Friday, July 11, 2008

The Week That Should Have Ended McCain's Presidential Hopes

The Week That Should Have Ended McCain's Presidential Hopes

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This is the week that should have effectively ended John McCain's efforts to become the next president of the United States. But you wouldn't know it if you watched any of the mainstream media outlets or followed political reporting in the major newspapers.

During this past week: McCain called the most important entitlement program in the U.S. a disgrace, his top economic adviser called the American people whiners, McCain released an economic plan that no one thought was serious, he flip flopped on Iraq, joked about the deaths of Iranian citizens, and denied making comments that he clearly made -- TWICE. All this and it is not even Friday! Yet watching and reading the mainstream press you would think McCain was having a pretty decent political week, I mean at least Jesse Jackson didn't say anything about him.

But let's unpack McCain's week in a little more detail.

1. McCain unambiguously called Social Security "an absolute disgrace." This is not a quote taken out of context. John McCain called one of the most successful and popular government programs, which uses the tax revenues of current workers to support retirement benefits for the elderly "an absolute disgrace." This is shocking - and if uttered from Obama's mouth would dominate the news coverage and the Sunday shows, as pundits would speculate about the massive damage the statement would cause him among retirees in Florida.

2. McCain's top economic policy adviser calls Americans a bunch of "whiners" for being worried about the slumping economy. Words cannot fully explain how devastating this statement should be from Phil Gramm. You would think it would be enough to sink McCain's campaign. Of course McCain only thinks that the economic problems are psychological.

3. Iraqi leaders call for a timetable for U.S. withdrawal, McCain gets caught in a bizarre denial and flip flop. The Iraqis now want us to begin planning our withdrawal - McCain however wants to stay foooorrreeevvveerrrr. So what does McCain say - First, he refuses to accept Maliki's statement as being true. Then he concedes that it was an accurate statement, but was probably just a political ploy to curry favor with his own people and WOULD NOT influence his determination to keep US troops in Iraq indefinitely. Yet, McCain in 2004 at the Council on Foreign Relations said that if the Iraqis asked us to leave, we would have to go. No matter what. But that was apparently a younger and less experienced John McCain.

But let's just look at his comment that Maliki's statement is "just politics." If that is true, then it must also be true that the American military presence in Iraq is so unpopular with Iraqis that the government is forced to push for a timetable in order to survive at the ballot box. That's a reason to stay for 100 years.

4. McCain's economic plan to cut the deficit has no details and is simply not believable. There are so many things here. McCain pledges he would eliminate the deficit by the end of his first term (the campaign latter flip flop flipped about whether it was four years or eight years), but does not provide any details about how he would do it.defense spending on manpower (200,000 more troops) and d) maintain a long-term sizable military presence in Iraq.

5. McCain's deficit plan includes bringing the troops home represents a major Iraq flip-flop.
Speaking of the long-term military presence - a story that has gotten absolutely no attention is that McCain now believes the war will be over soon. The economic forecasts made by his crack team of economists predict that there will be significant savings during McCain's first term because we will have achieved "victory" in Iraq and Afghanistan. The savings from victory (ie the savings from not having our troops there) will then be used to pay down the deficit. The only way this could have any impact on the deficit in McCain's first time is if troop withdrawals start very soon. So McCain believes victory is in our grasps and we can begin withdraw troops from Iraq pretty much right away -- doesn't sound that different from Obama's plan does it. Someone should at least ask McCain HOW HE DEFINES VICTORY - and why he thinks we will achieve it in the next couple of years. Economists on both sides of the political aisle said that this was simply not believable, especially given McCain's other proposals to a) cut individual and corporate taxes even further, b) extend the Bush tax cuts and c) massively increase

6. McCain campaign misled about economists support. In the major press release the McCain campaign issued to tout its Jobs for America economic plan that would balance the budget in 4 years, it included the signatures of more than 300 economists who the campaign claimed to support the plan. Only problem is that the economists were actually asked to sign up to SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. Um, hello?

7. McCain makes a joke about killing Iranians. Haha... that's just McCain being McCain. I am sure that is exactly how it is being reported in Tehran. This guy is running for President not to become a talk radio pundit. Yet according to the AP this was just a humanizing moment between candidate and spouse - I am not sure when joking about the deaths of civilians became humanizing.

8. McCain denies, flatly, that he ever said that he is not an expert in economics. Are you kidding?

9). McCain distorts his record on veterans benefits in response to a question from Vietnam Veteran, who then proceeds to call McCain out on it.

10.) McCain demonstrates he knows nothing about Afghanistan and Pakistan. McCain said "I think if there is some good news, I think that there is a glimmer of improving relationship between Karzai and the Pakistanis." Pat Barry notes how crazy this comment is..."Just what "glimmer" is McCain talking about?? Maybe he's referring to President Karzai's remarks last month, which threatened military action in Pakistan if cross-border attacks persisted? Or maybe McCain is talking about Afghanistan's allegations that Pakistan's ISI was involved in a recent assassination attempt on Karzai? Maybe in McCain's world you could call that a silver-lining, but in reality-land I'd call it something else."

Any one of these incidents and comments would dominate the news cycle if they came from the Obama campaign. Yet McCain barely gets a mention. The press like to see themselves as political referees - neutral observers that call them like they see em'. But they want this to be a horse race and so all the calls right now are going one way. How else can you explain the furor last week over the Obama "refine" comment - which represented zero change in Obama's position on Iraq - and the "swift boat" mania over Wesley Clark's uncontroversial comments (psss... by the way McCain exploits his POW experience in just about every ad - yet he says he doesn't like to talk about it).

This Sunday expect the ten incidents above to get short shrift from pundit after pundit, because after all Jesse Jackson said he wanted to cut Obama's nuts off.

The Unitary Executive Congress

The Unitary Executive Congress

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On Wednesday July 9, the Senate voted to pass the FISA Amendments Act. This was a new law the Democratic majority in Congress had opposed in principle for the last five months in defiance of President Bush. They had suffered no political harm for taking the stand. Indeed, they defied him with as much success here as in opposing the privatization of social security. The collapse of the Democratic leadership on FISA was thus a sheer political calculation; yet the panic of the reversal ran ahead of any visible threat. It betrayed an embarrassment at the leadership's complicity with the president -- but in a manner that only increases the embarrassment and only tightens the complicity.

The collapse also reflected a weakness of collective character. The fourth amendment sets up a law no executive may stand above: a law that forbids the trawling by the government for information against citizens without probable cause. It says every warrant must be supported by an oath or affirmation which particularly describes the place to be searched, and the things to be seized. Under pressure (but a very general not a particular pressure), the Democrats showed that, for them, the fourth amendment is dispensable in a way in which social security is not dispensable.

The new law has these important effects: (1) It reaffirms the president's right to order individual taps as well as massive data mining, on foreign targets and on American citizens with foreign contacts whom the president finds suspicious. (2) It extends from three days to a week the period during which he can spy on a person or many people, abroad or in this country, without telling anyone. (3) It contracts the authority of the FISA court from approval of individual warrants to approval of the general procedures used in surveillance. (4) It replaces the FISA court, as the single approver of individual warrants, with the inspectors general at the government agencies and departments; most of all (it would seem) the inspector general of the NSA. (5) It narrows the investigation around the telecom immunity lawsuits from a sifting for possible violations of the law by the president in seeking warrantless wiretaps -- and by the telecoms in supplying those wiretaps -- to the bare question whether the president had attached a note from a legal authority in requesting help with his searches and seizures. Not "Was it illegal and did the president and telecoms know it was illegal?", but rather, "Did he get a lawyer to sign for it?" has become the question for a court to decide. (6) Not the FISA court but a district court will answer that question for all the lawsuits covering the years 2001-2005.

The public controversy has centered on the campaign by libertarian groups against immunity for the telecoms. But the catastrophe of this legislation resides in title I: the content of items (3) and (4). The power of approval, inspection, and denial of warrants has, under the terms of the new law, swung over almost entirely from the FISA court to the various inspectors general.

There are good and less good inspectors general. But taken as a body, and compared to a special intelligence court, they make a precarious, accidental, and arbitrary means of oversight, a nugatory check (devised for its impotence) on operations as massive as those we have seen this president commandeer. Last year the inspector general at the department of justice, Glenn Fine, brought to light some failures of FBI compliance with the law on National Security Letters: an appropriate service to the public good by an inspector general which nobody else could have performed. It may also be remembered that Stuart Bowen, the IG for Iraqi Reconstruction, has spoken of some abuses of the easily manipulated system of contracting in Iraq; but here we come to another pitfall. For Bowen, when appointed, was an old personal associate of George W. Bush, an adviser in Texas who became counsel to the Bush transition in 2000. Would an Iraq IG less closely tied to the president have made different and larger discoveries about American reconstruction? Again, an IG may come under illicit pressure within his own department, as John Helgerson at the CIA recently found. In October 2007, in an astonishing arrogation of power, Michael Hayden, the director of the CIA, launched an investigation of Helgerson. Would the effect of such discipline not be to intimidate all but the boldest inspectors? Consider, finally, the current inspector general at the Pentagon, Gordon Heddell. He splits his time there with the other job he holds as inspector general of the department of labor. What double after-hours will Heddell be working at the Pentagon, to ferret out the truth in recent charges of fraudulent contracts and corruption? Or was he chosen and then permitted the double position with precisely the hope that he would not work too hard at the Pentagon?

The slide in oversight from a court with many judges to the determinations of inspectors generals is no small part of the new FISA law. It is the central structure of an enfeebled system of checks. This was not what the American founders had in mind when they passed the fourth amendment after having framed article I of the Constitution.

It cannot be repeated too often that there was no deficiency in the existing FISA procedure. Over 30 years, the FISA court had authorized more than 19,000 wiretaps, and had refused only five. The use of FISA warrants was as a formal check more than an active restraint; but it was a check the president risked many honorable careers to overthrow. Why? What drove the president's men with such persistent and hidden resolve? Only one motive that can possibly explain the actions. They were interested in a kind and a scope of mining and trawling which they knew would be greeted with alarm by the FISA court. They thought it would be certainly disapproved and perhaps brought to light. Why were they so sure they would not pass the test 19,000 earlier warrants had passed? Because particular descriptions and probable cause were missing, in even the broadest understanding of those terms. That is what the lawsuits would have discovered.

All this Barack Obama knew well. He vowed many times that he would filibuster against the FISA Amendments Act. He had FISA in mind when he said in the most stirring words of his campaign: "I have taught the Constitution, I understand the Constitution, and I will obey the Constitution when I am President of the United States." But on Wednesday, given the opportunity to filibuster, he voted to close off filibuster. Given the chance to compel another president to obey the Constitution, he joined his party and gave the president a retroactive excuse. All together, they asked George W. Bush please not to break the law again.

Here are those who voted to resist the enlargement of powers and the institution of legal immunity for the president:

Akaka (D-HI)

Biden (D-DE)

Bingaman (D-NM)

Boxer (D-CA)

Brown (D-OH)

Byrd (D-WV)

Cantwell (D-WA)

Cardin (D-MD)

Clinton (D-NY)

Dodd (D-CT)

Dorgan (D-ND)

Durbin (D-IL)

Feingold (D-WI)

Harkin (D-IA)

Kerry (D-MA)

Klobuchar (D-MN)

Lautenberg (D-NJ)

Leahy (D-VT)

Levin (D-MI)

Menendez (D-NJ)

Murray (D-WA)

Reed (D-RI)

Reid (D-NV)

Sanders (I-VT)

Schumer (D-NY)

Stabenow (D-MI)

Tester (D-MT)

Wyden (D-OR)

Of course, Obama was making a political calculation. And he did not pretend to be happy with his vanishing from that list. Still, on two important points he contributed unnecessarily to misinform the public regarding the nature of the new law. He pretended it was a compromise. In fact, as Senator Feingold plainly said and as Christopher Bond gloated, it was a capitulation. Obama also shaded the truth without making a false statement when he assigned as a reason for his vote that the law was needed to renew warrants that would expire in August. The false inference was that the U.S. would be left in some degree defenseless if the law did not pass in its present form. But other ways could have been found of renewing the warrants; a president who did not use them would be to blame for the consequences.

The value of defending a principle in politics is that, even if you lose the contest, a truth has been told. Some people have heard and been moved, and in that way something has been gained. The swindle, on the other hand, of purely political calculation is that all its value depends on winning. Lose, and you have lost more than a contest; you have weakened your attachment to the best reasons you ever claimed for fighting.

Calculation also may miscalculate. Obama's switch to the majority against the fourth amendment buys him credit for prudence and reliable moderation among the people who reward such virtues in the mainstream media (and in the corporations that back them). But this bill was in no danger of not passing; enough Democrats had safely gone over without Obama's help. But it also seems possible that there were voters in places like Ohio and Michigan who were slow to trust him and were waiting to see. Some of those voters surely felt, as many Americans everywhere feel, a strong revulsion from the president's aggrandizement of power. They were looking for a candidate to speak and act against an administration that governs by fear.

A candidate who hopes to change a wrong policy that has sunk deep roots in the political establishment must educate public opinion to support the change. That education is a long process; if you begin it on the day you take office, you have begun too late. Lincoln, throughout the 1850s, told the voters he was a moderate and that the Compromise of 1850 was worth abiding by. We have to obey the Fugitive Slave Law, he said, even though we know that slavery is wrong. But when the Dred Scott decision was handed down in 1857, he made the speech of a great educator, saying that every inference from that decision was wrong; and though he did not counsel disobedience, he chose the occasion to assert his disbelief in the premise that the rights of the slave holder to his property superseded the rights of a black man under the Constitution. He drew a line, then and there, and showed the character of the decisions he would support.

Obama appeared to have drawn his constitutional line at FISA (as he appears to have drawn his foreign-policy line at the war in Iraq). With his shift on FISA, he has kicked up dirt, this way and that around the line. It is impossible to see where he drew it any more.

Hurting, Not Whining

Hurting, Not Whining

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Yesterday, in an interview with the Washington Times, former Sen. Phil Gramm, the so-called "econ brain" of presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), remarked that the United States has "sort of become a nation of whiners." "Thank God the economy is not as bad as you read in the newspaper every day." "You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession," he said. Yesterday afternoon, McCain said that Gramm "does not speak for me," despite the fact that Gramm's comments mirror what McCain said in April: "A lot of our problems today, as you know, are psychological." Gramm's apparent desire to keep to a minimum discussion of the real and painful effects of the nation's stalling economy is not surprising, given that he shares the same harmful conservative ideology as McCain and Bush. Gramm played a key roll in gutting many of the institutions designed to keep the economy sound. Serving Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee between 1999 and 2001, he "routinely turned down Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Arthur Levitt's requests for more money to police Wall Street." Later, he "pushed to end oversight" of energy futures trading for a key campaign contributor and his wife's onetime employer, Enron. Around the same time, "Gramm pushed through a historic banking deregulation bill that decimated Depression-era firewalls between commercial banks, investment banks, insurance companies, and securities firms." The financial maneuvers enabled by Gramm's legislative measures would become "the heart of the subprime meltdown." More recently, it was revealed that Gramm was "being paid by a Swiss bank to lobby Congress about the U.S. mortgage crisis at the same time he was advising McCain about his economic policy." But while Gramm is able to insulate himself, and even profit from, the negative effects of his legislative and lobbying record, the vast majority of Americans are not so fortunate. Here are 10 real examples of how Americans are hurting in the current economy:

HOUSING FORECLOSURES INCREASING: As a result of the subprime lending crisis, "housing foreclosures nationwide were up 50% in June compared with the same month in 2007." In California alone, foreclosures have reached an average of 500 per day.

HOMELESSNESS INCREASING: The number of homeless people in America over the age of 50 is "steadily increasing."

HEALTHCARE COSTS RISING: According to a report by the Government Accountability Office, "health-care costs are growing much faster than the economy." Costs are rising so significantly, some Americans are delaying retirement.

GAS PRICES RISING: The national average gas price is $4.09, up 33 percent from this time last year. Gas prices are now expected to hit "$4.25 by the fall and then stay at more than $4 a gallon until the end of 2009."

JOB LOSSES INCREASING: In the first six months of this year, a total of 438,000 jobs have been lost, bringing unemployment to 5.5 percent. The CEO of Bank of America commented, if unemployment continues to rise, "all bets are off."

FOOD COSTS RISING: "U.S. food prices rose 4 percent in 2007" -- the fastest rise in 17 years -- and as a result, food stamps have considerably less buying power.

HEATING AND ELECTRICITY COSTS RISING: Heating oil costs across the North are expected to be "up 60 percent from last year," and utilities across the country are "raising power prices up to 29%."

REAL WAGES DECLINING: "Slower wage growth and faster inflation has led to falling real hourly and weekly earnings for most workers."

LEISURE SPENDING DECLINING: As a result of the rising cost of living, Americans are "tightening their belts and thinking twice about spending extra bucks on entertainment and leisure products."

VALUE OF DOLLAR DECLINING: The dollar "has been declining steadily for six years against other major currencies, undercutting its role as the leading international banking currency."

Israel hints at pre-emptive attack on Iran

Israel hints at pre-emptive attack on Iran

By Rupert Cornwell

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The sabre-rattling over Iran's nuclear progamme has grown louder as a defiant Tehran claimed to have conducted missile tests for a second day running, the US warned that it would defend its interests and its allies in the region, and Israel hinted it was ready to stage a preventive attack to destroy Iranian nuclear installations.

With the latest tests – and the wide front-page coverage given to them by the national media – Tehran is signalling it will not be cowed by international pressure to end a programme which the West suspects is aimed at producing nuclear weapons, and that any attack by the US or Israel will be answered in kind.

The tests, including launching the 1,250-mile range Shahab-3 missile that can hit Israel, should be "a lesson to our enemies", the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard was quoted as saying. But some of the talk may be bravado. Pentagon officials told CNN that surveillance suggested only a single missile was fired yesterday, apparently one that failed to launch on Wednesday.

Even so, the show of strength drew an unprecedentedly blunt response from Washington and Israel. No one should doubt US resolve, said Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, on a visit to Georgia. "We are sending a message to Iran that we will defend American interests and the interests of our allies."

More ominously, Ehud Barak, the Israeli Defence Minister, noted pointedly that while diplomatic pressure remained the preferred way of persuading Iran to halt uranium enrichment, Israel "has proved in the past it is not afraid to take action when its vital security interests are at stake".

Not by coincidence, the country also put on display one of its state-of-the-art Eitam spy aircraft, whose intelligence-gathering abilities would be vital in any co-ordinated assault on Iran's nuclear installations. This latest publicity only reinforces the message sent by Israel's recent military air exercises over the eastern Mediterranean, widely seen as a dress rehearsal for such an attack.

Most analysts believe that for all bellicose talk, a pre-emptive attack, by the US at least, is most unlikely. "Everyone recognises what the consequences of a conflict would be," the Defence Secretary Robert Gates warned, among them possible closure of the oil lifeline through the Strait of Hormuz, the risk of generalised war in the Middle East and immense new strains on the fragile global economy.

Pentagon commanders too do not want to plunge the country's overstretched armed forces into another war. An attack would be "extremely stressful" for US forces, Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the country's top uniformed officer, warned a few days ago.

But the jitters have been increased by the political calendar in Washington and Jerusalem. From a US perspective, if the Bush administration is to strike, it probably has to do so before the general election campaign moves into high gear this autumn. The possibility – many would say likelihood – that the next President will be the Democrat, Barack Obama, who favours negotiation with Iran, only heightens the urgency for anti-Iran hawks.

In Jerusalem, a corruption scandal could bring down the Mr Omert's government in September. This is another reason for Israel, if it is determined to go ahead, to act sooner rather than later, even alone and without the explicit collaboration of the US.

Crude Oil Rises to Record on Speculation Israel May Attack Iran

Crude Oil Rises to Record on Speculation Israel May Attack Iran

By Alexander Kwiatkowski

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Crude oil rose more than $4 to a record on concerns that Israel may be preparing to attack Iran, while a strike in Brazil and renewed militant activity in Nigeria threaten to cut supplies.

Oil rallied to a record high of $145.98 a barrel after the Jerusalem Post said Israeli war planes practiced over Iraq, adding to speculation the country is preparing to attack Iran. A Brazilian union said it plans a five-day strike on platforms that pump 80 percent of the country's crude and Nigerian militants pledged to renew attacks on oil facilities.

‘‘Iran and Nigerian political woes dominate proceedings,'' said Robert Laughlin, senior broker at MF Global Ltd. in London. ‘‘Traders are wary of continuity of physical oil supplies.''

Crude oil for August delivery rose as much as $4.33, or 3.1 percent, to an all time high of $145.98 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange and was trading at $145.17 at 12:25 p.m. in London.

Israeli war planes are conducting maneuvers in Iraqi airspace and using U.S. airbases in the country, possibly practicing for a strike against Iran, the newspaper reported, citing comments by Iraqi officials in local media. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev denied the report.

Iran, OPEC's second biggest producer, this week tested missiles capable of reaching Israel.

Brent crude oil for August settlement rose as much as $4.37 a barrel, or 3.1 percent, to $146.40 a barrel and was trading at $145.66 at 12:25 p.m. local time on London's ICE Futures Europe exchange.

Falling Stockpiles

Yesterday, the contract gained $5.45, or 4 percent, to $142.03 a barrel. Prices climbed to a record $146.69 on July 3.

Oil may rise next week because of threats to supply from Iran and Nigeria and falling stockpiles in the U.S., the biggest energy-consuming country, according to a Bloomberg News survey.

About 4,500 employees of state-controlled Petroleo Brasileiro SA will take part in a protest on platforms in the offshore Campos basin to get full pay for the day they return to the mainland after a 14-day shift at sea, a union official said yesterday.

Iran has ignored United Nations efforts to halt its uranium-enrichment program and says further sanctions won't affect its plans to develop nuclear energy. The U.S. has led international efforts to force Iran to give up enrichment because of concern the technology may be used to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran's Exports

The standoff has led to concern that Iran may come under attack from the U.S. or Israel, disrupting exports from OPEC's second-biggest producer.

‘‘You could survive with one of these factors, but if they come all at the same time it will drive prices up,'' said Thina Saltvedt, an analyst at Nordea Bank AB in Oslo. ‘‘As soon as violent attacks increase in Nigeria it is a threat to production.''

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said attacks will resume on oil facilities. The Nigerian militant group said it will call off its unilateral cease-fire beginning midnight on July 12.

MEND's attacks on pipelines and other installations have cut more than 20 percent of Nigeria's oil exports since 2006. MEND says it is fighting for a greater share of oil wealth for the impoverished inhabitants of the Niger Delta.

The group declared a cease-fire after a June 19 attack on Royal Dutch Shell Plc's Bonga deep-water oilfield, located 120 kilometers (75 miles) offshore that cut 190,000 barrels a day of oil output.

US foreclosure filings rose 53 percent in June

US foreclosure filings rose 53 percent in June

By David Walsh

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The most recent data on home foreclosures give an indication of the human cost of the US housing market collapse. Foreclosure filings were up 53 percent in June from a year ago and bank repossessions soared 171 percent, as falling property values forced more and more people out of their homes.

According to RealtyTrac, in the course of June one in every 501 American households either lost a home to foreclosure, received a default notice or was warned of an impending auction.

Rich Sharga, RealtyTrac’s vice-president for marketing, told Bloomberg News that foreclosure activity is the highest since the Depression. He noted that falling home prices have created a cycle where shrinking equity is driving homeowners into foreclosure, which further depresses prices. “We’ll have 1 million bank-owned properties by the end of the year,” Sharga said. “That will represent between one-fourth and one-third of all home sales.”

Nationwide, more than 250,000 homes received at least one foreclosure-related notice in June. Economists are predicting 2.5 million US homes will enter the foreclosure process this year, compared with 1.7 million in 2007. This spring, a Credit Suisse report estimated that 6.5 million loans would fall into foreclosure over the next five years, affecting more than 8 percent of all American homes.

The figures in certain areas are staggering. In Stockton, California one in every 72 households is currently in a stage of foreclosure. In Merced, California the figure is one in every 77 households, and in Modesto, California it is one in every 86.

In the state of Nevada as a whole (with 2.5 million residents), one in every 122 households is in the process of losing a home. More than 3,000 properties were seized by lenders in June alone. In California, banks repossessed more than 20,000 properties last month, more than a quarter of the national total, and one in every 192 households was undergoing foreclosure.

Soaring gas prices are contributing to the woes of families that moved out of urban areas. “The housing beyond the sprawl is going to suffer another serious leg down because of high oil prices,” Peter Navarro, professor of economics and public policy at the University of California in Irvine, told the media. “A lot of people went out there to get cheaper homes, but this [gas prices] is going to take a big bite out of their mortgage.”

Meanwhile, the total of new homes that have been completed and are available for sale was up 35 percent in May over June 2006. The average length of time they have been sitting on the market unsold has climbed 136 percent in that period, from 3.6 to 8.5 months. According to Floyd Norris in the New York Times, the latter figure is the highest ever recorded by the government.

Norris noted, “Some of those homes are in subdivisions where foreclosures are already climbing, and may be hard to unload at any price... May was the first month ever that sales of completed new homes totaled less than 10 percent of the number of such homes that had been available for sale at the beginning of the month.”

The working class is suffering enormously, and worse is still to come. A report from the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), entitled “The Impact of the Housing Crisis on Family Wealth,” paints a dire picture. Authors Dean Baker and David Rosnick make the point that average Americans have been the victims of “two extraordinary asset bubbles in the last decade,” a “stock bubble” that began in the mid-1990s and collapsed in 2000-2002, and the housing bubble, which began to deflate in 2006.

These speculative bubbles, which poured billions of dollars into the pockets of financial operators, made it difficult for families to plan their savings “since they would have no simple way to distinguish bubble-generated wealth, which would prove ephemeral, from real wealth, which could be expected to endure. As a result, tens of millions of families likely ended up saving less than they would have considered prudent ...”

The authors note that the housing bubble has had the most serious consequences. By 2004, more than two-thirds of American families headed by people 35 years old and older owned a home, and this “is usually a highly leveraged investment. Families typically rely on mortgages for the overwhelming majority of the purchase price, and even after they have been in a home for several years, the value of the home can easily be five times their equity or more. As a result of this leverage, even small changes in housing values can have a large impact on family wealth.”

US homeowners, they argue, have been taken “on a gigantic roller coaster ride.” With the collapse of the housing bubble, many now find themselves “with much less wealth than they expected at this point in their careers.”

The decline in housing prices since the middle of 2006 has resulted in the loss of over $4 trillion in real housing wealth in the US, more than $50,000 for every homeowner in the country. Real house prices are dropping at the rate of 2 percent a month, or $350 billion.

The CEPR study projects median household wealth for various age groups in 2009 if house prices fall another 10 percent below their March 2008 level. According to Baker and Rosnick, an additional 10 percent drop in house prices will mean, for the median family in the age cohort from 18 to 34, a 67.6 percent drop in net worth as compared to 2004. The median family in the 35-44 age group will have 56.2 percent less net worth, which “corresponds to a decline of $41,000 in median wealth.”

Families in the 45 to 54 age cohort will have 34.6 percent less in 2009 than their counterparts in 2004, and the median family aged 55-64 will have $121,000 less wealth than families in that age bracket five years earlier, a decline of 43.9 percent.

The authors note that “the crash of the housing bubble is likely to eliminate most, if not all, of the gains that families have made in accumulating wealth over the last two decades.” Families in the 35-44 age bracket are projected to have less wealth than their counterparts in 1989. “For those who owned a house in the last few years, the collapse of the housing bubble led to the destruction of much or all of their wealth.”

The housing bust threatens to spark a full-scale meltdown of the financial system. Two enormous US financial firms, Fannie Mae (Federal National Mortgage Association) and Freddie Mac (Federal Home Mortgage Corporation), are facing insolvency. The two government-sponsored, privately held companies currently own or guarantee some $5.2 trillion in residential mortgages, nearly half of all outstanding home loans in the US. In the nine months from July 2007 through March 2008, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac lost a combined $11 billion and are finding it increasingly expensive to raise capital to cover their losses.

The two firms operate in the secondary mortgage market, buying mortgages from banks and other lenders, packaging those loans into securities and selling them to Wall Street investors.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have performed a vital function for American capitalism by lubricating and widening the housing market, coming to particular prominence during the recent boom. However, they are highly leveraged and very loosely regulated institutions, with massive amounts of mortgage assets whose values are now increasingly dubious.

Shares in the two mortgage finance companies continued to plummet Thursday, with Fannie Mae’s share price down 22 percent this week and Freddie Mac’s down 43 percent, over worries that the firms will not have enough capital to offset losses from the housing slump. The New York Times observed that the deteriorating share price numbers “were unimaginable just weeks ago.”

In an interview with Wednesday, former St. Louis Federal Reserve President William Poole asserted that under fair value accounting rules the two companies would be bankrupt. “Congress ought to recognize that these firms are insolvent,” he said.

The collapse of one of the two companies, or both of them, would have a devastating impact. Speaking of this “doomsday scenario,” wrote July 9 that if one or both of the companies could not function, “the result would be chaos.”

Sean Egan of credit ratings firm Egan Jones commented, “If Fannie or Freddie failed, it would be far worse than the fall of [investment bank] Bear Stearns... It could throw the economy into depression or something close to it.”

The Wall Street Journal revealed Thursday that Bush administration officials are holding talks about the possible failure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. While administration officials continue to assert publicly that the government will not back the debt of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Journal cites the comments of Peter Wallison, a former Treasury Department official: “They can’t be allowed to fail... The losses would extend through so much of our economy, and so much of the world economy. There is simply no way that the United States government can let it happen.”

It is increasingly likely that the American population will be forced to pay for the disaster brought about by years of parasitic and reckless financial operations. Standard & Poor’s reported this spring that a bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would cost US taxpayers $1 trillion, more than five times the amount of the savings and loan bailout (taking inflation into account) of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

This is an indictment of American capitalism and its cult of the “free market.” The blind and anarchic operations of the profit system threaten the population with catastrophe. Society can no longer afford the rule of this corrupt, greedy elite, none of whose political representatives, Republican or Democratic, have any solutions for the crisis.

Armed attack on US consulate in Istanbul

Armed attack on US consulate in Istanbul

By Sinan Ikinci

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On July 9, at about 10:30 a.m., a group of assailants opened fire on police in front of the US consulate in Istanbul. A gun battle ensued in which three police officers and three of the four attackers were killed.

Another police officer who was involved in the gun battle and a civilian driver of a police tow truck, as well as bystanders who were lined up to apply for US visas, were injured in the attack. The wounded were rushed to nearby hospitals but reportedly did not suffer life-threatening injuries. No injuries were reported to staff inside the consulate.

Istanbul’s chief prosecutor, Aykut Cengiz Engin, told reporters, “The attackers, who were 20-25 years old, used pump-action shotguns and handguns. The attack was carried out by four people. One of the attackers fled the scene in the vehicle used in the assault.”

Turkish Interior Minister Besir Atalay told reporters that no one had claimed responsibility for the attack.

According to news reports, three of the four attackers got out of a stolen car, armed with shotguns and handguns, and fired first at the police hut and then at the consulate gate. The police post is outside the consulate’s main public entrance, from where steep steps lead up to the well-fortified building, which is surrounded by high and thick walls. The consulate is located on a hill in Istinye, a densely populated residential neighbourhood on the European side of the city.

The consulate was moved to this high-security location in 2003, following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington and a 2003 attack by terrorists against the British consulate, a bank and two synagogues in Istanbul that killed 58 people. A Turkish Sunni Islamic fundamentalist group alleged to have links to Al Qaeda, called the Great Eastern Islamic Raiders Front, claimed responsibility for the 2003 attack.

An eyewitness to Wednesday’s attack, Yavuz Erkut Yuksel, told CNN-Turk television that the assailants emerged from a white vehicle and surprised the guards. He was quoted as saying, “One of them approached a policeman while hiding his gun and then shot him in the head.” According to another eyewitness, the attackers were bearded men with long hair.

Quite rapidly, the police identified the perpetrators as Turkish citizens—Erkan Kargin, a resident of Bitlis, which is a predominantly Kurdish city located in eastern Turkey, Bulent Cinar and Raif Topcil, who were born in Bitlis.

The fourth assailant, who drove the car, escaped. According to the newspaper Milliyet, the car was found abandoned on Wednesday night and the police have identified the driver. As of this writing, the fourth attacker, who is believed to have been wounded, had not been caught.

Milliyet reported that one of the gunmen, Erkan Kargin, travelled to Afghanistan two years ago, where he received training. Other press reports quoted police sources as saying the suspects belonged to the Great Eastern Islamic Raiders Front.

However, the Turkish government has not confirmed these reports and a US State Department spokesman said he could not confirm or deny claims of an Al Qaeda connection to Wednesday’s attack. US Ambassador Ross Wilson told reporters in Ankara that the attack was an “obvious act of terrorism” directed against both the US and Turkey.

Following the identification of the attackers, the police raided a number of addresses across the city and some people were taken into custody for questioning.

The motive for the attack remains unclear. While some media reports claim that the attackers fired on the consulate as well as the police hut, others say the attackers’ target was only the Turkish police guarding the building.

Sedat Laciner, the head of the Ankara-based International Strategic Research Organization (ISRO/USAK), told Today’s Zaman, “At first sight, the attack appears to be pointing to Al Qaeda,” adding that it might be a symbolic assault on both the United States and the Turkish police. “If you look at similar attacks in the Middle East,” he continued, “you will see that they are directed more at the local forces protecting Western interests than at the West itself. Laciner clearly based his comments on the assumption that the attack was perpetrated by Islamists.

The attack came at a point of intense political crisis in Turkey, with the government of the Islamic-based Justice and Development Party (AKP) facing a ban at the hands of the Turkish Constitutional Court. On July 1, the chief prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals presented oral arguments for banning the governing party on the grounds that it violates the secularist principles of the Turkish state. The case is, in fact, an attempt to carry out a legal coup against a popularly elected government and reflects intense divisions between sections of the ruling elite closely aligned with the “secularist” military and those supporting the bourgeois AKP government.

These tensions have been reflected in the manner in which newspapers have reported Wednesday’s attack. Newspapers supporting the “secularist” camp, particularly the staunchly Kemalist Cumhuriyet, have emphasised the role of religious fundamentalism. Islamist papers, on the other hand, have downplayed this aspect of the attack.

U.S. Pushing Water Fluoridation Agenda

U.S. Pushing Water Fluoridation Agenda

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Water systems serving about 30 percent of Americans are not giving them fluoridated water, six decades after fluoridation was started as a public health measure to prevent tooth decay, officials said on Thursday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hails the reduction in dental cavities due to adding fluoride to public water supplies as one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century.

Most Americans get their water from municipal or regional community water systems. A new CDC report showed that as of 2006, 69 percent of people in the United States who get water from these systems received fluoridated water, up from 65 percent in 2000 and 62 percent in 1992.

That means that while 184 million Americans get fluoridated water from community water systems, 82 million do not.

"This is one of the dirty little secrets -- that the whole nation has not yet embraced fluoridation of water, which has enormous public health benefits," Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said in a telephone interview.

Fluoridation of public water supplies was introduced in 1945 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

"It's still an under-utilized, very effective public health measure," Dr. William Bailey of the CDC's Division of Oral Health, who led the report, said in a telephone interview.

Some major cities still do not fluoridate their water supplies, including: San Diego; Portland, Oregon; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Wichita, Kansas. San Diego has committed to begin fluoridating its water by May 2010.

In California, the most populous of the 50 U.S. states, only 27 percent of people served by community systems were getting fluoridated water as of 2006, the CDC said. Only Hawaii (8 percent) and New Jersey (23 percent) were lower.

Fluoridation has remained controversial among some people. In fact, some opponents in the 1950s denounced it as a communist plot, which was lampooned in director Stanley Kubrick's 1964 Cold War satire "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb."

Current opponents argue the fluoride being added to water may cause a health problems such as weak bones and bone cancer, an assertion the CDC rejects.

Asked if there is any responsible evidence showing negative health effects due to fluoridated water, Bailey said, "No, not at the levels that we use in community water systems."

The CDC report showed other states with low percentages of people served by community systems getting fluoridated water included: Oregon (27 percent), Montana (31), Idaho (31), Wyoming (36), Louisiana (40) and New Hampshire (43). Fourteen states topped 90 percent. Washington D.C., was at 100 percent.

"Most people are complacent about the issue because they just naturally assume they live in a city that's fluoridated," Bailey said.

Fluoride is added to water -- either in powder or liquid form -- at water treatment plants, normally at levels of about one part per million, Bailey said.

Roughly 10 percent of Americans, mostly in rural areas, get water from wells, and this typically is not fluoridated. Also, many Americans drink bottled water that is not fluoridated.

The government's goal is for 75 percent of U.S. residents on community systems to be getting fluoridated water by 2010.

EPA Says American's lives are worth less today

EPA Says American's lives are worth less today

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It's not just the American dollar that's losing value. A government agency has decided that an American life isn't worth what it used to be.

The "value of a statistical life" is $6.9 million in today's dollars, the Environmental Protection Agency reckoned in May — a drop of nearly $1 million from just five years ago.

The Associated Press discovered the change after a review of cost-benefit analyses over more than a dozen years.

Though it may seem like a harmless bureaucratic recalculation, the devaluation has real consequences.

When drawing up regulations, government agencies put a value on human life and then weigh the costs versus the lifesaving benefits of a proposed rule. The less a life is worth to the government, the less the need for a regulation, such as tighter restrictions on pollution.

Consider, for example, a hypothetical regulation that costs $18 billion to enforce but will prevent 2,500 deaths. At $7.8 million per person (the old figure), the lifesaving benefits outweigh the costs. But at $6.9 million per person, the rule costs more than the lives it saves, so it may not be adopted.

Some environmentalists accuse the Bush administration of changing the value to avoid tougher rules — a charge the EPA denies.

"It appears that they're cooking the books in regards to the value of life," said S. William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, which represents state and local air pollution regulators. "Those decisions are literally a matter of life and death."

Dan Esty, a senior EPA policy official in the administration of the first President Bush and now director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, said: "It's hard to imagine that it has other than a political motivation."

Agency officials say they were just following what the science told them.

The EPA figure is not based on people's earning capacity, or their potential contributions to society, or how much they are loved and needed by their friends and family — some of the factors used in insurance claims and wrongful-death lawsuits.

Instead, economists calculate the value based on what people are willing to pay to avoid certain risks, and on how much extra employers pay their workers to take on additional risks. Most of the data is drawn from payroll statistics; some comes from opinion surveys. According to the EPA, people shouldn't think of the number as a price tag on a life.

The EPA made the changes in two steps. First, in 2004, the agency cut the estimated value of a life by 8 percent. Then, in a rule governing train and boat air pollution this May, the agency took away the normal adjustment for one year's inflation. Between the two changes, the value of a life fell 11 percent, based on today's dollar.

EPA officials say the adjustment was not significant and was based on better economic studies. The reduction reflects consumer preferences, said Al McGartland, director of EPA's office of policy, economics and innovation.

"It's our best estimate of what consumers are willing to pay to reduce similar risks to their own lives," McGartland said.

But EPA's cut "doesn't make sense," said Vanderbilt University economist Kip Viscusi. EPA partly based its reduction on his work. "As people become more affluent, the value of statistical lives go up as well. It has to." Viscusi also said no study has shown that Americans are less willing to pay to reduce risks.

At the same time that EPA was trimming the value of life, the Department of Transportation twice raised its life value figure. But its number is still lower than the EPA's.

EPA traditionally has put the highest value on life of any government agency and still does, despite efforts by administrations to bring uniformity to that figure among all departments.

Not all of EPA uses the reduced value. The agency's water division never adopted the change and in 2006 used $8.7 million in current dollars.

From 1996 to 2003, EPA kept the value of a statistical life generally around $7.8 million to $7.96 million in current dollars, according to reports analyzed by The AP. In 2004, for a major air pollution rule, the agency lowered the value to $7.15 million in current dollars.

Just how the EPA came up with that figure is complicated and involves two dueling analyses.

Viscusi wrote one of those big studies, coming up with a value of $8.8 million in current dollars. The other study put the number between $2 million and $3.3 million. The co-author of that study, Laura Taylor of North Carolina State University, said her figure was lower because it emphasized differences in pay for various risky jobs, not just risky industries as a whole.

EPA took portions of each study and essentially split the difference — a decision two of the agency's advisory boards faulted or questioned.

"This sort of number-crunching is basically numerology," said Granger Morgan, chairman of EPA's Science Advisory Board and an engineering and public policy professor at Carnegie Mellon University. "This is not a scientific issue."

Other, similar calculations by the Bush administration have proved politically explosive. In 2002, the EPA decided the value of elderly people was 38 percent less than that of people under 70. After the move became public, the agency reversed itself.

6700 Tons of Radioactive Debris Shipped From Kuwait to Idaho

6700 Tons of Radioactive Debris Shipped From Kuwait to Idaho

Doug Rokke

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(Note: Dr. Doug Rokke is the former Director of the U.S. Army's Depleted Uranium Project. It was his task to clean up the radioactive battlefields of the Gulf War. Today, this leading opponent of nuclear warfare is vitally concerned that sand contaminated by radioactive munitions exploded in the Middle East has been shipped to Idaho for burial. And more, much more. He asked me to call his warning to public attention.)

During the summer of 1991, the United States military had collected artillery, tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, conventional and unconventional munitions, trucks, etc. at Camp Doha in Kuwait.

As result of carelessness this weapons depot caught fire with consequent catastrophic explosion resulting in death, injury, illness and extensive environmental contamination from depleted uranium and conventional explosives.

Recently the emirate of Kuwait required the United States Department of Defense to remove the contamination. Consequently, over 6,700 tons of contaminated soil sand and other residue was collected and has been shipped back to the United States for burial by American Ecology at Boise Idaho.

When Bob Nichols, an investigative journalist, and I contacted American Ecology we found out that they had absolutely no knowledge of U.S. Army Regulation 700-48, U.S. Army PAM 700-48, U.S. Army Technical Bulletin 9-1300-278, and all of the medical orders dealing with depleted uranium contamination, environmental remediation procedures, safety, and medical care .

They had never heard of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for dealing with mixed – hazardous waste such as radioactive materials and conventional explosives byproducts. (reference "Approaches for the Remediation of Federal Facility Sites Contaminated with Explosives or Radioactive Wastes", EPA/625/R-93/013, September 1993).

The shipment across the ocean, unloading at Longview, Washington State port, transport by rail, and burial in Idaho endangers not only the residents of these areas but poses a significant agricultural threat through introduction of pests, microbes, etc. foreign to our nation.

Sadly the known adverse health and environmental hazards from uranium weapons contamination are in our own backyard. The EPA has listed the former Nuclear Metals- Starmet uranium weapons manufacturing site in Concord Ma. On EPA’s Superfund National Priority List because it poses a significant risk to public health and the environment.

Consequently the community in which our nation was born on April 18, 1775 is now the location of America’s own closed dirty bomb factory that will endanger the health and safety of the descendants of our original patriots- “the Minutemen”.

The previous delivery of at least 100 GBU 28 bunker busters bombs containing depleted uranium warheads by the United States and their use by Israel against Lebanese targets has resulted in additional radioactive and chemical toxic contamination with consequent adverse health and environmental effects throughout the middle east. Israeli tank gunners are also using depleted uranium tank rounds as photographs verify.

Today, U.S., British, and now Israeli military personnel are using illegal uranium munitions- America's and England's own "dirty bombs" while U.S. Army, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Defense, and British Ministry of Defence officials deny that there are any adverse health and environmental effects as a consequence of the manufacture, testing, and/or use of uranium munitions to avoid liability for the willful and illegal dispersal of a radioactive toxic material - depleted uranium.

The use of uranium weapons is absolutely unacceptable, and a crime against humanity. Consequently the citizens of the world and all governments must force cessation of uranium weapons use. I must demand that Israel now provide medical care to all DU casualties in Lebanon and clean up all DU contamination.

U.S. and British officials have arrogantly refused to comply with their own regulations, orders, and directives that require United States Department of Defense officials to provide prompt and effective medical care to "all" exposed individuals. Reference: Medical Management of Unusual Depleted Uranium Casualties, DOD, Pentagon, 10/14/93, Medical Management of Army personnel Exposed to Depleted Uranium (DU) Headquarters, U.S. Army Medical Command 29 April 2004, and section 2-5 of U.S. Army Regulation 700-48. Israeli officials must not do so now.

They also refuse to clean up dispersed radioactive Contamination as required by Army Regulation- AR 700-48: "Management of Equipment Contaminated With Depleted Uranium or Radioactive Commodities"

(Headquarters, Department Of The Army, Washington, D.C., September 2002) and U.S. Army Technical Bulletin- TB 9-1300-278: "Guidelines For Safe Response To Handling, Storage, And Transportation Accidents Involving Army Tank Munitions Or Armor Which Contain Depleted Uranium" (Headquarters, Department Of The Army, Washington, D.C., JULY 1996). Specifically section 2-4 of United States Army Regulation-AR 700-48 dated September 16, 2002 requires that:

(1) "Military personnel "identify, segregate, isolate, secure, and label all RCE" (radiologically contaminated equipment).
(2) "Procedures to minimize the spread of radioactivity will be implemented as soon as possible."
(3) "Radioactive material and waste will not be locally disposed of through burial, submersion, incineration, destruction in place, or abandonment" and
(4) "All equipment, to include captured or combat RCE, will be surveyed, packaged, retrograded, decontaminated and released IAW Technical Bulletin 9-1300-278, DA PAM 700-48" (Note: Maximum exposure limits are specified in Appendix F).
DOD leaders are not showing the DU training tapes to military personnel. These three video tapes: (1) "Depleted Uranium Hazard Awareness", (2) "Contaminated and Damaged Equipment Management", and (3) "Operation of the AN/PDR 77 Radiac Set" are essential to understanding the hazards from the use of uranium weapons and management of uranium weapons contamination. DOD leaders must show these tapes to all military personnel involved in the use of uranium weapons and the consequent management of uranium contamination.

The previous and current use of uranium weapons, the release of radioactive components in destroyed U.S. and foreign military equipment, and releases of industrial, medical, research facility radioactive materials have resulted in unacceptable exposures. Therefore, decontamination must be completed as required by U.S. Army Regulation 700-48 and should include releases of all radioactive materials resulting from military operations.
The extent of adverse health and environmental effects of uranium weapons contamination is not limited to combat zones in the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan but includes facilities and sites where uranium weapons were manufactured or tested including Vieques; Puerto Rico; Colonie, New York; Concord, MA; Jefferson Proving Grounds, Indiana; and Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Therefore, medical care must be provided by the United States Department of Defense officials to all individuals affected by the manufacturing, testing, and/or use of uranium munitions. Thorough environmental remediation also must be completed without further delay.
I am amazed that fifteen years after was I asked to clean up the initial DU mess from Gulf War 1 and over ten years since I finished the depleted uranium project that United States Department of Defense officials and others still attempt to justify uranium munitions use while ignoring mandatory requirements. I am dismayed that Department of Defense and Department of Energy officials and representatives continue personal attacks aimed to silence or discredit those of us who are demanding that medical care be provided to all DU casualties and that environmental remediation is completed in compliance with U.S. Army Regulation 700-48.

But beyond the ignored mandatory actions the willful dispersal of tons of solid radioactive and chemically toxic waste in the form of uranium munitions is illegal ( and just does not even pass the common sense test and according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, DHS, is a dirty bomb. DHS issued "dirty bomb" response guidelines,
, on January 3, 2006 for incidents within the United States but ignore DOD use of uranium weapons and existing DOD regulations.

These guidelines specifically state that: "Characteristics of RDD and IND Incidents: A radiological incident is defined as an event or series of events, deliberate or accidental, leading to the release, or potential release, into the environment of radioactive material in sufficient quantity to warrant consideration of protective actions. Use of an RDD or IND is an act of terror that produces a radiological incident."

Thus the use of uranium munitions is "an act or terror" as defined by DHS. Finally continued compliance with the infamous March 1991 Los Alamos Memorandum that was issued to ensure continued use of uranium munitions can not be justified.
In conclusion: the President of the United States- George W. Bush, the Prime Minister of Great Britain-Gordon Brown, and the Prime Minister of Israel Olmert must acknowledge and accept responsibility for willful use of illegal uranium munitions- their own "dirty bombs"- resulting in adverse health and environmental effects.

President Bush, Prime Minister Brown, and Prime Minister Olmert should order:
1. medical care for all casualties,
2. thorough environmental remediation,
3. immediate cessation of retaliation against all of us who demand compliance with medical care and environmental remediation requirements,
4. and stop the already illegal the use (UN finding) of depleted uranium munitions.
References- these references are copies the actual regulations and orders and other pertinent official documents:

McCain Thinks the Recession is All in Our Heads

McCain campaign on economic downturn: It’s all in our heads

By Steve Benen

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Given economic conditions, the housing crisis, the energy market, dispiriting employment numbers, and the value of the dollar, you’d think the McCain campaign would be going to extraordinary lengths to show that John McCain a) recognizes the seriousness of the problem; and b) has a plan to help turn things around.

But that’s not quite the path the McCain campaign has chosen. Instead, the Republican presidential campaign has decided that the economy is really great, but Americans just aren’t smart enough to realize it.

Take former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas), described by some as McCain’s “brain” on economic matters, and the man whose financial deregulation efforts make the market meltdown possible, who thinks we’re the problem.

“You’ve heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession,” he said, noting that growth has held up at about 1 percent despite all the publicity over losing jobs to India, China, illegal immigration, housing and credit problems and record oil prices. “We may have a recession; we haven’t had one yet.”

“We have sort of become a nation of whiners,” he said. “You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline” despite a major export boom that is the primary reason that growth continues in the economy, he said.

“We’ve never been more dominant; we’ve never had more natural advantages than we have today,” he said. “We have benefited greatly” from the globalization of the economy in the last 30 years.

Sometimes, the McCain campaign seems anxious to make the Dems’ campaign efforts easier. I wonder what the reaction will be when Dems go to, say, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and tell them, “John McCain’s top economic advisor thinks people who are concerned about the economy are ‘whiners,’ and that the economic downturn is all in our heads.”

For that matter, let’s not forget that it’s not just Phil Gramm. McCain himself has made similar comments.

In January, McCain said the problems with the economy are in our heads.

“A lot of this is psychological. A lot of it’s psychological. Because I agree the fundamentals of our economy is still strong.”

And in April, McCain said most of the nation’s economic problems are “psychological.”

“I think psychologically, a lot of our problems today are psychological — confidence, trust, uncertainty about our economic future, ability to keep our own home,” McCain said. “[A gas-tax holiday] might give ‘em a little psychological boost. Let’s have some straight talk: it’s not a huge amount of money…. A little psychological boost. That’s what I think [a gas-tax holiday] would help.”

And in June, McCain said he’s still focused on the “psychological impact” of various policies.

…McCain admitted that his offshore drilling proposal would probably have mostly “psychological” benefits, NBC/NJ’s Adam Aigner-Treworgy reports. At a town hall in Fresno that primarily focused on energy issues, McCain was asked a question about the price of gas and the viability of various short-term solutions. […]

“In the short term I’d like to give you a little relief for the summer on the gas tax,” McCain began, referring to his controversial proposal to temporarily suspend the federal tax on gasoline. But then he made a surprisingly candid admission: “I don’t see an immediate relief, but I do see that exploitation of existing reserves that may exist — and in view of many experts that do exist off our coasts — is also a way that we need to provide relief. Even though it may take some years, the fact that we are exploiting those reserves would have psychological impact that I think is beneficial.”

I suppose it’s possible for a candidate for national office to be more out of touch, but I don’t see how.

In 1992, when voters were deeply unsatisfied with the economy, Bill Clinton said, “I feel your pain.” Sixteen years later, after another Bush presidency has left the nation with a sense of malaise, John McCain’s campaign says, “Enough with the constant whining.”

It’s like putting the ball on a tee and handing Dems a bat: DNC spokesperson Karen Finney told ABC, “What John McCain, George Bush Phil Gramm just don’t understand is that the American people aren’t whining about the state of the economy, they are suffering under the weight of it — the weight of eight years of Bush-enomics that John McCain and Phil Gramm have vowed to continue. How dare John McCain and his advisers so callously dismiss the challenges the American people face. No wonder voters feel John McCain is out of touch, he and his campaign don’t even understand the everyday issues Americans are dealing with.”

Remember when Barack Obama’s “bitter” remarks were characterized as elitist and condescending? And how the story dominated the political landscape for weeks? McCain’s comments are arguably much worse.

Mortgage Crisis Is Leaving Children Homeless

Mortgage Crisis Hits 2 Million U.S. Children

By Caitlin G. Johnson

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Children's advocates say the impacts of the housing and foreclosure crisis are being felt in K-12 classrooms and communities across the country.

The United States' current record-breaking rates of mortgage foreclosure will directly affect 2 million children this year and next, according to a recent report from First Focus, a bipartisan child advocacy organization.

"Our homeless education liaisons are noticing increases in the number of students who are homeless, not just in high-poverty families but also those who have typically been middle class and facing this for the first time," says Patricia Popp, state coordinator for homeless education in Virginia.

Under federal law, school districts are required to have homeless education liaisons to identify and assist homeless students.

Kathy Kropf has served as the homeless liaison in Macomb Intermediate School District in suburban Michigan for 14 years. "Our numbers are the highest they've ever been this year," she says. This school year, the county served 514 homeless students, a 33-percent increase over last year. At least 50 of those students were made homeless by recent foreclosures, according to Kropf.

The national data on homelessness during the 2007-08 school year will not be available until the Fall, but preliminary evidence suggests a rise.

In April, the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, a grassroots membership and advocacy organization, surveyed over 1,000 school districts about the impact of the foreclosure crisis. Those districts reported serving a total of about 250,000 homeless students as of April 2008. With two months left in the school year, that number was already almost equal to the number of homeless children served the previous year.

The districts reporting the highest increases in homeless students appear to match those currently leading in foreclosures -- namely, areas in California, Florida, Texas, Michigan, and Ohio, says Barbara Duffield, the organization's policy director.

"At least 300 districts that responded to the survey said that the foreclosure crisis was having 'some or significant impact' on homelessness. Others weren't sure why the numbers were going up, whether it was due to foreclosures or the economy, or both," says Duffield, who cautions that the numbers are not nationally representative, but do make the case for further study.

Stability Helps Kids

Frequent moves have been shown to take a toll on children's learning, behavior, and health. Elementary school students who change schools twice or more in a year show poorer reading than their peers who do not change schools, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, called the Nation's Report Card. The Government Accountability Office finds similar negative impacts on math performance.

An increase in housing instability may have consequences for a nation struggling to improve its 70-percent average high school graduation rate, which dips to 50 percent in many of the largest U.S. cities. School and residential changes can cut a student's chances of graduating by more than half, according to data cited in the First Focus report.

Other studies have found ties between attending several different elementary schools and higher rates of behavior problems and violence.

Stable housing, on the other hand, has been linked to better health outcomes, according to the Center for Housing Policy.

"Absenteeism, a drop in performance, and students who were normally active participants suddenly being withdrawn -- these are all warning signs," First Focus' Phillip Lovell told One World.

Adds Duffield: "Once you lose your housing, you often find...that shelters are full or don't take older boys, or you end up in motels or hotels, which eat into any savings you have, or the families get split up among several relatives and friends."

Schools as First Responders

Veronica Peterson, a divorced mother of four in Columbia, Maryland, knows the warning signs first-hand.

For the past 10 years, Peterson has run a child-care business out of her home. In November 2006, as her business grew, she bought a $545,000 four-bedroom house. She says her credit score of 659 landed her an adjustable-rate mortgage from Washington Mutual even though she had no money for a down payment.

As the area's economy slowed, Peterson's business slowed with it. She fell behind on her mortgage payments, and Washington Mutual eventually foreclosed on the house.

Peterson's housing worries are compounding the strain of the family's recent divorce. "I manage to shield my kids from much of the housing issue, and my 10- and 11-year old don't really know -- but my 16-year-old daughter has to be responsible and kick in more, and I rely on her more. She ended up messing up in school. She was kicked out for fighting," Peterson says. Her daughter is receiving counseling.

Peterson is working with ACORN, a housing advocacy organization, in an attempt to negotiate a mortgage modification. In case that doesn't work, she has applied for public housing. She says the worst part about leaving is that her children would no longer be in this school district, which was the main reason she moved to the community 10 years ago.

Under federal law, her children would not have to change schools. The McKinney-Vento Act is designed to ensure that children can remain connected to their schools when a loss of housing forces changes in their residence status. But it's not always practical to send children longer distances to attend school, especially for those struggling to make ends meet.

The U.S. Senate is currently debating an amendment to the McKinney-Vento legislation that would add $30 million in funds to school districts for services for homeless students, including education supports and transportation.

"Shamed into Silence"

Peterson believes her loan was predatory and says that she was misled, but admits she "didn't read the papers closely enough" when she signed them. "I think a lot of people are embarrassed and ashamed because they signed those papers, so they aren't going to come forward when there's a problem or a predatory situation, they're just going to pack up and move."

Indeed, many of the respondents to the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth survey said it was difficult to gauge the impact of foreclosures because some parents -- especially those experiencing homelessness for the first time -- are reluctant to share their stories or access services, hoping it is a temporary situation.

New data is expected to clarify the exact impact of the housing crisis on children as First Focus releases a follow-up to its May 2008 report in the coming weeks.

This article is part of "Housing Crisis Investigation Week," a project of The Media Consortium, which will culminate with Live From Main Street Miami -- a televised town hall exploring how the city of Miami is facing the economic crisis and working toward a sustainable future. For more information about Live From Main Street and Housing Crisis Investigation week, go to