Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Auditors question Blackwater contracts

Auditors question Blackwater contracts

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Blackwater Worldwide, the contractor whose provision of private security in Iraq has been under scrutiny, and its affiliated companies may have improperly obtained more than $100 million in contracts meant for small businesses, according to federal auditors.

A report by the Small Business Administration's inspector general, issued in July, found that Blackwater and its affiliates, including Presidential Airways, won 39 contracts in the fiscal years 2005, 2006 and 2007 despite indications that the companies employed more than the number specified by the U.S. government. In some cases, the report said, the companies also had higher revenues than allowed for a small business.

Blackwater is a major provider of security for American diplomats in Iraq and was the subject of a congressional hearing after a Blackwater shooting in Baghdad last September left 17 Iraqis dead.

Blackwater and Presidential Airways, both based in Moyock, North Carolina, and owned by EP Investments, of McLean, Virginia, won 31 contracts set aside for companies with revenues of $6.5 million or less, and one additional contract for a company with no more than $750,000 in annual revenues. Those contracts, in all, were valued at $2.1 million.

In addition, Presidential Airways, which carries both passengers and cargo, won some $107 million in contracts reserved for companies whose revenues were no more than $25.5 million or had fewer than 1,500 employees.

Although most of the challenged contracts were awarded by the Defense Department, the initial determinations of whether the companies qualified as small businesses were made by the Small Business Administration.

The companies could have skirted small business size criteria because they counted many workers as independent contractors, not employees, which allowed them to exceed the 1,500-employee ceiling set in some contracts, according to the auditors.

The inspector general's office found that Blackwater and the other companies' sizes and revenues may have "involved misrepresentations," and suggested that the agency may want to "determine whether it is appropriate for Blackwater affiliates to continue receiving small business set-aside contracts."

When rival firms had challenged the 2006 contract for helicopter services to Presidential Airways on grounds that the company was too large, the airline provided data that 28 Blackwater-affiliated entities had a total of only 715 employees.

But the inspector general found that Blackwater had hired more than a thousand independent contractors and treated them as if they were regular employees, with scheduled shifts, for example, which called the size determination into question. The report also said the Small Business Administration should have "attempted to reconcile discrepancies" in the data Blackwater provided.

Anne Tyrrell, Blackwater's spokeswoman, called the report "unnecessarily speculative," and said the "classification of security personnel as independent contractors is reasonable, correct and legally protected." She said that "all contracted personnel serving on government contracts in Iraq for Blackwater work under the direct operational control of the United States government."

The report, which was requested last March by Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California who heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, asked the inspectors general of the Defense Department and other contracting agencies to "review these contracts to determine whether misrepresentations were made" to obtain them.

In a letter to Waxman, the SBA said it had relied on the figures provided by Blackwater and Presidential Airways.

Retail sales drop for first time in 5 months

Retail sales drop for first time in 5 months

By MARTIN CRUTSINGER

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Retail sales fell in July, the weakest performance in five months, as shoppers shunned autos and other big ticket items.

The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that retail sales dipped 0.1 percent last month when a variety of economic woes combined to blunt the impact of billions of dollars in government stimulus payments to U.S. households.

It was the first decline since sales had fallen by 0.5 percent in February and it was a worse showing than the flat reading economists had been expecting. The new report did revise higher the estimate for June, showing sales rose by 0.3 percent that month rather than the 0.1 percent initial reading.

The weakness in July came after another big slide in auto sales as Detroit faced its worst sales month in 16 years. Automakers have been battered by the weak economy and record gasoline prices which have cut into demand for their once-popular sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks.

The White House noted that overall sales had been heavily influenced by the big drop in auto sales and what presidential spokesman Tony Fratto called "substantial headwinds faced by households." Fratto said that the weakness in July was occurring at a time when gasoline pump prices were peaking at more than $4 per gallon.

Excluding the big drop in autos, retail sales would have posted a 0.4 percent increase. While that was a positive reading, it was still the weakest showing for sales excluding autos in five months.

Much of what little strength there was in July came from a big jump in sales at gasoline stations, which were up 0.8 percent. That increase reflected surging prices rather than increased demand, however.

Analysts said the poor showing in July, the last month for bulk mailings of stimulus checks, raised concerns about consumer spending going forward.

"Cautious and uncertain consumers are watching their wallets and with the back-to-school shopping season under way, that does not bode well for retailers," said Joel Naroff, chief economist for Naroff Economic Advisors.

For example, Macy's Inc. said Wednesday that its second-quarter earnings dropped slightly and it warned that full-year profits will be below Wall Street expectations.

On Wall Street, stocks fell for a second session after the retail sales report and oil prices rose.

In other economic news, the Labor Department reported that surging oil prices helped to push up import prices by 1.7 percent in July and left import prices up by 21.6 percent compared to a year ago, the biggest year-over-year reading on record.

In a third report, the Commerce Department said that business inventories rose by 0.7 percent in June, nearly double the 0.4 percent gain in May and the biggest increase since last January.

Analysts believe that businesses will continue boosting inventories in the months ahead. The ratio of inventories to sales fell to an all-time low of 1.23 months in June, meaning it would take that long to exhaust stockpiles at the June sales rate. Sales at all levels of business rose by 1.7 percent in June, up from a 1.1 percent gain in May.

Gasoline pump prices hit an all-time high in July at $4.11 per gallon. Without the big rise in gasoline station sales, retail sales would have fallen by 0.2 percent in July.

The disappointing performance of retail sales meant that the consumer sector, which accounts for two-thirds of total economic activity, got off to a weak start at the beginning of the third quarter. The government wrapped up distributing the bulk of the economic stimulus payments for a total of $92 billion through the end of July.

The Bush administration and Congress rushed a $168 billion package of stimulus payments to households and tax breaks for businesses through Congress at the beginning of this year. They were hoping to keep the worst slump in housing in decades and a severe credit crunch from pushing the country into a deep recession.

The stimulus payments, which the government started distributing in late April, have had only a limited impact on consumer spending. Their benefits have been blunted by a surge in gasoline prices that was occurring at the same time.

Studies have shown that so far about only 20 percent of the stimulus checks have been spent with consumers choosing to save much of the rest of the payments. The administration argues that the checks will get spent in coming months, helping to lift economic activity for the rest of the year.

Private economists are not as optimistic. Some believe that the effects from the stimulus will fade after the current quarter and activity in the final three months of this year and the first three months of next year will slump dramatically. Some economists believe that the gross domestic product will contract in both quarters, fulfilling the classic definition of a recession.

Democrats in Congress have begun to push for a second stimulus package. So far, the Bush administration has opposed it in part over concerns about what further stimulus activity will do to the budget deficit. The administration is already projecting the budget gap will hit a record of $482 billion next year.

For July, the retail sales report showed that sales at department stores and other general merchandise stores rose by 0.3 percent, just half the 0.6 percent June increase. Sales at restaurants and bars, which have been hit hard by the current slowdown, dipped by 0.2 percent in July after a modest 0.3 percent June gain.

Sales at furniture stores, which have been hurt by the steep slump in housing, rose by 1 percent in July but that followed a 1.2 percent decline in June.

US central bank auctions funds

US central bank auctions funds

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The Federal Reserve, the US central bank, has auctioned $25 billion of loans to US banks in the latest bid to improve poor credit conditions in the US.

The bank said on Tuesday the money would be lent at a rate of 2.754 per cent and for an extended period of 84 days, rather than the 28-day period for the previous loans.

The move marks the Reserve's latest attempt to shore up the nation's struggling banking system, as the fallout from the US's mortgage crisis continues.

The central bank had already auctioned $25 billion for the same rate and period on Monday, and has been conducting such auctions every two weeks to relieve financial pressure in US markets.

The auctions have been held since December and will continue until credit conditions improve, the Reserve said.

Trade deficit shrinks

The news comes as US trade deficit shrank for the month of June to $56.8 billion, as the weak US dollar offset high oil prices and pushed exports higher, the US commerce department has said.

The trade gap marked the smallest since March and surprised analysts who had
predicted it would rise to $61.9 billion.

Exports and imports of goods and services set records in June, with exports rising by four per cent compared to 1.8 per cent for imports.

Meanwhile the politically charged trade gap with China rose by 1.8 per cent to a seasonally adjusted $21.4 billion.

Last year, the Chinese sent $321 billion of goods to the US, doubling its export total just four years ago.

The US, in contrast, sold just one-fifth of that figure to China in the same period.

Al Jazeera's Tom Ackerman says one major reason for the large trade gap is China's determination to keep its currency relatively weak against the US dollar, which makes its products relatively cheap for American consumers.

Oil imports

Oil imports accounted for a considerable part of the rise in overall imports,
with the oil deficit hitting a new high of $34.6 billion as prices reach record highs of $117.13 a barrel on average.

In contrast, the trade deficit in non-petroleum products was the smallest since February 2003.

The US has reduced imports in almost all categories, except commodities, and exported record amounts of industrial supplies and materials, food and beverage products and consumer goods.

The figures mean the total US deficit for the first six months of the year is now $351.4 billion, down slightly from $358.4 billion for the same period last year.

The next wave of mortgage defaults

The next wave of mortgage defaults

More borrowers with good credit are defaulting on their home loans, and that's going to make it even harder for the staggering housing market to recover.

By Les Christie

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Prime mortgages are starting to default at disturbingly high rates - a development that threatens to slow any potential housing recovery.

The delinquency rate for prime mortgages worth less than $417,000 was 2.44% in May, compared with 1.38% a year earlier, according to LoanPerformance, a unit of First American (FAF, Fortune 500) CoreLogicthat compiles and analyzes residential mortgage statistics.

Delinquencies jumped even more for prime loans of more than $417,000, so-called jumbo loans. They rose to 4.03% of outstanding loans in May, compared with 1.11% a year earlier.

And prime loans issued in 2007 are performing the worst of all, failing at a rate nearly triple that of prime loans issued in 2006, according to LoanPerformance.

"The extent of how bad these loans are doing is very troubling," said Pat Newport, real estate economist with Global Insight, a forecasting firm.

Washington Mutual (WM, Fortune 500) CEO Kerry Killinger said last month that the bank's prime loan delinquencies are on the rise. As of June 30, 2.19% of the prime loans issued by WaMu in 2007 were already delinquent, compared with 1.40% of prime loans issued in 2005.

Also last month, JP Morgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) CEO Jaime Dimon called prime mortgage performance "terrible" and suggested that losses connected to prime may triple. For the second quarter, the bank reported net charges of $104 million for prime rate delinquencies, more than double the $50 million recorded three months earlier.

The latest shoe

Prime loans are just the latest class of mortgages to suffer a spike in failure rates. The first lot to go bad was, of course, subprime mortgages, whose problems set the housing meltdown in motion. Next were the Alt-A loans, a class between prime and subprime loans that doesn't require strict documentation of a borrower's assets or income.

Now, as prime loans are added to the mix, the resulting foreclosures could haunt the housing market for a long time, according to Global Insight's Patrick Newport.

"Home prices will drop for quite a while - maybe several years," he said.

Prices are already off nearly 20% from their 2006 highs, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price index.

And there's a strong inverse correlation between home prices and defaults, according to Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors.

"It's a feedback loop," he said. "Price declines lead to more defaults, which leads to more price declines."

More foreclosures will add to an already massive oversupply of homes on the market. Inventories are up to about 11 month's worth of sales at the current rate.

Indeed, about 2.8% of all homes for sale were vacant as of June 30, according to Census Bureau statistics. That's up about 50% from three years ago, and near historic highs.

More foreclosures, fewer loans

The failure of prime mortgages will also make it more difficult for new borrowers to find affordable loans - and that will slow sales even more. Lending standards have been tightening for months, but if prime loans start to look risky, lenders will be even more conservative about who gets a mortgage.

About 60% of the loan officers surveyed reported that they tightened lending standards for prime mortgages during the first three months of 2008, according to the April 2008 Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey on Bank Lending Practices from the Federal Reserve, which is released quarterly.

That number will likely be even higher for the second quarter, according to Mike Larson, a real estate analyst for Weiss Research. "It's already harder and more expensive to get loans," he said. "Lenders pull in their horns when things go south."

While easy credit fueled the housing boom, restricted credit is certainly contributing to the bust.

"Eventually," said Newport, "time will break the cycle. Pricing will drop enough to attract more buyers, and inventories will decline."

But there will probably more hard times ahead before markets come back into balance and recovery begins.

The Depleted Uranium Threat

The Depleted Uranium Threat

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"The DoD, the nation's biggest polluter, is now cleaning up 29,500 currently or formerly contaminated sites in every state and territory. California alone has 3,912 contaminated sites on 441 current and former DoD installations. Many of DoD's facilities have already contaminated groundwater sources of drinking water.... The cost to clean up toxic munitions contamination and unexploded ordnance at active and former military installations around the country may reach $200 billion." - The National Resources Defense Council, April 21, 2004.

"The Defense Department is refusing to comply with orders or sign contracts to clean up 11 hazardous waste sites, including one in Hawaii, and has asked the White House and Justice Department to intervene on its behalf." - The Associated Press, July 1, 2008

While attempting to act as the planet's nuclear watchdogs, the United States and Great Britain have become two of the world's largest, cancer-causing radiated dust and rusty depleted uranium projectile polluters.

Using tanks and planes, the US and British military have fired hundreds of tons of radioactive depleted uranium munitions (DU) while fighting the first Gulf War, the Balkans War, and the more recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. For two decades, successive US and British government leadership has done little overall to clean up the hazardous war waste. And, when repeatedly asked questions about it, spokespersons for Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown and US President George W. Bush, as well as the two presidential candidates, Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) and Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), didn't respond to a large number of e-mails and telephone calls over a month's time.

Ironically, while firing this nuclear by-product all over Iraq, Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia, both Britain and the US regularly criticized and put financial or political pressure on Iran, Syria, North Korea and Pakistan for developing nuclear weapons. Of those four countries, only Pakistan is said to possess depleted uranium munitions, but their military forces have not been notorious for using them.

Depleted uranium is a by-product of the enrichment of natural uranium for nuclear reactor-grade or nuclear weapons-grade uranium. It is additionally used as an armor to protect tanks. Its metallic density is ideal for manufacturing munitions that readily pierce tank and other armor by burning and burrowing through it. But, while doing so, the munition creates large quantities of radioactive dust that the wind can carry for 20 to 30 miles. Sometimes the projectiles didn't explode. Instead, they buried themselves and degraded. Now they pollute or threaten water supplies, soil, plants, birds and animals in war-torn regions.

Potentially Serious Health Impacts

Dangerous DU debris is credited by some with creating higher child cancer and other illness rates in Europe and the Middle East. DU's fine particles can be harmful as well to the kidneys, skin and the lenses of the eyes. And, when inhaled or swallowed by humans, animals or fish, that dust can create serious and permanent health hazards. Expended DU is a permanent terrain contaminant with a half-life of 4.5 billion years. Uranium dust can linger in the lungs, the blood and other organs for years. It is reported to have caused some of the so-called mysterious ailments among the more than 350,000 US service members, many of whom unsuccessfully sought medical treatment after the first Gulf War.

At least four states - New York, California, Louisiana and Connecticut - passed bills in an unsuccessful attempt to force the Department of Defense to better test and care for war veterans for DU exposures. Their legislatures and governors were all concerned about sick service members exposed to DU wartime dust.

"Large numbers of corroding depleted uranium penetrators embedded in the ground might pose a long-term threat if the uranium leaches into water supplies," a British Royal Society scientific study says. After shell firings, the ground becomes polluted with depleted uranium particulate waste and some parts of the munitions themselves. DU contamination should be removed from areas around known penetrator impact sites," says the Royal Society. "Long-term environmental sampling, particularly of water and milk, is required and provides a cost-effective method of monitoring sensitive components of the environment, and of providing information about uranium levels to concerned local populations. Monitoring may need to be enhanced in some areas, by site-specific risk assessment, if the situation warrants further consideration."

Although the Royal Society insists threats of health damage to those inhaling depleted uranium dust is remote and limited to those who took in large quantities, a study of Iraqi children, exposed to wartime DU dust, contradicts that assessment. Dr. Souad N. Al-Azzawi, a member of the Brussels Tribunal Advisory Committee, says that children breathing or swallowing those radiated particles in areas of intense United States DU munitions firings "offer strong evidence of the correlation between low level radiation exposure and result(ing) health damages." DU exposures created "a shift of leukemia incidence rates towards younger children during the recent years," said the doctor. Another inquiry by three professors at the University of Massachusetts and Tufts University concludes: "In aggregate the human epidemiological evidence is consistent with increased risk of birth defects in offspring of persons exposed to DU."

Four years ago, Iraq's provisional government sought help from the United Nations in cleaning up wide swaths of its country, littered with expended munitions projectiles, DU destroyed equipment, broken random particles and wind showers of DU dust. The United Nations, without effective result, urged the British and U.S. military to clear many of the DU hazards they had created. In fact, United Nations environmental cleanup specialists asked U.S. and British officials for locations where the munitions were fired in Iraq, but they only reported receiving DU firing coordinates from Britain.

DU Cleanup Required But Ignored

Neither British nor U.S. authorities have offered to augment the $4.7 million donated mainly by Japan to the United Nations to evaluate sites of wartime contamination that health experts say threaten the well-being of millions of Iraqi civilians. But, contrary to scientific evidence, in late October 2004, Army Lt. Col. Mark Melanson said a five-year, $6 million Defense Department experiment with a simulated DU tank explosion shows "the chemical risks of breathing in uranium dust are so low that it won't cause any long-term health risks," even for the tank crew.

However, U.S. Army regulation 700-48 and its Technical Bulletin 9-1300-278 have for years required cleanups of the residue of depleted uranium firings and destruction. "Radioactive material and waste will not be locally disposed of through burial, submersion, incineration, destruction in place, or abandonment without approval from overall commander," says the regulation. "If local disposal is approved, the responsible commander must document the general nature of the disposed material and the exact location of the disposal." Radioactive equipment under that same regulation must be cleaned up and disposed of as soon as practicable. Other crucial military regulations call for DU tank drivers to be medically examined if they are exposed to dust or other radioactive debris. Similar British requirements prohibit unauthorized collection of radioactive waste.

One of the most salient examples of the problems with depleted uranium munitions and their dangers to the public recently opened a new chapter in the munition's long, nagging history. In the face of the Pentagon's and the Army's repeated denials of the need to follow their own regulations, that very same leadership was involved this spring in one final large and expensive DU munitions cleanup of Camp Doha, a 500-acre base in Kuwait.

Despite the potential health dangers to anyone walking close to the area, most of the particulate hazards remained right there in the soil above and below ground at this active military camp for more than a decade and a half. In the years since 1991, the site's larger waste hazards have been cleaned up in varying incomplete manners. This sloppiness caused health issues for all living nearby or stationed there. The military camp is on a peninsula relatively close to Kuwait City, holding the capital's government offices. Its population was about 191,000 people when a depleted uranium munitions accident occurred. Right around the corner is Kuwait City International Airport.

Seventeen years ago, during the first Gulf War, Doha was the site of one of the largest fires and explosions of a depleted uranium munitions and tank storage area ever. On July 11, 1991, at about 10:20 a.m., says a Pentagon inquiry, a defective heater in an M992 ammunition carrier loaded with 155mm artillery shells caught fire and set off a sustained series of explosions and fires. The blaze and blasts sent chemicals and radiation dust from munitions and tanks into the air for miles, as the black hazardous smoke rose high into the sky. Tanks, other equipment, vehicles and a huge store of munitions were scorched. Fifty American and six British soldiers were injured. Two American soldiers' injuries were serious. It took many months and hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild this significant military base. "The destruction was overwhelming," said a Pentagon inquiry. "The fire and explosions damaged or destroyed 102 vehicles, including four M1A1 tanks and numerous other combat vehicles. More than two dozen buildings sustained damage as well. Among the estimated almost $15 million in damaged or destroyed ammunition were 660 M829 120mm DU sabot rounds."

Initially, the Army worked for months on a major cleanup. Then in late 1991, the second and final phase of hazardous equipment removal was assigned to the Environmental Chemical Corporation. And the Pentagon's investigation report said: "Personnel packing the drums with DU penetrators wore surgeon's caps, safety glasses, half face protective masks, coveralls, butyl rubber aprons, rubber surgeon's gloves with cotton inserts, and rubber 'booties' over their normal work boots. A total of eight drums were filled with about 250 DU penetrators."

The Kuwaiti government hired its own U.S. private contractor, the Halliburton Corporation, to move most of the burned-out hulks in the vicinity of Kuwait City to a dump in the western desert. But, not until three years ago, when the U.S. planned to stop using the base, did the Army dispose of additional shell fragments. And, it was just in April of this year that the rest of this gigantic mess was finally neutralized on site. The cleanup, accomplished by MKM Engineers, headquartered in Stafford, Texas, was financed by the Kuwaiti government.

David Foster, an Army public affairs spokesman, said "under the circumstances, the Army had no legal obligation to clean up the (particulate) material" at Camp Doha. The Army originally brought the munitions and equipment to protect Kuwait, so it was now Kuwait's responsibility to pay for the cleanup, transportation of the hazards and final, safe burial, he said.

A total of 6,700 tons of contaminated sand with particles of depleted uranium and lead from Kuwait was shipped in April to the Port of Longview in Washington. The barrels were then transferred to railway cars for final delivery to the American Ecology Corporation's Idaho's Grand View low-level radiation waste facility, 70 miles southeast of Boise in the Owyhee Desert.

"Based on the very low levels of contamination present," American Ecology spokesman Chad Hyslop, "the soil is not regulated as 'radioactive material' by the US Department of Transportation." Damaged depleted uranium penetrators were separated out by MKM and sent separately to the United States for disposal, said Army spokesman Foster. Both the Department of Environmental Protection and the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, accepting the Army's tests and descriptions of the hazards of the dust, allowed this form of disposal.

EPA and NRC Leave Cleanup and Burial to the Army

Those two agencies' officials took the Army's word that these shipments of depleted uranium dust did not pose a threat to humans or the environment while in transit or stored away in its final Idaho waste site. Mark MacIntyre, an EPA spokesman, said: "The Army is responsible for characterizing the material for the purposes of complying with transportation and disposal requirements.... The EPA does not have a specific standard related to depleted uranium. For the purposes of disposal, depleted uranium is considered a low level radioactive waste and is subject to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations." Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the NRC, explained: "The sand - with small amounts of depleted uranium being sent to the U.S. Ecology Idaho facility for disposal - contains 'exempt' concentrations of uranium, less than 0.5-percent weight. If the concentrations were greater than this, we would have oversight."

Retired Army Maj. Doug Rokke, who has a Ph.D. in education - physics and technology - from the University of Illinois, fought the use of DU for years through the Internet and other means. He believes this current Doha DU waste-disposal operation violates safe guidelines. He worked with the special operations team, the 3rd U.S. Army captured equipment project team, and with the 3rd U.S. Army Depleted Uranium Assessment team during Gulf War One. As a result of his DU cleanup work, Rokke says he is ill with radiation damage to his lungs and kidneys. He also has radiation cataracts, fibromyalgia, rash, hearing loss, diarrhea, reactive airway disease, brain lesions, teeth breaking off and falling out, and neurological abnormalities.

It is ludicrous, said Rokke, for the NRC, the EPA and the Army to deny the Doha depleted uranium's dangers. They are doing this, he said, even as the U.S. government is mandating a huge cleanup of the Concord, Massachusetts, depleted uranium munitions manufacturer Starmet's Superfund site, and is indeed taking those pains to ship DU from Camp Doha, Kuwait, to the United States while endangering the environment and all persons who come anywhere near that shipment.

Health Destroyed by DU

Former First Lt. Todd Lightfoot is one of many Army veterans who believes he became sick from the aftermath of the fire while stationed at Camp Doha in 1991. He explains at his Internet web site that: "During my entire tour; one could say that, 'I was in the loop' (in the know about operations)." Lightfoot added that he has reviewed "my notes from all of the meetings we had ... and we had meetings twice a day every day ... and many times having a meeting or two in between. I can still not find one mention of potential health hazards from depleted uranium or the possible contamination of any area at Camp Doha." and "I've been sick now since about 1995," said Lightfoot. "I have what they call IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), but they've not been able to treat it with any success. (It creates constant) bad, bad cramping in the lower abdomen, severe fatigue, bad joint pain, all of the norms rolled up into the 'Gulf War Illness' tag!"

"As for what I believe is the cause of my declining health," said Lightfoot, "there were three constants when I arrived a DOHA. There were the burning oil well fires. There was a constant presence of insects/pesticides. And then there was the DU. I've always believed that there is more to the DU than the US government and DoD would like us to believe." Army spokesman Foster did not answer queries about Lightfoot.

International Calls to Ban and Clean Up DU

Back as far as 1999, a United Nations committee called for a DU munitions ban worldwide because its long-term adverse health impact on civilians violates international law. More recently, in January, the United Nations voted to approve an inquiry among member nations to determine the harmful impacts of depleted uranium munitions. Three years later, the World Health Organization recommended that "young children's exposure to depleted uranium must be monitored and preventive measures taken, and heavily affected impact zones for depleted uranium munitions should be cordoned off and cleaned up." United States officials failed to effectively warn the government of Afghanistan about that very danger. BBC News reported in April: "Doctors in Afghanistan say rates of some health problems affecting children have doubled in the last two years. Some scientists say the rise is linked to use of weapons containing depleted uranium (DU) by the U.S.-led coalition that invaded the country in 2001. A Canadian research group found very high levels of uranium in Afghans during tests just after the invasion. A U.S. forces spokesman denied its weapons were affecting the health of Afghans or the country's environment."

Some cleanups were conducted in the Balkans, but otherwise the recommendations found little cooperation. Finally, in late May, the European Parliament passed a global ban on such weapons with a landslide approval vote. The rationale: "Ever since its use by the allied forces in the first war against Iraq, there have been serious concerns about the radiological and chemical toxicity of the fine uranium particles produced when such weapons impact on hard targets. Concerns have also been expressed about the contamination of soil and groundwater by expended rounds that have missed their targets and their implications for civilian populations. Despite the fact that scientific research has so far been unable to find conclusive evidence of harm, there are numerous testimonies as to the harmful and often deadly effects on both military personnel and civilians. The last few years have seen great advances in terms of understanding the environmental and health hazards posed by depleted uranium, and whereas it is high time that this was reflected in international military standards, as they develop. The use of depleted uranium in warfare runs counter to the basic rules and principles enshrined in written and customary international, humanitarian and environmental law."

Press spokespersons for both President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have told this reporter in the past they rely upon the Pentagon for advice about the use of depleted uranium munitions, their health impacts and cleanups. Neither British Prime Minister Gordon Brown nor the British Environment Agency specifically answered this reporter's repeated queries about their policies toward DU munitions and cleanups.

The British Ministry of Defense says on its Internet site: "There is no reliable scientific or medical evidence to link DU with the ill health of either Gulf or Balkans veterans or people living in these regions. Many independent reports have been produced and researchers continue to consider the battlefield effects of using DU munitions. These reports include work by the Royal Society, the European Commission, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO). None of these organizations has found a connection between DU exposure and illness, and none has found widespread DU contamination sufficient to impact the health of the general population or deployed personnel."

Jasem Al-Budaiwi, first secretary of the Kuwaiti Embassy in Washington, sent this reporter's inquiries to his government, but no reply came back. Repeated inquiries to presidential candidates Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) and Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) over a month's time netted no answer to phone calls or e-mails.

It was not until October 2006, after decades of complaints about the hazards that President Bush signed into law a Congressional bill calling for a study of the health effects of depleted uranium munitions' firings on American troops, but not on the millions of foreign civilians exposed. As a result, a legislative committee is expected to ask the Army to review the accuracy of acute exposures and the cancer risks posed by them.

This summer, a Canadian Member of Parliament, Alex Atamanenko (British Columbia Southern Interior, NDP) called on his government "to undertake every measure possible to ensure that depleted uranium weapons of mass destruction are banned forever." Atamanenko continued: "Belgium has banned the use of uranium in all conventional weapon systems. However, at least 18 countries, including the U.S., use depleted uranium in their arsenals. They are considered weapons of mass destruction under international law. According to a Canada-U.S. agreement, Canadian uranium exports may only be used for peaceful purposes." Nonetheless, he said, Canada provides raw uranium to the United States and other countries for processing and the resulting depleted uranium is then used in weapons.

DU Munitions Abandoned by Some

Now says Dai Williams, a British uranium expert, who posts on www.eoslifework.co.uk, most DU munitions are becoming pass, but in their wake, undepleted uranium shells made of natural uranium have been fired and are being manufactured by arms makers worldwide. "Why is this a problem?" asks Williams. "Because natural uranium in the general environment is mostly in large particles created from natural weathering processes. The body seems to be able to eject these. But weapons uranium dust is formed at very high temperature into ultra-fine particles described as aerosols that can pass through cell walls etc. In the lungs these will go into soft tissue and stay there, rather than being coughed out," Williams explains. In the meantime, he says, tons of the old DU munitions are still in storage for potential firing by countries including the Great Britain and the United States. The British, he said, are now using the hard metal tungsten to manufacture munitions formerly made of uranium. Even the U.S. Navy and Marines have abandoned depleted uranium munitions in light of their potential health hazards.

A Government Accountability Office investigation two years ago found the military's and the Department of Energy's handling of depleted uranium and other nuclear waste a fiscal quagmire to clean up. In the United States, DU munitions manufacturing operations have created numerous hazardous-waste concerns. The military has had to deal with firing range cleanups of DU, while the Energy Department is responsible for oversight of nuclear installations. "The nation's military installations and nuclear weapons production facilities," said the GAO, "have accumulated many types of waste and contamination over the years. The federal government estimated its environmental liability to clean up this waste at $249 billion in fiscal year 2004, representing the federal government's third-largest reported liability. It represents a significant future outflow of funds at the same time as many other competing demands for federal dollars, but is currently not auditable," the GAO said.

Arkansas town expands 24-hour curfew

Crime-ridden Arkansas town expands 24-hour curfew

Officers armed with military rifles have been stopping and questioning passers-by in a neighborhood plagued by violence that's been under a 24-hour curfew for a week.

On Tuesday, the Helena-West Helena City Council voted 9-0 to allow police to expand that program into any area of the city, despite a warning from a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas that the police stops were unconstitutional.

Police Chief Fred Fielder said the patrols have netted 32 arrests since they began last week in a 10-block neighborhood in this small town on the banks of the Mississippi River long troubled by poverty. The council said those living in the city want the random shootings and drug-fueled violence to stop, no matter what the cost.

"Now if somebody wants to sue us, they have an option to sue, but I'm fairly certain that a judge will see it the way the way the citizens see it here," Mayor James Valley said. "The citizens deserve peace, that some infringement on constitutional rights is OK and we have not violated anything as far as the Constitution."

The area under curfew, in what used to be a West Helena neighborhood, sits among abandoned homes and occupied residences in disrepair.

White signs on large blue barrels warn those passing by that the area remains under curfew by order of Mayor James Valley. The order was scheduled to end at 3 p.m. Tuesday, but Valley said the city council's vote would allow police to have the same powers across Helena-West Helena.

Among the curfew operation's arrests, 10 came from felony charges, including the arrest of two people carrying both drugs and weapons, Fielder said. The police chief said the officers in the field carry military-style M-16 or M-4 rifles, some equipped with laser sights. Other officers carry short-barrel shotguns. Many dealing crack cocaine and marijuana in the city carry pistols and AK-47 assault rifles, he said.

"We've had people call us, expressing concern for their children," Fielder said. "They had to sleep on the floor, because of stray bullets."

Fielder said officers had not arrested anyone for violating the curfew, only questioned people about why they were outside. Those without good answers or acting nervously get additional attention, Fielder said.

However, such stops likely violate residents' constitutional rights to freely assemble and protections against unreasonable police searches, said Holly Dickson, a lawyer for the ACLU of Arkansas who addressed the council at its packed Tuesday meeting. Because of that, Dickson said any convictions coming from the arrests likely would be overturned.

"The residents of these high-crime areas are already victims," she said. "They're victims of what are happening in the neighborhoods, they're victims of fear. But for them to be subject to unlawful stops and questioning ... that is not going to ultimately going to help this situation."

The council rejected Dickson's claims, at one point questioning the Little Rock-based attorney if she'd live in a neighborhood they described as under siege by wild gunfire and gangs.

"As far as I'm concerned, at 3 o'clock in the morning, nobody has any business being on the street, except the law," Councilman Eugene "Red" Johnson said. "Anyone out at 3 o'clock shouldn't be out on the street, unless you're going to the hospital."

The curfew is the second under the mayor's watch since the rival cities of Helena and West Helena merged in 2006. That year, Valley set a nightly citywide curfew after a rash of burglaries and other thefts.

Police in Hartford, Conn., began enforcing a nightly curfew for youths after recent violence, including a weekend shooting that killed a man and wounded six young people.

Helena-West Helena, with 15,000 residents at the edge of Arkansas' eastern rice fields and farmland, is in one of the nation's poorest regions, trailing even parts of Appalachia in its standard of living.

In the curfew area, those inside the homes in the watch area peered out of door cracks Tuesday as police cruisers passed. They closed the doors afterward.

The Mukasey Doctrine

The Mukasey Doctrine

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Prior to his confirmation, Michael Mukasey fessed up, in a written response to Senator Dick Durbin, to a meeting the White House arranged with a group of movement conservatives. The team he met with had a simple agenda: They wanted his assurance that he would not appoint special prosecutors to go after administration figures involved in serious scandals at the Justice Department, including the U.S. attorneys scandal and the introduction of torture with formal Justice Department cover, and they wanted his assurance that Justice would continue to provide legal cover to “the Program.” The team who met Mukasey included figures on the periphery of the scandal who may have had personal reasons to fear an investigation. But Mukasey is clearly keeping the understanding that brought him to the cherished post of attorney general. And that’s bad news for the Justice Department and its reputation.

Today he addressed the annual convention of the American Bar Association, and expanded upon what may be known to future generations as the “Mukasey Doctrine.” This doctrine holds that political appointees in the Justice Department who breach the public trust by using their positions for partisan political purposes face no punishment for their crimes. In the Mukasey view, this is all simple political gamesmanship—“boys will be boys”—and sufficient accountability is provided by exposing their games to the public limelight.

After reviewing in the briefest terms the recent internal Justice Department probe into the politicization of the hiring process in the honors program, with respect to immigration judges and in other areas, here’s what Mukasey has to say:

The conduct described in those reports is disturbing. The mission of the Justice Department is the evenhanded application of the Constitution and the laws enacted under it. That mission has to start with the evenhanded application of the laws within our own Department. Some people at the Department deviated from that strict standard, and the institution failed to stop them.

I want to stress that last point because there is no denying it: the system failed. The active wrong-doing detailed in the two joint reports was not systemic in that only a few people were directly implicated in it. But the failure was systemic in that the system–the institution–failed to check the behavior of those who did wrong. There was a failure of supervision by senior officials in the Department. And there was a failure on the part of some employees to cry foul when they were aware, or should have been aware, of problems.

Note how Mukasey plays the entire affair down and uses the traditional language of the criminal defendant–for him it was a “system failure.” His language is passive: things evidently just happened. But in fact a closer read of the Inspector General’s report shows that the figures involved and the schemes adopted had a clear provenance in the White House, and specifically in the warren of Karl Rove. The actors under investigation, Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling, had come with Alberto Gonzales from the White House. They benefited from an extraordinary delegation of authority from Gonzales that allowed them, two thirty-somethings with little experience, to exercise the authority of the attorney general in the hiring and firing process. This didn’t “just happen.” It was the result of a careful plan for partisan entrenchment at Justice—consciously pursued in defiance of the law. A serious investigation would have focused on the senior figures responsible for this program. So what is the penalty for such a systematic violation of the law? Well, according to Mukasey, there isn’t one. Those involved have already suffered enough. Yes, they suffer because their misdeeds are now known.

Their misconduct has now been laid bare by the Justice Department for all to see.

But in fact, the Justice Department didn’t willingly lay this bare. It had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the truth. Its instincts throughout the entire process were to cover up and lie about what was being done—as the inspector general documented in excruciating detail. And while Michael Mukasey praises the career professionals around him, the facts are that he has surrounded himself with political flacks who were deeply enmeshed in the cover up.

Mukasey insists that the process of partisan entrenchment has been checked following his arrival. A measure of skepticism on this point is warranted. In fact, the problem is far broader than the two probes undertaken by the Justice Department’s internal investigators. In a recent interview with a former first assistant U.S. attorney, I collected details of a widespread buy-out program used by the Gonzales and Ashcroft Justice Department to remove career professionals in several U.S. attorneys offices. In one case I have examined, this tool was used to replace career professionals with hacks who were obviously hired in violation of the civil service rules. But this matter has not yet even been probed.

Still, the two IG reports on hiring are a mere prelude to the forthcoming report on the U.S. attorney’s scandal. The message that Mukasey is sending seems to be this: he will refuse to appoint a special prosecutor to look into the matter, whatever the inspector general suggests. In the Mukasey view, it will be enough punishment for the truth to come out.

Yet in a single sentence, Mukasey gave a different signal.

If anyone—whether Democrat or Republican, whether appointed through a flawed process or a flawless one–is found to be handling or deciding cases based on politics, and not based on what the law and facts require, there will be a swift and unambiguous response.

How serious is Mukasey about this promise? He’s had plenty of opportunities so far, and there is no sign of action from the attorney general. Indeed, the entire thrust of his speech gives grave reason to doubt there will ever be any action at all. And with the next report, Mukasey’s promise may be put squarely to the test.

If OPEC Dumps the Dollar

If OPEC Dumps the Dollar

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dropped a bombshell. And while it wasn’t a nuclear one, it might as well have been.

He stated on the record at a rare gathering of the heads of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries [OPEC] member nations have expressed a real interest in converting their cash reserves from the beleaguered U.S. greenback to the European euro. More specifically, Ahmadinejad referred to the U.S. dollar as "a worthless piece of paper."

Not surprisingly, Ahmadinejad ally and fellow anti-U.S. hardliner Hugo Chavez - the president of Venezuela - echoed a similar sentiment.

What makes their posturing so troublesome, however, is that for the first time there was no rebuttal, or reassuring commentary from Saudi Arabia and other key U.S. petrodollar supporters, in response.

In fact, they didn’t even mention concerns about the falling U.S. dollar in the summit’s final declaration.

Instead, OPEC members formed a working group to study the dollar’s effect on oil prices and to "investigate the possibility of a currency basket" as a means of offsetting declining dollar-based reserves. At the same time, Ahmadinejad and Chavez agreed to set up a joint Iranian-Venezuelan bank and concurrently signed deals to boost cooperation in the oil, petrochemical and general industrial sectors, according to Iranian media.

The timetable for recommendations and action, like many things from OPEC, remains unclear. But the mere fact that they’ve gone so far as to set up a working group to study the currency problem, and that at least two major member states are busy establishing bilateral financial institutions, suggests that changes are in the wind and this time those changes are for real.

Let me emphasize this point: This is not good. In fact, under the circumstances, I can’t think of anything else short of a direct terrorist attack that poses as serious a challenge to our economic future and to any of our investments that aren’t positioned for this possibility.

That said, if you know that something is going to happen, there are almost always profitable plays you can make.

Let’s talk challenges first.

The Fallout From a Falling Dollar

First, OPEC members have long grumbled about the falling dollar and taking payment in euros. This is nothing new. In fact, China already pays for Iranian oil in euros, so Ahmadinejad’s desire to get away from the dollar is hardly unexpected given how much he already banks on the deal. Neither is the fact that both Venezuela and Russia have joined the "euros-for-oil" party, as have Libya, Indonesia and Malaysia, I believe.

But what represents a stark change from past posturing is that this time there was no reassuring voice from countries like Saudi Arabia and Jordan, who have traditionally been our allies in keeping the petrodollar relationship intact since the early 1970s.

This time around, both our "allies" were completely silent on the matter and their silence, as the old adage goes, speaks volumes about how much internal pressure is mounting against such dollar-favorable OPEC members. I’ve met many of the their representatives over the years, and let me assure you that they are very concerned that the oil-for-euros crowd will win.

The reason is that many OPEC countries peg their own currencies to the dollar. By pricing crude the same way, they have their own form of economic benchmark. Should that change in response to a shift away from dollars, each producer would not only have to endure their own economic reset, but they would potentially also have to begin pricing oil on the free market, which is something OPEC cartel members have gone to great lengths to avoid for nearly 30 years. This could result in dramatically higher oil prices as the bigger players squeeze the smaller producers out and the dollar falls even further in response.

How high will crude oil soar? My calculations suggest $197.30 a barrel is possible - not probable - but possible.

[There was talk out of the Middle East this weekend of OPEC boosting output, prompting predictions that oil would fall to as low as $70 a barrel. Even if OPEC boosts production and prices fall that much, I’m telling you right now that any price decline will be temporary, and that oil prices will subsequently resume their upward advance. There’s just too much global demand for the "black gold."]

And that brings me to my second point. A run-up in the price of crude oil to nearly $200 a barrel would imply a dollar falling another 25% from present levels. I’ve personally addressed the issue for years at financial conferences, but many people still don’t connect higher oil prices with the falling dollar… and they should.

The pinch we feel in our wallet is as much the result of U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s seemingly incomprehensible "attention-to-deficits disorder" as it is to any Middle Eastern machinations.

Whether OPEC members make good on their threats to abandon the dollar completely - or simply shift to a currency basket - is a moot point. The real issue is that OPEC members and other oil producers have had to boost the price per barrel to offset both the corresponding loss in immediate cash payments they receive and the decline in value of the dollar-based reserves they maintain.

And OPEC members will have to continue to do so. This can only put additional downward pressure on the greenback.

Any shift away from dollars into other currencies will effectively imbue the U.S. dollar with an added element of exchange-rate risk when it comes to oil - which is seemingly what the anti-US OPEC members want.

If that doesn’t make sense, think of it this way: Should that change and U.S. dollars are no longer required for oil purchases, the demand for dollars would plunge, sending the greenback into a freefall.

In other words, the global demand for dollars would fall dramatically because there would be only disadvantages to maintaining it as a reserve if OPEC no longer prices oil in dollars.
I don’t know about you, but this is enough to make my head spin… and I do this for a living!

So let’s shift away from this gloom and doom and instead look at the profit opportunities this unceremonious dumping of the dollar would create.

Capitalizing on the Dollar’s Denouncement

One thing is certain in all this: There’s no way that Ahmadinejad and Chavez intended to create profit opportunities for U.S. investors. But in making the greenback an OPEC outcast, that’s precisely what they’ll be doing. Let’s look at some of the best opportunities that I see before us.
Indeed, if OPEC makes good on this subtle threat, make sure to:

  • Grab the Global Titans: Global titans derive a big portion of their sales from outside U.S. borders, and in currencies other than the greenback. Own a few winners here and you’ll suddenly find that you’re literally cheering every time the dollar clicks downward; you’ll be making it up with investments that are booming even as our own markets are tanking. Examples include YUM! Brands Inc. (YUM), PepsiCo Inc. (PEP), Boeing Co. (BA), Deutsche Telekom AG (DT), and ABB Ltd. (ABB).
  • Plug Into Alternative Energy: Big Energy is really expensive right now, but those high oil and gas prices will literally fuel the race to find the eventual winning sources of alternative energy. Unless you really know your stuff, it’s tough for you to pick the winners. This is one of those cases where it’s smart to let the experts make those choices - and to use a fund, with multiple investments, to diversify away the substantial risks. That’s why an exchange-traded fund [ETF] like the PowerShares WilderHill Clean Energy ETF (PBW) is such a great choice. The continued escalation of energy prices will force the transition to alternatives - far more effectively than any legislative conservation measures ever would.

Clean Up on Currencies: Because the dollar forms the backbone of the major currency-trading relationships within the G10, it makes sense to capitalize on potential currency disruptions down the road. The Powershares DB G10 Currency Harvest Fund (DBV) plays that role perfectly. It simultaneously invests in the weakest and the strongest of the G10 currencies and could add a nice kicker as currencies realign themselves in response to a dollar-disadvantaged world. And in this kind of weak-dollar environment, foreign bonds clearly are an attractive investment for U.S. investors. But there aren’t any ETFs specializing in foreign-currency bonds. A good alternative would be a high-quality international bond fund: The no-load T. Rowe Price International Bond Fund (RPIBX), which invests in high-quality, non-dollar-denominated bonds, is a sound choice.

Three major US naval strike forces due this week in Persian Gulf

Three major US naval strike forces due this week in Persian Gulf

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DEBKAfile’s military sources note that the arrival of the three new American flotillas will raise to five the number of US strike forces in Middle East waters – an unprecedented build-up since the crisis erupted over Iran’s nuclear program.

This vast naval and air strength consists of more than 40 carriers, warships and submarines, some of the last nuclear-armed, opposite the Islamic Republic, a concentration last seen just before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Our military sources postulate five objects of this show of American muscle:

1. The US, aided also by France, Britain and Canada, is finalizing preparations for a partial naval blockade to deny Iran imports of benzene and other refined oil products. This action would indicate that the Bush administration had thrown in the towel on stiff United Nations sanctions and decided to take matters in its own hands.

2. Iran, which imports 40 percent of its refined fuel products from Gulf neighbors, will retaliate for the embargo by shutting the Strait of Hormuz oil route chokepoint, in which case the US naval and air force stand ready to reopen the Strait and fight back any Iranian attempt to break through the blockade.

3. Washington is deploying forces as back-up for a possible Israeli military attack on Iran’s nuclear installations.

4. A potential rush of events in which a US-led blockade, Israeli attack and Iranian reprisals pile up in a very short time and precipitate a major military crisis.

5. While a massive deployment of this nature calls for long planning, its occurrence at this time cannot be divorced from the flare-up of the Caucasian war between Russia and Georgia. While Russia has strengthened its stake in Caspian oil resources by its overwhelming military intervention against Georgia, the Americans are investing might in defending the primary Persian Gulf oil sources of the West and the Far East.

DEBKAfile’s military sources name the three US strike forces en route to the Gulf as the USS Theodore Roosevelt , the USS Ronald ReaganUSS Iwo Jima . Already in place are the USS Abraham LincolnUSS Peleliu which is cruising in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. and the in the Arabian Sea opposite Iranian shores and the

Jewish International Opposition Statement Against Attack on Iran

Jewish International Opposition Statement Against Attack on Iran

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Efforts to beat the drums of war for an attack on Iran’s nuclear reactor facilities are promoted in both the USA and Israel scenes. The recent New York Times opinion piece of July 18th, written by the Israeli historian Benny Morris, serves to consolidate those political forces. The Jewish opposition here expresses our outrage in order to forestall this horrendous proposal.

That clamour for war with Iran has met not only popular opposition but also runs counter to the quiet diplomacy that has engaged Iran in ongoing relations with the UN nuclear agency, as well as economic trade talks with the USA itself. Israel is also committed to a cease-fire that has held now for a month’s time, to the relief of both the populations of Israel and Gaza. In light of the developing political atmosphere of reason and negotiations, the militarist mindset has pumped up its rationale for war attempting to create the preconditions for a further war. Morris seeks to fabricate such prior conditions arguing,

“They are likely to use any bomb they build, both because of ideology and because of fear of Israeli nuclear pre-emption. Thus an Israeli nuclear strike to prevent the Iranians from taking the final steps toward getting the bomb is probable. The alternative is letting Tehran have its bomb. In either case, a Middle Eastern nuclear holocaust would be in the cards.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/18/opinion/18morris.html

This promotion of inevitability plays on Jewish and Israeli memory of the Nazi Holocaust in order to garner any and every source of support for an Israel military strike against Iran, provoking a reaction and leading to a further war by drawing in the USA. This is particularly deplorable in view of the fact that 16 US intelligence agencies concluded that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program and has not had one for five years.

We extol the heroic courage of Israel's nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu, joining our voices to his in condemnation of Israel's illegal stockpile of nuclear warheads and support the call for a nuclear-free Middle East.

The mindset calling for a war of mutual annihilation as a solution to security is astoundingly self-contradictory. Only the fabrication of a Nazi-like threat seeks to provide any credibility to such a call to war, much like the rationale for occupation that perceives a Palestinian plot to drive Jews into the sea. The reference to Iranian ideology (Islam) as the source of confrontation does not stand up to scrutiny, since the political challenge to Israel by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is not a call for extermination, despite any mistranslation.

We seek security for all concerned by affirming the right of all to security. While we lend no credibility to the prospect of an inevitable conflict, we nonetheless object to the hysteria promoted by the Iran-bashers who are now desperate in their repeated false starts to create another unnecessary war. The attempt to oblige Iran to comply with Security Council resolutions loses its legal, diplomatic and political force as the United States and Israel consistently ignore UN diplomacy and World Court decisions, relevant to the question of Palestine. We call upon all opposed to a military confrontation with Iran to write their governmental representatives demanding that the State of Israel subject its nuclear facilities to international inspection and sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) as has Iran, rather than issue threats of war.

Further endorsements may be added by sending in a message to saalaha@fokus.name

Initiators:

For further information;

Stanley Heller www.TheStruggle.org mail@TheStruggle.org

New York

Prof. Dr. Fanny-Michaela Reisin

Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in Middle East - EJJP

www.juedische-stimme.de

mailto:mail@juedische-stimme.de

Germany

Abraham Weizfeld

saalaha@fokus.name 514.284.66.42

Interim Administrative Secretary, Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians

Loze mir alle leiben mit shytvis un shulim

Montréal

Organizational Co-signers :

Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians

jewish.alliance@yahoo.ca

Colorado Jews for a Just Peace

Granny Peace Brigade Philadelphia

Germantown Friends Meeting, Peace & Social Concerns

Independent Jewish Voices Montreal

Jewish Voice for a Just Peace, Switzerland

Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods

New Profile

a feminist, pluralist Israeli movement of males and females who wish to transform Israel from a militaristic society to a civil-ized one. www.newprofile.org

Women in Black

San Francisco Bay Area in Oakland, California

Women in Black (Vienna)

Co-signers :

Paula Abrams-Hourani

Women in Black (Vienna) and

Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East (EJJP-Austria)

Miriam Adams

New Mexico

Prof. Ammiel Alcalay

CUNY Graduate Center & Queens College

Henry Ascher, MD, PhD, Assoc. Professor
Gothenburg, Sweden

Tsela Barr

Madison Chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace

Abigail B. Bakan, Ph.D., Queen’s University

Canada

Judith Bernstein

Jewish-Palestinian Dialogue Group Munich

Murray & Marcia Bernstein

Brooklyn, NY

Rudolf Bkouche

vice-président, l'Union Juive Française pour la Paix

Mark Robert Brill

As a Jewish Canadian (and inhabitant of the same planet as any and all who may read this), I

Wholeheartedly endorse the statement in opposition to the Benny Morris article which appeared in the New York Times urging an attack on Iran.

Neither as a Jew, nor a human being living in this age of myriad pressing concerns which threaten the existence of our species, can I condone the insanity of the current policy of the present United States & Israeli administrations which at least states as its belief that the Iranian nuclear program is a threat to world security. (Though I must credit the authors of those policies to be intelligent enough to know full well the dishonesty of such a stated belief so therefore must further condemn them for such cynical manipulation).

In fact, the by far greater threat to world security is and has been for some time now the actions of those above-named states.

Shelley Berlowitz

Jewish Voice for a Just Peace

Switzerland

Judith Butler

Berkeley, California

Paola Canarutto, physician

Chiacchiera con i tuoi amici in tempo reale!

http://it.yahoo.com/mail_it/foot/*http://it.messenger.yahoo.com

Italy

Lorenzo A. Canizares

Harrisburg, PA

Union Organizer

Smadar Carmon
Toronto, Canada

Prof. Noam Chomsky

James Cohen

Dept. of Political Science

Université de Paris VIII (France)

Viviane Cohen

Woman in Black, Paris France

secretaire nationale of the UJFP.
I endorse your statement against war on Iran . Definitively.

Stephen Conroy, B. Com.

Montreal, Canada

Mark Cramer

Professor Université Paris-Jussieu and Sciences-Po (Paris)

Mike Cushman

Secretary LSE University and Colleges Union Branch (personal capacity)

Uri Davis (Dr)

MAIAP: Movement Against Israeli Apartheid in Palestine

Richard Lee Deaton, Ph.D., LL.B.

Ottawa, Canada

James Deutsch, M.D., Ph.D.

Judith Deutsch, M.S.W.

Jean M. Entine

Interim Chair Jewish Voice for Peace

USA

Dror Feiler

Composer, musician, artist

Chairman, European Jews for a Just Peace (www.ejjp.org)

Stockholm, Sweden

Pnina Feiler

Reg. nurse, Israel

Deborah Fink

Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods

Joel Frangquist

San Francisco, CA

Member of Jewish Voice for Peace, Bay Area chapter

Racheli Gai

Tucson Women in Black

Miriam Garfinkle M.D.

Sheila Goldmacher,

Member, Bay Area Women in Black Study Group

Sherna Berger Gluck

Professor Emerita, California State University Long Beach USA

Sue Goldstein
Toronto

Women in Solidarity with Palestine

Julius Gordon

Tucson, AZ

Please add my name to the list of violent dissenters with Benny Morris, who proposes the start of a nuclear war in the Middle East. Based on his NY times article it appears that Prof. Morris, who at one time was considered a valuable scholar in Middle East history, has suffered a dissociative disorder. How else to explain the patent lies (no intelligence service in the world..) that a rational historian would never allow to be printed under his name.

Tony Greenstein

Robert B. Gross

Suffern N.Y.

Batja P. Guggenheim- Ami

St.Gallen Switzerland&

Chanan H. Guggenheim-Ami

St. Gallen Switzerland

Members of the Israel- Palestinian Dialogue Group ‘Olivenzweig’ St. Gall CH

Evelyn Haas [ oldleft@hotmail.com ]

Abe Hayeem

Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine

Dr. Annette Herskovits

Writer, California, USA

Fred Hirsch

Executive Board Member Plumbers and Fitters Local 393, Delegate to the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, Delegate to the Santa Clara and San Benito Counties Building and Construction Trades Council

I endorse the statement wholeheartedly.

Benny Morris thinks the unthinkable. His article justifying a nuclear strike against Iran speaks the unspeakable. Such an action could and probably would open humanity's door to the abyss - a monstrous step toward the end of human viability on Earth.

Shame on the New York Times for admitting such barbarity into the public discussion as normal discourse.

Israel's unchecked development of nuclear weapons, with the help of apartheid South Africa, was an affront our legacy as Jews - a sharp stick in the eye to the population of the planet. Weapons of mass destruction indeed!

Any nuclear threat today is despicable.

Louis Hirsch

Chicago, Illinois

Dr. Tikva Honig-Parnass

Jerusalem

Tamzin Jans

Brussels, Belgium (in Libya)

Jake Javanshir

I endorse your stand of no attack on Iran. I am an Iranian Jew, living in Canada. If anyone should be stoped of aggression, it's Israel not Iran.

Dan Judelson

Secretary , European Jews for a Just Peace

Gilda Katz

MSW, RSW, Toronto

Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta

citizen of Canada and Israel

Mira Khazzam

Montreal, Canada

Alisa Klein

Israeli and U.S. Citizen

Jason Kunin

Toronto

Rebekah Levin
Oak Park, IL

Joseph Levine
Dept. of Philosophy
Univ. of Mass
Amherst, MA

Abby Lippman, PhD, Professor

Montreal, Quebec

Antony Loewenstein

Sydney, Australia, journalist/author

Leslie Lomas

Colorado Jews for a Just Peace

Moshé Machover

London, UK

Dr Sabetai Matsas MD

Athens, Greece

Hilda Meers

Writer

member of Scottish Jews for a Just Peace,

Aberdeen Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament,

Grampian Senior Citizens Forum

Peter Melvyn

Vienna, Austria

Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in Neareast

Brigitte Meyer

Jewish-Palestinian Dialogue Group St.Gallen, Switzerland

I fully support the content and spirit of this statement. Real security can only come from peace.

Dorinda Moreno
Fuerza Mundial Collaborative

Dorothy Naor Ph.D.

Israel Naor

Israel

My spouse and I both endorse the statement and fervently hope that reason rather than emotions and war profiteering will hold sway.

Diana Neslen

United Kingdom

Joan Nestle

Alex Nissen
Senior Educator / Coordinator
Israeli/Australian
Women in Black Melbourne

Prof. Judith Norman

Jewish Peace News

Prof. Bertell Ollman

Dept. of Politics, NYU

New York, New York, USA.

Karin Pally

Women in Black-Los Angeles

Jean Pauline

Oakland, California

Daniel Pines

Karen Platt

member of Jewish Voice for Peace, Albany, CA

Laurie Polster

Jewish Voice for Peace/Bay Area

Oakland, CA

Yakov M Rabkin

Professor of History, University of Montreal
Israel’s elites disdain – to their own peril - the Mishna that praises as a hero someone who knows how to turn an enemy into a friend.

Naomi Rankin

I fully support the content and spirit of this statement. As a Jewish Canadian with cousins in Israel, I am interested in real security for Israel, and that can come only from peace.

Bruce Robbins

Columbia University

Stewart M. Robinson

retired Prof of Mathematics

Professor Jonathan Rosenhead

Secretary, British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)

Prof Andrew N. Rubin

Georgetown University

Washington, DC

Molly Rush

PUSH PA. United for SinglePayer HealthCare

Health Care for All PA

www.healthcare4allPA.org

Margot F Salom (BA Soc Work, M Phil)

Palestinian & Jewish Unity for Justice & Peace

Stop this madness - What has happened to Jewish ethics?

Shay Salomon

Tucson, Arizona

Marlena Santoyo

Philadelphia, PA, USA &

member of Jewish Voice for Peace

Yom Shamash

Jews for a Just Peace

Vancouver, Canada

Cindy Shamban

Berkeley, CA

affiliation: Jewish Voice for Peace

Avi Shlaim, FBA

Professor of International Relations

St Antony's College

Oxford

Rich Siegel

Musician, Advisory Board Deir Yassin Remembered

Teaneck, NJ USA
http://www.deiryassin.org

Andy Silver

Cary, NC

July 27 letter to the Raleigh News & Observer. It was not published.

America is no place for satire. The New Yorker Obama cartoon went over like a John Kerry joke. Now some are responding seriously to the column by Benny Morris, “Soon, strike on Iran” (N&O, July 20), which presented a case for another pre-emptive war with the cogency with which Jonathan Swift proposed that Irish poverty be relieved by devouring babies.

Morris’s proposal is as insane and as devoid of humanity as Swift’s “modest proposal.” It should convince any sane person of the insanity of attacking Iran.

I doubt, however, the sanity of all discussion of Iran’s nuclear threat. The existing nuclear threat in the Middle East comes from Israel. Israel’s arsenal is controlled by the same Israeli government that dropped a million cluster bombs in southern Lebanon only for the purpose of killing and maiming farm families that wished to return to their land. Israel’s bombs provide the motive for surrounding nations to seek nuclear weapons. The only way to prevent nuclear proliferation in the Middle East is to create a nuclear arms free zone. In return for Israel’s dismantling its nuclear arsenal and agreeing to strict inspections by the IAEA, other countries in the region should make similar commitments.

Jonatan Stanczak

The Freedom Theatre, Jenin refugee Camp

Roger Tucker
http://one-state.net

Richard Wark, PhD.

Durham, North Carolina

Dr. Samuel Wiener

Jewish Voice for a Just Peace

Switzerland

Judith Weisman,
Toronto, Canada

Suzanne Weiss

Not In Our Name (NION) Jewish Voices Opposing Zionism

Toronto

Evan Weissman
Denver, CO USA

Playwright and Nonviolence Teacher

Célie Weizfeld Castelijn

Montréal Kébèk

Roger van Zwanenberg (Dr)
Chair & Commissioning Editor
Pluto Press