Friday, June 08, 2007


Tort reformer Robert Bork sues Yale Club

Claiming the Yale Club of New York City “wantonly, willfully, and recklessly” failed to provide easy to climb staging, conservative uber-activist Judge Robert Bork is suing the club for $1,000,000 in compensatory damages, plus punitive damages from a fall Bork sustained while mounting the dais at the club for a scheduled speech. Bork, an infamous tort reform advocate, hasn’t always been such a fan of suing for punitive damages, at least when other people do it.

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Major Medical Associations Denounce Holsinger’s Views On Homosexuality

The Surgeon General of the United States is supposed to be “America’s chief health educator.” But President Bush’s nominee, James W. Holsinger, has repeatedly espoused medically-inaccurate homophobic positions that undermine his credibility to be the next Surgeon General.

The Bush administration has tried to brush aside Holsinger’s 1991 paper in which he concluded that homosexual relations were “intuitively” unnatural, blaming mainstream scientific opinion: “That was not his belief. It was not his opinion. It was a compilation of studies that were available at that time.”

But even a decade later, Holsinger remained out of the mainstream. In 2000, he helped found the Hope Springs Community Church, which takes the scientifically-rejected position that sexual orientation is a “lifestyle” choice. According to the church’s pastor, Rev. David Calhoun, the church helps people “walk out” of homosexuality through conversion therapy. By 2000, major medical associations had already denounced such “treatment”:

American Psychiatric Association: [T]he American Psychiatric Association opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as “reparative” or “conversion” therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon a prior assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation. [1998]

American Psychological Association: In 1990, the American Psychological Association stated that scientific evidence does not show that conversion therapy works and that it can do more harm than good. [1997]

American Medical Association: [A]version therapy (a behavioral or medical intervention which pairs unwanted behavior, in this case, homosexual behavior, with unpleasant sensations or aversive consequences) is no longer recommended for gay men and lesbians. [1994]

Rev. Troy Plummer, Executive Director of Reconciling Ministries Network of United Methodists, called the reparative therapy promoted by Holsinger “nothing short of torture of gay and lesbian people.”

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Report: CIA Ran Secret Prisons in Europe

Council of Europe Investigator: CIA Ran Secret Prisons in Poland, Romania From 2003 to 2005

The Associated Press


The CIA ran secret prisons in Poland and Romania from 2003 to 2005 to interrogate high-level detainees in its war on terror, European investigator Dick Marty said in a report released Friday.

He accused Germany and Italy of obstructing his probe into alleged secret detentions by the CIA. Marty's report, citing unnamed CIA sources, also said top terror suspects Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were secretly held and interrogated in Poland. He said "highest state authorities" in countries involved knew of the alleged detention centers.

This is a breaking news update. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

PARIS (AP) The CIA ran secret prisons in Europe, including in Poland, said the head of a European investigation who was to present new findings Friday on what he has called a "spider's web" of human rights abuses during the war on terror.

"We have proof, on the basis of information collected, of the existence of illegal prisons in countries closely collaborating with the United States, such as Poland," the French daily Le Figaro quoted Swiss senator Dick Marty as saying.

Marty, leading an inquiry on behalf of the Council of Europe, has spoken to former CIA agents to corroborate his earlier accusations against Poland and Romania, where he suggested CIA planes landed to drop off detainees, a person familiar with the investigation said.

Marty was to release his latest findings Friday. In Romania, a senator who headed a panel investigating the allegations on behalf of the Romanian parliament rejected Marty's conclusions.

"The report is totally unfounded," Norica Nicolai said on news television Realitatea TV. "There are very serious allegations and I would not have expected a European lawmaker to make such serious accusations without evidence."

President Traian Basescu's former security adviser Sergiu Medar also denied allegations Romania's military intelligence department was involved in the CIA prison scandal.

"The military intelligence categorically did not participate in any kind of activities of this kind." He added that authorities cooperated with the investigation by the Council of Europe panel.

Last year, Marty accused 14 European nations spanning a swath from Dublin to Berlin to Bucharest of colluding with U.S. intelligence in a web of rights abuses to help the CIA spirit terror suspects to illegal detention facilities.

Marty said evidence suggested that CIA-linked planes carrying terror suspects had landed at airports in Timisoara, Romania, and Szymany, Poland, and likely dropped off detainees there. His findings backed up earlier news reports that identified the two countries as possible sites of clandestine detention centers.

His report also said European governments "did not seem particularly eager to establish" the facts.

Both the Polish and the Romanian government have vehemently denied the allegation that CIA secret detention centers were in their countries.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said that "Europe has been the source of grossly inaccurate allegations about the CIA and counterterrorism. And people should remember that Europeans have benefited from the agency's bold, lawful work to disrupt terrorist plots."

The European Parliament completed its own investigation in February, also accusing several European countries of colluding with the CIA to transport terror suspects to clandestine prisons in third countries.

President Bush acknowledged the existence of secret detention centers in September 2006, but did not specify any locations.

On Thursday, a coalition of human rights groups published a list of 39 terror suspects it believes are being secretly imprisoned by U.S. authorities.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and four other groups said information about the so-called "ghost detainees," a list of which was published Thursday, was gleaned from interviews with former prisoners and officials in the United States, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen.

Information on the purported missing detainees was, in some cases, incomplete, the report acknowledged. Some detainees had been added to the list because Marwan Jabour, an Islamic militant who claims to have spent two years in CIA custody, remembered being shown photos of them during interrogations, it said.

Others were identified only by their first or last names, like "al-Rubaia," who was added to the list after a fellow inmate reported seeing the name scribbled onto the wall of his cell.

But information for at least 21 of the detainees had been confirmed by two or more independent sources, said Anne Fitzgerald, a senior adviser for Amnesty International.

Detainees on the list include Hassan Ghul and Ali Abd al-Rahman al-Faqasi al-Ghamdi, who were both named in the 9-11 Commission report as al-Qaida operatives. Another is Mustafa Setmarian Nasar, a jihadist ideologue named as one of the FBI's "Most Wanted Terrorists."

In Milan Friday, the trial was opening of 26 Americans all but one of them believed to be CIA agents accused of kidnapping an Egyptian terror suspect in Italy in 2003 and taking him to U.S. bases in Italy and Germany before he was transferred to Egypt, where he was imprisoned for four years and claims he was tortured.

Associated Press Writer Jan Sliva contributed to this report.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Fox News CEO Ailes: ‘The Candidates That Can’t Face Fox, Can’t Face Al Qaeda’

Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly has compared people who oppose participating in Fox News’ presidential debates to Nazis, claiming they “lie, distort, defame, all the time” using “propaganda techniques perfected by Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister of information.” Fellow Fox News anchor Mort Kondracke claimed they are “not about free speech” and guilty of “junior grade Stalinism.”

This hysteria continued last night, when Fox News CEO Roger Ailes and News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch co-hosted an awards show for opinion writing. During the event, Ailes “had some choice words for Democratic candidates who have decided not to debate on Fox.”

“The candidates that can’t face Fox, can’t face Al Qaeda,” said Mr. Ailes. “And that’s what’s coming.”

That was followed by applause from the crowd which featured several News Corp. executives and journalists from Murdoch-owned papers–Richard Johnson, the Post’s Page Six editor, for one.

Can there be any doubt left why presidential candidates don’t want to endorse Fox News?

The issue, of course, isn’t that presidential candidates — including Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson — are afraid of appearing on Fox. The issue is whether they want to legitimize this constant source of partisan misinformation by allowing Fox to claim that it is a real news source that can independently manage a presidential debate.

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Monday, June 04, 2007


Bush Still Has No Exit Strategy In Iraq.

Commanders Say Push in Baghdad is short of goal

New York Times by David S. Cloud and Damian Cave

BAGHDAD, June 3 — Three months after the start of the Baghdad security plan that has added thousands of American and Iraqi troops to the capital, they control fewer than one-third of the city’s neighborhoods, far short of the initial goal for the operation, according to some commanders and an internal military assessment.

The American assessment, completed in late May, found that American and Iraqi forces were able to “protect the population” and “maintain physical influence over” only 146 of the 457 Baghdad neighborhoods.

In the remaining 311 neighborhoods, troops have either not begun operations aimed at rooting out insurgents or still face “resistance,” according to the one-page assessment, which was provided to The New York Times and summarized reports from brigade and battalion commanders in Baghdad.

The assessment offers the first comprehensive look at the progress of the effort to stabilize Baghdad with the heavy influx of additional troops. The last remaining American units in the troop increase are just now arriving.

Violence has diminished in many areas, but it is especially chronic in mixed Shiite-Sunni neighborhoods in western Baghdad, several senior officers said. Over all, improvements have not yet been as widespread or lasting across Baghdad, they acknowledged.

The operation “is at a difficult point right now, to be sure,” said Brig. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, the deputy commander of the First Cavalry Division, which has responsibility for Baghdad.

In an interview, he said that while military planners had expected to make greater gains by now, that has not been possible in large part because Iraqi police and army units, which were expected to handle basic security tasks, like manning checkpoints and conducting patrols, have not provided all the forces promised, and in some cases have performed poorly.

That is forcing American commanders to conduct operations to remove insurgents from some areas multiple times. The heavily Shiite security forces have also repeatedly failed to intervene in some areas when fighters, who fled or laid low when the American troops arrived, resumed sectarian killings.

“Until you have the ability to have a presence on the street by people who are seen as honest and who are not letting things come back in,” said General Brooks, referring to the Iraqi police units, “you can’t shift into another area and expect that place to stay the way it was.”

When planners devised the Baghdad security plan late last year, they had assumed most Baghdad neighborhoods would be under control around July, according to a senior American military officer, so the emphasis could shift into restoring services and rebuilding the neighborhoods as the summer progressed.

“We were way too optimistic,” said the officer, adding that September is now the goal for establishing basic security in most neighborhoods, the same month that Bush administration officials have said they plan to review the progress of the plan.

Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the senior American ground commander in Iraq, said in a brief interview that he never believed that a midsummer timetable for establishing security in Baghdad was realistic. “This was always going to be conditions-driven,” he said, noting that he always had expected it would take until fall to establish security across much of the city.

But in order to meet that timetable, he added, the Iraqi Security Forces would have to make strides in coming months at maintaining security. “Ultimately the I.S.F., and specifically the police, are the key to holding an area,” he said. “We have to within the next four months move them more toward holding the areas we have cleared.”

The last of the five combat brigades ordered to Iraq as reinforcements as part of the security plan will increase the number of American troops in the city to around 30,000, up from 21,000 before the operation, an American officer said.

In addition, around 30,000 Iraqi Army and national police forces and another 21,000 policemen have been deployed in Baghdad. Many of the Iraqi units have turned up at less than full strength and other units have been redeployed from the capital, General Brooks said, leaving fewer than expected.

American commanders have also had to send troops outside the capital, to deal with a sharp rise in violence in Diyala Province and to search for American soldiers kidnapped south of the capital.

In some parts of the city, commanders have yet to attempt large-scale clearing operations. For example, American forces have moved into only a small portion of Sadr City, the vast slum on the city’s east side that is a Shiite stronghold.

Sending large number of troops in there could incite heavy violence and opposition from Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s largely Shiite government, several officers said.

The problems facing American troops are illustrated in troubled western Baghdad. In the Rashid district there, the First Battalion, Fourth Brigade of the First Infantry Division has been working since March to carry out the security push.

When the battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Patrick Frank, moved in, it was replacing a lone American Army company of 125 soldiers. Yet even with three times as many soldiers patrolling the area, violence has worsened. Last month, 249 bodies were found in the sector, up from 98 the month Colonel Frank arrived, according to statistics compiled by the battalion.

Lately, his troops have been hit by a wave of roadside bomb attacks that have killed five of them and wounded 13 others. “We have a tough fight ahead of us,” he said.

The district includes Ameel, Baya, Jihad and Furat, mostly mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods abutting the road to the Baghdad airport where his troops have established three patrol bases. Before the new strategy, there were none.

The area, a mixture of poorer urban slums and middle-class dwellings, once home to many retired professionals, has been troubled for years. Violence dipped there and across the city in the first months of the year, but has since worsened.

Militants, many associated with the Mahdi Army of the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, have resumed a push to drive Sunnis from their few enclaves, American commanders said. One of the area’s last Sunni mosques was bombed Wednesday.

“This area used to be primarily Sunni, but in the last six months Jaish al-Mahdi has conducted essentially a cleansing campaign,” said Colonel Frank, using the Arabic name for the Mahdi Army.

In addition to carrying out sectarian killings, the Mahdi Army controls two of the area’s three gas stations, which refuse to sell to most Sunnis. Gunmen regularly attacked trash trucks when they entered Sunni areas until the American military began providing security. Sunni homes are also the targets of arson attacks if their occupants fail to heed warnings to leave, he said.

Sunni insurgents have fought back as well, with two large car bomb attacks in largely Shiite sections of Baya and Ameel that killed more than 60 people, officers said.

The sectarian violence was especially disheartening to some American officers because it occurred in May, the same month that they were undertaking the centerpiece of the Baghdad security plan — a neighborhood clearing operation.

The battalion’s troops, augmented by more than 2,000 soldiers in armored Stryker vehicles, went block by block through the neighborhood, arresting suspected insurgents and destroying arms caches.

But since the Stryker unit has moved on to a different area of Baghdad, “there’s been a reinfiltration” by Shiite fighters and intimidation squads, who had left the area when the operation began, said Capt. Tim Wright, the company commander responsible for the neighborhood.

In addition to the dumped bodies being found every day, more Sunni families are departing. Soon, he said, they may all be gone.

Colonel Frank, of Cuba, N.Y., who served a previous Iraq tour in Mosul in 2003 with the 101st Airborne Division, said his forces were having some success in neighboring Ameel at keeping sectarian violence under control. Thirty Sunni families have returned to the neighborhood recently, he said.

But American officers worry that many members of the largely Shiite police force sympathize or collaborate with the Mahdi Army.

The local commander of the Iraqi national police, a force run by the Shiite-run Interior Ministry, has been replaced three times since March.

One of those commanders, Col. Nadir al-Jabouri, a Shiite described by Colonel Frank as the most aggressive and even-handed Iraqi officer he had seen. But he was detained in late March by the Interior Ministry and accused of having ties to insurgents.

“He was not a protector of the people; he was a terrorist,” said Col. Vhafir Kader Jowda, his Shiite replacement.

American patrols have been attacked in a wave of deadly bombings recently, sometimes within sight of police checkpoints, officers said.

Ten soldiers under Colonel Frank’s command have been killed since March. At least eight of the recent attacks in the area have used explosively formed penetrators, or E.F.P.’s, powerful bombs able to pierce armored Humvees.

When Colonel Frank went to the Ameel police station recently accompanied by a reporter and asked for help in capturing a local Shiite sheik believed to be behind the bombings, the police official he was meeting with spoke in a whisper. “They listen to us,” he said, pointing to a ventilation grill on his wall. “I am in danger just by meeting with you.”

A few weeks earlier, angered by the attacks on his soldiers, Colonel Frank ordered a video camera hidden near an abandoned swimming pool along a main road in Ameel, near a police checkpoint, where patrols had been hit repeatedly.

When the video was examined after another attack, it showed two Iraqi policemen talking with companions, who were heard off-camera, apparently laying an explosive device. Minutes after the policemen were seen driving away, the camera showed a powerful bomb detonating as an American Humvee came into view.

The video of the attack, which just missed the vehicle and caused no casualties, was shown to a reporter from The New York Times.

After police commanders were confronted with the video in mid-May, six Iraqi officers were arrested, Colonel Frank said.

But the episode has not been forgotten. At a weekly meeting where military commanders and police chiefs sit around a horseshoe-shaped conference table at one of the American bases, Capt. Adel Fakry, the Ameel police commander, complained that American soldiers on patrol were showing “distrust” toward his officers.

“The reason there is distrust,” Colonel Frank responded, his voice rising, “is because I have a video of six Iraqi officers placing a bomb against my soldiers, and they came from your station.”

There had been “some mistakes,” Captain Fakry responded, looking taken aback by the confrontation. Not all of the six officers were from his station, he added before ending the conversation by flipping open his cellphone and making a call while the meeting continued.

The same distrust has hampered relations throughout Baghdad since the strategy began. In Shula, a neighborhood just east of Kadhimiya, north of Rashid, American troops in March discovered a group of Iraqis in police uniforms setting up an E.F.P. near a bridge. They were using police vehicles to provide cover.

The American soldiers killed two of the bomb planters. They later discovered that one had a badge granting him wide access to the Green Zone, the fortified area in central Baghdad where the American Embassy and most Iraqi government buildings are situated.

“That’s the level of penetration that these guys have,” said Lt. Col. Steven M. Miska, deputy commander of the Second Brigade, First Infantry Division, which is charged with controlling northwestern Baghdad.

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