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Undernews For June June 11, 2008

Undernews For June 11, 2008

Washington's Most Unofficial Source
611 Pennsylvania Ave SE #381
Washington DC 20003
Editor: Sam Smith

11 JUN 2008


The optimist says, "This is the best of all possible worlds." The pessimist says, "You're right." - Somebody



Obama leads McCain by 6
Obama has gained 4 points vs. McCain in last 10 polls
Obama is 17 electoral votes behind McCain with 105 undecided
Nader is pulling 4-6%
Barr is pulling 3%


Dems pick up 4-7 Senate seats
Dems in House pick up as many as 17 or lose as many as 4
Dems pick up as many as 1 governorships or lose 1




"We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program." -President Bill Clinton, February 17, 1998.

"[Saddam Hussein ] has chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies." - Madeleine Albright, secretary of state in the Clinton administration, November 10, 1999.

"We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandates of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them." -Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, September 19, 2002.

"We know that [Saddam Hussein ] has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country. . . Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter, and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power." - Al Gore, a former vice president of the United States who back then could sound remarkably like the current one, on September 23, 2002. Clearly both veeps were in this together.

"We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction." - Senator Ted Kennedy, September 27, 2002.

"The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons." - Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia

"In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al-Qaida members.. . . It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons." - Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, now of New York, on October 10, 2002.

"The Committee did not find any evidence that Administration officials attempted to coerce, manipulate, influence or pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities." - Senate Intelligence Committee 2004


Article I Creating a Secret Propaganda Campaign to Manufacture a False Case for War Against Iraq.

Article II Falsely, Systematically, and with Criminal Intent Conflating the Attacks of September 11, 2001, With Misrepresentation of Iraq as a Security Threat as Part of Fraudulent Justification for a War of Aggression.

Article III Misleading the American People and Members of Congress to Believe Iraq Possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction, to Manufacture a False Case for War.

Article IV Misleading the American People and Members of Congress to Believe Iraq Posed an Imminent Threat to the United States.

Article V Illegally Misspending Funds to Secretly Begin a War of Aggression.

Article VI Invading Iraq in Violation of the Requirements of HJRes114.

Article VII Invading Iraq Absent a Declaration of War.

Article VIII Invading Iraq, A Sovereign Nation, in Violation of the UN Charter.

Article IX Failing to Provide Troops With Body Armor and Vehicle Armor

Article X Falsifying Accounts of US Troop Deaths and Injuries for Political Purposes

Article XI Establishment of Permanent U.S. Military Bases in Iraq

Article XII Initiating a War Against Iraq for Control of That Nation's Natural Resources

Article XIIII Creating a Secret Task Force to Develop Energy and Military Policies With Respect to Iraq and Other Countries

Article XIV Misprision of a Felony, Misuse and Exposure of Classified Information And Obstruction of Justice in the Matter of Valerie Plame Wilson, Clandestine Agent of the Central Intelligence Agency

Article XV Providing Immunity from Prosecution for Criminal Contractors in Iraq

Article XVI Reckless Misspending and Waste of U.S. Tax Dollars in Connection With Iraq and US Contractors

Article XVII Illegal Detention: Detaining Indefinitely And Without Charge Persons Both U.S. Citizens and Foreign Captives

Article XVIII Torture: Secretly Authorizing, and Encouraging the Use of Torture Against Captives in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Other Places, as a Matter of Official Policy

Article XIX Rendition: Kidnapping People and Taking Them Against Their Will to "Black Sites" Located in Other Nations, Including Nations Known to Practice Torture

Article XX Imprisoning Children

Article XXI Misleading Congress and the American People About Threats from Iran, and Supporting Terrorist Organizations Within Iran, With the Goal of Overthrowing the Iranian Government

Article XXII Creating Secret Laws

Article XXIII Violation of the Posse Comitatus Act

Article XXIV Spying on American Citizens, Without a Court-Ordered Warrant, in Violation of the Law and the Fourth Amendment

Article XXV Directing Telecommunications Companies to Create an Illegal and Unconstitutional Database of the Private Telephone Numbers and Emails of American Citizens

Article XXVI Announcing the Intent to Violate Laws with Signing Statements

Article XXVII Failing to Comply with Congressional Subpoenas and Instructing Former Employees Not to Comply

Article XXVIII Tampering with Free and Fair Elections, Corruption of the Administration of Justice

Article XXIX Conspiracy to Violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Article XXX Misleading Congress and the American People in an Attempt to Destroy Medicare

Article XXXI Katrina: Failure to Plan for the Predicted Disaster of Hurricane Katrina, Failure to Respond to a Civil Emergency

Article XXXII Misleading Congress and the American People, Systematically Undermining Efforts to Address Global Climate Change

Article XXXIII Repeatedly Ignored and Failed to Respond to High Level Intelligence Warnings of Planned Terrorist Attacks in the US, Prior to 911.

Article XXXIV Obstruction of the Investigation into the Attacks of September 11, 2001

Article XXXV Endangering the Health of 911 First Responders


FOUR WINDS How many people know that when they dial 411, the operator at the other end of the call is often a federal prisoner? Or that when they call to reserve a camping space at a national park, the person taking their personal information may be sitting in a cubicle in a maximum-security prison? Or that the body armor for the soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan is being manufactured by federal inmates?

In what critics call slave labor and advocates call job training, more than 100 factories and service centers in federal prisons across the United States employ inmates in jobs such as those above and hundreds more, making everything from underwear to military gear to intricate electrical components, all under the umbrella of a near-billion-dollar corporation known as the Federal Prison Industries, Inc., trade name Unicor.

This little-known and wholly owned arm of the BOP has come under fire in recent years from environmentalists, prison reform groups, and congressional investigative committees for, among other things, exposing inmate workers to dangerous levels of lead and other toxins in its computer recycling centers. The company has also been investigated for profiting from sales of tens of thousands of excess Defense Department computers that were supposed to be given free to low-income schools around the country and, what may be worse, failing to remove sensitive data from the computers it resold. Unions and even the U. S. Chamber of Commerce are up in arms over its use of dirt-cheap prison labor to take jobs from the private sector.

The prison workers are just as unhappy. Unicor and the companies it contracts with "are making a killing off of us here," one of the Carswell workers wrote recently to Fort Worth Weekly. "And then we leave prison and have nothing to fall back on. Just think how beneficial it would be if they paid at least minimum wage, paid into Social Security ... so that we would have something when we leave, old and broken down.". . .


WASH POST As CEO of Fannie Mae, Johnson, a former chief of staff to Vice President Walter F. Mondale and chairman of the board of the Kennedy Center, was the beneficiary of accounting in which Fannie Mae's earnings were manipulated so that executives could earn larger bonuses. The accounting manipulation for 1998 resulted in the maximum payouts to Fannie Mae's senior executives -- $1.9 million in Johnson's case -- when the company's performance that year would have otherwise resulted in no bonuses at all, according to reports in 2004 and 2006 by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight.

In a 2006 civil enforcement action against Fannie Mae, another agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission, called the company's 1998 accounting "fraudulent" and said numbers were "intentionally manipulated to trigger management bonuses."

Johnson left the company before it was swept up in an accounting scandal that tarred its reputation, but even during the years of scandal, Johnson was reaping hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees and other compensation, $3.3 million in all between 2001 and 2006.

Brian Brooks, an attorney for Johnson, said last night that the accounting issues at Fannie Mae were thoroughly investigated, and that "no one has ever suggested that Mr. Johnson was responsible for the accounting decisions at issue, nor has he had any involvement with these accounting issues during his tenure as a consultant since leaving employment with the company in 1999."

But Johnson is not the only member of Obama's vice presidential vetting committee that Republicans have targeted.

They also are preparing a case against former deputy attorney general Eric Holder for his role in the granting of a pardon to fugitive financier Marc Rich in the last days of the Clinton White House.

In December 2000, as Rich's lawyers were closing in on the pardon, one of them, Jack Quinn, singled out Holder in an e-mail. "The greatest danger lies with the lawyers," Quinn wrote his co-counsels. "I have worked them hard and I am hopeful that E. Holder will be helpful to us."

Any attacks on Holder will probably not mention that one of Rich's lawyers, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, went on to become Vice President Cheney's chief of staff. . .

Johnson who provides the most immediate fodder for attack. His lavish lifestyle, multiple homes, personal staff and chauffeur strike a dissonant chord as Obama excoriates Republican "tax cuts for the rich" and calls McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, an out-of-touch Washington insider.

Although OFHEO said Johnson benefited from the earnings manipulations, the agency did not accuse him of participating in them, and the SEC did not accuse him of any wrongdoing. He ended his term as chairman and chief executive of the District-based company in December 1998, before Fannie Mae reported its financial results for that year. In 1999, he served as chairman of the company's executive committee.

A federal regulatory agency suggested that even if Johnson's compensation for 1998 were entirely justified, Fannie Mae obscured its magnitude, disclosing pay of $6 million to $7 million a year in 1998. But Johnson was allowed to defer 111,623 shares of Fannie Mae stock, a move that was relegated to a footnote and not included in the company's summary compensation table.

Total compensation that year was closer to $21 million, according to an internal Fannie Mae analysis cited by OFHEO. . .

Among Johnson's post-employment perks were an inflation-adjusted consulting contract of $390,500 that began in 2002, two employees and a chauffeur, and office space at the Watergate, even after he began work at Perseus, an investment firm that gave him his own office. His lawyer described that compensation yesterday as "consistent with what is customarily provided to retiring Fortune 100 CEOs."

Johnson was supposed to reimburse the company for 50 percent of the chauffeur's time, but that did not apply to time spent waiting for Johnson or driving his wife. Consequently, he reimbursed Fannie for about 15 percent of the cost.


One of the reasons Obama is having a hard time dealing with McCain on economic issues is that he and other Democrats voted for most of the money that Marcus discusses

RUTH MARCUS, WASH POST By the time Congress finishes the latest "emergency" war spending bill, a mere seven years into the emergency, the cost of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan will have exceeded $860 billion. For the first time in American history, every penny of that amount will have been borrowed. For the first time, billions more will have been borrowed to finance tax cuts in the midst of war.

Confronting the debt amassed during the Revolutionary War, George Washington was determined to pay it off, warning against "ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear." Confronting the enormous costs about to be piled up in Iraq, George Bush determined to press for new tax cuts -- not just "little bitty tax relief," as he put it, but hundreds of billions more.

"This contrast -- between an active war effort on one hand and substantial tax cuts on the other -- has no precedent in American history," three tax historians explain in "War and Taxes," a new book from the Urban Institute. Rather, since the War of 1812, "special taxes have supported every major military conflict in our nation's history."

As Steven Bank, Kirk Stark and Joseph Thorndike show, presidents and lawmakers have not always been eager to impose taxes to pay war costs. But historically, Republicans and Democrats alike ultimately acknowledged the necessity -- fiscal and moral -- of shared sacrifice. "I think the boys in Korea would appreciate it more if we in this country were to pay our own way instead of leaving it for them to pay when they get back," said House Speaker Sam Rayburn.

Until Iraq, that is. "Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes," then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay declared in March 2003.

The authors suggest several reasons for this turnabout. The end of the draft alleviated pressure on those left at home to do their part. A globalized economy and a more skillful Federal Reserve have reduced the fear of rampant inflation that fueled previous wartime tax hikes. Political polarization has driven away moderates, who tend to be deficit hawks.

I'd argue that the biggest factor is the transformation of the Republican Party: This is the first extended war fought under the banner of supply-side economics. Richard Nixon, shortly after taking office, announced that "the path of responsibility" required him to support extending Lyndon Johnson's tax surcharge. That stance seems unimaginable for a Republican president today.

Take John McCain, who refused to back additional tax cuts in 2003 because, he explained, "throughout our history, wartime has been a time of sacrifice." Now, as his party's presumptive nominee, McCain offers a costly menu of new tax cuts that makes Bush look like Ross Perot.

From the Democrats' perspective then, why take the political risk of pushing tax hikes to finance a Republican war? Last year, when three senior House Democrats floated an income surtax to pay for the war, leadership shot it down with Bush-like speed. "Just as I have opposed the war from the outset," said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, "I am opposed to a war surtax."

Here's the new, bipartisan fiscal policy: Soak the grandchildren. George Washington would have been appalled.


JAVIER BLAS, FINANCIAL TIMES Food aid volumes sank last year to their lowest level in almost 50 years as rising agricultural commodity prices - particularly for wheat, corn and rice - hit donors' budgets, a United Nations report will say. The Food Aid Flows report estimates global deliveries dropped last year to 5.9m tons - the lowest level since records began in 1961 and 15 per cent below the figure for 2006. The previous record low was set in 1973, also when the world was facing a food crisis.

The report, by the UN's World Food Program, warns that the resources available for food assistance need to increase in order to address negative effects of higher prices. "There is an urgent need to reverse this [downward] trend," the report says. . .

The warning comes as corn prices hit a fresh high of $6.73 a bushel, up 48 per cent since January. Soyabean and wheat prices also moved higher, further threatening to increase the cost of food aid this year.

Global food aid volumes have declined steadily since 1999, when they stood at 15m tonnes, but the drop accelerated last year as agricultural commodity prices surged.

Wheat prices rose by 122 per cent between 2000 and 2007, corn prices climbed 86 per cent and rice prices surged 62 per cent. The cost of shipping food also doubled last year, further eroding donors' budgets.


DMI BLOG Anybody following immigration issues has probably heard of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, better known as Sheriff Joe. Working in Maricopa County, Arizona, the Sheriff has rounded up thousands of undocumented immigrants (he's is keeping a tab on his website) for minor offenses like turn-signal violations or broken taillights. Meanwhile, Sheriff Joe ignores tens of thousands of criminal warrants so he can go after immigrant day laborers with his 3,000 person posse. Mayors (including the mayor of Phoenix) and public officials have complained, but the Sheriff says he has no intention of listening to, say, federal laws on the matter. As Joe himself says, "Do you think I'm going to report to the federal government?" he said. "I don't report to them. If they don't like the contract, they can close it up. That's all."

"By the way," he said, "we do have a 3,000-person posse - and about 500 have guns. They have their own airplanes, jeeps, motorcycles, everything. They can only operate under the sheriff. I swear 'em in. I can put up 30 airplanes tomorrow if I wanted."

But unfortunately for several cities across the nation, Sheriff Joe has inspired some followers. The Times reported that some cities are taking immigration matters into their own hands, rounding up undocumented immigrants for crimes as small as fishing without a license in Georgia. Even states have jumped into the fray, with a law in Oklahoma making "sheltering or transporting illegal immigrants" a felony and a new law in Mississippi declaring it a felony for an undocumented immigrant to have a job.

Sheriff Wendell Hall of Santa Rosa County displays a framed cartoon that shows Daniel Boone admiring Hall's arrest of 27 undocumented workers. Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen is also using Sheriff Joe-like tactics, and doesn't even bother using the word "immigrant" on his website: "Do you know of any illegal alien activity or employers that hire illegal aliens?" he asks.

But the most interesting part of the article is not the macho, cowboys-and-Indians type attitudes of these crazy sheriffs - unfortunately, mistreatment of immigrants is nothing new - but rather the effect that these round-ups have had on the towns over which these officials preside. Hispanics - even U.S. citizens - live in fear of racial profiling and immigration raids, and hundreds - including legal citizens - have disappeared from towns with tough crackdown policies. Others have remained, but their daily routines are tinged with fear:

Many Hispanics said they avoided being seen or heard speaking Spanish in Wal-Mart, even if they live here legally. Others detailed their habit of meticulously checking their cars' headlights, blinkers and registration to avoid being pulled over.

Local employers have found themselves short-staffed as well. Geronimo Barragan, the owner of a Mexican restaurant called La Hacienda, was forced to close his restaurant for two and a half months because he was unable to find workers.


NEW AMERICA MEDIA Immigrants who have been trafficked or abused by employers usually enjoy the protection of the U.S. government. But if the recent immigration raids at a Postville, Iowa meat-packing plant are any indication, that might be a thing of the past. Now those workers face deportation instead.

In May, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid took place at an Iowa kosher meat-packing plant. It was the largest raid ever. Nearly 400 employees at Agriprocessors were rounded up and interrogated by immigration officials. The search warrant executed by ICE also laid out a range of workplace abuses, including physical abuse. According to the government's own warrant: "In February, Source #7 told ICE agents he or she observed a Jewish floor supervisor duct-tape the eyes of an undocumented Guatemalan worker shut and hit the Guatemalan with a meat hook."

Additional allegations of sexual abuse towards female workers were reported in the Des Moines Register. According to Sister Mary McCauley, a Roman Catholic nun at St. Bridget's Catholic Church in Postville, "workers said that there was sexual abuse, that there's propositioning. Specifically, if a worker wanted, say, a promotion or a shift change, they'd be brought into a room with three or four men and it was like, ‘Which one do you want? Which one are you going to serve?'"

If the government warrant itself outlined abuse, the workers should have been eligible for protected status. However, they were treated as criminals, not victims.

In another case in Louisiana, Indian workers were trafficked to the United States and housed in substandard conditions while their wages were held back, in order to pay back the $20,000 they were charged to come the United States to work at Signal Construction in New Orleans. After they walked out on their jobs en masse, the Department of Justice opened a trafficking investigation case acknowledging their victimization, yet refusing to protect them.

In past cases similar to Signal Construction, "continued presence" was automatically granted, allowing the workers to stay on in the United States while the case went ahead. According to Dan Werner of the Southern Poverty Law Center, "Continued presence is discretionary on the part of the Department of Justice, but people used to get processed on the spot. This delay is a new thing." The lawyers representing the Indian workers have been told they must submit their clients for deportation hearings.


CONSORTIUM NEWS Hundreds of pages of documents, released Monday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, show that Abramoff regularly communicated with former White House political adviser Karl Rove and his deputies regarding the administration's domestic agenda. Abramoff, who pleaded guilty two years ago to corruption charges, had 485 lobbying contacts with White House officials between January 2001 and March 2004, including 170 meetings over meals and 16 meetings over drinks, the report said.

Committee chairman, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, also complained that his investigation was hampered by six unnamed individuals who asserted their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, including three White House officials.

Waxman's committee released six photographs of Abramoff and members of his family posing with Bush at GOP fundraisers and White House functions. Some of the photos were autographed by the President.

In January 2006, when one such photograph surfaced, Bush dismissed it as meaningless and insisted he barely knew the man. "You know, I, frankly, don't even remember having my picture taken with the guy," Bush said. "I don't know him. I can't say I didn't ever meet him, but I meet a lot of people. … I've had my picture taken with a lot of people."


CRAIG CRAWFORD On so many fronts, I knew there was trouble for Barack Obama when he picked Jim Johnson for his vice presidential vetting team. Not only is Johnson a big-business Democrat with icky ties to even ickier businesses, like mortgage lending firms in trouble. But the longtime party insider is also firmly entrenched with Democratic losers going back to Walter Mondale, whose pathetic 1984 presidential campaign was run by Johnson.

If Obama is about a break with the past, he could find no one more counter-intuitive than Johnson. Already, Johnson is under fire for his own sweetheart loans. More than likely Obama will eventually come under intense pressure to dump his VP vetter.

For a clue about Johnson's questionable political acumen, here's what I remember from my own experience as a field operative in Mondale's presidential campaign. Johnson blew the only moment when it looked like Mondale might actually have a chance at overcoming Ronald Reagan's reelection bid.

Following Reagan's disastrous debate performance against Mondale, when the media began to seriously question the president's mental fitness, many Democratic insiders counseled their nominee to go in for the kill in the next debate. But Johnson, apparently believing that Mondale had a lock on the election, advised his candidate to back off, counseling that it would seem mean-spirited to do otherwise.

Johnson could not have been more wrong, as many of us in the campaign thought at the time. Still, Mondale followed his manager's advice and Reagan won the day - and probably the election - at the subsequent debate as the Democrat foolishly held his fire.

For some reason, Democratic nominees ever since - except Bill Clinton - have thought Johnson was some sort of genius. And it is no accident that Clinton is the only one to win the White House.


AGENCE FRANCE PRESS World military spending grew 45 percent in the past decade, with the United States accounting for nearly half of all expenditures, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said. Military spending grew six percent last year alone, according to SIPRI's annual report.

In 2007, 1,339 billion dollars was spent on arms and other military expenditures, corresponding to 2.5 percent of global gross domestic product, or GDP, and 202 dollars for each of the world's 6.6 billion people.

The United States spends by far the most towards military aims, dishing out 547 billion dollars last year, or 45 percent of global expenditure. Britain, China, France and Japan - the next in line of big spenders - lag far behind, accounting for just four to five percent of world military costs each.


BLOOMBERG Taser International Inc., the largest stun-gun maker, lost a $6.2 million jury verdict over the death of a California man who died after police shot him multiple times with the weapon. The defeat is the first for Taser in a product-liability claim. A San Jose, California, jury yesterday said Taser had failed to warn police in Salinas, California, that prolonged exposure to electric shock from the device could cause a risk of cardiac arrest. The jury awarded $1 million in compensatory damages and $5.2 million in punitive damages to the estate of Robert Heston, 40, and his parents. The jury cleared the police officers of any liability.

Taser previously won two trials, one over claims by a police officer injured in a training accident and the other involving a death in custody. Taser has settled at least 10 cases involving injuries to police officers during training, company lawyer Doug Klint told Bloomberg News last year. Taser said it will appeal the verdict.


ISRAEL NN Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hinted after his meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush that U.S. action against Iran is imminent. While he avoided saying anything clear and specific on the matter, Olmert did mention a "timetable" and said action would take place before Bush leaves the White House.

"We reached agreement on the need to take care of the Iranian threat," Olmert said after the meeting. "I left with a lot less question marks [than I had entered with] regarding the means, the timetable restrictions and America's resoluteness to deal with the problem."

"George Bush understands the severity of the Iranian threat and the need to vanquish it, and intends to act on the matter before the end of his term in the White House," Olmert reportedly said after his 90 minute long one-on-one meeting with the American Commander in Chief.

"With every day that goes by we get closer to stopping the Iranian nuclear plan," Olmert said. He said that meaningful steps were being taken to handle Iran "more effectively" and told reporters: "The Iranian problem requires urgent attention, and I see no reason to delay this just because there will be a new President in the White House seven and a half months from now."

"The U.S. is a leading element in dealing with Iran," Olmert said. "These are serious matters; I am not just saying this… It is not good to publicize everything."


DONNA LEINWAND, USA TODAY Cities and counties increasingly are creating innovative community courts to deal with the growing number of habitual petty criminals that police call "frequent fliers."

Criminals who are arrested repeatedly for crimes such as public drunkenness, trespassing and panhandling are crowding jails and sapping police resources, officials say. The cost of handling small-time criminals who cycle in and out of jail is becoming a more pressing problem for communities as budgets tighten and jail populations swell.

The new courts sentence "frequent fliers" to treatment plans and social services, such as mental health and substance abuse treatment, instead of jail.

Cities began taking low level crime seriously in the 1990s, says Greg Berman, director of the Center for Court Innovation. Now communities - many with overcrowded jails - must deal with these offenders.

Among courts set to open:

- Orange County, Calif., will open a community justice center in August. Defendants will have access to 24 social service agencies, including substance abuse treatment, housing and a mobile pharmacy. Police officers may choose not to charge offenders who agree to seek treatment.

- Newark will open the first phase of its community court project this summer, says Julien Neals, the city's attorney. Last year, the existing court system handled about 500,000 disorderly person offenses, up from 480,000 the previous year, Neals says. Many of the offenders are unemployed or have alcohol, drug or mental health problems, he says. Community court staff will screen defendants to identify their problems and link them with services instead of jail or fines.

- Athens-Clarke County in Georgia will open the Treatment and Accountability Court in July. Mentally ill offenders will be sentenced to treatment plans instead of jail, Superior Court Judge David Sweat says. Completing treatment and tasks will bring rewards, such as bus passes and food coupons, while failures will bring sanctions such as jail time or more contacts with probation officers, he says.

SF CHRONICLE After 18 months of work, a wide coalition of judges, law enforcement officials and social service leaders are proposing a break from the usual. Take suspects arrested for misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies - such as shoplifting, car burglaries or small-time drug peddling - to a one-stop court. There, a court commissioner will weigh the case to see if the arrestee is a candidate for detox, supervised housing, health care and even tattoo removal to get a job. If a candidate balks or breaks a promise to seek help, then the case goes back into the conventional court system. The new process is designed to take days, not weeks, as it does now. . . San Francisco takes pride in its image as a groundbreaker on gay rights, the environment and universal health care, to name a few. This program offers another way to add to that praiseworthy image by ending the dead-end criminal cycle in a serious and tough-minded way. The board should back the Justice Center.


WASH CYCLE - I bike along the NE Branch Trail which, for large sections, is completely devoid of tree cover. In the summer it can get quite stifling (among other problems) so naturally I got jealous when I found out about Qatar's planned cooled bike path. It has a shaded canopy and misters cooling the entire cycle path using cold ground water. Dubai is also developing a bike plan and they may use the same bike path plan. . . STREETSBLOG - Fortunately, when you've got a pannier full of oil money, 115 degree daytime temperatures are no big deal. The Emir hired the Rand Corporation and Rand proposed a 30 kilometer shaded, solar-powered, mist-cooled bike path. The Emir gave the green light and with no cumbersome democratic processes to get in the way the project sailed through to approval.


DECLAN MCCULLAGH, CNET New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced that Verizon Communications, Time Warner Cable, and Sprint would "shut down major sources of online child pornography." What Cuomo didn't say is that his agreement with broadband providers means that they will broadly curb customers' access to Usenet--the venerable pre-Web home of some 100,000 discussion groups, only a handful of which contain illegal material.

Time Warner Cable said it will cease to offer customers access to any Usenet newsgroups, a decision that will affect customers nationwide. Sprint said it would no longer offer any of the tens of thousands of alt.* Usenet newsgroups. Verizon's plan is to eliminate some "fairly broad newsgroup areas."

It's not quite the death of Usenet (which has been predicted, incorrectly, countless times). But if a politician can pressure three of the largest Internet providers into censorial acquiescence, it may only be a matter of time before smaller ones like Supernews, Giganews, and feel the squeeze.

Cuomo's office said it had "reviewed millions of pictures over several months" and found only "88 different newsgroups" containing child pornography.

"We are attacking this problem by working with Internet service providers to ensure they do not play host to this immoral business," Cuomo said in a statement released after a press conference in New York. "I call on all Internet service providers to follow their example and help deter the spread of online child porn."

That amounts to an odd claim: stopping the spread of child porn on a total of 88 newsgroups necessarily means coercing broadband providers to pull the plug on thousands of innocuous ones. Usenet's sprawling set of hierarchically arranged discussion areas include ones that go by names like sci.math,, and comp.os.linux.admin. It has been partially succeeded by mailing lists, message boards, and blogs; AOL stopped carrying Usenet in 2005, but AT&T still does.

Many of Usenet's discussion groups are scarcely different from discussions you might find on the Web at, say, Yahoo Groups. Because there's no central authority, however--Usenet servers exchange messages in a cooperative, peer-to-peer manner--politicians are more likely to look askance at the concept. (For that matter, so is the Recording Industry Association of America.)

It's true that of the three broadband providers Cuomo singled out, only Time Warner Cable will cease to offer Usenet. Sprint is cutting off the alt.* hierarchy, Usenet's largest, which will primarily affect its business customers. A Verizon spokesman said he didn't know details, saying "newsgroups that deal with scientific endeavors" will stick around but admitted that all of the alt.* hierarchy could be toast.

Yet Usenet's sprawling alt.* hierarchy contains tens of thousands of discussion groups--one count says there are 18,408 of them--including alt.adoption, alt.atheism, alt.gothic, and Ditching all of those means eliminating perfectly legitimate conversations. . .

"We're going to stop offering our subscribers newsgroups," said Alex Dudley, a spokesman for Time Warner Cable. "Some of the early press on this indicated we were going to block certain Web sites. We're not going to do that."

DAVID KRAVETS, WIRED [The] accord with Verizon, Time Warner Cable and Sprint -- which more ISPs are likely to join -- opens up a Pandora's box of chilling side effects.

Among the most important is a challenge to the long-accepted notion that ISPs are generally immune from liability for content posted by users, under the 1996 Communications Decency Act. Under the Cuomo deal, the ISPs seem to acknowledge a moral role in policing the internet. . .

Under the Cuomo plan, the ISPs would filter child porn on Usenet newsgroups via hash-marking technology, in which the same photos can be traced and blocked. But the three ISPs are voluntarily going much farther than that, largely curbing or derailing access to Usenet, a three-decade-old system designed to swap information electronically.

The ISPs have also agreed to purge their servers of web sites that are deemed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to carry child pornography. Child porn, quite properly, enjoys no First Amendment protection. But once this mechanism is in place, the companies will be sorely tempted to apply it to other types of content.

"Others are now likely to get in line asking to [filter] different material," said Wendy Seltzer, an online scholar at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.


ABC NEWS Nuclear war will begin next Thursday, June 12, or sooner, according to the latest prediction of self-proclaimed prophet Yisrayl "Buffalo Bill" Hawkins, the founder of a religious sect in Abilene, Texas. Founder of a religious sect in Texas predicts the world will end June 12. . .

Hundreds of truck trailers have been loaded with food and water on the group's 44-acre compound, in preparation for the coming war.

Unfortunately for Hawkins, it is not the first time he predicted the outbreak of nuclear war. Most recently, Hawkins set Sept. 12, 2006 as the beginning of the end. . .

In Kenya, hundreds of his followers actually hid in basement bomb shelters and donned gas masks on the date.

They went home in humiliation when there was no war. . . .

Hawkins says he does not care if people consider him a laughing stock.

"You know, the savior himself, told me not to worry about that. He said, 'They're going to hate you above all people on the face of the earth,' " Hawkins explained.

Former members say there is a method to Hawkins' madness, that the doomsday predictions help him make money and keep disillusioned members from leaving, for fear they will be killed when the end comes.

Former members say they are required to buy doomsday food and supplies from a company that Hawkins owns personally, Life Nutrition Products.

"Everything that he preaches has to do with people buying something," said former House of Yahweh elder David Als of New York City. Like many of the his followers, Als actually legally changed his last name to Hawkins because he became convinced that only those named Hawkins would be saved.


At its state convention, the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party adopted instant runoff voting. It was one of only 26 platform resolutions to pass with the requisite 60 percent support from the delegates and qualifies for the DFL Action Agenda. . . . DFL Chair Brian Melendez, who was disappointed IRV didn't pass in 2006, is a big supporter of IRV. In an interview with Inside Minnesota Politics, he explained that IRV ensures whoever wins has the support of a majority of voters and it allows voters to vote their true preference without strategically misrepresenting their vote. His national counterpart, Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean, has also been a long-time IRV supporter. The Minnesota DFL is the third state Democratic party to adopt IRV, following the Democratic parties of Colorado and Maine. The Republican Party of Alaska supports IRV and the Utah Republican Party uses IRV for state convention elections. IRV is also a core platform of the Independence Party and Green Party in Minnesota and the Green Party of the United States. This list is likely to grow with the support of several presidential hopefuls, including Democrat Barack Obama, Republican John McCain, Libertarian Bob Barr, independent Ralph Nader and Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney.

Instant runoff voting lets voters rank candidates in order of preference on the ballot. If a candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes, that candidate wins. If not, the lowest vote-getter is dropped and his/her votes are redistributed to remaining candidates based on the second choice on those voters' ballots. This process is repeated until one candidate reaches a majority. It's like a traditional runoff, but in a single election.

In St. Paul, Minn., more than 7,000 petition signatures have been submitted to put an IRV charter amendment on the ballot this November. If adopted, St. Paul will become one of nearly two dozen cities, including Minneapolis to use the system


ALEX JONES & PAUL JOSEPH WATSON, PRISON PLANET Sources from inside the 2008 Bilderberg meeting have leaked the details of what elitists were discussing in Chantilly Virginia last week and the talking points were ominous - a plan to microchip Americans under the pretext of fighting terrorist . . .

Veteran Bilderberg sleuth Jim Tucker relies on sources who regularly attend Bilderberg as aides and assistants but who are not Bilderberg members themselves. . .

"Under the heading of resisting terrorism there were points made about how the terrorist organizations are recruiting people who do not look like terrorists - blonde, blue eyed boys - they're searching hard for those types to become the new mad bombers," said Tucker.

As we have documented, the blue eyed blonde haired Al-Qaeda line is a familiar talking point that has been pushed on Fox News and within other neo-con circles in an attempt to turn the anti-terror apparatus around to target dissidents, protesters and the American people in general.

Tucker's source also told him that Bilderberg were discussing the microchipping of humans on a mass scale, which would be introduced under the pretext of fighting terrorism whereby the "good guys" would be allowed to travel freely from airports so long as their microchip could be scanned and the information stored in a database. . . .

Tucker underscored that Bilderberg were talking about subdermally implanted chips and not merely RFID chips contained in clothing. The discussion took place in a main conference hall and was part of the agenda, not an off-hand remark in the hotel bar. . .

In 2004, Mexico's attorney general and 160 of his office staff were implanted with tracker chips to control access to to secure areas of their headquarters.

The Baja Beach Club in Barcelona and other nightclubs around the world are already offering implantable chips to customers who want to pay for drinks with the wave of a hand and also get access to VIP areas of the club lounge. . .

Tucker said that his sources told him [Robert] Gates was in attendance to present his case for war with Iran, but that the majority of Bilderberg members were against an attack at this time.

"The Europeans were generally opposed to an invasion of Iran - Gates made the regular war propaganda drill about how Iran is a nuclear threat to everybody," said Tucker, adding that European Bilderbergers made snide comments about where such nuclear weapons actually were being kept and at one point joking that they were possibly "in Saddam Hussein's tomb".

Despite Bilderberg opposition, Tucker said that the administration was still considering an attack before Bush leaves office in January.

"At least 90 per cent of the Europeans oppose a war, probably closer to 100 per cent," said Tucker, adding, "most of the Americans were passive and deferential to the Secretary of Defense and Condoleezza Rice's pitch in so far as Iran is concerned".

Tucker said that most Americans present at the meeting were opposed to attacking Iran but dare not be as visible and loud in their opposition as the Europeans.

"One of the Bilderberg boys raised this question - should we put a lid on the rise in oil prices, are we reaching the point of diminishing returns," said Tucker, adding that Bilderberg noted how Americans were trading in their SUV's in record numbers for small and more fuel efficient cars and using more public transport to combat high gas prices.

Tucker's source said that Bilderberg were predicting $5 for a gallon of gas by the end of this summer and oil over $150 dollars a barrel, but that this was a ceiling and oil prices would probably begin to decline thereafter because they thought the acceleration had happened too quickly. . .

During the conference in Germany, Henry Kissinger told his fellow attendees that the elite had resolved to ensure that oil prices would double over the course of the next 12-24 months, which is exactly what happened.

During their 2006 meeting in Ottawa Canada, Bilderberg agreed to push for $105 a barrel before the end of 2008. With that target having been smashed months ago, the acceleration towards $150 is outstripping even Bilderberg's goal, which is why the elitists expressed a desire to cool prices at least in the short term.


MORTON MINTZ, NATION - High gas prices and our "addiction" to foreign oil, as President Bush has called it, have roots in a nearly forgotten criminal conspiracy. It was this conspiracy that ordained our extreme dependence on cars and trucks and the inevitable and all-but-irreversible results, including filthy air, congestion, long commutes and accelerated global warming.

In 1949, three of our largest corporations--General Motors, Standard Oil of California (SoCal, now Chevron) and Firestone Tire and Rubber (now Japan's Bridgestone)--were convicted of having conspired for more than a decade to replace highly efficient urban electric transit systems with bus lines. The bus lines' operators contracted never to buy new equipment "using any fuel or means of propulsion other than" petroleum. GM, SoCal and Firestone were fined $5,000 each, the maximum the antitrust laws then allowed. GM's treasurer, also convicted, was fined $1.

GM's $5,001 punishment somehow failed to deter it from continuing for six years to acquire electric-powered rail and bus properties and convert them to gasoline and diesel. The conspiracy-to-monopolize convictions, upheld on appeal, never received attention commensurate with their impact. In 1974, however, they did become a subject of Senate Antitrust and Monopoly Subcommittee hearings on the broad topic of auto industry reform.

Strikingly, the subcommittee chairman, Philip Hart, was the senior senator from Michigan, where the auto industry was dominant and where GM was the dominant corporation. An assistant subcommittee counsel, Bradford Snell, had researched the conspiracy for American Ground Transport, a study financed by the Stern Fund. GM, he testified, had led the destruction of more than 100 electric-rail transit systems in forty-five cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Baltimore and St. Louis. . .



It's 7 a.m. and Joshua Cervantes is getting ready for school. He makes his bed, grabs his ID - and his GPS tracking device. At school, Joshua clicks his GPS. It sends a signal to a satellite and tells his truancy counselor that Josh is on time. "Every 10 minutes it gives me a point on that individual," said Tom Urrutia, program manager of the monitoring system. Josh is part of a pilot program at Bryan Adams High School in Dallas to stop truancy. Last year, out of 185 school days, he had 160 unexcused absences. . . For six weeks, a court ordered him to carry a tracking device, and made sure he was home by a 9 p.m. curfew. CBS

It's the only way Tory Bowen knows to honestly describe what happened to her. She was raped. But a judge prohibited her from uttering the word "rape" in front of a jury. The term "sexual assault" also was taboo, and Bowen could not refer to herself as a victim or use the word "assailant" to describe the man who allegedly raped her. The defendant's presumption of innocence and right to a fair trial trumps Bowen's right of free speech, said the Lincoln, Neb., judge who issued the order. "It shouldn't be up to a judge to tell me whether or not I was raped," Bowen said. "I should be able to tell the jury in my own words what happened to me." Bowen's case is part of what some prosecutors and victim advocates see as a national trend in sexual assault cases. "It's a topic that's coming up more and more," said Joshua Marquis, an Oregon prosecutor and a vice president of the National District Attorneys Association. "You're moving away from what a criminal trial is really about." She filed a lawsuit challenging the judge's actions as a First Amendment violation. A federal appeals court dismissed the suit, but Bowen's attorney plans to petition the U.S. Supreme Court. McClatchy


Authorities say seven people attending high school graduations in Rock Hill, South Carolina, are facing charges after police say they cheered while students' names were being called. Police say those arrested yelled after students' names were called while diplomas were handed out. A police spokesman says school officials request police patrols to prevent graduation disruptions that include standing, hollering and clapping.
He says those attending the commencements are told their behavior can be prosecuted. AP


Africa is suffering deforestation at twice the world rate and the continent's few glaciers are shrinking fast, according to a U.N. atlas. Satellite pictures, often taken three decades apart, showed expanding cities, pollution, deforestation and climate change were damaging the African environment despite glimmers of improvement in some areas. "Africa is losing more than 4 million hectares (9.9 million acres) of forest every year -- twice the world's average deforestation rate," according to a statement by the U.N. Environment Program about the 400-page atlas, prepared for a meeting of African environment ministers in Johannesburg. Four million hectares is roughly the size of Switzerland or slightly bigger than the U.S. state of Maryland. Daily Green

As the world clamors for more corn, wheat, soybeans and rice, farmers are trying to meet the challenge. Millions of acres are coming back into production in Europe. In Asia, planting two or three crops in a single year is becoming more common. American farmers are planting 324 million acres this year, up 4 million acres from 2007. Too much of the best land is waterlogged, however. Indiana and Illinois have been the worst hit, although Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota were inundated last weekend. United States soybean plantings are running 16 percent behind last year. Rice is tardy in Arkansas, which produces nearly half the country's crop. . . . Harvests ebb and flow, of course. But with supplies of most of the key commodities at their lowest levels in decades, there is little room for error this year. American farmers are among the world's top producers, supplying 60 percent of the corn that moves across international borders in a typical year, as well as a third of the soybeans, a quarter of the wheat and a tenth of the rice. NY Times


Thirty-five articles of impeachment were presented by Rep. Dennis Kucinich to the House of Representatives late Monday evening. . . "Resolved," Kucinich then began, "that President George W. Bush be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, and that the following articles of impeachment be exhibited to the United States Senate. . . "In his conduct while President of the United States, George W. Bush, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and to the best of his ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has committed the following abuses of power" The first article Kucinich presented, and many that followed, regarded the war in Iraq: "Article 1 - Creating a secret propaganda campaign to manufacture a false case for war against Iraq." Raw Story


African American students and alumni at Northwestern University - including some graduates of its highly regarded journalism school - are protesting the university's rescission of an honorary degree to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the former pastor of Sen. Barack Obama whose remarks caused headaches for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. In a March letter to Wright, announced on May 1, Northwestern President Henry Bienen wrote that he decided to withdraw the degree in sacred theology because controversy about Wright could disrupt graduation ceremonies, as Jodi S. Cohen wrote May 2 in the Chicago Tribune. The rescission is believed to be the first in the history of the Evanston, Ill., school, founded in 1850. "In light of the controversy surrounding statements made by you that have recently been publicized, the celebratory character of Northwestern's commencement would be affected by our conferring of this honorary degree," Bienen wrote to Wright. . . "This is absolutely outrageous, straight up reactionary politics," said Kevin B. Blackistone, former Dallas Morning News sports columnist newly appointed to a chair at the University of Maryland, and a 1981 Medill graduate. "The president said he was rescinding the offer because he didn't want to detract from the celebratory nature of commencement for graduates and their families. Then why give any honorary degrees at all or have any invited speakers who drone on seemingly forever only to be quickly forgotten? Wright certainly would not have been forgotten. The sound bites that have been used to slay him are exactly what graduates need to hear: a challenge to do differently, if not better. No uncritical yammering from him. Interestingly, James Cone, the theologian who coined the phrase black liberation theology, that frightens so many, called Wright one of the finest practitioners of the craft. Where did Cone get his Ph.D? Northwestern." Journal-isms

Obama thought wearing a flag pin was a bit pretentious, but there appears to be an exception to his reluctance. He showed up at the AIPAC meeting with a pin that featured two joined and equal sized flags: one for America and one for Israel. Well, if you work on Capitol Hill they are equal.

Nevada's scandal-tarred governor has suspended his effort to divorce his wife, after she and her lawyer made veiled suggestions that his effort could force secrets from his past to spill into public view. "You'd have to be a dummy to realize that there aren't implications beyond the divorce itself for her and for him," the attorney for Dawn Gibbons, wife of GOP Gov. Jim Gibbons, told the New York Times late last month. Gov. Gibbons has reportedly come under federal investigation for bribery and corruption allegations from his time as a U.S. congressman. He was accused of sexually assaulting a cocktail waitress in the days before the 2006 gubernatorial election; and his wife has accused him of having a long-running affair with a podiatrist's wife. Gibbons has denied all the allegations. . . The governor will live in the Nevada governor's mansion, and his wife will live in the guest house. The two "will share the Public Areas of the Mansion for their respective Public Duties," the document said. They will coordinate via their staff, according to the agreement. ABC NEWS


Pubs in Yorkshire have been ordered to ban people from wearing flat caps or other hats so troublemakers can be more easily recognized. The Park Hotel in Wadsley, Sheffield, is the latest to be asked to impose the rule by senior police officers. . . The measure, designed to prevent people from obscuring their faces from CCTV cameras, has been questioned by Barnsley's former Test umpire Dickie Bird, 75, well-known for his favoured white flat cap. He said: "Asking a Yorkshireman to take off his flat cap -- whoever heard of anything so silly. . . . "I still wear a flat cap when I go out shopping and often leave it on when I get home and end up sitting watching TV with my cap on They look smart and they keep your head nice and warm." A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said bans on people wearing headgear in public premises had been operated in banks and post offices for years. Telegraph, UK


They are coveted pieces of modern art which fetch up to L1million in auction and are owned by Hollywood royalty. But to one council, murals by the reclusive street artist Banksy appear to be little more than worthless graffiti. For soon after Banksy's latest work appeared on a North London street, conscientious workers from Islington Council have obliterated it, by whitewashing the offending wall. The 4ft by 4ft stencil, set on a lime green background, depicted two young girls sitting at a desk with a Kalashnikov rifle, playing with bullets rather than pencils. The elusive Banksy, with his face hidden, was spotted painting the scene towards the end of last month. But the mural, which would have been worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, was promptly painted over with masonry paint, after residents complained. Mail UK

An Italian couple who were caught having sex in a church confessional box while morning Mass was being said have repented and made peace with the local bishop. . . Their lawyer said they had been drinking all night and realized they had gone too far. The lawyer told the area's local newspaper on Wednesday the couple met with the local bishop on Tuesday night, asked for his forgiveness and that he had given it. Last week the bishop celebrated a "Mass of reparation" in the cathedral where the confessional box incident took place to make up for the sacrilege. Reuters

Vietnamese authorities say they are mystified as to who owns a Boeing 727 which has been abandoned at Hanoi's Noi Bai airport. The plane was flown in from Siem Reap in neighboring Cambodia in late 2007 and has been unclaimed ever since. An airport official told the BBC that they believe the owners could be an airline based in Cambodia. The official said that if it remains unclaimed, the plane will have to be sent for scrap. The plane has a Cambodian flag on its fuselage and is emblazoned with the name Air Dream, but the authorities say they have no information about the airline. Earlier, one security official at Noi Bai airport told the BBC's Vietnamese Service that the plane belongs to bankrupt budget Cambodian airline Royal Khmer, but this is not certain. BBC

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