cites to several reports which show that
Roma - the minority community of Hungary - had a much lesser chance of
avoiding liability if caught during the commission of a crime. The
essay goes on to describe the "Strategies for Effective Police Stop and
Searches," the proportion of ID checks in relation to the population
and its effectiveness. Pointing out the ethnic disproportionality in
the "ID-checked" population, the researchers conclude that ethnic
profiling by police officers is a problem that must be acknowledged.
The authors suggest amending the Police Act, institutionalizing
relationship between local communities and the police, and the training
of police officers.
While the book pertains to privacy protection and honoring minority
rights in Hungary, it is equally applicable in a more macrocosmic
sense. Virtually every country in the world has a minority population
which are targeted by another group - be it the majority or a
state-backed authority. These groups always end up suffering some sort
of discrimination or another. Some suggestions contained in this book
would indeed be helpful to anyone looking to understand human rights
violations, offer possible remedies, and is certainly worth a read to
human rights activists and lawmakers alike.
-- Anirban Sen
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 12:01 AM PDT
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