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Unearthing News the Mainstream Media Forgot to Report

UNEARTHED:

NEWS OF THE WEEK THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA FORGOT TO REPORT

By Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Brendan DeMelle

 

Ashcroft Claims Waterboarding Isn’t Torture

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft told the House Judiciary Committee last week that waterboarding is not torture. Ashcroft also claims waterboarding is more effective than other interrogation techniques and has served a “very valuable” purpose.

“I believe a report of waterboarding would be serious, but I do not believe it would define torture,” Ashcroft testified. He added, “the Department of Justice has on a consistent basis over the last half-dozen years or so, over and over again in its evaluations, come to the conclusion that under the law in existence during my time as attorney general, waterboarding did not constitute torture.”

Republican Representative Howard Coble of North Carolina asked Ashcroft, “Waterboarding, as we all know, is a controversial issue. Do you think it served a beneficial purpose?”

“The reports that I have heard, and I have no reason to disbelieve them, indicate that they were very valuable,” Ashcroft replied, adding that CIA Director George Tenet indicated the “value of the information received from the use of enhanced interrogation techniques — I don’t know whether he was saying waterboarding or not, but assume that he was for a moment — the value of that information exceeded the value of information that was received from all other sources.”
More Details Emerge On How White House Blocked CO2 Cuts

Jason Burnett, a former Bush EPA appointee, told the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming last week that the White House was persuaded by “individuals working for particular oil companies, Exxon Mobil,” and oil industry trade associations to delay and ultimately block EPA’s efforts to regulate CO2 during the remainder of Bush’s term in office.

Burnett said that White House officials initially supported EPA’s efforts to create a framework to regulate CO2 emissions, but reversed course after a carefully choreographed lobbying campaign by representatives from Exxon Mobil, the American Petroleum Institute, and the National Petrochemicals and Refiners Association, who argued that Bush should not undermine his legacy by regulating greenhouse gases. Burnett, the former EPA deputy associate administrator, claims that the coal and oil industries successfully persuaded the White House to block the EPA’s determination that CO2 and other greenhouse gases pose a significant threat to public health and the climate and should be regulated under the Clean Air Act.

Burnett explained to the committee how the electric power industry, particularly the Edison Electric Institute, “thought their members would be better served by getting out in front and actively engaging” regulators trying to shape CO2 standards, “rather than trying to fight what they judge to be inevitable.”

Burnett said he and other EPA staff were ordered by administration officials to downplay the risk of global warming: “We were told . . . that the [document] should not establish a path forward or a framework for regulation, but should emphasize the complexity of the challenge.”

EPA announced last week that the agency has no intention of regulating global warming emissions until after President Bush’s term ends. Days later, the agency issued detailed warnings confirming that global warming poses “substantial” threats to the United States. Heat waves, hurricanes and infectious diseases will increase and “it is very likely” that more people will die during extremely hot periods in future years, with the greatest impacts on the elderly, the poor and those in inner cities, according to the new EPA report.
Closing Coal Plants Benefits Children’s Brain Development

A new study by researchers at Columbia University’s Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) concludes that shutting down coal-fired power plants has a direct, positive impact on infant brain development.

The study, published in the July 14th edition of the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives, tracked the development of two groups of children in China – one in utero while a coal-fired power plant was operating in the city of Tongliang and one in utero after the Chinese government had closed the same plant. The group exposed to coal plant emissions in the womb had significantly lower average developmental scores and reduced motor development at age two than children in the control group with no exposure to the coal plant emissions.

“This study provides direct evidence that governmental action to eliminate polluting coal-burning sources benefits children’s neurodevelopment,” said Dr. Frederica Perera, lead author of the study and Director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health. “These findings have major implications for environmental health and energy policy as they demonstrate that reduction in dependence on coal for energy can have a measurable positive impact on children’s development and health — in China and elsewhere,” said Perara.

Earlier studies conducted by the CCEH on coal’s health impacts found that newborns with high levels of prenatal exposure to air pollution from coal-fired power plants have smaller head circumference at birth, lower growth rate in childhood, and significantly worse performance on developmental tests at two years of age. Additionally, newborns in utero during operation of the coal burning power plant had higher levels of DNA damage due to prenatal exposure to air pollutants than newborns in either New York City or Krakow, Poland.
Green Energy Sector Jobs Surge, Coal Industry Employment Continues Falling

A new report by the Worldwatch Institute confirms that a transition to renewable energy sources will lead to significant global job gains. Meanwhile, coal industry employment continues to plummet. In the United States alone, coal industry employment has fallen by half in the last 20 years, despite a one-third increase in production.

An estimated 2.3 million people worldwide currently work either directly in renewables or indirectly in supplier industries. The solar thermal industry employs at least 624,000 people, the wind power industry 300,000, and the solar PV industry 170,000. More than 1 million people work in the biomass and biofuels sector, while small-scale hydropower employs 39,000 individuals and geothermal employs 25,000.

These figures are expected to swell substantially as private investment and government support for alternative energy sources grow.
Ford Finally Shifts Focus to Offer More Fuel Efficient Vehicles In the U.S.

Ford Motor Company’s two-decade obsession with selling Americans millions of gas-guzzling SUVs and pickup trucks is finally waning. The company announced plans to drastically shift its focus to building more fuel-efficient cars. Ford plans to convert three of its North American assembly plants from producing trucks to cars, and to realign its factories to manufacture more fuel-efficient engines. Ford will also begin domestic production and sales of six of the car models it currently sells only in Europe.

Many Americans are reacting to high gas prices by purchasing smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles, and since Detroit had little to offer to meet those priorities, Japanese automakers have capitalized on surging consumer demand for their more fuel-friendly cars and hybrids.

Ford posted the worst quarterly performance in its history this week, losing $8.67 billion in the second quarter. The company lost $15.3 billion in 2006 and 2007 combined. Ford slashed more than 40,000 jobs in the past three years, and sold off three of its European luxury brands to raise money to cover the losses from declining SUV and truck sales.

The company is faring only slightly better than General Motors, which is facing the possibility of bankruptcy thanks to Detroit’s collective gamble that Americans would keep buying big trucks and that gas would remain cheap. Honda announced record profits for the quarter, and Toyota beat General Motors in worldwide sales in the first half of the year, setting a pace to strip GM of its long-standing title as worldwide auto sales leader.
Judge Restores Endangered Species Act Protections for Yellowstone Wolves

Yellowstone area gray wolves are once again protected by the Endangered Species Act, after a federal district court judge restored the wolf’s endangered status last week. The protections were lifted by the Bush administration earlier this year as ranching and hunting interests prevailed over science. Environmental groups sued the Interior Department and the Fish and Wildlife Service to re-list the species, which faced the possibility of irreparable harm if planned hunts had proceeded this fall, when hunters in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming were set to kill 500 wolves.

The district court judge restored the protections after a review of the science, calling the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to de-list the wolves “problematic.” The judge criticized FWS approval of Wyoming’s plans to allow the wolf population to fall to just eight breeding pairs instead of the 15 pairs the federal government once required based on the science. The judge pointed out that federal authorities previously rejected Wyoming’s plans based on the science and that the FWS move to de-list the wolf “represents an agency change of course unsupported by adequate reasoning.”

Relief for the wolves may be temporary, as the judge’s preliminary injunction could be reversed. Since the Bush administration delisted the wolf in late March, more than 100 wolves have been killed in the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
Wolves Return to Oregon Wilderness

Oregon state officials confirmed last week that the state’s first wolf pack appears to have settled into the Grants Pass area, a century after federally-funded bounty hunters eradicated the species from the west. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf coordinator Russ Morgan identified at least two adults and two pups last week when they answered his early-morning howls in the Umatilla National Forest. The pack likely descended from reintroduced wolves in Yellowstone, and either swam or found a bridge across the Snake River to reach the Oregon wilderness.

Thousands of gray wolves roamed the Rocky Mountains before being slaughtered and eliminated from 95 percent of the lower 48 states by the 1930s. The reintroduction of wolves by the federal government 12 years ago has measurably improved the natural balance in the Northern Rockies and benefited bird, antelope and elk populations, according to NRDC. Wolf tourism contributes at least $35 million to the local Yellowstone area economy each year.
Texas Approves a $4.93 Billion Wind Power Transmission Upgrade

Texas regulators approved a $4.93 billion wind-power transmission project last week, a move that will help ease a transmission bottleneck and deliver far more wind energy to Texas customers. The infrastructure expansion will enable the transport of 18,500 megawatts of electricity from remote west Texas wind farms to the state’s major population centers, providing enough power for 3.7 million homes on a hot day with peak demand.

Currently, some Texas wind turbines are shut off while the wind is blowing because existing transmission capacity can’t handle the load, a problem also hindering wind development in other states. The transmission infrastructure expansion is expected to lower electricity costs, ease pollution and create jobs, while also providing relief for Texans whose electric bills have soared along with rising natural gas prices.

 

White House Tries to Define Contraception As Abortion

Catering to the religious right, Bush administration health officials are attempting to redefine many forms of contraception as abortion. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposes to allow any federal grant recipient to deny a woman’s access to contraception, undermining recent state laws enacted to ensure that women can get contraception when they want or need it.

The federal government previously followed the definition of pregnancy endorsed by the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; both agree that pregnancy begins at implantation. The new regulations would cut off federal funds to hospitals and states where medical providers are obligated to offer legal abortion and contraception to women.

The HHS proposal states that “the conscience of the individual or institution should be paramount in determining what constitutes abortion, within the bounds of reason. … The Department proposes, then, to allow individuals and institutions to adhere to their own views and adopt a definition of abortion that encompasses both views of abortion.”

The regulations would enable anyone working for a federal clinic, or a health center that receives federal funding — even in the form of Medicaid – to deny access to contraception at any time.
Shoddy KBR Electrical Work Threatens Soldiers at U.S. bases in Iraq

Internal Army documents confirm that the Pentagon hid the extent of deaths and injuries from fires and shocks caused by shoddy electrical work by defense contractor KBR on U.S. military bases in Iraq. Soldiers housed on KBR-built bases face much more widespread and dangerous risk of electrocution and fire than the Pentagon and KBR have admitted publicly. While the Pentagon previously reported only 13 electrocutions in Iraq, the documents show that many more have been injured, some seriously, by shocks resulting from poor electrical work. No single document tracks the exact number of deaths and injuries, making it impossible to determine the exact toll from KRB’s shoddy performance.

KBR’s own internal study found a “systemic problem” with its electrical work, although the company denies any link between its work and the electrocutions. Electrical problems are the most urgent noncombat safety hazard for soldiers in Iraq, according to a 2007 Army survey. A log from one Baghdad building complex detailed soldiers complaints of receiving electrical shocks in their living quarters on an almost daily basis.

But the Pentagon did little to address the issue until a Green Beret, Staff Sgt. Ryan D. Maseth, was electrocuted in January while showering. KBR and other contractors have collected millions of dollars to repair and upgrade military facilities in Iraq, including their electrical systems. The documents reveal that KBR and other firms delegated electrical work and other duties to subcontractors who hired unskilled Iraqis who were paid only a few dollars a day.

The Bush administration’s heavy reliance on private contractors in Iraq led to rampant abuse by contractors, particularly KBR which is also accused of overbilling taxpayers, providing unsafe water to soldiers and failing to protect female employees who were sexually assaulted.

Article courtesy of The Huffington Post.

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This Week’s “Unearthed” News from RFK Jr.

* Here’s the latest “Unearthed” news from Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Brendan DeMelle (report courtesy of the Huffington Post).

UNEARTHED:

NEWS OF THE WEEK THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA FORGOT TO REPORT

Supreme Court Slashes Exxon Valdez Judgment

The Supreme Court slashed a $2.5 billion punitive damages award for the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster to just $500 million. An Alaskan jury originally awarded $5 billion in 1994 in punitive damages for the fishermen, Native Americans and residents of Prince William Sound whose lives were devastated by the 11 million gallon oil spill which spoiled 1,200 miles of Alaskan coastline. Exxon Mobil waged a protracted, 14-year legal battle to appeal that award; in 2006 a federal appeals court cut the amount in half to $2.5 billion. Exxon appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, asking the justices to completely reject punitive damages because the company claims it spent $3.4 billion in fines, penalties and cleanup costs related to the accident.

In the court’s 5-3 decision (Justice Samuel Alito was recused since he owns over $100,000 in Exxon stock) Justice David Souter wrote that the Exxon Valdez spill was “profitless” for the company and that the penalty should be “reasonably predictable” in its severity.

Of the 33,000 plaintiffs who were originally eligible to share in the jury award handed down in 1994, 20 percent have died over the course of Exxon’s 14-year appeal.

Surviving plaintiffs will collect an average of about $15,000 a person in punitive damages, one-tenth what they were awarded under the original $5 billion judgment.

Oil still oozes from the beaches in Prince William Sound, continuing to impact the ecosystem which was devastated by the spill that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of seabirds and marine animals. Exxon Mobil’s first-quarter 2008 profits were $10.9 billion. The company’s 2007 profit was $40.6 billion.

 
White House Blocks EPA Draft On Global Warming Emissions

The White House is working to block the Environmental Protection Agency from publishing a document which outlines how the government could regulate global warming emissions under the Clean Air Act while benefiting the economy. The document is based on a multi-year, multimillion-dollar study by EPA and its findings could ultimately serve as a legal roadmap for regulating U.S. global warming emissions.

That is, until it faced review by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. Bush’s OMB is demanding that EPA delete sections of the document that outline how greenhouse gas emissions could be regulated, delete any references asserting that emissions endanger public welfare, and delete an analysis of the benefits to the economy of regulating greenhouse gases here and abroad.

The OMB instead wants the document to suggest that the Clean Air Act is ineffective and that greenhouse gases should be regulated under new legislation. The draft is effectively being held hostage until EPA makes OMB’s changes, since the White House must approve a final draft before EPA can release the document publicly.

The draft EPA document confirms that fuel efficiency could be improved to well above 35 miles per gallon by 2020; CO2 emissions could easily be regulated through the government-permit process and through a cap-and-trade system similar to existing programs for acid rain and mercury; and that overall, the regulations would be beneficial to the U.S. economy.

“The net benefit to society could be in excess of $2 trillion,” according to the draft document.
Polar Scientists Predict Possibility of Open Water at North Pole This Summer

Polar scientists predict that Arctic sea ice could break up and leave a large patch of open water at the North Pole this summer for the first time in human history. Satellite data from recent weeks indicates that the rate of melting is faster than last year, when the Arctic experienced an all-time record loss of summer sea ice.

“From the viewpoint of science, the North Pole is just another point on the globe, but symbolically it is hugely important. There is supposed to be ice at the North Pole, not open water,” said Mark Serreze of the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado. Dr Serreze predicts that “it’s even-odds whether the North Pole melts out” this summer.

Ice scientists are quick to point out the difficulty in predicting exactly how much of the ice will melt this summer, but note that the presence of large amounts of thinner ice formed over a single year is more vulnerable to melting than the normally thick ice formed over many years at the Pole. Global warming has increased average temperatures far more at the polar regions than elsewhere, and the loss of sea ice leads to more dark, open ocean which absorbs more heat and could raise polar temperatures even higher.
BLM Halts Solar Projects Citing Need for Environmental Review

The Bureau of Land Management declared a moratorium on new solar power projects on public land until it studies their potential environmental impact, a process that could take two years and cripple the booming solar industry. Faced with a surge in the number of proposed solar power plants as demand for alternative energy accelerates daily, BLM says it will spend up to two years conducting an extensive study to determine how the solar plants might affect the environment of 119 million acres of public land the bureau oversees in the West, most of which is ideally suited for solar energy.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Holly Gordon, vice president of Ausra, a California-based solar thermal energy company. “The Bureau of Land Management land has some of the best solar resources in the world. This could completely stunt the growth of the industry.”

The moratorium, combined with the uncertain future of federal solar investment tax credits set to expire at the end of the year because Congress has failed to renew them, could stifle solar industry growth and prevent or delay the creation of thousands of jobs in the process. During 2006-2007, when the tax credit was solidly in place and the BLM was calling for projects to be approved in a “timely manner,” the solar installation boom generated 6,000 new jobs and injected $2 billion into the U.S. economy.

Due to BLM’s decision to shelve new proposals until they finish the study, small solar energy businesses may be forced to turn to more expensive private land for development, adding another barrier to the rapid deployment of viable alternative energy sources.
U.S. Mayors Resolve to Avoid Burning Dirty Tar Sands Oil

The U.S. Conference of Mayors adopted a resolution this week discouraging the use of high carbon fuels such as tar sands, liquid coal, and oil shale.

“We don’t want to spend taxpayer dollars on fuels that make global warming worse,” said Mayor Kitty Piercy, of Eugene, Oregon, who submitted the resolution.

The mayors’ resolution discourages participating U.S. cities from purchasing oil derived from the tar sands operations in Alberta, Canada, noting that “… the production of tar sands oil from Canada emits approximately three times the carbon dioxide pollution per barrel as does conventional oil production and significantly damages Canada’s Boreal forest ecosystem – the world’s largest carbon storehouse …”

The process of extracting oil from tar sands also uses more water and requires larger amounts of energy than conventional oil extraction.

“Not only will we give preference to clean, renewable energy sources, we are standing our ground when it comes to synthetic petroleum-based fuels that exacerbate global warming,” said Mayor Marty Blum of Santa Barbara, California.

More than 850 mayors are signatories to the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their respective cities in the absence of federal leadership under the Bush administration.

 

Bush Signs $162B War Spending Bill for Iraq, Afghanistan
President Bush signed a $162 billion war spending bill this week, bringing the amount Congress has provided for the Iraq war since it began in 2003 to more than $650 billion and in Afghanistan to nearly $200 billion.

Those figures don’t represent the total amount spent by the military, however, since a new Congressional Research Service report shows the U.S. government has spent about $700 billion on “military operations, base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans’ health care for the three operations initiated since the 9/11 attacks.” Roughly 75% of that money has been devoted to the war in Iraq, CRS estimates.

 
Afghanistan Civilian Death Toll Rises Sharply

The number of civilians killed in Afghanistan in the first half of 2008 climbed by almost two-thirds compared with last year, according to the United Nations. Nearly 700 civilians have died, demonstrating the instability and violence afflicting the country, which is struggling to deliver emergency aid to civilians. Sixty percent of the casualties were caused by insurgents, while government or foreign troops killed 255 people, the UN said. The causes of 21 other deaths were unclear.

 
U.S. Officials Advised Iraqi Oil Ministry on No-Bid Contracts

The State Department led a team of American advisers who played an integral role in setting up no-bid contracts for five major Western oil companies to develop Iraq’s largest oil fields. Despite earlier claims to the contrary, the Bush Administration had direct involvement in the negotiations to open Iraq’s oil to commercial development, sending U.S. government lawyers and private-sector consultants to Iraq with contract templates and detailed suggestions on how the deals should be drafted. Sources familiar with the proceedings confirmed that representatives of the State, Commerce, Energy and Interior Departments have all aided the Iraqi Oil Ministry on how best to commercialize Iraq’s oil deposits.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice claimed on Fox News earlier this month that “The United States government has stayed out of the matter of awarding the Iraq oil contracts. It’s a private sector matter.”

The no-bid contracts were widely anticipated to be awarded Monday to Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, Total and Chevron, but the Iraqi Oil Ministry balked at the last minute. The Ministry revealed that the Western oil companies demanded to receive a share in the profits from future oil development, rather than cash payments for services rendered which the Iraqi government prefers.

The confirmation of Bush administration meddling in Iraq’s oil dealings leaves little question that the real intent of the invasion of Iraq was to earn American companies a piece of Iraq’s oil endowment.

“We pretend it is not a centerpiece of our motivation, yet we keep confirming that it is,” said Frederick D. Barton, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Despite the fact that other countries provided free advice and services in the past few years to help the Iraqi Oil Ministry prepare to ramp up production, only Western companies have received the bigger oil contracts so far.

 
Scalia Continues to Blame Al Gore for the 2000 Election Debacle

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told the Telegraph (UK) that Al Gore should have conceded the 2000 election without legal action. Scalia played an integral part in stopping the Florida recount, joining four other justices who ruled the recount method impractical and handed the presidency to George W. Bush. Scalia said, “if you don’t like it, don’t blame it on me. I didn’t bring it into the courts. Mr Gore brought it into the courts. So if you don’t like the courts getting involved talk to Mr Gore.”

“So I have no regrets about taking the case and I think our decision in the case was absolutely right. But if you ask me ‘Am I sorry it all happened?’ Of course I am sorry it happened there was no way that we were going to come out of it smelling like a rose. I mean, one side or the other was going to feel that was a politicized decision but that goes with the territory.”

 
KBR Accused of Knowingly Exposing U.S. Troops to Highly Toxic Chemical in Iraq

Defense contractor KBR is accused of knowingly exposing U.S. troops to sodium dichromate, a potentially lethal, carcinogenic chemical. KBR failed to warn 250 U.S. soldiers assigned to guard a crucial part of Iraq’s oil infrastructure that the chemical was present all over the site. Witnesses, including a former KBR employee responsible for health and safety at the site, testified at a Capitol Hill hearing this week that many of the exposed soldiers were “bleeding from the nose, spitting blood,” and getting sick while guarding the plant.

Scientific studies show that even short-term exposure to sodium dichromate – the same chemical that poisoned residents in Hinkley, CA made famous in the movie “Erin Brockovich” – can cause cancer and harm the liver and immune system, among other impacts.

Witnesses at the hearing testified that KBR supervisors initially told the soldiers that sodium dichromate was a “mild irritant,” but finally acknowledged that the chemical was a potentially deadly substance and moved to clean up the site once soldiers starting getting ill.
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More Bush Administration Arrogance

ALL THE NEWS THAT’S UNFIT TO PRINT, EPISODE 3

Hot off the presses…the latest edition of RFK Jr’s “Unearthed” column, for the week ending May 9, 2008.

Here Kennedy covers a vast array of subjects – everything from the Siegleman case to Cheney and Ashcroft’s refusal to testify about U.S. torture tactics; from the head of the EPA being fired for political purposes to depleted uranium being dumped in Idaho; from hundreds of dead ducks turning up in Canada to right-wing talk radio’s domination of the U.S. airwaves; from the oil crisis to American contractors quite literally making out like bandits in Iraq — all with one common thread, the central underlying theme which ties these stories together:

More unprecedented ARROGANCE from the Bush Administration!

In a mad dash to cover their tracks while scooping up all the spoils they can possibly grab before we kick them out of the White House next January, the Bushies seem to be wholly unconcerned with how things look or smell at this point. (A new poll shows that Bush is now the most unpopular president in history, but ask him if he cares.) Yes, they’re openly farting in our faces, and we’re supposed to love it.

Laughing all the way to the bank, these criminals now feel certain that they will never face prosecution or impeachment, so hey – why not take all they can get? After all, we’ve given them a pass, carte blanche’ and a blank check for the past seven years, turning a blind eye to their crimes against humanity. (And that’s not to mention those High Crimes and Misdemeanors.)

So put on your seat belts and gas masks, America. The ride is only going to get rougher and smellier as Bush’s clock runs out.

Did you ever feel like the proverbial frog in a pot of boiling water as the heat is slowly being turned up hotter and hotter? Well, you know what happens then, don’t you?

We must take a stand. We must stop them before they kill again (looks like you’re next, Iran). We must fight back. We must prosecute. We must stop taking “I don’t recall” for an answer. Because if we don’t, we could all wind up as dead as those Canadian ducks RFK Jr. writes about.

It may be too late to impeach (as our Democratic brethren continue to insist) now, but it’s never too late to try them for war crimes at the Hague.

Oh…and there’s no statute of limitations on murder, either.

UNEARTHED:

NEWS OF THE WEEK THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA FORGOT TO REPORT

by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Brendan De Melle

The Huffington Post

EPA Official Ousted For Offending Dow Chemical

At the request of Dow Chemical, the Bush administration forced out one of its own hand-picked EPA regulators on May 1st because she naively attempted to do her job by enforcing the law against Dow. EPA officials told Mary Gade, the federal agency’s top Midwest regulator to step down from her post or be fired by June 1. Bush appointed Gade in 2006, but Gade ran afoul of the White House when she pressured Dow Chemical to clean up dioxin pollution extending 50 miles downstream from the company’s Michigan headquarters. Dow asked EPA headquarters to intervene. In response EPA chief Stephen Johnson’s top deputies repeatedly grilled Gade about the case. When she refused to lay off Dow, they stripped her of her authority and told her to quit or be fired. “There is no question this is about Dow,” Gade said. “I stand behind what I did and what my staff did. I’m proud of what we did.”

Gade was formerly a loyal George W. Bush supporter and adviser. In 2000, she praised then-governor and candidate Bush for his “fresh approach” and “strong leadership.” But her loyalty couldn’t shield her from an administration bent on insulating its chemical industry cronies from public health laws.
Bush’s Misleading Claims About the Arctic Refuge Denied by Federal Officials

President Bush last week repeated his claim that if only Congress had approved his 2002 plan to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge it “would likely mean lower gas prices” today. However, oil industry experts and Bush’s own Energy Department officials say that Bush is greatly exaggerating the theoretical impact that opening the refuge would’ve had on current gas prices. They explained that it takes over a decade to find and develop a new oil field. Furthermore, the oil available in ANWR — even under the most optimistic projections — could supply less than 2% of U.S. demand, an amount that would have a negligible impact on prices at the pump.
Green Construction Could Drastically Slash North American Energy Dependence

Employing existing and emerging green construction practices could cut North America’s deadly fossil fuel dependence faster and more cost-effectively than any other measure, according to a new study by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, a panel erected by the United States, Canada and Mexico. Green construction has immediate paybacks, including “reduced energy costs and water costs as well the indoor health environment and increased productivity of the inhabitants of those buildings,” according to John Westeinde, an advisor on the report. The report found that North America’s buildings release more than 2,200 megatons of CO2, or about 35 percent of the continent’s total. If the construction industry rapidly adopted current and emerging green technologies, that number could be cut by 1,700 megatons by 2030, the report found.
Hundreds of Ducks Die at Canadian Oil Sands Mine

Hundreds of ducks made a fatal landing recently in a tailings pond filled with a witch’s brew of oil and toxic sludge at a northern Alberta tar sands mine. Regulators are investigating why Syncrude Canada — the country’s largest tar sands producer — failed to deploy a system designed to scare off waterfowl. Alberta’s tar sands development has been heavily criticized for huge carbon dioxide emissions, destruction of the boreal forest, and the potential for tailing ponds to contaminate local rivers and waterways.

 
Feds Acknowledge Error On Attempts to Muzzle Siegelman

Former Alabama Governor Don Siegleman, who was falsely imprisoned by Alabama cronies of Karl Rove, and is now released on appeal, was recently placed on a “special offender” list to restrict his right to travel. Siegelman was notified by federal probation officers of the new restriction shortly after he traveled to Washington to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, and appeared on 60 Minutes, the Tavis Smiley Show, and Dan Abrams’ Verdict.

The federal “special offender” designation applies to “Individuals identified or associated with traditional or non-traditional organized crime such as the Mafia, outlaw motorcycle gangs, Asian gangs, prison gangs, etc., persons identified as potential terrorists, kidnappers, members of a supremacy group, major bookmakers, major drug or weapon traffickers, pornographers, sex offenders, armed bank robbers, offenders of high notoriety, or cases similar nature.”

“This basically means I can’t travel out of Birmingham or Montgomery without a lot of red tape, and long delays. For example to travel in some places requires at least 30 days advance approval,” Siegelman said.

But on May 2, federal court officials acknowledged that they erred in classifying Siegelman as a special offender.

“They made an honest mistake,” Redmond said, acknowledging that the restrictions were illegal. “They were giving him conditions for a special offender under probation. He’s not. He’s pretrial.”
Cheney refuses to cooperate with Congressional Torture Investigation, claiming Congress has no authority over vice-president

The lawyer for U.S. vice-president Dick Cheney said Cheney would refuse to allow David Addington, the vice president’s chief of staff, to testify about his involvement in the approval of interrogation tactics used at Guantanamo Bay. The privilege asserted by Cheney’s office recalls his attempt last year to evade rules for disclosing classified documents by claiming that the vice president’s office is a hybrid branch of government that is neither executive nor legislative.
Ashcroft and Yoo Refuse to Testify About Torture

In another imaginative legal claim with dubious constitutionality, two other witnesses sought by Congressman John Conyers, former U.S. attorney general John Ashcroft and former U.S. justice department lawyer John Yoo, claim that their involvement in civil lawsuits related to harsh torture allows them to avoid appearing before Congress. “I am aware of no basis for the remarkable claim that pending civil litigation somehow immunizes an individual from testifying before Congress,” Conyers wrote.
Karl Rove Resists Congressional Request to Testify on His Siegelman Mischief

“The House Judiciary Committee threatened last Thursday to subpoena former White House adviser Karl Rove if he does not agree by May 12 to testify about former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman’s corruption case.

“In a letter to Rove’s attorney, committee Democrats called it ‘completely unacceptable’ that the Republican political strategist has rejected the panel’s request for sworn testimony even as he discusses the matter publicly through the media and op-eds and magazine interviews with tame reporters at GQ, and appearances with the administration’s media poodles on Fox News.

On April 7, MSNBC anchor Dan Abrams reported that Rove’s attorney, Robert Luskin, said Rove would agree to testify if Congress issues a subpoena to him as part of an investigation into the Siegelman case.

Ten days later, committee members invited Rove to appear, citing among other things Rove’s interview with GQ magazine. In that interview, Rove hurled insults at CBS News for airing a 60 Minutes segment on the Siegelman case, called his chief accuser a “lunatic” — but didn’t specifically deny any of the accusations.

In an April 29 letter back to the committee, Luskin changed his position[PDF], arguing that Rove would only appear under the following conditions: “Mr. Rove is prepared to make himself available for an interview on this specific issue with Committee staff. Mr. Rove would speak candidly and truthfully about this matter, but the interview would not be transcribed nor would Mr. Rove be under oath.”

 
Hate-filled Right Wing Radio

Racial slurs abound these days on right wing radio, particularly among the right’s leading shock jocks Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Neal Boortz, Michael Savage and Lou Dobbs. During his May 5 appearance on FOX News, Rush Limbaugh referred to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D), who is Hispanic, as a “shoe shine guy.

A 2007 study of talk radio conducted by the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that in the second quarter of 2007, when right wing radio resorted to spreading fear and hatred in order to defeat immigration reform. Immigration was the #1 topic – representing 16% of all airtime on right wing radio – led by Limbaugh, Hannity, and Savage. Neal Boortz chipped in too, urging listeners to help defeat “this illegal alien amnesty bill” and “yank out the welcome mat.” Speaking of undocumented immigrants he said, “Give ’em all a little nuclear waste and let ’em take it on down there to Mexico. Tell ’em…it’ll heat tortillas.” Michael Savage encouraged his listeners to “burn a Mexican flag” and to “tell them to go back to where they came from.”

Bigotry and Hatred is Good Business

Propped up by the conservative bias among corporate media barons who control the airwaves, right-wing radio now claims 91 percent of U.S. radio airspace. Salon.com reported that “Talk like Savage’s, or Limbaugh’s or O’Reilly’s, has become routine, even systematic, and certainly a big business. According to the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, the top five radio station owners that control the 45 most powerful, 50,000-watt or more radio stations broadcast 310 hours of nationally syndicated right-wing talk. But they broadcast only a total of five hours of countervailing talk.” Meanwhile the public popularity of progressive talk is growing.
Thanks to Right-Wing Corporate Owners Right-Wing Hate Talk Dominates Airwaves

While progressive talk is making inroads on commercial stations, right-wing talk reigns supreme on America’s airwaves. Some key findings:

— In the spring of 2007, of the 257 news/talk stations owned by the top five commercial station owners, 91 percent of the total weekday talk radio programming was conservative, and only 9 percent was progressive.

— Each weekday, 2,570 hours and 15 minutes of conservative talk are broadcast on these stations compared to 254 hours of progressive talk–10 times as much conservative talk as progressive talk.

— 76 percent of the news/talk programming in the top 10 radio markets is conservative, while 24 percent is progressive.
Bush Is the Least Popular President in History

A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll indicates that 71 percent of the American public disapprove of President Bush’s job performance, making him the most unpopular president in modern American history, even less popular than Richard Nixon just prior to his resignation.

“Bush’s approval rating, which stands at 28 percent in our new poll, remains better than the all-time lows set by Harry Truman and Richard Nixon [22 percent and 24 percent, respectively], but even those two presidents never got a disapproval rating in the 70s,” Keating Holland, CNN’s polling director said. “The previous all-time record in CNN or Gallup polling was set by Truman, 67 percent disapproval in January 1952.”

A January poll – conducted on the five-year anniversary of Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” moment on board the USS Abraham Lincoln – found the percentage of Americans who think the U.S. is making progress in Iraq stood at 50 percent. That number has since dropped to 39 percent.

 
Radioactive waste being shipped from Kuwait for Disposal in Idaho

6,700 tons of sand contaminated with depleted uranium and lead is currently being shipped by rail from Longview, Washington to a hazardous waste disposal site in Idaho. The radioactive sand – which was shipped from Camp Doha, a U.S. Army Base in Kuwait – was contaminated with uranium after military vehicles and munitions caught fire during the first Persian Gulf War in 1991. The contaminated sand is destined for burial at American Ecology’s dumping grounds in the Owyhee Desert 70 miles southeast of Boise. The Kuwaiti government wanted no part of the waste which it considered a danger to the Kuwaiti people. Kuwait’s Ministry of Defense contracted Texas-based MKM Engineers Inc. to package and transport the waste back to the United States. MKM then subcontracted with American Ecology to dispose the military waste at its Idaho facility.
Whistleblowers Say Private U.S. Contractors Looted, Stole and Ran a Prostitution Ring

In an investigative report largely ignored by the mainstream media, Mother Jones reports the shocking testimony of three whistleblowers who recently appeared before the Senate’s Democratic Policy Committee (DPC). The whistleblowers told the committee that U.S. private contractors routinely looted Iraqi palaces and ministries, stole military equipment, fenced supplies destined for U.S. troops, and even operated a prostitution ring that may have contributed to the death of fellow contractor.

Barry Halley, a former project manager for Worldwide Network Services, a Washington, D.C.-based firm that was working on subcontract for DynCorp, testified that his site manager in Iraq, who he said was employed by a “major defense contractor,” moonlighted as the leader of a prostitution ring serving American contractors in Iraq. The sex business sideline indirectly caused the death of a colleague. “A co-worker unrelated to the ring was killed when he was traveling in an unsecure car and shot performing a high-risk mission,” he told the committee. “I believe that my co-worker could have survived if he had been riding in an armored car. At the time, the armored car that he would otherwise have been riding in was being used by a manager to transport prostitutes from Kuwait to Baghdad.”

Frank Cassaday, a former contract employee of disgraced Cheney-connected firm KBR told the committee about an ice-stealing operation the company ran “cheating the troops out of ice at the same time that [the foreman in charge was] trading the ice for DVDs, CDs, food, and other items at the Iraqi shops across the street.”

Cassaday also detailed how he was jailed in his tent for two days by KBR security and later transferred to a laundry job because he had reported to KBR superiors that his colleagues were stealing equipment from the U.S. military, including refrigerators, artillery round detonators, two rocket launchers, and about 800 rounds of small arms ammunition.

Another KBR whistleblower, Linda Warren, testifying about her time in Baghdad in 2004, said she was shocked by the number of contractors involved in criminal activity. “KBR employees who were contracted to perform construction duties inside palaces and municipal buildings were looting,” she said. “Not only were they looting, but they had a system in place to get contraband out of the country so it could be sold on eBay. They stole artwork, rugs, crystal, and even melted down gold to make spurs for cowboy boots.” Like Cassaday, KBR superiors punished Warren for speaking up, taking her vehicle away, monitoring her movements, cutting off her access to phones and the Internet, and ultimately transferring her out of Baghdad.
Iraqi Interpreters Who Helped U.S. Are Being Tossed Under the Bus By Bush Administration

The Bush administration is ignoring the plight of Iraqi interpreters who have risked their lives to provide essential help to U.S. soldiers. Interpreters have been kidnapped, tortured and assassinated by insurgents punishing them for working with the U.S. The Bush administration promised them refugee status to bring them here to safety, but has not delivered, leaving them at lethal risk.
Rockefellers Call on Exxon Mobil to Spend More on Oil Alternatives

Descendants of company founder John D. Rockefeller want Exxon Mobil to spend more money on alternative fuels and bar the CEO from also serving as chairman. Sixteen Rockefeller family members are urging fellow shareholders to support four resolutions on the environment and corporate governance at the company’s May 28 annual meeting.
More Record Profits for Oil Barons

Astounding profits in the oil industry are becoming as routine as the anguished looks of motorists filling up their gas tanks, the AP reports.

ExxonMobil, Shell and BP netted almost $13 million an hour combined in the first quarter amid the steepest increase in oil prices since 2000.

Exxon’s revenue climbed 34 percent to $116.9 billion, but Exxon’s 17 percent profit increase lagged behind the gains of 25 percent and 63 percent by Shell and BP. Chevron put yet another exclamation point on the oil patch’s long run of prosperity Friday with a first-quarter profit of $5.17 billion. That was up 10 percent from net income of $4.72 billion last year.

It was the second-highest quarterly profit in the company’s 129-year history and marked the most money that it has ever made during the January-March period. That puts the No. 2 U.S. oil company on track for its fifth straight year of record earnings.

BP posted a 63 percent surge in first-quarter net profit to $7.6 billion, while Shell reported a 25 percent rise, to a record $9.08 billion. ConocoPhillips reported a 16 percent rise in net income to $4.14 billion. Like BP and Shell, the third biggest U.S. producer far outpaced industry expectations.

Republicans Block Federal Aid to Wind and Solar

Tom Friedman of the New York Times reports:

Few Americans know it, but for almost a year now, Congress has been bickering over whether and how to renew the investment tax credit to stimulate investment in solar energy and the production tax credit to encourage investment in wind energy. The bickering has been so poisonous that when Congress passed the 2007 energy bill last December, it failed to extend any stimulus for wind and solar energy production. Oil and gas kept all their credits, but those for wind and solar have been left to expire this December. I am not making this up. At a time when we should be throwing everything into clean power innovation, we are squabbling over pennies.

These credits are critical because they ensure that if oil prices slip back down again — which often happens — investments in wind and solar would still be profitable. That’s how you launch a new energy technology and help it achieve scale, so it can compete without subsidies.

The Democrats wanted the wind and solar credits to be paid for by taking away tax credits from the oil industry. President Bush said he would veto that. Neither side would back down, and Mr. Bush — showing not one iota of leadership — refused to get all the adults together in a room and work out a compromise. Stalemate. Meanwhile, Germany has a 20-year solar incentive program; Japan 12 years. Ours, at best, run two years.

“It’s a disaster,” says Michael Polsky, founder of Invenergy, one of the biggest wind-power developers in America. “Wind is a very capital-intensive industry, and financial institutions are not ready to take ‘Congressional risk.’ They say if you don’t get the [production tax credit] we will not lend you the money to buy more turbines and build projects.”

If the wind and solar credits expire, said Rhone Resch, the president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, the impact in just 2009 would be more than 100,000 jobs either lost or not created in these industries, and $20 billion worth of investments that won’t be made.

While all the presidential candidates were railing about lost manufacturing jobs in Ohio, no one noticed that America’s premier solar company, First Solar, from Toledo, Ohio, was opening its newest factory in the former East Germany — 540 high-paying engineering jobs — because Germany has created a booming solar market and America has not.

 

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