The United States edited out more than 8,000 pages of Iraq's 11,800-page dossier on weapons, deleting potentially embarrassing information about foreign firms involved in supplying weapons-related materials to Iraq from 1975 to 1999. The sanitized version was passed on to the 10 non-permanent members of the United Nations security council, the London Independent reported Dec. 18.
The official US reason for its delay in sharing the complete Iraqi declaration on weapons of mass destruction was to prevent sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands. But an unedited version of the declaration was leaked to a German newspaper -- perhaps directly from Baghdad -- with the information about "150 foreign companies, including some from America, Britain, Germany and France, that supported Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programme." The 24 US corporations listed as supporting various Iraqi WMD programs prior to 1991 include such multinational giants as Honeywell, Semetex, UNISYS, Sperry Corp., Rockwell, Hewlett Packard, DuPont, Eastman Kodak and Bechtel.
Much of this information was initially collected by UN inspectors between 1991 and 1998, but the five permanent members of the Security Council -- the U.S., Britain, Russia, France, and China -- opposed revealing the extent of the companies' involvement in order to not "jeopardize necessary cooperation" from such firms. Michael King of the Austin Chronicle noted that European and Canadian media widely noted the German report. But as of Dec. 23, with the exception of a New York Times dispatch listing the involvement of only two (defunct) US companies, a database search revealed no mention of this story in a single US newspaper.
THIS JUST IN: Dave Zweifel of the Madison, Wis., Capital Times brings to our attention a fact culled from The Week, which got the info from Harper's Magazine: The US spends $50 billion each year safeguarding oil in the Persian Gulf. The estimated value of crude oil products to the US from the region last year was $19 billion. And Max Sawicky, the blogging economist of maxspeak.org, cites Mark Russell: "We know Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. We have the receipts."
KIDS LEFT BEHIND. The White House has reneged on a promise of funding for the "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001," the largest federal program supporting K-12 education. "After months of a rhetorical drum roll underscoring the importance of education, the president has jumped out of a cupcake," said Christopher Edley Jr., co-director of the Civil Rights Project at Harvard. The White House asked for only a $1 billion increase in Title I. That leaves the program $6 billion short of the $18.5 billion needed to fully implement its requirements, such as accountability for improving student test scores and investments in teachers. "Beyond disappointing, given the epidemic of state budget crises and the new federal mandates, this retreat is dangerous," Edley said. States already have cut their education budgets by $22 billion for 2002-03, with more cuts on the way because of revenue shortfalls in the sluggish economy.
COVER-UP VET ON 9/11 PROBE. Before he quit his leadership post, Trent Lott nominated former Navy Secretary John Lehman as a member of the 9/11 investigation commission. But as Navy secretary from 1981 to 1987, Lehman reportedly presided over a cover-up of pedophilia. Wayne Madsen, in the Jan. 3 Bergen, N.J., Record, wrote that Lehman's Navy Department covered up the arrest and conviction of the commanding office of a submarine tracking station at Coos Bay, Ore., on charges including child pornography and lewd acts with minors, including sodomy. After the commander was found guilty by a court martial of 16 counts of sodomy and lewd conduct, reporters were barred from the naval base and the dependents' housing area and a team of Navy counselors, chaplains and child psychiatrists from Bethesda Naval Hospital, who were to fly to Oregon to treat and offer assistance to the young victims and their families, was abruptly ordered to stand down. As reports surfaced of other Navy pedophile rings at Moffett Field Naval Air Station near San Jose, Calif., and US naval bases in the Philippines and at San Diego, some senior naval officers, allegedly including one flag rank officer, were quietly and quickly retired. According to one naval investigator, the Coos Bay arrest opened up a Pandora's box of pedophile cases in the Navy and, according to federal law enforcement officials in Portland, Seattle and Washington, the cover-up of the incidents "went right to the top" -- John Lehman. Madsen, operations officer at Naval Facility Coos Head, Ore., from 1980 to 1982 and assisted the FBI and NIS in the investigation, wrote that the Navy also pressured the state of Oregon and Coos County not to investigate the Coos Bay incident any further.
PRE-EMPTIVE STRIKE. The Republican National Committee took the unusual step of attacking Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., the day after he announced Jan. 2 that he would seek the presidency. "Who is John Edwards?" a Jan. 3 RNC press release asked. "An Unaccomplished Liberal In Moderate Clothing And A Friend To His Fellow Personal Injury Trial Lawyers." The GOP issued a 10-page, footnoted release that questions the first-term senator's adequacy for the job, with headlines such as: "UNACCOMPLISHED AND NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME" and "PROFESSES TO BE A SOUTHERN MODERATE, BUT VOTES LIKE A NORTHEASTERN LIBERAL." The Washington Post noted the GOP has yet to send out similar takedowns of other Democrats running for president. Privately, Republican officials have said that they find Edwards's candidacy particularly threatening because he is undefined. Apparently the RNC wants to do the defining.
NEOCONFEDERATE AT JUSTICE? Trent Lott was bounced from Senate majority leader to Rules Committee chairman, but John Ashcroft remains as attorney general despite his summer 1998 interview with Southern Partisan magazine, where in an article titled "Missouri's Champion of States' Rights and Traditional Southern Values" was quoted, among other things, "Your magazine also helps set the record straight. You've got a heritage of doing that, of defending Southern patriots like [Robert E.] Lee, [Stonewall] Jackson and [Jefferson] Davis. Traditionalists must do more. I've got to do more. We've all got to stand up and speak in this respect or else we'll be taught that these people were giving their lives, subscribing their sacred fortunes and their honor to some perverted agenda. ..."
ANOTHER GOP CONFEDERACY ADMIRER? The White House and the Republican National Committee were trying to stay out of a racial controversy involving a Bush ally who is trying to become chairman of the California Republican Party. Bill Back, the California party's vice chairman running for the top job, sent out a newsletter in 1999 that reproduced an essay by William S. Lind of the Free Congress Foundation that said "history might have taken a better turn" if the South had won the Civil War and that "the real damage to race relations in the South came not from slavery, but from Reconstruction, which would not have occurred if the South had won." The Contra Costa Times, which reported on the e-mail article Jan. 4, quoted Shannon Reeves, the California GOP secretary and an African American, saying: "There's no room for bigotry in the Republican Party, and I don't think there's a lot of room in the Republican Party for people who distribute bigoted information. What's appalling is to have the vice chair of the Republican Party distribute this." Back now says he "strongly" disagrees with the views in the article.
TIME LOVES DICK CHENEY, but Americans aren't so sure. The newsweekly gushed over the VP and the Bush administration in its year-end issue, ignoring its own poll showing a major erosion in public support for the White House, Eric Boehlert noted for Salon.com. The Bush-Cheney relationship was trumpeted as "Partnership of the Year" and a gauzy, heroic painting of the two men took up almost a full two-page spread, while the lead read, "This war has two faces, one a promise, one a growl." Boehlert commented, "You'd think the Time editors and writers had collectively stumbled into a time machine set for 1944. The theme of the package, put together by no fewer than 12 writers and reporters, is that Cheney, with his hard work, discipline, smarts and loyalty ('steady and stalwart') has become 'the most powerful deputy ever' -- and has transformed our president into a much more effective leader." Given short shrift is the mini-scandal arising from Cheney's richly rewarded leadership of the embattled oil-services corporation Halliburton. Its massive asbestos-related liabilities and Cheney's efforts as its CEO to limit asbestos lawsuits are not even mentioned. And Time frames the veep's refusal to reveal which big-oil honchos met with his energy policy task force as revealing only that "there was something garage-floor quirky about him: the master mechanic knows how to build any car by hand, but he doesn't have a clue about how to sell one."
The magazine did slip in a little graphic box on Page 90, at the bottom of the fourth page of the Cheney essay, which suggests Time's readers are far less enamored of the Bush White House: A CNN/Time poll on Dec. 17-18 found that a majority of those polled, 51%, said they did not trust Cheney; just 42% said they did. "For some reason, nowhere in Time's endless, breathless encomium to Cheney can that little detail be found," Boehlert noted. Bush's trust ratings were only slightly better, as just 50% trust him, while 48% do not -- basically a tie, given the poll's margin of error of 3.5%. But that doesn't stop Time from insisting, "Most Americans are inclined to give Bush the benefit of the doubt; they trust his motives and approve of his performance." Boehlert asked, "Most Americans?"
The same poll found that just 55% of Americans approve of the way Bush is handling his job, while 37% disapprove. That would be the lowest approval since 9/11 and rivals his lowest approval ratings since he took office two years ago. Yet Time made no mention of the poll results within the text of its year-end study of the White House. "What's even more astounding," Boehlert noted, "is that Bush's numbers, according to the CNN/Time poll, cratered right after the November midterm elections, which were widely seen as a triumph for the White House. Reading the printed graphics of the Time poll, it appears Bush's approval ratings dropped 7 points between mid-November and mid-December, while his disapproval rating climbed an additional 7 points during the same time frame. In other words, there was a 14-point swing in just 30 days, yet Time doesn't consider that to be newsworthy."
Even more curious, the poll results were not reported on the websites of either CNN or Time.
OOPS THEY DID IT AGAIN. US authorities had to back off yet another terror scare when it was pointed out that there was no evidence to support widespread reports that the feds were looking for five "Arabs" who had slipped into the United States. "Like the posthumous Elvis Presley, Canada's five mysterious terror suspects seem to have popped up everywhere," the Toronto Globe & Mail noted Jan. 4, but while the mysterious men were described as "Arab" or "Middle Eastern," at least one of the photos was traced back to a Pakistani jeweler who had never visited the US and is neither Arab nor Middle Eastern. While the public dutifully responded to the Dec. 29 FBI alert with calls on random foreigners, the nationwide manhunt didn't turn up any leads and finally, Jan. 3, the FBI admitted, in a less-publicized statement, that proof was nowhere to be found: "There is no border-crossing information that would say they're here," FBI spokesman Ed Cogswell said. "And to say they came in from Canada is pure speculation."
Asked what might have triggered the initial FBI allegation about the five Middle Eastern men entering the US from Canada, a senior Mountie told the Globe & Mail: "It was a slow week at the White House. They needed something to stir the pot because nothing was happening in Iraq."
TOWN RESTRICTS CORPORATE RIGHTS. Elected officials of Porter Township, Pa., have passed a law declaring that corporations operating in that township may not claim civil and constitutional privileges that have been used since the late 1800s to override local democratic decisionmaking. A unanimous vote cast on Dec. 9, 2002, evolved from long-time efforts by citizens and public officials to bar corporations from dumping toxic sludge on township lands. The new law declares that corporations allowed to do business within Porter Township, municipality of 1,500 residents in northwestern Pennsylvania, possess none of the human rights that corporations have been wielding to overrule democratic processes and rule over communities. Before the action, Porter Township had, along with nearly a dozen other Pennsylvania municipal governments, adopted a law that allowed them to verify the safety of sewage sludge being applied to land in their town, and levied a "tipping fee" for corporate dumpers. Corporations filed suit, alleging the law violated of corporate civil rights. Meanwhile, sludge producers lobbied the Pennsylvania legislature to pass laws stripping municipalities of their authority to make laws controlling their land -- an effort ultimately thwarted by a coalition of mineworkers, the Sierra Club, the AFL-CIO, and others. In response, Porter Township decided to strengthen its initial law, and voted to eliminate corporate interference in the town's democratic process. As Paul Cienfuegos of Democracy Unlimited (www.moni-tor.net/duhc) writes, Porter and the other townships' actions "evidence a shift of communities away from permitting corporate harms to asserting direct control over corporations." For details, contact the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) at 717-709-0457 or see www.populist.com/news.html.
KILLING THE MESSENGER. The Bush administration has quietly killed off a Labor Department program that tracked mass layoffs by US companies, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Jan. 3. News of the program's termination came only in the form of a single paragraph buried within a Christmas Eve press release about November's mass layoffs. The final monthly tally showed US employers initiated 2,150 mass layoffs (firing at least 50 people) in November, affecting 240,028 workers. Between January and November, 17,799 mass layoffs were recorded and nearly 2 million workers were handed their hats by businesses. Coincidentally, the same program was suspended in 1992 by the first President Bush amid election-year charges that he had bungled handling of the economy. The Clinton administration resuscitated the program two years later. ,
GATT-ZILLA EATS FLIPPER! The Bush administration sought to bury the news that it had weakened a US dolphin protection law over the New Year's holiday under orders from the World Trade Organization, which ruled in 1991 that the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) made the US dolphin protection an illegal trade barrier. "Our government has persisted in telling us that these trade deals will not and cannot undermine domestic environment laws -- but here is the smoking dolphin," said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch. On New Year's Eve, the Commerce Department quietly announced a change in the definition of the "dolphin safe" label that has been required on tuna sold in the United States since the late 1980s. That label, required under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, indicated that no tuna were caught using encirclement nets that had killed millions of dolphins in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. Under the new definition encirclement nets can be used if a single observer on a football field-length tuna trawler did not witness a dolphin death. "Calling tuna caught using mile-long encirclement nets 'dolphin safe' is a consumer fraud and that fraud has been brought to you by global trade rules under which the United States was instructed to weaken its law," said Wallach.
NEW AXIS OF EVIL? A European investigation into al Qaeda financing has found evidence that governments of Liberia and Burkina Faso in Africa hosted senior al Qaeda operatives who oversaw a $20 million diamond-buying spree that effectively cornered the market on the region's precious stones. Investigators concluded that President Charles Taylor of Liberia received $1 million for arranging to harbor the operatives, who were in the region for at least two months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon. The terrorists moved between a protected area in Liberia and the presidential compound in neighboring Burkina Faso, investigators say. US televangelist Pat Robertson also has financial ties to Liberia's Taylor, a notoriously brutal dictator, signing a deal in 1999 for Freedom Gold, in which both men have shares, to mine in southeastern Liberia.
DEMS MUST BLOCK RIGHT-WING JUDGES. Benjamin Sachs, a labor lawyer writing in the Baltimore Sun Jan. 1, said Senate Democrats should demand that Sen. Trent Lott's candidate for the federal court of appeals, Charles Pickering, not be renominated. Mr. Pickering was blocked last year by the Democratic-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee after it emerged that he bent the law and abused his role as trial judge in order to give a lenient sentence to a cross burner. Senate Democrats also must fight to preserve the longstanding "blue slip" prerogative through which senators can withhold approval of judicial nominees from their home states. During Bill Clinton's presidency, Republicans used the blue slip to block countless nominations. But new Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah is suggesting that he will ignore the blue slip rule and gavel through quick reviews of Bush's picks for courts of appeals. Democrats also must maintain a strong presence on the Senate Judiciary Committee and respond to the partisan obstructionism practiced by the Republicans during the Clinton presidency, when, the GOP blocked at least 12 highly qualified appeals court nominees simply in order to maintain vacancies for a Republican president. Sachs wrote that the Democrats should demand that Mr. Clinton's blocked nominees get confirmed before Mr. Bush puts another conservative ideologue on the bench. Until this happens, Senate Democrats should use whatever tools are available to them to keep Mr. Bush's ideological nominees off the courts. Finally, if Mr. Bush nominates a new Supreme Court justice -- a very real possibility, given the likely retirements of either Justice William H. Rehnquist or Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (or both) -- the Democrats should filibuster, if necessary, any extremist nominees. "Neither the president nor the GOP in Congress has the public's approval to stack the courts with right-wing ideologues, and it is up to the Democrats to make sure that this does not happen, he wrote.
BUSH 'LIES' ABOUT RECESSION. When George W. Bush said in his final radio address of 2002 that the economy "was pulling out of a recession that began before I took office," Daniel Gross wrote in Slate.mns.com that "Bush concluded 2002 with the same dishonesty that defined his economic policy throughout the year -- a mendacity that ranged from denying the tax cut had anything to do with the re-emergence of the deficit to arguing that the terrorism insurance bill would create 300,000 construction jobs." In fact, Gross noted, the economy was not in recession when Bush took office on Jan. 20, 2001. "Yes, growth was slowing, and the longest expansion in American history was running out of steam. But the US economy did not go into recession until Bush's presidency, according to both of the most accepted definitions. One definition of recession is two consecutive quarters with a declining gross domestic product. By this measure, the economy was explicitly not in recession when Bush took the oath of office on Jan. 20, according to the Commerce Department. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the official arbiter of recessions and expansions, the recession did not begin until after President Clinton left office. According to NBER, the economy peaked and started shrinking in March 2001, two months after the Bush presidency began.
FAITH HEALER ON FDA PANEL. Dr. W. David Hager, a University of Kentucky obstetrician-gynecologist who believes in Scripture readings and prayers for such ailments as headaches and premenstrual syndrome was among 11 physicians appointed Dec. 24 to the Food and Drug Administration's Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs. Hager has sought to reverse the panel's 1996 recommendation that led to approval of the abortion pill, RU-486, has condemned the birth-control pill and acknowledges he is anti-abortion. The Planned Parenthood Federation of America on Tuesday called the appointment of Hager and other doctors on the panel a "a frontal assault on reproductive rights that will imperil women's health."
WORKERS FIND INSURANCE UNPAID. California regulators are considering requiring insurers to notify patients when employers fall behind on health insurance premiums after receiving more than two dozen complaints from workers who found they were liable for medical care that was supposed to be insured. USA Today reported Dec. 13 that one of them was Jack Perry, 54, a salesman from Merced, Calif., who was stunned when he started getting medical bills for a surgery he'd had weeks earlier to open clogged arteries in his legs. With the tab climbing toward $20,000, the Merced, Calif., salesman repeatedly called insurer Blue Cross until he got an answer: His employer had stopped paying premiums without telling workers. Regulators expect to see more such cases as a combination of rapidly rising health insurance premiums and a stagnant economy hit small and midsize businesses. Some employers struggle to pay premiums, but fall behind. If insurance is canceled, workers might not find out until claims bounce.
GM EXPANDS -- IN CHINA. General Motors signed an agreement on Friday to invest in a $109 million auto plant in eastern China, the US auto giant's fourth in the world's fastest growing car market, Reuters reported Dec. 21.
BATTLEFIELD CONVERSION. Guess who wrote this 1997 article entitled "Keep Big Brother's Hands off the Internet"?
"The Clinton administration would like the Federal government to have the capability to read any international or domestic computer communications. The FBI wants access to decode, digest, and discuss financial transactions, personal e-mail, and proprietary information sent abroad -- all in the name of national security. To accomplish this, President Clinton would like government agencies to have the keys for decoding all exported U.S. software and Internet communications.
"This proposed policy raises obvious concerns about Americans' privacy, in addition to tampering with the competitive advantage that our US software companies currently enjoy in the field of encryption technology. Not only would Big Brother be looming over the shoulders of international cyber-surfers, but the administration threatens to render our state-of-the-art computer software engineers obsolete and unemployed.
There is a concern that the Internet could be used to commit crimes and that advanced encryption could disguise such activity. However, we do not provide the government with phone jacks outside our homes for unlimited wiretaps. Why, then, should we grant government the Orwellian capability to listen at will and in real time to our communications across the Web?
The protections of the Fourth Amendment are clear. The right to protection from unlawful searches is an indivisible American value. Two hundred years of court decisions have stood in defense of this fundamental right. The state's interest in effective crime-fighting should never vitiate the citizens' Bill of Rights.
So who is this crusading author, this champion of privacy rights and individual liberties? Why, John Ashcroft , of course. (Spotted at Tom Tomorrow's thismodernworld.com.)