This is a real good example of how government bureaucrats and rulers perform absolutely no useful work and are just parasites and leaches that live off of the rest of us hard working honest citizens.
3 city officials spent $400,000 on trips to promote Sky Harbor
Phoenix officials marketed airport abroad
Ginger D. Richardson
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 27, 2005 12:00 AM
In the past five years, three Phoenix Aviation Department executives have spent more than $400,000 in public money on dozens of trips to Asia, Europe, Mexico and Canada to promote Sky Harbor International Airport.
In each of those years, the three officials also ranked among the city's top travel spenders, according to a Republic investigation into abuses of Phoenix's lax travel and training policies.
The international sojourns were billed as everything from air-service trade missions to valuable opportunities to meet with foreign journalists and tour operators. All had a single objective: to boost the number of international carriers and non-stop flights out of Sky Harbor.
But after five years, the only major, lasting payoff from the airport's long-term marketing plan appears to be British Airways' non-stop service to London. Even more concerning, a Republic analysis of the trio's travel records found more examples of employees taking advantage of a system with poor oversight.
The new revelations show that the city's travel woes are institutional and that waste has been going on for several years.
Phoenix's Aviation Department,which gets money by charging fees to residents who use the airport, historically has had one of the city's largest travel budgets. Officials there routinely spend between $320,000 and $450,000 annually on out-of-state conferences, mandatory training and the development of new international flights.
Defending the bill
In separate interviews last week, City Manager Frank Fairbanks and Aviation Director David Krietor defended the airport's aggressive marketing strategy, saying that landing more overseas flights is crucial to Sky Harbor's future health and growth.
"If we aspire to be world players, then we have to have service to Europe and maybe Asia," Krietor said, adding there has always been "strong institutional support" at Phoenix City Hall for air service development.
But they didn't have much to say about the employees' questionable spending on everything from pricey hotels and airfare to hundreds of dollars in charges that weren't adequately explained.
"I think (the employees) have traveled in a way that they felt was consistent with the city's rules," Krietor said. "But clearly, at the end of the day, they didn't pass the headline test."
Deputy Aviation Director Ann Warner, then-marketing director Renee Baggot and then-Assistant Aviation Director David Cavazos made eight trips to Europe between September 2001 and March 2003. They met with trade groups, travel agents, journalists and tour operators.
On a couple of occasions they doubled up, promoting Phoenix in such places as Paris and Munich.
The flurry of marketing and promotional efforts targeted Air France as well as other carriers operating out of places such as Milan, Italy; Amsterdam, Netherlands; and Bangkok, Thailand.
Cavazos also focused heavily on Mexico, traveling there three times between July 2002 and August 2003. He teamed up with Warner and Baggot on a European trip, as well.
The idea was that Sky Harbor was on the verge of becoming a major international hub, joining airports such as Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth International, Los Angeles International and John F. Kennedy in providing non-stop flights to destinations around the globe.
Their hopes had been buoyed in late 2000 when Lufthansa announced it would start daily flights from Frankfurt, Germany, to Phoenix. The new route was only the second daily non-stop service from the city's airport to Europe. The other was a British Airways' flight to London.
But there would be no new overseas success stories after that.
Fallout from Sept. 11
Phoenix says its lack of progress is justifiable, given the state of the airline and tourism industries after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks.
"Lufthansa came in and then everything that could go wrong did go wrong," Krietor said. "The economy softens, 9/11 happened, there was SARS and then the war."
Passenger volume began dropping on the Lufthansa route, and by early 2003, the carrier axed the trip.
Efforts in Mexico and Central America were more successful.
Over the past five years, the number of annual passengers traveling to Mexico has increased 71.5 percent, from about 358,000 in 2000 to about 614,000 in 2004.America West added flights to Cancun and Costa Rica in 2003, and this month, Aeromexico announced that it would begin flying non-stop to Mexico City.
Still, the aggressive program came at a cost.
Each time the three airport executives got back from one of their overseas trips, they turned in expense reports ranging from $5,000 to $26,000.
Much of that money was spent on airfare, as Aviation employees had a long-standing policy of flying the more expensive business class, a practice Krietor has since discontinued.
But there are other, more troubling, costs on the reports.
$480 hotel room
Last month, a Republic analysis of 1,800 employee expense reports filed during the last fiscal year found questionable spending in nearly every department and layer of Phoenix city government.
In many cases, the city's policies were to blame. Until recently, no one closely tracked travel and training spending, nor were employees required to turn in extensive documentation, which made it easier for workers to exploit the loopholes in the system.
Aviation employees were no exception.
Warner, Baggot and Cavazos all routinely expensed laundry and dry cleaning, even though both are considered to be personal charges by the city and not eligible for reimbursement. They were also paid back for $250-plus lunches and dinners, for which they did not have to turn in itemized receipts.
Warner, who has spent nearly $200,000 in public money over the past five years, repeatedly claimed $15, $20 or even $40 tips under the "miscellaneous" section of her reports.
No explanation was ever given for the charges. They weren't for meals or taxi fares; those she listed separately. It appears no one ever questioned Warner about the charges and instead just issued her a check.
Other questionable expenses were even more blatant.
In May 2001, for example, Warner took a two-week trip to Asia to conduct presentations for cargo and passenger air service. On her expense form, she listed her destination cities as Taipei, Taiwan; Singapore; Kuala Lumpur, Maylasia; Hong Kong; and Bangkok, Thailand.
The same cities were listed in the "travel authorization request" filed by her boss before she was allowed to go and sent to Deputy City Manager Marsha Wallace, who has since retired.
But receipts show that Warner spent three nights at the Regent Chiang Mai, a super-ritzy Four Seasons resort in northern Thailand.
The property is one of the nicest in the area and features a cooking school and spa; Warner's room there cost $480 a night. A quick search on Travelocity.com and Expedia.com shows other nearby hotels that cost half as much.
Chiang Mai is also on the opposite side of the country from Bangkok, the only Thai city listed as a destination on Warner's expense form and the accompanying travel authorization letter.
When asked about the charges, Warner declined to specifically address her spending, saying only "all expenses are qualified by receipts and program justification."
In written comments, she added that her "expense reports go through several levels of audits including Aviation Fiscal Management, Airport Director, City Managers' Office and Budget and Research."
In this case, the $16,400 report was approved by Krietor and the City Controller's office.
The city has begun making major changes to its travel policies and procedures since the Republic launched its investigation into Phoenix's spending practices in mid-November.
Fairbanks slashed the budgets of several departments, including Aviation, and issued stringent new rules for employees who take trips. Fairbanks cut the Aviation Department's travel budget for this year nearly in half, from $635,000 to $320,000.
Now Krietor is taking more steps to quell the problems specific to the airport.
In recent weeks, he has issued a new list of travel priorities that includes a temporary ban on all international travel.
Employees will be allowed to leave the city only for critical training or crucial business meetings, he said. That might include trips to Washington, D.C., where officials routinely lobby the government for federal dollars.
In addition to clamping down on expenses, the airport will also change its tactics in trying to develop new overseas flights.
Employees have been directed to work with U.S. Airways, which flies to cities throughout Europe from its hubs in Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C.
"Keeping British Airways is really important, and we are very hopeful that Lufthansa will come back," Krietor said. "But other than that, the future of our international air service is tied to U.S. Airways."
Meanwhile, a panel of city executives under the city manager's direction continues to review all travel reports filed in the past 18 months and has indicated that some employees could be disciplined or asked to reimburse the city if they charged expenses in violation of city policy.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or (602) 444-2474.
government - when you get to the bottom line its not about being a public servant, or providing services and goods for the public, its about shaking down people for money!!!!
On the political calendar, every day is Christmas Day
Dec. 27, 2005 12:00 AM
It's not that we are uninformed. It's just that we occasionally must be reminded of how the world works. Luckily for us, we have serving in Congress Rep. J.D. Hayworth, who graciously refreshes our memories.
Last week, Hayworth and his staff took a moment to set us straight about Christmas.
Most Americans have never served as elected officials. Because of this, we operate under the quaint assumption that Christmas rolls around only once a year. Hayworth reminded us that for politicians, every day is Christmas.
This lesson became necessary after a few reporters from The Arizona Republic asked Hayworth if he planned to return approximately $150,000 in campaign contributions that had been funneled to him from Indian tribes and others connected with a controversial lobbyist named Jack Abramoff.
Senate investigations have led to accusations of fraud against Abramoff and partner Michael Scanlon in connection with millions of dollars of fees they collected. Scanlon has pleaded guilty to fraud and is assisting investigators who are looking into possible corruption.
Because of all this, some members of Congress are returning the contributions they got from the tribes associated with the lobbyists. But not Hayworth.
His chief of staff, Joe Eule, told The Republic, "The tribes have told us, 'We love you. We loved you before we met Jack Abramoff, and we love you after Jack Abramoff, and we think it would be foolish of you to (give back) the money.' "
This reminds us of two things. First, Rep. Hayworth apparently is quite loveable. Second, politics is about money.
Certainly there are times when elected officials and the people who hope to influence them cross the line. When there is too direct a connection between the money handed over and the votes cast. This is only a matter of degree. In a perfect world, politicians would not need the money of wealthy benefactors to get elected. But we don't live in a perfect world.
Hayworth is correct. If he did nothing illegal or improper, and no one has suggested that he has, then he shouldn't return the cash. After all, a politician receives credibility (at least from the media) as soon as he or she assembles what is most often referred to as a "campaign war chest." It is money, rather than ideas or qualifications, that matters most, at least when running for a seat in Congress.
President Bush this month headlined a $1,000-a-plate dinner for Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl. The event raised more than $1 million for Kyl's re-election campaign. But why did Kyl need it? He's been in office many years. Arizona voters know him well.
The answer is money. In the next election, Kyl will face the independently wealthy Jim Pederson, former head of the state Democratic Party and a man willing to spend lots his own cash. This makes him a credible threat.
Money doesn't corrupt politics; money is politics. We should be grateful to Hayworth for having taken a moment to remind us.
It is a lesson that was most clearly explained in Arizona some years ago by former developer and savings-and-loan boss Charles Keating. The failure of Keating's businesses had cost taxpayers billions, and the politicians who took Keating's campaign contributions took a lot of heat.
At a news conference in Phoenix, Keating noted that he had been asked many times if his political contributions were meant to get officeholders to help him. With an honesty we rarely see, Keating bellowed, "I want to say in the most forceful way I can: I certainly hope so."
Reach Montini at firstname.lastname@example.org or (602) 444-8978.
its christmas time for the cops and city treasuries. alleged drunk drivers are an easy mark the cops can shake down for lots of money.
Police's DUI reminder: Danger, penalties big
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 27, 2005 12:00 AM
Once again, Valley police agencies will be out in force this holiday weekend looking for drunken drivers.
Just about every police officer in the Valley will be on duty, cruising the streets and trying to reduce the highway carnage that usually accompanies the hard partying of New Year's Eve.
"We're trying to saturate officers from all jurisdictions," said state Department of Public Safety Lt. Jeff Stanhope, who heads the East Valley's interagency DUI task force. "The more eyes we have out there, the more likelihood we have of intercepting impaired drivers."
The penalties are stiff and the dangers high. Yet every year, thousands of drivers are arrested for driving under the influence and hundreds of people are killed in crashes involving alcohol. In Arizona, 435 people were killed during 2004 in alcohol-related crashes, 38 percent of the total 1,150 traffic deaths.
For the past decade, DUI fatalities across the nation have hovered in the 40 percent range of all fatal crashes, according to figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The numbers have led some agencies and activists to believe that efforts to combat drunken driving have hit a plateau.
"The figures have been pretty flat, and we have to work on that," said Chuck Heeman, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Arizona. "But we've made a pretty good dent for a long time."
But Arizona's consistent number of fatal crashes and DUI traffic deaths, which has stayed in the mid-400 range for the past six years, is also somewhat encouraging because of Arizona's booming population during those years, Heeman said.
But that's still a terrible death toll that no amount of effort has been able to stop, he said.
"Go find somebody who's life hasn't been affected by a drunk driver. It pretty much touches everyone," Heeman said.
When the concerted national fight against impaired driving started about 25 years ago, marked by the founding of MADD, 60 percent of fatal crashes in the United States were attributed to drunken driving. In 1982, that equated to 26,173 people killed in alcohol-related crashes out of 43,945 overall.
By 1995, that percentage dropped to 42 percent nationwide, or 17,732 deaths, a reduction largely attributed to intense law enforcement and education campaigns by such groups as MADD and its affiliate, SADD, or Students Against Destructive Decisions.
"One of the big pushes we have in Arizona is youth education," said Heeman, who has led the Arizona chapter since August. "We really push making smart decisions and safeguarding yourself and all your friends."
The education effort has had a strong effect on lowering DUI offenses, Stanhope said, noting that impaired drivers also includes those using drugs and even drowsy drivers.
"There's just an enormous amount of information coming out about those types of things," the lieutenant said. "I pray that a lot of it has helped people become more intolerant and willing to become involved if they see people who are impaired."
Some of the blame for the continuing DUI mayhem has been placed on chronic alcoholics, hard-core drunken drivers whose repeated offenses show resistance to a change in behavior. Those drivers represent a tiny fraction of all motorists, but are responsible for 58 percent of alcohol-related fatalities, according to a 2003 survey and report titled "Hardcore Drunk Drivers."
The project was released by the Century Council, a Washington, D.C., group funded by the liquor industry, so there has been some controversy over the findings.
The contention presented in the report is that continual DUI offenders driving with high blood-alcohol levels, including many driving on suspended licenses from previous arrests, cause at least half of all fatal crashes. The conclusion offered in the report is that enforcement needs to concentrate more on the hardcore drinkers and less on casual drinkers.
Heeman disputes those findings, noting that most people arrested for DUI are first-time offenders and driving with a blood-alcohol content just over Arizona's 0.08 percent at which, in legal terms, a person is considered intoxicated. More extreme DUI offenses start at 0.15 percent in Arizona. Any level of blood alcohol for a driver younger than 21 is a criminal offense.
'A broader view'
"To say that the majority is high DUI and repeat offenders is not true," Heeman said.
Most DUIs involve drivers ages 26 to 35, he added.
"If they're hard core, I don't know, but it doesn't sound like it," he said. "It's not the guy who's been drinking and driving for 30 years and just got caught."
MADD supports the 0.08 DUI threshold adopted by Arizona and many other states, Heeman said, noting that more than 300 studies have identified that as "a level when you're pretty much impaired."
Stanhope also doubts the report's findings and conclusion.
"I would have to take a broader view. Obviously, I believe there are the hard-core drunks, alcoholics who drive," he said. "But I also think there are social drinkers who drink too much and think they can drive home."
Besides Christmas and New Year, other holidays and events have a strong impact on drunken driving, Heeman said.
"You have a higher number of parties and get-togethers around holidays than other times of year, so it's just more chances for people to get behind the wheel when they're impaired," he said. "Super Bowl weekend is always a big weekend for police."
no wonder the cops kill so many people. these games teach the police that they are at war with civilians.
High-tech games prepare police for duty
By Mike Branom, Tribune
December 27, 2005
The newest training equipment for police looks like an elaborate video game — but this is deadly serious business.
Departments don’t want an inexperienced officer behind the trigger of a gun or the steering wheel of a patrol car.
But how can officers learn when to shoot — or not — during a heated hostage situation? How can instructors teach the proper way to execute a highspeed pursuit through city traffic?
"You won’t unless you do it on a simulator," said Arizona Department of Public Safety driving coordinator Lori Ketron.
More and more often, law enforcement authorities across Arizona are using state-of-the-art simulators in their training.
With a mock-up of a patrol car and virtual scenery, or a computer-generated "movie" that puts a police officer right in the action, officers can learn the dangerous aspects to their jobs with no threat of harm to themselves or others.
Gilbert police Sgt. John Lyle, watching young officers go through simulated shoot/ don’t shoot scenarios, said, "It’s the closest we can get to real life without getting people down range."
Three weeks ago, Gilbert police took ownership of the "MILO Range," a training system that combines highdefinition video with interactive weapons.
It’s one of more than a dozen bought and distributed throughout the state by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board.
On a 10-by-10 screen, there’s a disheveled man in a parking garage shouting gibberish and scaring women.
In front of the screen stands the officer. He holds a mock-up of a Taser stun gun and tells the man to raise his hands. When the computergenerated assailant lunges toward the officer, the Taser is fired. The suspect goes down and begins twitching.
Then, the instructor walks the officer through the scenario: Why did you use the Taser instead of your gun? Why did you shoot when you did?
"What these interactive systems give us is a way to learn discretion," training director Tom Hammarstrom said.
He said lack of discretion can get officers and bystanders killed and agencies sued.
The MILO Range can also teach proper aiming techniques. The military’s virtual rifle ranges are so good, soldiers can qualify for marksman certification without firing a real bullet.
And, the driving simulations purchased in Arizona can find a highway patrolman who has the skills of a NASCAR racer.
But that’s not the point.
While these may be among the most sophisticated video games, instructors use them less to determine an officer’s hand-eye coordination and more to determine an officer’s mental makeup.
"Do you have the ability to see, think and breathe?" asks Matt Griffis, who operates the Mobile Tactical Driving Simulator.
Contact Mike Branom by email, or phone (480) 898-6536
Dec. 25, 2005
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
VIN SUPRYNOWICZ: 'The unlimited power of the sword'
A couple of loyal readers asked me, in response to my recent evisceration of the discredited "militia clause" argument, "But Vin, do you think the Founders would have written the Second Amendment that way if they'd known we'd have Uzis"?
Leaving aside the fact that it takes extraordinary dedication and commitment (and loot) for a "civilian" of average means to legally acquire a fully automatic Israeli machine pistol in America today, the answer is, "Yes."
The Founders had every opportunity to add "except for bombs, mortars, artillery and other devices that can kill more than one person at a time" -- all of which were well-known by 1787. They did not. Quite to the contrary, Tench Coxe, noted federalist and friend of James Madison, wrote in defense of the proposed Constitution, in the Pennsylvania Gazette of Feb. 20, 1788: "Their swords, and every other terrible instrument of the soldier, are the birth right of an American. ... The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or the state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people."
Note "unlimited." Note "every terrible instrument."
Under the form of government that we're told Americans still enjoy, the government can exercise only those powers that are delegated to it by the people. You cannot delegate a right or power that you do not already possess. Therefore, if members of the U.S. Army have legitimate authority to "keep and bear" Uzis and nuclear weapons, they can only have gotten that right from the individual Americans who delegated it to them.
It doesn't matter whether you "think this is a good idea." If you want to contend we now have a form of government in which our rulers start with all rights and powers, and allow to the peasantry only those lesser included liberties as they see fit, say so out loud now, please. And tell me when the original Constitution was voided, and by what legal process.
Nor do we usually or necessarily abdicate a right when we delegate it: We delegate to police the duty to chase down fleeing felons, but each citizen retains the right to go ahead and do this himself if circumstances dictate.
Similarly, the Second and 14th amendments guarantee that we have not given up our private, individual right to keep and bear howitzers and really big machine guns just because we have also delegated this right to the Army.
Of particular interest is the fact that several of my questioners work in the newspaper business. How would they respond, I wonder, to the proposition that the First Amendment protects only the freedom to use old-fashioned hand presses -- that the Founders can't possibly have meant to authorize unrestricted use of today's far more dangerous, high-speed electrical presses, with their ability to spread lies and seditious, anti-government propaganda hundreds of times faster than Ben Franklin or James Madison could ever have imagined?
•Speaking of my (necessarily brief) summary of the inquiries that have gutted the tired old "militia clause" arguments, noted Alabama constitutional attorney Larry Becraft writes in:
"Vin, You did not mention: www.usdoj.gov/olc/secondamendment2.htm."
Frankly, I'm cautious about using Department of Justice filings, because they're inherently political and could easily shift under some future Hillaryesque administration. Nonetheless, Larry does offer up an official DOJ memorandum of opinion, dated Aug. 24, 2004, which finds:
"The Second Amendment secures a right of individuals generally, not a right of States or a right restricted to persons serving in militias. ... As developed in the analysis below, we conclude that the Second Amendment secures a personal right of individuals, not a collective right that may only be invoked by a State or a quasi-collective right restricted to those persons who serve in organized militia units.
"The Amendment's prefatory clause, considered under proper rules of interpretation, could not negate the individual right recognized in the clear language of the operative clause. In any event, the prefatory clause -- particularly its reference to the 'Militia,' which was understood at the Founding to encompass all able-bodied male citizens, who were required to be enrolled for service -- is fully consistent with an individual-right reading of the operative language."
•And speaking of lies and the credibility of the press, what about those Associated Press and CNN stories that kept echoing (often without attribution) the Democratic/organized labor talking point that the GOP Senate wanted to "slash $39 billion" (or whatever today's number is) from federal social programs?
Would that it were so. One more time, guys: If the Republicans seek to "grow" a federal program at only 5 percent next year, instead of 5.5 percent, that's not even a "cut," let alone a "slash." If you were hoping for a dollar-an-hour raise, and your boss only gave you a 90-cent-an-hour raise, and you went home and told your spouse, "My paycheck got cut," you would be ... what?
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Review-Journal and author of "Send in the Waco Killers" and the new novel "The Black Arrow." His Web sites are www.TheLibertarian.us or www.LibertyBookShop.us.
dec 27, 2005 - web site hits
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Domestic Surveillance and the Patriot Act
December 26, 2005
Recent revelations that the National Security Agency has conducted broad surveillance of American citizens' emails and phone calls raise serious questions about the proper role of government in a free society. This is an important and healthy debate, one that too often goes ignored by Congress.
Public concerns about the misnamed Patriot Act are having an impact, as the Senate last week refused to reauthorize the bill for several years. Instead Congress will be back in Washington next month to consider many of the Act's most harmful provisions.
Of course most governments, including our own, cannot resist the temptation to spy on their citizens when it suits government purposes. But America is supposed to be different. We have a mechanism called the Constitution that is supposed to place limits on the power of the federal government. Why does the Constitution have an enumerated powers clause, if the government can do things wildly beyond those powers-- such as establish a domestic spying program? Why have a 4th Amendment, if it does not prohibit government from eavesdropping on phone calls without telling anyone?
We're told that September 11 th changed everything, that new government powers like the Patriot Act are necessary to thwart terrorism. But these are not the most dangerous times in American history, despite the self-flattery of our politicians and media. This is a nation that expelled the British, saw the White House burned to the ground in 1814, fought two world wars, and faced down the Soviet Union. September 11th does not justify ignoring the Constitution by creating broad new federal police powers. The rule of law is worthless if we ignore it whenever crises occur.
The administration assures us that domestic surveillance is done to protect us. But the crucial point is this: Government assurances are not good enough in a free society. The overwhelming burden must always be placed on government to justify any new encroachment on our liberty. Now that the emotions of September 11th have cooled, the American people are less willing to blindly accept terrorism as an excuse for expanding federal surveillance powers. Conservatives who support the Bush administration should remember that powers we give government today will not go away when future administrations take office.
Some Senators last week complained that the Patriot Act is misunderstood. But it's not the American public's fault nobody knows exactly what the Patriot Act does. The Act contains over 500 pages of detailed legalese, the full text of which was neither read nor made available to Congress in a reasonable time before it was voted on- which by itself should have convinced members to vote against it. Many of the surveillance powers authorized in the Act are not clearly defined and have not yet been tested. When they are tested, court challenges are sure to follow. It is precisely because we cannot predict how the Patriot Act will be interpreted and used in future decades that we should question it today.
yea. but who is going to go after the corrupt federal employees and federal elected officals????
Feds clamp down on corruption in Arizona
Public servants under scrutiny
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 28, 2005 12:00 AM
In southern Arizona, more than 40 soldiers, airmen, border guards and correctional officers took bribes from FBI agents posing as cocaine smugglers.
In Maricopa County, dozens of workers at the state Motor Vehicle Division conducted side businesses selling fraudulent driver's licenses on the black market.
In Marana, the mayor was indicted on a charge of attempted extortion.
Pat Schneider, the top federal criminal prosecutor in Arizona, said he doesn't know whether government corruption is getting worse or it just seems that way because more public servants are getting caught.
Either way, he added, the U.S. Attorney's Office is determined to expose and convict officials who use their positions to break the law.
And one year after the creation of an Arizona Public Corruption Task Force, results are starting to show. While the federal record-keeping system has some flaws, Schneider said, available data suggest a dramatic rise in corruption arrests:
In 2003, there were nine in the state; last year there were 66; so far this year there have been 76.
"Bad public officials give us all a bad name," Schneider said. "If we're going to have systems in which people have trust, then there's got to be integrity."
Jana D. Monroe, the FBI's special agent in charge for Arizona, noted last week that the agency reassigned most of its agents to the war on terrorism after Sept. 11, 2001.
However, she added, "combating public corruption on all levels is one of the bureau's top priorities."'
The most recent example: Last Wednesday, a federal grand jury in Phoenix indicted Sadie Thomas-Burnette, former director of child-care programs for the White Mountain Apache Tribe, on a charge of embezzling nearly $142,000 in federal money meant for children.
The Corruption Task Force, which involves most of the law enforcement agencies in Arizona, provides training and a communications network to identify suspected lawbreakers within government. Schneider said that includes any form of corruption but that smuggling-related crime seems to be the biggest problem.
Schneider said corruption has not permeated Arizona but criminal syndicates are constantly looking to prey on vulnerable public servants.
Nationally, corruption or allegations of corruption among officials has made headlines this past year:
• I. Lewis "Scooter"' Libby was forced to resign as chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney after his indictment on perjury charges in connection with an FBI probe of security leaks.
• Indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, accused of bribery and influence-peddling, is expected to become a government witness against a circle of Washington, D.C., figures, including members of Congress.
• Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, was forced to step down as House majority leader after his indictment for laundering political campaign contributions.
• Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., resigned after admitting he accepted $2.4 million in payoffs from defense contractors.
In a recent Associated Press-Ipsos poll, nearly 9 out of 10 Americans identified government corruption as a serious problem in the United States.
In Arizona, Schneider said he is at a loss to explain the widespread corruption encountered by FBI agents in Operation Lively Green, a 3½-year narcotics sting.
During that probe, soldiers and law officers lined up to accept bribes from what they believed were representatives of Mexican cocaine cartels.
The defendants, most of whom already have pleaded guilty, included Army National Guard soldiers, airmen from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Nogales police officers and federal port inspectors.
The military personnel wore uniforms and used National Guard vehicles to haul supposed loads of cocaine to Las Vegas.
In return, investigators said participants collected an estimated $800,000 in bribes, some of that for recruiting colleagues to join in the corruption.
Schneider said Arizona's status as a border state and a smuggling conduit, presents extra temptation for government officials who work at demanding, low-paying jobs.
Because of that, he added, it is vital to catch and punish those who abuse public positions so the thousands of honest government servants see justice at work.
"How do you continue to do your job and feel good about it? That's got to be demoralizing," Schneider said.
"The problem is these cases affect the integrity of our whole justice system and our sense of justice."
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or (602) 444-8874.
hmmmm..... i dont get this. how do you accidently kidnap someone and take them to a foreign country and torture them?????????
terror suspects may have been mistakenly taken to foreign countries by the spy agency ... The CIA's inspector general, John Helgerson, is looking into fewer than 10 cases of potentially "erroneous renditions,"
CIA inspector general probes fewer than 10 terrorism renditions
Dec. 28, 2005 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON - The CIA's independent watchdog is investigating fewer than 10 cases in which terror suspects may have been mistakenly taken to foreign countries by the spy agency, a figure lower than published reports but enough to raise some concerns.
After the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush gave the CIA authority to conduct the now-controversial operations, called "renditions," and permitted the agency to act without case-by-case approval from the White House or other administration offices.
The highly classified practice involves grabbing terror suspects off the street of one country and flying them to their home country or another where they are wanted for a crime or questioning.
One hundred to 150 people have been snatched up since 9/11. Government officials say the action is reserved for those considered by the CIA to be the most serious terror suspects.
Bush has said these transfers to other countries, with assurances the terror suspects won't be tortured, are a way to protect the United States and its allies from attack.
"That was the charge we have been given," he said in March.
But some operations are being questioned.
The CIA's inspector general, John Helgerson, is looking into fewer than 10 cases of potentially "erroneous renditions," according to a current intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigations are classified. Others in the agency believe it to be much fewer, the official added.
Human rights groups consider the practice of rendition a run-around to avoid the judicial processes that the United States has long championed. Said Tom Malinowski, Washington office director of Human Rights Watch: "I am glad the CIA is investigating the cases that they are aware of, but by definition you are not going to be aware of all such cases, when you have a process designed to avoid judicial safeguards."
He said there is no guarantee that Egypt, Uzbekistan or Syria will release people handed over to them if they turn out to be innocent, and he distrusts promises the U.S. receives that the individuals will not be tortured.
In the last 18 months, his administration has come under fire for its policies and regulations governing detentions and interrogations in the war on terror. At facilities run by the CIA and the U.S. military, graphic images of abuse and at least 26 deaths investigated as criminal homicides have raised questions about how authorities handle foreign fighters and terror suspects in U.S. custody.
Senior administration officials have tried to stress that the cases are isolated instances among the more than 80,000 detainees held since 9/11. Yet much remains unknown about the CIA's highly classified detention and interrogation practices, particularly when it grabs foreigners and spirits them away to other countries.
With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, Khaled al-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, has sued the CIA, alleging that it arbitrarily detained him after he was captured in Macedonia in December 2003 and taken to Afghanistan by a team of covert operatives in an apparent case of mistaken identity.
Speaking to reporters by video hookup from Germany this month, al-Masri said he was "dragged off the plane and thrown into the trunk of a car" and beaten by his captors in Afghanistan. Five months later, his complaint says, he was dropped off on a hill in Albania.
fat people make great cannon flodder????? i read another article that said the military is not kicking people out of the service who are in iraq and admit they are gay either. if they admit they are gay in iraq they make them finish their tour before kicking them out. i guess gay make great cannon flodder too.
Fitness plan can wait for Marines on duty in Iraq
Los Angeles Times
Dec. 28, 2005 12:00 AM
SAN DIEGO - The Marine Corps has decided that fighting one war at a time is enough.
A recent order from Marine headquarters at Quantico, Va., says Marines sent to Iraq can be exempt from the corps' rigid weight-loss program, which requires frequent weigh-ins, extra physical training and "Semper Fit" lectures about nutrition.
The rigors of being deployed in Iraq have made it difficult for Marines to comply with the fitness plan, known as the Body Composition Program, Marine Corps officials said. Under an order issued before Christmas, commanders are allowed to exempt their troops in Iraq from what is usually a six-month program.
"In combat, the priority is combat and getting home safely and completing the mission," said Lt. Col. Kristi VanGorder, head of the training section at the Training and Education Command at the base in Quantico.
Once a Marine leaves Iraq, he or she is required to resume the fight against fat. Failure to meet the corps' standards for body fat percentage can lead to an administrative discharge.
Every Marine has an official weigh-in at least twice a year. If an individual is heavier than a set standard for his height, then body fat is calculated.
For men, the calculation involves measuring the abdomen and neck; for women, the waist, hips and neck are measured.
The maximum body fat for men is 18 percent; for women, it is 26 percent, although the standard is looser if the Marine excels on an annual fitness test. If his or her body fat is below a prescribed maximum, the Marine is considered to meet the standards, regardless of weight and height.
An overweight Marine who has been enrolled in the program before going to Iraq "should attempt to make progress," according to the order.
Although while in Iraq the Marine will be exempt from the weigh-ins and other aspects of the program, the individual will not be eligible for promotion until returning to the United States and meeting the body-fat standards.
if some blabber mouth starts talking to you at the airport of bus station take the 5th. it might be a TSA thug!
Posted 12/28/2005 12:22 AM Updated 12/28/2005 10:19 AM
Airport security uses talk as tactic
By Thomas Frank, USA TODAY
The Transportation Security Administration plans to train screeners at 40 major airports next year to pick out possible terrorists by engaging travelers in a casual conversation to detect whether a person appears nervous or evasive and needs extra scrutiny.
The new security technique, already in use at some airports, adds a psychological dimension to screening by trying to find high-risk passengers based on how they act at checkpoints or boarding gates.
Passengers who raise suspicions will undergo extra physical screening and could face police questioning.
Airports in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Detroit and Miami recently began using the technique.
Some airport and transit police already look for people acting oddly — such as wearing a heavy coat in the summer or appearing to be doing surveillance — and question them about travel plans.
WHERE BEHAVIOR IS MONITORED
Among agencies trained in behavior detection:
Airport police in Boston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Minneapolis-St. Paul
Transit police and workers in New York City, Washington
U.S. Park Police in New York City (Statue of Liberty)
New York police counterterrorism bureau in New York City
Transportation Security Administration screeners in Boston; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Warwick, R.I.; Portland and Bangor, Maine
"I don't want (officers) just sitting there waiting for a call to come in. I want them observing people, observing their behavior and engaging them in conversation. They're looking for people whose activities don't look right," says Alvy Dodson, public safety director at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Last year, 70% of DFW's 167 airport police were trained in the program.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says the technique leads to racial profiling and has sued to stop a behavior-screening program run by the Massachusetts State Police at Boston's Logan International Airport. That program, the first at a U.S. airport when it began in 2002, was challenged last year after a black ACLU official said he was questioned and threatened with arrest if he didn't show identification.
"If you're going to allow police to make searches, question people and even make arrests based on criteria rather than actual evidence of criminality, you're going to have racial profiling," says Barry Steinhardt, a privacy law specialist at the ACLU.
Massachusetts State Police Sgt. Peter DiDomenica calls the program "an antidote to racial profiling" that focuses on "objective behavioral characteristics." He says the program has curbed racial profiling "because we've educated people."
Behavior detection is routine in security-conscious countries such as Israel, where air travelers routinely face aggressive questioning.
U.S. Customs officers have long asked arriving travelers questions, often in random order. If a person gives "stumbling answers," that could indicate the person has fraudulent travel documents or plans to overstay a visa, says Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Kelly Klundt.
The TSA also began using behavior detection at Logan in 2003 and last year at airports in Warwick, R.I., and Portland, Maine. Mass transit systems in New York City and Washington adopted the technique after train bombings in Madrid and London.
Concerns about racial profiling have meant "there's been a lot of reluctance in TSA to expand this," says George Naccara, TSA security director at Logan.
Naccara says he persuaded TSA chief Kip Hawley to try behavior detection at numerous high-risk airports. "It's another effective layer of security which is relatively cheap," Naccara says.
Posted 12/27/2005 11:15 PM
Suspects' body language can blow their cover
By Thomas Frank, USA TODAY
BOSTON — Carl Maccario noticed it the instant he watched a tape of three Sept. 11 hijackers going through security at Dulles International Airport.
Not one of the men looked at security guards.
"They all looked away and had their heads down," Maccario says.
Avoiding eye contact with authorities is the kind of behavior that could indicate someone may be planning a terrorist attack, says Maccario, a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) program analyst at Boston's Logan International Airport. "The fear of discovery changes people's behavior and body language," he says.
Next year, the TSA says it will train screeners at 40 airports in behavior analysis. The screeners will join a growing number of police officers learning to detect the subtle, often unspoken clues that terrorists and criminals could display.
The technique is called behavior detection or behavior-pattern recognition. It's rooted in the notion that people convey emotions in subconscious gestures, facial expressions, speech patterns and answers to simple questions such as what flight they are taking.
Police trying technique
Careful observation and questions of escalating intensity can unmask possible terrorists, who typically become anxious and deceptive around authorities, says Rafi Ron, former security chief at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport. Ron founded New Age Security Solutions in Virginia in October 2001 to teach police how to detect "indicators" of a possible terrorist.
"There needs to be a shift in law enforcement culture from being responsive to criminal situations to being preventative by detecting the possibility of a terrorist attack," Ron says.
Since 9/11, behavior recognition has been adopted by various airport and transit police, as well as Northwest Airlines and U.S. Park Police at the Statue of Liberty.
Even at the University of Maryland, about 30 of the 90 police officers at the main campus near Washington, D.C., were trained last year to "help identify individuals that might pose some threat," Maj. Cathy Atwell says.
The American Civil Liberties Union is skeptical that police can detect criminals by studying people's actions and emotions. The organization worries that police will simply target minorities.
"When we begin to say to police officers that they're allowed to guess about who's dangerous, we're inviting the possibility of abuse," says Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU's technology and liberty program.
The TSA was reluctant to expand behavior detection beyond the five airports where screeners already use it because of concerns about racial profiling, says George Naccara, TSA security director at Logan.
Police at New York City's major airports — Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark — got a presentation about behavior detection two years ago but "have taken no steps to implement it," says Tony Ciavolella, a spokesman for the airports.
On a recent afternoon at Logan, Laura Graham, a graduate student heading home to Washington, D.C., for the holidays, says she knew instantly why a screener casually asked where she was headed. "I'm not really sure he's going to find people" who are terrorists, Graham says. "But I definitely respect the security efforts."
Behavior detection is "a recognized and legitimate law enforcement tool," says George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley. "But it's also ripe for abuse. A person's observations are often colored by one's bias and prejudices."
Turley cites studies in which whites and minorities were shown photos of people of various races.
White subjects were far more likely to say the depicted minorities appeared dangerous, Turley says, while minorities viewed fellow minorities as non-threatening.
Turley says behavior detection could lead to more people being searched. Courts allow police searches based on a "reasonable suspicion" of wrongdoing. The suspicion has to be more than a hunch, he says.
Behavior-detection training "can be used as a virtual script for the abusive officer," Turley says. "It gives a ready-made list of elements that can be claimed as reasonable suspicion."
Evasive answers are clue
The University of Maryland's Atwell says behavior-detection training helps police. She says a university officer recently got in a residence-hall elevator and noticed a man move to the back, stuff his hands in his pockets and not respond when the officer said hello. A conversation led to the man being charged with drug possession.
Airport police using behavior detection haven't found terrorists but say officers using the technique have arrested people on charges of drug possession, immigration violations and taking excessive cash out of the country.
"Because of this physical manifestation of stress and nervousness, we did identify them," says Naccara, the Logan security director.
Customs officials point to the 1999 arrest of "Millennium Bomber" Ahmed Ressam, whose evasive answers at a port in Washington state alarmed a Customs officer.
A search of Ressam's car revealed explosives that he planned to detonate on New Year's Day 2000 at Los Angeles International Airport. Ressam is serving a 22-year sentence.
San Francisco psychologist Paul Ekman, author of Emotions Revealed, says people can be trained to detect lies by observing whether someone is "thinking really hard to answer a question they should know the answer to."
Tests haven't been done in real settings such as an airport or on whether a terrorist could learn to appear honest.
Ekman says he has tried for 15 years to get the government to study behavior detection in places such as airports.
"Lab studies have proven people can detect liars," Ekman says. "We need studies to see if training can help people in the field."
South Dakota - a place where women have no rights and seperation of religion and church is an oxymoron????
S.D. makes abortion rare via law, stigma
Sole clinic serves all state's women
Dec. 28, 2005 12:00 AM
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - The waiting room at the Planned Parenthood clinic was packed by the time the doctor arrived, an hour late due to weather delays in Minneapolis.
It was clinic day, the one day a week when the only facility in South Dakota that provides abortions could take in patients. This time it was a Wednesday. The week before it was a Monday.
The day changes depending on the schedules of four doctors from Minnesota who fly here on a rotating basis to perform abortions, something no doctor in South Dakota will do. The last doctor in South Dakota to perform abortions stopped about eight years ago; the consensus is that offering the procedure is not worth the stigma of being branded a baby killer.
South Dakota, those on both sides of the abortion debate agree, has become one of the hardest states in the country in which to obtain an abortion. One of three states in the country to have only one abortion provider - North Dakota and Mississippi are the others - South Dakota, largely because of a strong anti-abortion lobby, is also becoming a leading national lab for testing the limits of state laws restricting abortion, both opponents and advocates of abortion rights say.
In 2005, the South Dakota Legislature passed five laws restricting abortion. A 17-member abortion task force, made up largely of staunch abortion opponents, issued recommendations to the Legislature earlier this month.
The task force recommends requiring that a woman watch an ultrasound of her fetus, that doctors warn women about the psychological and physical dangers of abortion, and that women receive psychological counseling before the abortion, among other measures.
Each week, 15 to 20 or so women from across South Dakota find their way to the Sioux Falls Planned Parenthood for an abortion, no easy feat for many of them. South Dakota is home to some of the poorest counties in the country. State law forbids any public funding for the $450 procedure, even in the case of rape or incest. Beyond cost, there is the distance. It's a long slog here from places like Rapid City, about 350 miles away in the western part of the state. For some women, the only way to do it, and not pay for a hotel room, is to make the 700-mile trip in one day.
"Women in the western side of the state don't think about abortion until they need to," said Kate Looby, Planned Parenthood's state director, "and then they're completely shocked that there's no way to receive that care unless they go to Sioux Falls."
Even women in a medical or life-threatening emergency have only one hospital to go to that will perform an emergency abortion, she added.
"One hospital. In the entire state, again in Sioux Falls."
S.D. Makes Abortion Rare Through Laws And Stigma
Out-of-State Doctors Come Weekly to 1 Clinic
By Evelyn Nieves
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 27, 2005; Page A01
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- The waiting room at the Planned Parenthood clinic was packed by the time the doctor arrived -- an hour late because of weather delays in Minneapolis.
It was clinic day, the one day a week when the only facility in South Dakota that provides abortions could take in patients. This time it was a Wednesday. The week before it was a Monday.
The day changes depending on the schedules of four doctors from Minnesota who fly here on a rotating basis to perform abortions, something no doctor in South Dakota will do. The last doctor in South Dakota to perform abortions stopped about eight years ago; the consensus in the medical community is that offering the procedure is not worth the stigma of being branded a baby killer.
South Dakota, those on both sides of the abortion debate agree, has become one of the hardest states in the country in which to obtain an abortion. One of three states in the country to have only one abortion provider -- North Dakota and Mississippi are the others -- South Dakota, largely because of a strong antiabortion lobby, is also becoming a leading national laboratory for testing the limits of state laws restricting abortion, both opponents and advocates of abortion rights say.
In 2005, the South Dakota legislature passed five laws restricting abortion, after a bill to ban abortion outright had failed by one vote in 2004. And new laws are virtually assured for the coming year. A 17-member abortion task force, made up largely of staunch abortion opponents, issued recommendations to the legislature earlier this month that included some of the most restrictive requirements for abortion in the country.
The report states that science defines life as beginning at conception and recommends a law that gives fetuses the same protection that children get after birth, thus banning abortion. Until such a ban, the task force recommends requiring that a woman watch an ultrasound of her fetus, that doctors warn women about the psychological and physical dangers of abortion, and that women receive psychological counseling before the abortion, among other measures.
As national leaders on both sides of the abortion debate focus on the upcoming Supreme Court nomination hearings of Samuel A. Alito Jr., they are watching states such as South Dakota pass more and more restrictions that might be upheld by a newly constituted, more conservative Supreme Court.
"Samuel Alito wrote the blueprint 20 years ago on how to dismantle and eventually overturn Roe," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, referring to a memo Alito wrote in 1985 in which he mentioned passing restrictions on abortion as a way to mitigate the effects of Roe v. Wade . "If he is confirmed, Alito could cast the decisive vote that allows additional attacks on women's reproductive freedom from the states to stand."
But Mary Spaulding Balch, director of the state legislation department of the National Right to Life campaign, said South Dakota is one of many states that have had success in passing laws the organization has been espousing for more than 30 years.
"Working within the fact that the Supreme Court said that it's legal to kill unborn children," she said, "it makes sense that you do your best to save whatever lives you can."
Each week, 15 to 20 or so women from across South Dakota find their way to the Sioux Falls Planned Parenthood for an abortion, no easy feat for many of them. South Dakota is home to some of the poorest counties in the country, including the poorest, Buffalo County, seat of the Crow Creek Sioux reservation. State law forbids any public funding for the $450 procedure, even in the case of rape or incest. Beyond cost, there is the distance. It's a long slog here from places like Rapid City, about 350 miles away in the western part of the state. For some women, the only way to do it -- and not pay for a hotel room -- is to make the 700-mile trip in one day.
"Women in the western side of the state don't think about abortion until they need to," said Kate Looby, Planned Parenthood's state director, "and then they're completely shocked that there's no way to receive that care unless they go to Sioux Falls." Even women in a medical or life-threatening emergency have only one hospital to go to that will perform an emergency abortion, she added. "One hospital. In the entire state, again in Sioux Falls."
On a recent clinic day, 13 women were scheduled for abortions but the waiting room was jammed with more than 30 people -- the patients, spouses, children, parents, friends. Some patients coming from far away had to bring their young children because they could not get child care. Others, such as a 23-year-old woman who drove here in the early morning from Rapid City with her boyfriend, left their children at home and would have to turn right back after their abortion to return to their families.
"I figured I could get the abortion in Rapid City," said the woman, who has a 2-year-old daughter. "And I didn't know it would be so expensive. We had to borrow the money to get here."
The woman was 45 days pregnant, she said, the day she drove 350 miles to take the RU-486 abortion pill and then drive back. "I have to get back home to my daughter," said the woman, who said she was working full time and attending college part time to become a medical administrator. (She and the others interviewed did not want their names in the newspaper.) The woman said she had decided on abortion because "I can't afford another child, and I need to finish school and work to support the one I got." She receives $50 a month in child support and less than $200 a month in food stamps but was deemed ineligible for any further public assistance because of her full-time job.
Another patient, a 29-year-old teacher who became pregnant while using birth control with her boyfriend of a few months, who is also a teacher, said she was not ready for a child and neither was he.
"I'm pro-choice all the way," said the woman, who is from a town about 90 miles from Sioux Falls. She found out she was pregnant at seven weeks and had to wait two weeks for the abortion because the clinic's schedule conflicted with her work schedule.
Looby, whose father is an obstetrician-gynecologist, said she has talked to many doctors in South Dakota who say they have no personal objection to performing abortions but cannot risk their careers and community standing by offering the procedure.
When the Planned Parenthood clinic was built six years ago, architects factored in the hostility that clinics faced. It has no windows in the front of the building, so abortion protesters cannot look in, and the parking lot is in the back, on private property safe from picketers. The glass in the encased reception area is bulletproof. Doors are kept locked, and visitors must present identification to be buzzed inside.
But the loud protests anticipated in the building design have not materialized. Instead, abortion opponents have attempted to get laws passed restricting both abortion providers and those seeking the abortions.
One law passed in South Dakota this year is an informed-consent measure that requires doctors to tell women in writing and in person two hours before an abortion of the medical risks of the procedure and that an abortion ends the life of "a whole, separate, unique living human being." Enforcement of the law has been blocked by a lawsuit from Planned Parenthood.
Another measure is a "trigger law" that automatically bans all abortions in the state should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade .
Leslee Unruh, one of the prime lobbyists for the law that created the abortion task force, said, "I want abortion to end.
it looks like we are doing everything possible to f*ck up that country.
Fuel prices soar in Iraq, leading to more turmoil
Thousands protest government's elimination of energy subsidies
Los Angeles Times
Dec. 28, 2005 12:00 AM
BAGHDAD - Iraq's government has sharply raised the price of fuel and other petroleum products this month, sparking discontent and protests and worrying international observers who say the increases could hurt millions of poor Iraqis and throw the country into further turmoil.
Since the Dec. 15 parliamentary election, fuel prices have increased fivefold, mostly because the outgoing government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari has cut subsidies as part of a debt-forgiveness deal it signed with the International Monetary Fund.
The move has shocked Iraqis accustomed to hefty subsidies of gasoline, kerosene, cooking gas and other fuels. Thousands have demonstrated in and around the capital to protest the price hikes. Oil Minister Ibrahim Barh al-Uloum has threatened to quit.
Iraqi and Western officials say the government spends about $5 billion each year on the fuel subsidies. But the Finance Ministry has estimated the total cost at $6.9 billion, or 28 percent of the country's projected gross domestic product this year, because the low prices have encouraged a huge smuggling business, with gas bought in Iraq shipped out at a profit to Iran, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and other countries.
Over the summer, gas was selling for about 5 cents a gallon. Now it's about 65 cents, and at the end of the price hikes, gasoline will cost about the same in Iraq as it does in other countries in the Persian Gulf, around $1 per gallon. The price of kerosene, diesel and cooking gas have seen similar or steeper increases. Diesel costs about 38 cents per gallon.
While that may still seem cheap to Americans, wages in Iraq are far below those in the United States. Employees in government ministries, for example, earn about $130 a month on average, putting them among the top earners in Iraq.
Millions of other Iraqis live in poverty, relying on food handouts from the government. About a fourth of all Iraqi households subsist on less than $1 a day.
Dismissed complaints and documents pertaining to judicial discipline will be available next year at www.supreme.state.az.us/ethics/
High court opens records on judges
By Gary Grado, Tribune
December 28, 2005
Previously secret information on judges will be available beginning next year on the Web site of Arizona’s judicial watchdog commission.
The Arizona Supreme Court enacted new rules June 9 that open up dismissed complaints and minor sanctions against judges to public scrutiny. Serious sanctions and certain minor discipline have always been public.
The Supreme Court decided that dismissed complaints will not include the names of the judges, however.
"At least they’ll be able to see the kinds of allegations that are being dismissed," said Keith Stott, executive director of the Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct.
According to the commission’s 2004 count, 308 complaints were filed and 255, or 83 percent, were dismissed. The numbers for 2005 have yet to be compiled.
Most complaints are dismissed because the issues really belong in appellate court rather than before the commission, Stott said.
The new rules take effect Sunday but the public probably won’t begin seeing the dismissed complaints and disciplinary measures on the Web site until after the commission’s first meeting in March, which is when the commissioners take formal action, Stott said.
The Web site will also contain all of the scanned documents pertaining to all discipline handed out. Those will include the names of judges, Stott said.
The rule changes came about after the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office petitioned the Supreme Court, arguing that all commission records, even frivolous complaints with the names of judges intact, should be open so the voting public knows everything.
Barnett Lotstein, spokesman for the county attorney’s office, said his office still wants the entire process opened.
Dismissed complaints and documents pertaining to judicial discipline will be available next year at www.supreme.state.az.us/ethics/
Contact Gary Grado by email, or phone (602) 258-1746
Dec 28, 2:36 PM EST
Italians seeking to question CIA agent
By AIDAN LEWIS
Associated Press Writer
ROME (AP) -- Italian prosecutors are seeking to question the former CIA station chief in Milan about a trip he took to Egypt days after the CIA allegedly kidnapped a Muslim cleric from Milan and flew him to Cairo, a court official said Wednesday.
Prosecutors want to ask Robert Seldon Lady about his 2003 trip and whether he knows anything about the interrogation and torture the cleric says he suffered in Egypt, the Milan official said.
The request to question Lady and 21 other purported CIA operatives was in a document prosecutors forwarded to the Italian Justice Ministry on Friday, the official said. The official asked not to be named because he did not want to speak publicly about the request before the Justice Ministry decides on it.
Justice Minister Roberto Castelli and Premier Silvio Berlusconi have suggested they may be unwilling to push the case.
Lady returned to the United States after leaving his post in Milan in 2004. The whereabouts and true identities of the others are unknown. U.S. officials have refused to comment on the case.
The purported operatives are wanted for the alleged abduction of Egyptian cleric and terrorist suspect Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, from a Milan street on Feb. 17, 2003. Prosecutors say he was taken by the CIA to a joint U.S.-Italian air base, flown to Germany and then Egypt.
The operation was believed part of the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program in which terrorism suspects are transferred to third countries where some allegedly are subjected to torture.
Milan prosecutors have sought to extradite the 22 suspects from the United States, although the Justice Ministry has not yet decided whether to forward the requests to Washington.
In the arrest warrant, the judge said cell phone records showed that Lady was in Egypt from Feb. 22 to March 15, 2003. Those were likely the first days Nasr was being tortured during interrogations, she said.
Prosecutors' request to question Lady about the trip was first reported Wednesday by the Chicago Tribune.
Nasr claimed in intercepted phone calls with his wife that he was hung upside down and subjected to extreme temperatures and loud noise that damaged his hearing, officials said.
Lady's lawyer, Daria Pesce, said her client traveled to Egypt shortly after Nasr's alleged abduction, but she said it was an official visit for the Milan consulate that had nothing to do with Nasr.
Pesce maintains Lady was not involved in any kidnapping, and that he should be protected from prosecution by diplomatic immunity.
Buckeye police detective Michael Haddad gets his jollies by having sex in the Buckeye High School weight room. This model cop also shows porn movies in the briefing room at the Buckeye Police Station. Isn't it great that our tax dollars give people like Michael Haddad jobs??????
Buckeye police detective fired
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 28, 2005 09:16 PM
The Buckeye town manager has fired a police detective accused of misconduct, including having sex in a weight room at Buckeye High School.
For his part, Michael Haddad, a 14-year veteran, has apologized for what he describes as poor judgment, according to documents released by Buckeye on Wednesday.
"I am a human and as humans we are destined to make mistakes," Haddad wrote in a response to allegations that were leveled against him.
Town Manager Carroll Reynolds handed Haddad his walking papers on Tuesday at the urging of Police Chief Dan Saban. Under city rules, Haddad has until Jan. 6 to appeal.
The firing was the latest in a long string of officer-disciplinary matters in Buckeye since Saban signed aboard in March as the town's top cop.
Several cases still remain unresolved, but Saban has vowed to clear the decks.
According to the Buckeye documents, internal investigators sustained the following allegations against Haddad:
• In 2001, during off-duty hours, he had sexual intercourse with a consenting adult female on a bench in a weight room at the high school.
• In 2002, he showed a videotape in the briefing room at the Buckeye Police Department showing him and an adult female engaged in a sex act.
In recommending dismissal, Saban said Haddad was given keys to the weight room because of his position of authority as a police officer.
Saban said Haddad brought discredit upon the department and failed to conduct himself in a professional manner.
"Detective Haddad knowingly placed himself in a position of great risk by engaging in sexual relations which could have been discovered by a variety of innocent people," he said.
The documents also show that Timothy Fitzpatrick, a patrol commander who resigned Sept. 29, was accused of being deceptive when asked about alleged sexual misconduct by other Buckeye officers.
In announcing the resignation, Saban did not offer any reasons for the action, but issued a brief statement saying Fitzpatrick "will be missed."
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or (602) 444-6937.
Justice Department attacks ruling on Padilla
New York Times
Dec. 29, 2005 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to allow the immediate transfer of Jose Padilla from a military brig to civilian custody to stand trial on terrorism charges, despite an appellate ruling last week that blocked the move.
The Justice Department, in an unusually strong criticism of a lower court that historically has been a staunch ally, said the earlier order blocking Padilla's transfer to civilian custody represented an "unwarranted attack" on presidential discretion.
In last week's ruling, the U.S. Circuit of Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Va., refused to allow Padilla to be transferred to civilian custody to face charges in Miami that he had conspired with al-Qaida to commit terrorist attacks abroad.
The Appeals Court said the Bush administration, in charging Padilla in criminal court in November after jailing him for more than 3½ years as an enemy combatant without charges, gave the appearance that it was trying to manipulate the court system to prevent the Supreme Court from hearing the case. And it warned that the maneuvering could harm the administration's credibility in the courts.
But Solicitor General Paul Clement, in the administration's new filing on Wednesday asking the Supreme Court to take up the custody issue, said the 4th Circuit's decision "defies both law and logic," and he noted that Padilla himself has sought to be transferred to civilian custody.
In unusually caustic language, the solicitor general said that the 4th Circuit did not have the authority to "disregard a presidential directive." And he said its decision blocking Padilla's transfer "is based on a mischaracterization of events and an unwarranted attack on the exercise of executive discretion and, if given effect, would raise profound separation-of-powers concerns."
In a September ruling in the Padilla case, the 4th Circuit affirmed President Bush's power to hold Padilla as an enemy combatant tied to al-Qaida. That opinion was written by Judge Michael Luttig, whom Bush considered for recent Supreme Court vacancies, and Luttig also wrote last week's opinion blocking Padilla's transfer.
"Nothing in this case surprises me anymore," said Donna Newman, one of Padilla's lawyers. "This is an unusual turn of events for the Justice Department to come out against the 4th Circuit like this, because anybody who looks at precedent would see the 4th Circuit is a very pro-government circuit that generally finds in favor of the government."
Padilla, a convert to Islam, traveled through the Middle East and was arrested in May 2002 upon his return to the United States. The Bush administration, in declaring him an enemy combatant and jailing him in a military brig without access to a lawyer, initially accused him of plotting with al-Qaida to detonate a radiological "dirty bomb" on American streets.
But in bringing criminal charges for the first time against Padilla last month, the administration reversed course and accused him of working to support violent jihad causes in Afghanistan.
Lawyers wonder if secret program spied on clients
Dec. 29, 2005 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON - Lawyers for an Islamic scholar, a Fort Lauderdale computer programmer and an Ohio trucker want federal judges to determine whether evidence used against their clients was gathered by a secret domestic spying program.
Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor, said Wednesday that there "seems to be a great likelihood" that Ali al-Timimi, a northern Virginia Islamic cleric convicted for exhorting followers after the Sept. 11 attacks to wage war against U.S. troops overseas, was "subject to this operation."
Attorney Kenneth Swartz of Miami also said he wants to know whether any evidence was gathered by the National Security Agency without a warrant and used to persuade a secret court to authorize six years of wiretaps of his client, Adham Amin Hassoun.
Late Wednesday, attorney David Smith said he also will incorporate the NSA wiretaps into his appeal on behalf of Iyman Faris, a truck driver convicted of plotting to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge. At his sentencing hearing, prosecutors acknowledged that federal agents were led to Faris by a telephone call intercepted in another investigation.
Last month, Hassoun and Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen held for nearly four years as an "enemy combatant," were charged with raising money to support violent Islamic fighters outside the United States.
President Bush has acknowledged that within days of the Sept. 11 attacks he authorized the NSA to conduct warrantless intercepts of conversations between people in the United States and others abroad who had suspected ties to al-Qaida or its affiliates.
In doing so, the administration bypassed the nearly 30-year-old secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court established to oversee the government's handling of espionage and terrorism investigations.
Turley already has appealed the case to the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, asking that Timimi's conviction and life sentence be overturned. Turley argued that the prosecution was a violation of Timimi's free speech rights. His conviction was based on statements he made at a dinner days after the Sept. 11 attacks at which he urged several young Muslim men to join the Taliban and fight U.S. troops overseas.
Timimi's lawyer said he recently has contacted federal prosecutors in Alexandria, Va., seeking their cooperation in asking the appeals court to return the case to U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema.
Brinkema could determine whether NSA-gathered evidence was used against Timimi without the court being told, Turley said. She also could press the government to reveal whether it withheld evidence gathered by the NSA that could have helped Timimi's defense, he said.
If prosecutors decline to go along, Turley said, he will file a request next week asking the appeals court to send the case back to Brinkema.
Prosecutors probably did not know about the domestic spying program, Turley said.
In Hassoun's case, the FISA court was not bypassed. The secret court approved wiretaps of Hassoun from 1994 to 2000, Swartz said.
Before the NSA spying program's existence was revealed, Swartz said, he had planned to challenge the legality of the FISA wiretaps. He said his challenge also will ask a federal judge in Miami to determine whether the FISA court was misled with evidence that it had not been told had been gathered secretly by the NSA.
the best truth money can buy!!!!
Pentagon OKs plan to pay for military propaganda
Los Angeles Times
Dec. 29, 2005 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON - U.S. military Web sites that pay journalists to write articles and commentary supporting military activities in Europe and Africa do not violate U.S. law or Pentagon policies, a review by the Pentagon's chief investigator has concluded. But a senior Defense Department official said this week that the Web sites could still be shut down to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
The Pentagon inspector general's inquiry concludes that two Web sites targeting audiences in the Balkans and in the Maghreb region of northern Africa are consistent with U.S. laws prohibiting covert propaganda, are properly identified as U.S. government products, and are maintained in close coordination with U.S. embassies abroad, according to a previously undisclosed summary of the report's findings.
Yet a top Pentagon official, chief spokesman Lawrence DiRita, said he was concerned that a Pentagon practice of hiring news reporters to advance a U.S. government agenda could draw criticism and that an ever-larger military role in shaping public opinion overseas might have negative consequences.
The Pentagon's efforts to win hearts and minds abroad have come under intense scrutiny since it was revealed last month that the military had hired a private contractor called Lincoln Group as part of a separate operation to pay Iraqi newspapers to print positive stories written by U.S. troops. An investigation into that information offensive is ongoing, and Pentagon officials expect the inquiry, headed by Navy Rear Adm. Scott Van Buskirk, to be completed soon.
DiRita ordered a separate review of the Web sites and other military information operations in February, when news accounts reported the Pentagon's connection to the Web sites and after disclosures that U.S. agencies such as the Department of Education had paid journalists to promote Bush administration policies.
DiRita said he has not been briefed on the results of the inspector general's review, and said he has asked the National Security Council to consider whether other U.S. agencies should take over the Web sites, or whether the sites should be shuttered.
"If somebody comes back to me and says there's nothing wrong with the Department of Defense paying journalists, I'll say, 'Even if there's nothing wrong, does it make sense?' " DiRita said.
The two Web sites are run by U.S. European Command, based in Stuttgart, Germany, and maintained by Anteon Corp., a Fairfax, Va.-based contractor. The European Command is one of five regional U.S. military headquarters in the world and is given authority for U.S. operations in Europe and most of Africa.
The Balkans Web site, originally called Balkan Exchange and later renamed Southeast European Times, was a result of a secret directive signed by former President Clinton in 1999. The order launched an information offensive to counter Serbian propaganda during the Kosovo war.
The European Command created the Africa Web site in October 2004. It attempts to advance U.S. interests in a region long sympathetic to Islamic fundamentalism. The Maghreb region encompasses Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Mauritania and Morocco, countries that are in EUCOM's area of responsibility.
i certainly didnt need the inspector general to figure out the the homeland security and FEMA are run by a bunch of idiots. but i am glad he agrees with me.
Homeland Security and FEMA chastised by inspector general
Dec. 29, 2005 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON - Nearly three years after it was formed, the mammoth Department of Homeland Security remains hampered by severe management and financial problems that contributed to the flawed response to Hurricane Katrina, according to an independent audit released Wednesday.
The report by Homeland Security Inspector General Richard Skinner aimed some of its criticism at one of the department's major activities, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The report found "the circumstances created by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita provide an unprecedented opportunity for fraud, waste and abuse," primarily because FEMA's grant and contract programs are still not being managed properly.
"While DHS is taking several steps to manage and control spending under Katrina, the sheer size of the response and recovery efforts will create an unprecedented need for oversight," the report concludes.
The audit is the latest in a series of tough assessments of the beleaguered department, which has been widely criticized since it was formed in March 2003 by combining 22 disparate agencies. In a final "report card" issued earlier this month, for example, the former members of the Sept. 11 commission gave the department low or failing grades in many key areas, including airline passenger screening and border control.
Earlier this week, a group of House Democrats issued a report alleging that the department had failed to follow through on 33 promised improvements to border security, infrastructure protection and other programs.
In an 11-page response to the inspector general's findings, Homeland Security officials acknowledged some problems but disputed some and offered explanations for others. For example, the department said it has created a special procurement office to oversee hurricane contracts and is using consultants to monitor the process.
Department spokesman William R. "Russ" Knocke said that "retooling FEMA is one of our greatest and most urgent priorities."
"We continue to make programs more efficient, effective and results-oriented," Knocke said, adding that "the department is making substantial progress in implementing several core management initiatives," including improvements in personnel policies and financial accountability.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who took over the department earlier this year, is in the midst of implementing a broad reorganization of the 180,000-employee department and has announced initiatives in border security and other areas.
But the department's bumbling after Katrina prompted widespread criticism, along with the resignation of FEMA's director, and many lawmakers have since questioned whether Homeland Security is capable of handling recovery efforts along the Gulf Coast.
Congress has approved more than $63 billion in disaster-relief funding, and some estimate that the federal recovery costs for New Orleans and other storm-ravaged areas could exceed $200 billion.
Skinner's audit deals not only with the department's response to Katrina but with an array of broader management challenges that have troubled Homeland Security. The department brought together immigration and customs agencies, Secret Service, Coast Guard and Transportation Security Administration, among others.
Although there has been some progress, "integrating its many separate components in a single, effective and economical department remains one of DHS' biggest challenges," the audit said.
The report found, among other things, that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has failed to maintain proper financial records; that much of the department's technology infrastructure remains fractured and ineffective; and that Homeland Security faces "formidable challenges in securing the nation's borders."
Skinner also reiterated earlier complaints about poor coordination between the Border Patrol and immigration investigators. Chertoff has rejected Skinner's recommendation that the agencies responsible for these employees be merged.
this is scary!!! the USA is giving mexican police thugs money, arms, computers and other stuff to protect the USA. im sure the equipment will be eventually used agains private US citizens!
U.S. pays Mexico to secure border
Republic Mexico City Bureau
Dec. 29, 2005 12:00 AM
MEXICO CITY - It was a sunny day in Texas, and the mood was upbeat at George W. Bush's ranch as the U.S. president shook the hand of his Mexican counterpart and thanked him for helping keep America safe.
"In this age of terror, the security of our borders is more important than ever, and the cooperation between Mexico and American border and law enforcement is stronger than ever," Bush said during the March 2004 summit.
Like Bush, U.S. officials have repeatedly praised Mexico's efforts to bolster security on its side of the border as the countries try to present a united face against criminals and terrorists in the wake of Sept. 11. But the reality is that U.S. taxpayers have bankrolled much of Mexico's increased border vigilance. From X-ray scanners and helicopters to intelligence training, the United States has been quietly pouring millions of dollars into Mexico in the hopes of bolstering U.S. national security.
U.S. spending on military and police aid to Mexico has more than tripled in the past five years to $57.8 million with the hope it will help protect America's southern flank. But the funding also marks a dramatic shift in the relationship between the two countries, as Mexico, long wary of accepting military and police aid from its northern neighbor, becomes the third-biggest recipient in Latin America behind Colombia and Peru.
Arizona is the most popular corridor for illegal traffic across the U.S.-Mexican border. Migrants who have committed no crime in Mexico cannot legally be stopped from crossing into the United States by Mexican authorities. However, by equipping and training Mexican police and soldiers, the United States is hoping they will be able to stop drug smugglers and terrorists.
"Being an Arizonan, I'm worried about our back door," said Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., a member of the House Intelligence Committee. "We've realized that these same conduits could be used by terrorists. . . . And now, the Mexicans need certain equipment and capabilities to act when we give them intelligence packages."
Some Mexicans worry about the impact of the increasing aid on the Mexican military, which has a checkered human rights record. Others wonder how the avalanche of funds and equipment will influence Mexico's independence in world affairs.
And some in the United States wonder if it's worth funding a government that has done little to stem the flow of undocumented immigrants.
Opening the pocketbook
U.S. spending on military and police aid to Mexico has risen from $16.3 million in 2000 to $57.8 million in 2005, with the U.S. Department of Defense handling an ever-bigger share of the handouts. Adam Isaacson, an analyst at the Center for International Policy, a Washington think tank that tracks military aid, said, "The Mexicans are not going to devote a lot of their meager resources to the border when it's not really a priority for them."
It's unclear how much of the aid is being felt on the Arizona-Mexico border. Of the new helicopters given to Mexico since 2001, none has been stationed along the Arizona line. Most of the intelligence and counterterrorism training has gone to Mexican marines and naval officers, few of whom are stationed along the Arizona border.
However, Mexican forces are getting better at catching drug planes in neighboring Sonora state, partly because of better coordination at control rooms that were built with U.S. money. And at least two U.S.-funded X-ray scanners are at work in Nogales.
The State Department mainly doles out economic and humanitarian aid. But it also gives money and equipment to law enforcement agencies through its Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement. In 2000, it spent a modest $4.07 million on military and police aid to Mexico, mainly on binoculars, computers and other equipment for Mexican anti-drug agents. Not a single dollar was earmarked for border security.
Two years later, the budget shot up to $37 million, including $25.5 million for border security following the Sept. 11 attacks by al-Qaida. The aid included probes used for searching packages and looking behind ships' bulkheads, as well as "ion scanners" for sniffing out drugs or explosives.
Since then, the equipment sent to Mexico has gotten bigger and more expensive.
Recent donations include:
• Ten X-ray machines used by Mexican customs.
• Four Schweizer 333 helicopters, the first of a fleet of 28 that will be given to the Mexican Justice Department.
• Twelve UH-1H "Huey" helicopters, the first of 29 that the government is refurbishing and giving to Mexico.
• $13 million in computers, printers, communications lines and refurbishing of offices for Mexico's Federal Investigative Agency.
• Ten motorcycles and five trailers for Mexico's National Migration Institute and 12 Ford Lobo pickups.
This month, the U.S. Border Patrol taught water rescue techniques and gave equipment to authorities working on Mexico's border with Guatemala, the first time such training has taken place in Mexico.
Next year, the United States plans to give Mexico eight more helicopters and as many as six more X-ray scanners, three of which will go to Mexico's southern border with Guatemala.
The United States also plans to help Mexico with "installation of a telephone intercept capability," according to a State Department report. A department spokesman said that plans for phone-tapping equipment had been delivered but that the equipment had not been donated yet.
Meanwhile, Canada has gotten only one item from the United States since 2001: a 50-foot patrol boat used by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Vancouver.
Canada has fewer illegal immigrant crossings, and its police are better equipped than Mexico's. But its border with the United States is twice as long as Mexico.
At least one confirmed terrorist has tried to cross the U.S.-Canadian border: Ahmed Ressam, who was sentenced in July to 22 years in prison for plotting to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on New Year's Eve 1999. There have been no such cases on the U.S.-Mexican border.
The Pentagon is also taking a bigger role in Mexico under the banner of fighting terrorism, providing more money and training more soldiers, a development that worries many Mexicans. For decades, the Mexican government avoided any contact with the U.S. military. The distrust dates to the 1800s, when Mexico lost half of its territory to the United States through the Texan War of Independence and the U.S.-Mexican War. In 1914, the U.S. military invaded the city of Veracruz and occupied it for six months.
But in recent years, the Mexican government has forged a closer relationship with the United States under President Vicente Fox, a former Coca-Cola executive with conservative leanings.
"Mexico has changed in that area," Fox told The Arizona Republic in an interview aboard his presidential airplane in December. "Today, we have a new way of looking at sovereignty, and this in no way affects sovereignty."
As a result, the Pentagon earmarked $2.5 million this year for "foreign military financing" in Mexico. It is the first time in recent memory that Mexico has received direct aid from the United States for buying equipment.
The aid is aimed at "improving the capability of Mexican forces to respond to terrorist threats," a State Department report said, adding that it likely will go toward radar, communications and "detection" equipment.
The U.S. military has also begun training Mexican soldiers to fight terrorists and gather intelligence.
"The Mexican military has a bad record in this area," said Adrian Ramírez, president of the Mexican League for the Defense of Human Rights. "It's very worrying that the United States is turning to them for this."
The United States has long given free training to several hundred Mexican soldiers each year, but almost all the classes were in technical fields such as flight training or electronics repair.
But in late 2003, the focus changed. Of the 892 Mexican soldiers trained in fiscal 2004, 233 took classes under the new Counterterrorism Training Fellowship Program.
In 2005, the counterterrorism program spent $450,000 in Mexico. That's more than it spent in Colombia, a country that has been fighting a 41-year civil war against leftist guerrillas.
Mexican soldiers took courses like "Intelligence for Combating Terrorism," "Basic Intelligence Officer," "Waterside Port Security" and "Response to Terrorism." Four of the students were trained at Fort Huachuca in Arizona.
In another change, 56 of the counterterrorism students were trained in Mexico City. Until recently, Mexico would not permit U.S. military trainers on its soil, meaning the soldiers had to fly to the United States to take classes.
Mexican military cooperation is "critical to U.S. homeland defense," the State Department said in a report to Congress justifying its aid plans for 2006. But the Mexican military is keeping the increased aid a secret.
When The Republic requested a list of items supplied by the U.S. government, the National Defense Secretariat responded with a letter saying those records would remain sealed to the public for 12 years.
"The (Mexican) government has been very quiet with its information about U.S. aid," said Celina Fernández Vizcaíno, director of the International Studies Program at the University of Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico. "If that information were more widely known, like that Mexican soldiers are training with Americans, it would be a scandal."
A court order
The increased aid comes with one catch, however, and it could derail at least part of what is headed to Mexico next year.
In 2000, Mexico signed a treaty setting up the International Criminal Court, a permanent tribunal that can try people for war crimes and genocide. The court opened in The Hague, Netherlands, in March 2003.
The United States does not support the court because it fears Americans, as citizens of a superpower, could be unfairly singled out for prosecution. It has decided to punish any country that supports the court by withholding non-drug-related military aid.
Mexico finally ratified the treaty creating the court and sent it to the United Nations on Oct. 28 of this year.
By doing so, it could lose the $2.5 million in foreign military financing, as well as the free military training. The United States has already cut off similar aid to 12 other Latin American countries. President Fox has refused to withdraw from the court.
"We will not accept any kind of pressure over our participation in that court," he told The Republic. "We will not tolerate blackmail from anybody. If they try to do it, they will not succeed."
Fernández said the U.S. influence could be a political bomb. "Even if the United States is not directly pressuring Mexico with aid, this could give the appearance that our foreign policy is being influenced, and that is a very serious problem," she said.
The affected programs are only a small part of the $50.6 million in military and police aid that the United States has budgeted for Mexico next year, and some of that aid could be saved by reclassifying it as drug-related.
The State Department has not said how much Mexico stands to lose.
Some U.S. critics say the police and military aid is a waste because Mexico has done little to stop the hundreds of thousands of migrants crossing the border illegally each year.
"The government of Mexico is a co-conspirator in the smuggling of immigrants," said Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., chairman of the House Immigration Reform Caucus. "This is how we reward them, with helicopters and ways to tap phones? . . . Somebody just has a lot more trust than they should have in Mexico's ability to be a good neighbor."
But Fox says the equipment and training are being put to good use in the fight against drug smugglers and potential terrorists, making the United States a safer place.
In March, Mexico, Canada and the United States signed the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, which calls for a continentwide security strategy.
Fox bristles at any suggestion that the United States pays for Mexico's cooperation.
"They don't subsidize us or pay us anything," he said. "It's a cooperative effort because we're partners. NAFTA has taken the United States, Mexico and Canada to a higher level of cooperation. Because of that, we need to work together on security aspects as well."
Reach the reporter at email@example.com
Phoenix Police Officers Thomas Beck and Steven Huddleston punched or kicked a handcuffed Mexican national in the balls, punched in in the face with an elbow, and jumped up and down on the handcuffed Mexican national all which was recorded on video tape by News 12. Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas reviewed the videotape and says they did nothing wrong and refuses to prosecute them.
County Attorney Andrew Thomas lives up to his rep by throwing the book at a young Latino motorist while letting cops off easy
By Michael Lacey
Published: Thursday, December 29, 2005
You cannot slug a cop. It's that simple.
And the police cannot assault prisoners.
This simple bargain between law enforcement and the rest of us is one of the things that separates Americans from the denizens of Iraq and every other dusky pest hole.
Keeping the scales even on this bargain is apparently too big a challenge for County Attorney Andrew Thomas and his minions.
Last November, two Phoenix cops attacked a shackled and compliant prisoner. Channel 12's helicopter taped the blows while hovering over the scene of the arrest.
The Phoenix Police Department suspended the two officers: One took 40 hours on the bench, the other stood down for 200.
In a separate incident, citizen Louie Arriaga returned to court for the third time this past August.
Stopped for a traffic ticket, Arriaga ended up on the concrete grappling with a cop. Convicted of resisting arrest and aggravated assault, Arriaga got 10 years without chance of parole.
After his conviction was overturned, a jury found him guilty again this past summer. Arriaga returned to a cell to await final sentencing on January 3.
Arriaga's situation mirrors that of the two police officers. All parties found themselves on the wrong side of the bargain. Yet what all of them did is less important than the response of the law.
In an extraordinary development, Judge Andrew Klein met with prosecutors after the verdict. The prisoner had already spent two and a half years behind bars on the charges. Hadn't Arriaga served enough time, wondered the judge?
The judge's question lingered without answer for Arriaga's parents as they approached this holiday season. Apprehension and hope struggled within the retired couple.
The father, Luciano Sr., and his wife, Lydia, never gave up. Although their boy had been found guilty again in August, they had reason to believe.
Chad Schell, Arriaga's lawyer, met with the parents after the in-chambers conference with the judge at the conclusion of the trial.
"Schell told us the judge didn't see why our son needed to serve any more time in jail. The prosecutor agreed. But Schell said the police were against this," recalled Luciano Sr.
One man thought he might be able to bridge the difference with the cops.
Reverend Oscar Tillman, head of the local NAACP, attended every judicial proceeding involving Arriaga. He volunteered to speak to the police chief and get back to the parents.
Then the waiting began.
The phone in the Arriaga household finally rang on November 1 at 7 p.m.
Officers Thomas Beck and Steven Huddleston were among a group of at least half a dozen police officers who apprehended a Mexican national suspected of robbing and assaulting a pregnant woman last November. A hovering helicopter videotaped the arrest and apparent abuse. A subsequent investigation by the authorities produced the following summary by the police department:
"You [Beck] were then seen delivering what appeared to be a quick strike to the suspect's groin . . . the suspect was neither actively nor passively resisting, and his hands were cuffed behind his back."
"After the suspect was handcuffed and lying on his stomach, you [Huddleston] were observed standing on the back of the suspect's left knee with your right foot, elevating yourself and applying all your weight on the back of the suspect's knee . . . the suspect appeared to be offering no resistance, and was not moving. A few seconds later, another officer lifted the suspect by his arms and began walking him to a patrol car. You threw an elbow to the suspect's face."
When County Attorney Andrew Thomas reviewed the report sent to his office by the police department, he declined to prosecute the officers involved. A spokesman for the prosecutor explained to Arizona Republic columnist E.J. Montini, "We examined the videotape closely and concluded that a momentary stand on a leg was not criminal. A close review of the tape showed there was a shoulder-to-shoulder shove but no elbow to the face. A search for weapons did include the groin area."
You can easily make the case that prosecutors ignored the videotaped evidence, ignored the police department's own investigation of the abuse, but at the end of the day you can't help but feel that justice was done. Officers Beck and Huddleston lost their tempers and lashed out, but the department didn't cover up the incident. They suspended the cops and passed the paperwork to the prosecutor for review.
The officers did not end up in court and did not lose their careers.
And, frankly, that is a good thing.
Within moments of answering their phone, the Arriagas' Thanksgiving plans took on a rapturous note.
"Reverend Tillman called and said he'd talked to the Chief of Police. He said Officer Poole was okay with time served," remembered Mr. Arriaga. "This was the best news we'd heard in our entire lives."
His wife's response matched his.
"My heart started pounding," recalled Lydia Arriaga. "All this time, and now, finally . . ."
The holiday tidings of joy crashed in despair one week before Thanksgiving.
The Reverend Tillman called back on November 18 and said the police chief claimed that there had been a miscommunication.
Officer Poole wanted their son to serve the full sentence. Under no circumstances did he want Louie to get out on time served.
"This was so cruel, so bad," remembered Luciano Sr. "Our hopes had been raised sky high, and now this."
Now his wife's despair mirrored his.
"I don't wish this on anybody," said Lydia. "My heart went to the floor."
Officer Warren Poole confronted Louie Arriaga for rolling through a stop sign on February 6, 2002. The traffic ticket did not hold up in court when the police officer admitted that he could not actually see the stop sign from where his patrol car was parked. But for nearly four years now, the courts have attempted to sort out what happened after the cop spoke to Arriaga.
In several statements to fellow police officers, Officer Poole said he chased Arriaga on foot and tackled him from behind. But Poole told the investigating detective that he reached out and grabbed Arriaga because he didn't think the suspect would cooperate. There is no record, there are no statements, there is no testimony that Arriaga was verbally abusive. The officer simply didn't like the way Arriaga looked, he didn't like the vibe.
Poole did not ask for a license, registration, proof of insurance, or inform Arriaga of the offense.
"I was afraid he was going to run," testified Officer Poole in court. "But at no time did Mr. Arriaga run from me."
Wrestled to the ground and struggling, Arriaga found himself in a chokehold with the much larger Poole on top of him. Fearing for his life, Arriaga reached out, grabbed a plank and swung it backward over his head and struck the police officer.
In his first trial, Arriaga was found guilty of resisting arrest, but the jury hung on the more serious charge of aggravated assault, with the majority voting to find him innocent.
The prosecutor offered to let him out of a second trial if he would admit guilt and accept probation. No more jail time was demanded.
But Arriaga refused to plead guilty for something he felt he had not done.
Convicted at his second trial, Arriaga was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but Judge Crane McClennen noted in an unsuccessful appeal to the Clemency Board: "The sentence the law requires this Court to impose is clearly excessive . . . [Arriaga] acted on the spur of the moment fearing for his own well being. It was just a struggle that got out of hand. If this Court had the discretion, this Court would have considered placing the defendant on probation."
At the conclusion of the trial this past August, yet another judge attempted to intervene in a rather extraordinary way.
Judge Klein took the remarkable step of meeting with the County Attorney's Office after telling the lawyers on both sides of the case that justice appeared to call for the release of Arriaga with time served.
The Arriaga family fought their case like cornered animals. Before the most recent trial, they once again refused a settlement based upon time served. The retired parents have mortgaged the home they owned free and clear, they have sold off retirement holdings, they have spent everything they have -- substantially over six figures -- and their son spent two years in prison. They filed a reckless civil suit for damages.
But the authorities are no less pigheaded.
The Reverend Tillman thought he had an agreement with the Chief of Police, Jack Harris.
"He told me Poole is okay with time served," repeated Reverend Tillman.
But according to the head of the NAACP, the police department's attorney, Gerald Richards, stoutly opposed any settlement.
"Richards called me back," recalled Tillman. "He said there'd been a miscommunication. The chief then called and said the same thing. Gerald has made this personal. He said that Arriaga's father disrespected him at one of the legal proceedings."
Neither Richards nor Harris returned calls for comment.
What the Reverend Tillman did not know was that his conversations with police officials were all a charade. When he phoned the Arriaga family on November 1, with a message of reconciliation, the deal for more of their son's blood had already been cut. The prosecutor's office made its decision weeks earlier.
On October 7, Judge Klein met with the County Attorney, Officer Poole, a police supervisor, and Poole's civil attorney. While he remained hopeful, Judge Klein found the meeting ominous.
"I think there are forces at play here that go beyond a victim merely deciding whether to agree to offer the defendant a plea after the trial," wrote Judge Klein to Arriaga's attorney.
On October 13, Leonard Ruiz, head of the criminal division, responded in writing to the judge's efforts at compromise. Following his return to jail, Arriaga had now logged two and a half years behind bars. The prosecutor was not satisfied.
He asked for a guilty plea that included four and a half years, adding two years to what Arriaga had already served. Additionally, Arriaga would be compelled to pay Officer Poole $1,000, renounce all claims of self-defense, drop all claims or suits, apologize in writing and orally to Officer Poole for Arriaga's conduct at the time he was stopped "and for his conduct towards Officer Poole since the said incident."
Apparently, Arriaga's rigorous defense in court, his refusal to bargain, his Web site (setlouiefree.com) and his conversations with me, which resulted in two previous articles on the case, now necessitate an apology.
Because Arriaga refused this plea agreement, he will face the original sentence of 10 years, which the judge can reduce to seven.
"To enter a guilty plea by an innocent man does not make any sense," observed Luciano Sr.
The County Attorney declined comment.
Officer Thomas Beck: one-week suspension. Officer Steven Huddleston: five-week suspension.
The offer to Luciano Arriaga: four and a half years in prison.
County Attorney Andrew Thomas rules like a mullah presiding over a dusky pest hole.
Scottsdale is quietly refunding fines from 1,964 photo radar traffic tickets
Ticket to Ride
The timing couldn't have been worse. This month, the Scottsdale City Council was faced with voting on whether to go ahead with a pilot project to pioneer photo radar cameras on Loop 101.
The Bird supposes that, by now, everyone has gotten used to the pesky red-light cameras now in place in Valley cities from Paradise Valley to Chandler, but Scottsdale's program will mark the first time that cameras will be used to catch speeders on a U.S. freeway.
And so let's just say that Scottsdale couldn't have been happy to admit that, in the very same month that it's authorizing unprecedented use of photo radar surveillance, it's also quietly refunding fines from 1,964 traffic tickets mistakenly issued to its citizens.
You read that right: 1,964 drivers were wrongly ticketed in Scottsdale.
And because everyone knows there's no use fighting a photo ticket, a good chunk of those poor saps -- no one at City Hall seems to know exactly how many -- went ahead and paid up.
Ouch! You know how it goes: There you are, sailing along at a modest 20 miles over the speed limit, when you're zapped by a flash of light. A month later you get a citation with your beaming mug bearing the official record that you were driving 55 in a 35 zone.
Well, what The Bird heard is that every one of those photo tickets issued is supposed to have the date, time and speed stamped in a "data bar" across the damning photograph.
But as Bruce Kalin, the program contract administrator for Scottsdale, explains, the city's photo radar vendor, hometown company RedFlex, was jiggling with the software in one of its mobile photo radar vans and, somehow, said software was mistakenly changed so that it deleted that little data bar that lists date, time and speed.
That happened in July. And although someone is supposed to check every citation to make sure it's got that key date-time-speed information, that someone didn't catch the problems affecting the van in question until October -- almost four months later.
At which point, the city figured it had a problem.
"If that [time and mph] information isn't there, it's technically not a photo that can be used as evidence," Kalin told The Bird. Which must mean that all those tickets are inadmissible in traffic court. Which could, of course, lead to something this extended third finger dearly loves -- a great big scandal!
And so Scottsdale began quietly mailing refunds.
"Anybody who paid will be refunded," Kalin vowed to this faux falcon. "If they went to driver's school, that will be refunded. We're also refunding process-server fees."
Kalin says the city isn't out a dime. The refunds are being paid by the city's outside contractor, RedFlex, since it's the one that screwed up. Damn! The Bird was hoping that greedy Snottsdale would get punished for its damnable money-grubbing policies!
Scottsdale Councilman Jim Lane, an outspoken critic of the Loop 101 plan, says he was first informed of the refunds by a constituent who'd just gotten his money back -- and, naturally, that guy wasn't calling to complain.
"He was delighted," Lane says.
But the plumed one's still guessing there are some people who aren't.
Like the people who sat through six hours of traffic school only to be told they'd wasted their time. Sure, they get their money back, but what about those six hours of their lives?
Can you say pain and suffering?
None of this much fazed the City Council majority, which went ahead and approved the Loop 101 plan. The city's now estimating that the new cameras will nab 198,500 speeders a year -- which means no one should cry for RedFlex. The company gets $42.48 per citation, which could mean $8.4 million for RedFlex in the first full year of operation. It can afford to make a couple of thousand refunds, fuck you very much!
Peoria Ill cop Jared Ginglen illegally searches his fathers home and then has his father busted for bank robbbery.
Bank robber's 3 sons turn him in
Brothers have no regrets; dad's sentencing set for today
Dec. 29, 2005 12:00 AM
LEWISTOWN, Ill. - The Ginglen brothers grew up knowing they should always do the right thing, even under tough circumstances. It's a lesson their ex-Marine father taught them.
So when they discovered that same father had been robbing small-town banks, the three sons put his tutelage to the test: They turned him in.
Now, William Alfred "Al" Ginglen, a 64-year-old grandfather of seven, could spend the rest of his life in prison. He pleaded guilty in July to seven counts of armed bank robbery and two counts of carrying and using a firearm during a crime of violence. Sentencing is scheduled today in federal court in Springfield.
His sons say they have no regrets.
"He turned to crime, and we had an opportunity to stop it," said Clay Ginglen, 36, a music teacher in his hometown of about 2,600 people. "He was robbing banks with a gun. He could have easily hurt anyone, a bank teller, a policeman. He could have been hurt, as well."
Ginglen's double life, which authorities allege included a girlfriend, drugs and prostitutes, started to unravel in August 2004, when one of his sons, Peoria police Officer Jared Ginglen, looked at surveillance videos posted on a law enforcement Web site and recognized his dad behind sunglasses, a dust mask and driver's cap.
He called brother Garrett Ginglen, 41, a Caterpillar Inc. engineer, who says he broke into a sweat and threw up in his office trash can when he called up the photos.
"I felt like if I could I would get up and run as fast and far as I could," Garrett said. "Just trying to get away from it and pretend like it didn't happen."
The three brothers quickly gathered at the Lewistown firehouse where Garrett and Clay volunteer and decided to confront their father.
He wasn't home, but the sons found clothes that matched those worn by the robber. They called police, who arrested Al the next morning outside the home of a woman authorities say he had been secretly seeing since the 1990s.
Along with a gun used in at least two of the robberies, the investigation turned up a journal Al kept that prosecutors say details the robberies and the double life they bankrolled.
Al wrote that he needed money to support his girlfriend and her daughter and to pay for a $400- to $900-a-week crack cocaine habit and hotel rooms where he romped with prostitutes, prosecutors said.
His sons say the family was oblivious of the nine-month robbery spree, which netted nearly $60,000 from central Illinois banks, and their dad's secret life.
"There's a lot of things we're upset about that weren't illegal," Clay said. "Lying's not a crime, and lying was the biggest thing."
Al told the Chicago Tribune that the journal was a fictionalized outline for a book he planned to write. He declined an interview request from the Associated Press.
His sons, who say they have read only parts of the journal, rejected the explanation.
"I think it was a way that someone who was living a double life would try to keep track of his stories, to not slip up and get caught," Clay said.
In hindsight, Al's sons now recognize clues that their father's life had been unraveling.
After being laid off for about a year when Maytag began shuttering its Galesburg refrigerator plant in 2002, he told his family he had landed a job collecting receipts from video games in bars and restaurants across central Illinois. He was away from home three to four days a week and called his sons frequently for money, they said.
His attorney, Ron Hamm, did not return a call for comment but has said Al was a devoted family man with a history of community service and no criminal record before the robberies began in 2003. Prosecutors declined to comment.
Whatever the sentence, Al's sons hope their father someday realizes it was the lessons he taught them that landed him in jail and may have saved his life.
"We knew he could be mad. It wasn't like we didn't mow the lawn when we were supposed to," Garrett said. "But we also hoped that since he taught us all of this and raised us to be good, maybe someday the light bulb will come on."
Dec 29, 12:14 PM EST
College student sues over mistaken drug bust
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- When college freshman Janet Lee packed her bags for a Christmas trip home two years ago, her luggage contained three condoms filled with flour - devices that she and some friends made as a joke.
Philadelphia International Airport screeners found the condoms, and their initial tests showed they contained drugs. The Bryn Mawr College student was arrested on drug trafficking charges and jailed. Three weeks later, she was released after a lab test backed her story, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Thursday.
Lee filed a federal lawsuit last week against city police, seeking damages for pain and suffering, financial loss, and emotional distress. She was arrested on Dec. 21, 2003, and was held on $500,000 bail and faced up to 20 years in prison had she been convicted of the drug charges.
"I haven't let myself be angry about what happened, because it would tear me apart," Lee said. "I'm not sure I can bear to face it. I'm amazed at how naive I was."
Airport screeners found the condoms filled with white powder in Lee's checked luggage shortly before she was to board a plane to Los Angeles to visit her family. She said she told city police they were filled with flour. She said she made them as a joke and would squeeze them to relieve stress.
Police told her a field test showed that the powder contained opium and cocaine, according to the Inquirer. A lab test later proved the substance was flour - and prosecutors dropped the charges, the newspaper reported.
Lee's lawyers, former prosecutors David Oh and Jeremy Ibrahim, say that either the field test was faulty or someone fixed the results.
Ibrahim said lawsuit was filed near the end of the two-year statute of limitations because Lee, now a junior, was emotionally devastated.
"She lost significant face with this event," Ibrahim said.
Police department spokesman Capt. Benjamin Naish and district attorney's office spokeswoman Cathie Abookire declined to comment.
Dec 29, 3:12 AM EST
Elderly man suing county, deputy over dog attack
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- An 83-year-old man who lost part of an arm after being attacked by a retired Sheriff's Department patrol dog is suing Pima County and the deputy who owned the animal.
Alexander L. Dufour filed the lawsuit in Pima County Superior Court.
Dufour claims the dog attacked him on April 19 while he was trimming trees in his backyard.
He underwent surgery and had his right arm amputated at the elbow.
The animal was later euthanized at the request of his owner, Deputy John Summey.
Dufour's suit claims that the Sheriff's Department knew in early 1998 that Bronco wouldn't stop biting and that he had bitten three people while on duty and another person off duty.
The suit does not specify damages, but a claim Dufour filed in May asked for $3 million.
The claim, which is required before lawsuits are filed, said the damages requested are similar to the $2.5 million award the state paid to a teenager attacked by a bear on Mount Lemmon in 1996.
The Sheriff's Department and Summey have not filed responses to the lawsuit.
the national debt will hit its limit of $8.18 trillion pretty soon. thats $27,260 for every man, woman, and child in the USA. and when you include other bills such as social security, medicare, and other programs the true national debt expands to about 4 times that with every man, woman, and child owing $109,040.
U.S. nearing debt limit, Treasury secretary warns
Dec. 30, 2005 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON - The U.S. government may reach its borrowing limit of $8.18 trillion by mid-February and lawmakers should raise the ceiling "as soon as possible" to avoid disrupting debt markets, Treasury Secretary John Snow said.
"We anticipate that we can finance government operations no longer than mid-March," Snow wrote to leaders in Congress. "I am writing to request that Congress raise the statutory limit as soon as possible."
Snow's letter marks the fourth time that President Bush's administration has asked Congress to let it sell more debt. Last year's request to raise the limit from $7.38 trillion further fueled Democratic criticism of Bush during the presidential election, and the Treasury was forced to delay an auction of four-week bills as it waited for Congress to act.
"Republicans control the House, the Senate, the White House and the budget and cannot duck responsibility for these dismal results," Rep. John Spratt Jr., D-S.C, and the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, said in a statement after Snow's latest request.
"Republicans have been boasting about a decline in the deficit, but at the same time, House Republicans were slipping deep into their budget resolution another debt ceiling increase of $781 billion," Spratt said. "Secretary Snow skirts just how much he is seeking, but this increase is the likely amount."
Before today, Treasury officials had said only that they would hit the debt limit in the first quarter. Congress has increased the limit by $2.4 trillion since Bush took office, raising the ceiling in June 2002, May 2003 and November 2004.
"As you know, the 'full faith and credit' of the United States is a unique asset that underlies the leadership position of our country in the world capital markets," Snow wrote. "A failure to increase the debt limit in a timely manner would threaten this unique and important position."
The United States recorded a budget deficit of $83.1 billion last month, a record for November, as the government began paying bills for reconstruction after this year's hurricanes in the Gulf Coast region. Last month, the Treasury said that it plans to borrow a record $171 billion from January to March, in part to pay hurricane-related costs that will mostly come due next year.
The budget deficit narrowed by $94 billion to $318.6 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, marking the first time the shortfall shrank under Bush's presidency.
Congress imposed the first debt ceiling of $11.5 billion in 1917. It crossed the $1 trillion mark in 1981.
mean spirited cops are arresting teenages who act as designated-driver to take home their drunk friends from parties.
Parts of DUI law contrary to safety
Dec. 30, 2005 12:00 AM
After reading about the crackdown on underage drinking, I had to write ("Police targeting teens who buy, drink alcohol," Republic, Monday).
I am an 18-year-old college student and one of only a few of my friends who doesn't drink. As such, I am prime designated-driver material. Unfortunately, our state laws say that I can be arrested for even attending a party where there is alcohol (minor in possession).
Several of my friends who went to these parties as designated drivers found this out the hard way when they were arrested. Now many of us won't go near these parties, leaving students without a designated driver. Those who want to drink must convince a drinker to party sober or have someone pick them up.
For drinkers, "sober" normally means "less intoxicated than the other people," and by the time these people finish drinking it is frequently 3 a.m., making getting a ride challenging.
The result: Kids either pay for a cab (most can't afford it) or risk the drive themselves. You do the math.
Even the 21-and-up crowd avoids being a designated driver because they can be arrested for facilitating a minor's consumption.
We need to revise these laws to protect designated drivers or accept the consequences: more drunks on the road.
Fountain Hill, Arizona
Evidence against CIA agents is multiplying, Italians say
Los Angeles Times
Dec. 30, 2005 12:00 AM
ROME - The secret agents who captured Abu Omar weren't very secret.
In the days surrounding their abduction of the radical Egyptian cleric on a Milan street three years ago, they chatted openly on their cellular phones, ran up huge bills at luxury hotels and even managed to let their rental cars be photographed by traffic cameras as they drove illegally through pedestrian walkways.
The case became the most well-documented example of a secret CIA practice aimed at hunting down terror suspects. But Italy's efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice have stalled, a casualty of political stonewalling, international intrigue and public apathy.
Italy has issued Europe-wide arrest warrants for the alleged captors of the cleric, whose full name is Hassan Osama Nasr: 22 CIA operatives, including the former station chief in Milan. Italian prosecutors say Abu Omar, whom investigators suspected of heading a terrorist network, was transported by U.S. agents to an Egyptian prison, where he has said he was tortured.
The operation in Milan was one piece in what is now known to be the much wider use of European soil and airspace by U.S. intelligence services for the possibly illegal detention of dozens of suspects, involving hidden prisons and clandestine flights in and out of European airports.
The men and women who grabbed Abu Omar as he walked to a Milan mosque in February 2003 are long gone. Last week, another court expanded the warrants to the European Union, so the suspects now risk arrest anywhere in the 25-nation bloc.
State prosecutors based in Milan, who are pressing the case, believe the paper and electronic trail left behind by the CIA operatives provides a remarkable trove of evidence, especially for an operation that was supposed to be secret.
And that is where the case has stalled.
The pro-U.S. government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is refusing to forward the extradition requests and instead asked for more documentation, a highly unusual request that prosecutors regard as a delaying tactic.
Berlusconi has denied that his government knew about or authorized the abduction, even as former CIA officers in Washington said the operation was conducted with Italian government cooperation.
The ease and openness with which the operatives acted in Milan suggests they knew they had the green light from Italian authorities. Among other activities, they ran up bills totaling more than $150,000 at some of Milan's best hotels.
Abu Omar's captors took him to the U.S.-run side of the Aviano Air Base in northern Italy; from there he was flown in a CIA-contracted Learjet to the U.S. Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where he was transferred to a Gulfstream executive jet for the last leg of the journey to Egypt, according to Italian investigators and court documents.
He has told friends and family that he was questioned for hours at Aviano and tortured in prison in Egypt by interrogators who beat him and used electrical shocks on his body.
Phone records suggest that one of the CIA agents, former Milan station chief Robert Seldon Lady, may have been present in Egypt during the torture, prosecutors say. They have forwarded a request asking U.S. authorities to question Lady and his boss, the Rome CIA station chief, about his presence in Egypt.
Why are the Scottsdale police escorting a college football players around town???
Scottsdale police escort bowl teams around town
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 30, 2005 12:00 AM
NORTHEAST VALLEY - Snarled traffic and gawking passers-by are as much a part of the annual Fiesta Bowl tradition as the game itself.
Police motorcades have also become part of Bowl Week in recent years, as visiting teams have made their headquarters at northeast Valley resorts.
Scottsdale is currently paying for eight to 12 police officers to form "moving roadblocks" for Ohio State and Notre Dame as players are shuttled between hotels, practices and other functions before Monday's Fiesta Bowl.
Scottsdale Police Chief Alan Rodbell said the motorcades have become an annual tradition.
The focus is to cut down on traffic congestion and to prevent the football teams from inconveniencing Scottsdale commuters, he said.
The teams' charter buses are guided around by several motorcycle officers who block streets and direct cars as needed to keep the athletes on schedule.
"We just try to get them off the roads in time, and in one piece," Rodbell said.
The police motorcades are funded by Scottsdale, not by the universities.
Motorcycle officers and other traffic patrolmen are assigned to the Fiesta Bowl escorts.
If necessary, officers will work overtime, though police did not report how much overtime pay has been issued this year or in the past.
Scottsdale's police presence is merely to halt traffic, not to provide additional security for the athletes.
Rodbell said he does not recall any serious incidents with unruly fans in recent years.
But the motorcycle officers are nearby, if needed.
The scene at the Ohio State and Notre Dame hotels is low-key.
Players are frequently seen signing autographs for fans, when possible.
Notre Dame is staying at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort in Paradise Valley.
Buses move between the resorts and the team's practices at Scottsdale Community College.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes, who are playing for their third Fiesta Bowl win in the past four seasons, are staying at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort.
Police escort the team from the resort to its practice field at Pinnacle High School in northeast Phoenix.
"It's a sight to behold, to watch those guys at work," said Bob Tucker, football operations director for Ohio State.
"We have motor escorts in other places - maybe two (officers) to take us to a main event - but not for practices, players' dinners, and other events like we have here," Tucker said.
yes we can always look up to our government rulers and religious leaders to show us the right way to do things. well not really!
Mayor of Lynchburg, Va., pleads not guilty in church charity theft
Dec. 30, 2005 12:00 AM
ROANOKE, Va. - The mayor of Lynchburg pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges of stealing from a church charity to pay his debts and taking money from Social Security recipients.
Carl B. Hutcherson Jr., 61, remains free and said after his arraignment, "I'm looking forward to my day in court."
A seven-count indictment issued Dec. 1 accuses Hutcherson of fraud, lying to federal and bank officials and obstruction of justice.
The indictment said Hutcherson and the funeral home he owns were in severe financial trouble when he took more than $30,000 from a charity connected to the church where he is pastor to pay back taxes and a personal debt.
He owed more than $100,000 to the Internal Revenue Service, according to the indictment.
The indictment also said that Hutcherson was the recipient of Social Security funds for two disabled people and alleged that he spent money intended for them.
Date: Thu, 29 Dec 2005 13:10:59 -0800
From: "Tim Weaver" weavermt@YAHOO.COM
Subject: Re: constructive posession - a question
If you have an AR-15 semi-auto, and an M-16 bolt and/or and M-16 hammer
and/or an M-16 sear, then BATFE classifies this as being in
possession of a machinegun, even if the gun will not fire full-auto and
it's only 1 additional part from a full-auto gun.
If you had all those parts, but no gun, then I do not believe it would
classified as such. If I am wrong, it will be pointed out. :)
--- ******************************** wrote:
> i never asked laro about all the details of his
> arrest. but i know he said that 1) had a part that
> could be used to make a gun into a machinegun. and 2)
> he didnt actually have the machine gun.
> someone said the BTAF has a rule thats called
> constructive possession.
> i take that to mean if a person has 2 parts that could
> be made into a machine gun, then the BATF says that is
> effectively the same as having a machine gun!
> is that correct?
Date: Thu, 29 Dec 2005 14:24:44 -0700
From: "geoff beneze" geoffb@BEAST-ENTERPRISES.COM
Subject: Re: constructive posession - a question
On Dec 29, 2005, at 2:10 PM, Tim Weaver wrote:
> If you had all those parts, but no gun, then I do not believe it
> would be
> classified as such. If I am wrong, it will be pointed out. :)
I suspect it's a selective interpretation so they can screw anyone they want at will. I have that drill press, and lathe, and mill - AND bar stock, flat stock, pipe, tubing, etc, etc. Given that "constructive possession" could be defined as ANYTHING they want it to be.
Date: Thu, 29 Dec 2005 15:23:56 -0700
From: "Carlos Alvarez" azrkba@SPEEDEXTREME.COM
Subject: Re: constructive posession - a question
On Dec 29, 2005, at 2:10 PM, Tim Weaver wrote:
> If you had all those parts, but no gun, then I do not believe it
> would be
> classified as such. If I am wrong, it will be pointed out. :)
Unless you're within the 1000 foot no-auto zone around a gun shop... Or unless they feel like setting a new example.
Date: Thu, 29 Dec 2005 16:16:24 -0700
From: "C. D. Tavares" cd@LIBERTYHAVENRANCH.COM
Subject: Re: constructive posession - a question
On Dec 29, 2005, at 2:10 PM, Tim Weaver wrote:
> If you have an AR-15 semi-auto, and an M-16 bolt and/or and M-16
> and/or an M-16 sear, then BATFE classifies this as being in
> possession of a machinegun, even if the gun will not fire full-auto
> it's only 1 additional part from a full-auto gun.
> If you had all those parts, but no gun, then I do not believe it
> classified as such. If I am wrong, it will be pointed out. :)
Kopel, at least, says you are wrong.
If you had ONLY the sear, and no other firearm or gun part, you would still be in constructive possession of a machine gun.
> In fact, machine gun conversion parts are classified as machine guns
> even when not assembled. Under federal law, a "machine gun" is a
> functioning machine gun, or all the parts needed to make a machine
> gun, or the parts used to convert a regular gun to a machine gun.
> In other words, if a person possesses a machine gun conversion kit,
> but does not possess any type of actual firearm, the person is
> considered by federal law to possess a machine gun. Similarly, if a
> person owns in one place all the parts necessary to assemble a
> gun, then the person is a machine gun owner under federal law. 
> The legal distinction is eminently sensible. If one possesses all the
> parts necessary to make a machine gun, then one possesses an auto
> sear, the internal component that makes the machine gun fire
> repeatedly. There is no purpose to possessing an auto sear except for
> use in a machine gun.
Date: Thu, 29 Dec 2005 17:42:13 -0700
From: "Ted Louis Glenn" tlglenn@MINDSPRING.COM
Subject: Re: constructive posession - a question
> If you had all those parts, but no gun, then I do not believe it
> classified as such. If I am wrong, it will be pointed out. :)
Any combination of parts designed and intended for use in converting weapons into machineguns; or Any part designed and intended solely and exclusively for converting a weapon into a machinegun; or Any combination of parts from which a machinegun can be assembled if the parts are in the possession or under the control of a person;
They would still nail you for possession of conversion parts even if you don't possess the weapon that could be converted by such parts.
Beyond the imperial presidency
Published December 25, 2005
President Bush is a bundle of paradoxes. He thinks the scope of the federal government should be limited but the powers of the president should not. He wants judges to interpret the Constitution as the framers did, but doesn't think he should be constrained by their intentions.
He attacked Al Gore for trusting government instead of the people, but he insists anyone who wants to defeat terrorism must put absolute faith in the man at the helm of government.
His conservative allies say Bush is acting to uphold the essential prerogatives of his office. Vice President Cheney says the administration's secret eavesdropping program is justified because "I believe in a strong, robust executive authority, and I think that the world we live in demands it."
But the theory boils down to a consistent and self-serving formula:
What's good for George W. Bush is good for America, and anything that weakens his power weakens the nation. To call this an imperial presidency is unfair to emperors.
Even people who should be on Bush's side are getting queasy. David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, says in his efforts to enlarge executive authority, Bush "has gone too far."
He's not the only one who feels that way. Consider the case of Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen arrested in 2002 on suspicion of plotting to set off a "dirty bomb." For three years, the administration said he posed such a grave threat that it had the right to detain him without trial as an enemy combatant. In September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit agreed.
But then, rather than risk a review of its policy by the Supreme Court, the administration abandoned its hard won victory and indicted Padilla on comparatively minor criminal charges. When it asked the 4th Circuit Court for permission to transfer him from military custody to jail, though, the once-cooperative court flatly refused.
In a decision last week, the judges expressed amazement that the administration suddenly would decide Padilla could be treated like a common purse snatcher--a reversal that, they said, comes "at substantial cost to the government's credibility." The court's meaning was plain: Either you were lying to us then, or you are lying to us now.
If that's not enough to embarrass the president, the opinion was written by conservative darling J. Michael Luttig--who just a couple of months ago was on Bush's short list for the Supreme Court. For Luttig to question Bush's use of executive power is like Bill O'Reilly announcing that there's too much Christ in Christmas.
This is hardly the only example of the president demanding powers he doesn't need. When American born Saudi Yasser Hamdi was captured in Afghanistan, the administration also detained him as an enemy combatant rather than entrust him to the criminal justice system.
But when the Supreme Court said he was entitled to a hearing where he could present evidence on his behalf, the administration decided that was way too much trouble. It freed him and put him on a plane back to Saudi Arabia, where he may plot jihad to his heart's content. Try to follow this logic: Hamdi was too dangerous to put on trial but not too dangerous to release.
The disclosure that the president authorized secret and probably illegal monitoring of communications between people in the United States and people overseas again raises the question: Why?
The government easily could have gotten search warrants to conduct electronic surveillance of anyone with the slightest possible connection to terrorists. The court that handles such requests hardly
ever refuses. But Bush bridles at the notion that the president should
ever have to ask permission of anyone.
He claims he can ignore the law because Congress granted permission when it authorized him to use force against Al Qaeda. But we know that can't be true. Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales says the administration didn't ask for a revision of the law to give the president explicit power to order such wiretaps because Congress--a Republican Congress, mind you--wouldn't have agreed. So the administration decided: Who needs Congress?
What we have now is not a robust executive but a reckless one. At times like this, it's apparent that Cheney and Bush want more power not because they need it to protect the nation, but because they want more power. Another paradox: In their conduct of the war on terror, they expect our trust, but they can't be bothered to earn it.
Photo mix-up gets drivers city refunds
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 31, 2005 12:00 AM
SCOTTSDALE - Printing errors with photo-enforcement citations caused Scottsdale to refund more than $51,000 this year to drivers accused of speeding or running red lights.
Scottsdale City Court processed more than 580 refunds from July 28 to Nov. 7.
Some of the citations required the city to refund checks to drivers while others required citation reversals for those who did not pay fines.
Earlier this month, photo-enforcement provider Redflex Traffic Systems reimbursed Scottsdale $33,548, the amount the city returned to drivers and defensive-driving schools.
Processing errors occurred when citations were mailed without the necessary data to match drivers with their alleged violations, Redflex spokesman Jay Heiler said.
Scottsdale and Redflex said the errors are not representative of any problems with speed-enforcement cameras, such as those proposed in January for Scottsdale's portion of Loop 101.
"I don't think this has ever happened before, and I don't think it will ever happen again," Heiler said. "But it is important if we make a mistake, that we take the time to correct it."
Scottsdale has not seen any other processing errors or mishaps with cameras that have triggered a significant number of refunds, City Court Administrator Janet Cornell said.
City Court processed 64,858 photo-enforcement citations between July 1, 2004, and June 30, Cornell said.
How do you spell Mario Madrigal Jr. in Somali???
Somali migrants in Ohio protest police shooting
Dec. 31, 2005 12:00 AM
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Somali immigrants upset about the fatal police shooting of a man they say had mental health problems rallied Friday in protest, questioning the decision to use deadly force.
A crowd that Columbus police estimated in the hundreds alternated between standing in front of City Hall and marching around two city blocks chanting, "We want justice!"
Protesters held signs with statements such as, "Nasir Abdi needed medication, not a bullet."
Nasir Abdi, 23, was shot Wednesday as four Franklin County deputies tried to take him back to a mental hospital where he had been force-fed medication. Columbus police detectives said that Abdi had threatened them with a kitchen knife with a 6-inch blade.
But Somali leaders said that witnesses to the shooting never saw a knife in Abdi's hands.
"What we need is the facts to come out, and we want justice to be served," said Liibaan Ismail of Columbus, a spokesman for the protesters.
Sheriff Jim Karnes said Friday that his office was familiar with Abdi and his mental health problems, though the deputy who shot him probably was not. Nevertheless, he said, his officers know their responsibilities.
"They know what they have to do to protect themselves and the public," he said.
Karnes said his officers have taken only the minimum training in dealing with mentally ill suspects required by the state.
"Unless it's mandated by the state, we probably don't have enough time or money to do it," Karnes said. "Training costs money."
Smith files for legislative immunity
By Dennis Welch, Tribune
December 31, 2005
A state lawmaker who was ordered to leave office for violating campaign finance laws filed for legislative immunity this week in an effort to keep his seat through the coming session.
Rep. David Burnell Smith, R-Scottsdale, claims the state cannot force him to appear in court or oust him from office while the Legislature meets.
In the legal brief filed Thursday with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, Smith’s attorneys argue that the state constitution protects sitting lawmakers from arrest or appearing in court during the session.
But the attorney general’s office says the constitution does not protect Smith because he no longer is a member of the Legislature. Agency spokeswoman Jessica Funkhouser said officials on Tuesday will file a response stating why Smith should be denied immunity.
They argue that Smith no longer holds office because a trial judge ordered his removal after finding he spent too much in his publicly funded 2004 primary, violating the Citizens Clean Elections Law.
Smith has since been granted a legal stay. He is scheduled to appear at the Court of Appeals on Jan. 9, the first day of the legislative session.
But before that happens, a three-judge panel on Thursday will decide if Smith has legislative immunity, Funkhouser said.
If the court finds in favor of Smith, he could be allowed to keep his office through the session because the court would not hear his appeal until after the 2006 session.
The Clean Elections Commission found that Smith had overspent by about $6,000. He was then ordered to leave office, pay a $10,000 fine and pay back more than $34,000 in public funding.
Publicly funded candidates who exceed spending limits by more than 10 percent can be removed, according to state law..
If the appeals court upholds the earlier ruling, Smith would become the first state lawmaker to be removed for financial violations.
Contact Dennis Welch by email, or phone (480) 898-6573
next they will mandate GPS montoring of politically incorrect people!!!!!
Lawmaker wants GPS tracking of pedophiles
By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
December 30, 2005
State lawmakers are weighing whether to mandate round-the-clock monitoring of people who prey on children.
Legislation proposed Thursday would require that any probation imposed on someone convicted of offenses classified as dangerous crimes against children must be for the rest of that person’s life.
Now, judges can — but are not required to — mandate probation, but there is no minimum.
Crafted by Rep. Laura Knaperek, R-Tempe, the measure requires offenders placed on probation be linked to realtime global positioning equipment — for as long as they live.
The idea is getting a chilly reception from defense attorneys who say not all people who commit crimes classified as dangerous to children deserve that kind of monitoring.
Prosecutors, however, see it as a useful tool, though they have reservations.
The law is patterned after one approved earlier this year in Florida, pushed by Mark Lunsford whose daughter, Jessica, had been kidnapped, raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports eight other states responded with similar laws.
HB2045 would add Arizona to that list.
Knaperek acknowledged her bill still would permit judges to place offenders in prison without including probation as part of the sentence.
Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall said these people must be watched and monitoring is a partial solution.
Knaperek said tracking would be a deterrent.
"You know that somebody knows where you’re at at all times,’’ she said.
Krystal Garza, spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, said monitoring is a good idea. But she feared the new technology could result in judges imposing shorter prison terms — or none at all — if they believe monitoring will protect the community.
The blanket requirement bothers Joseph St. Louis, a Tucson defense lawyer who is president-elect of Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice. He said the question of the length of probation and monitoring should be left to a sentencing judge "based on the facts and information presented to them about when a person doesn’t need to be supervised any more.’
Knaperek estimated first-year costs of about $7 million.
A Nebraska company which makes the devices claims monitoring can be accomplished for $10 per person per day. Incarceration can cost upward of $50 a day.
Contact Howard Fischer by telephone at ()
Dec 31, 7:49 AM EST
Sign tallying military deaths upsets Army
By PATRICK CONDON
Associated Press Writer
DULUTH, Minn. (AP) -- Scott Cameron never imagined his modest memorial to American troops in Iraq would transform a quiet street here into the latest front of the nation's tense debate about the war in Iraq.
His sign tallying the war's dead and wounded rests feet from the local Army recruiting office, and Cameron's refusal to take it down despite Army requests has drawn national attention. The fuss is giving the Vietnam veteran a chance to air a view he wishes he'd expressed long ago.
"The way veterans have been treated in this country is shameful," Cameron said this week.
His tribute has irritated the military recruiters next door, who dislike the daily reminder of friends lost. Staff Sgt. Gary Capan, the post's commander, requested that the sign come down for his colleagues' benefit.
"They're saying, 'Why should we have to look at that? We lost people over there,'" said Staff Sgt. Gary Capan, the post's commander. "It's not just a number to them."
Some of Cameron's supporters believe the sign will hurt recruiting.
"You're a young kid and you see those stark numbers, you might realize there's a cost you didn't consider," said Gary Tonkin, a Vietnam veteran.
It all started a month ago, when Cameron, a volunteer for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Kelley, posted a sign in the window of the campaign's local office. It reads, "Remember the Fallen Heroes," and contains three tallies: the number of American troops killed in Iraq, the number wounded and the days passed since the war began.
"The sacrifices our troops and their families are making are an important part of Minnesotans' lives right now," said Kelley, one of several Democrats seeking to unseat Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty next year. "If this draws attention to that, it's all to the good as far as I'm concerned."
As of Friday, the sign reported 2,177 troops had been killed and 16,155 injured, after 1,017 days in Iraq. Capan said the sign hasn't hurt recruiting: "We had three people sign up just today," he said earlier this week.
It's not the first dust-up over the U.S. military's continued presence in Iraq. Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed there, camped outside President Bush's Texas ranch for weeks.
Duluth seems an unlikely location for the latest flare-up. The city of brick mansions and steep hills rising off Lake Superior in northeastern Minnesota is a stronghold of blue-collar progressivism mixed with old-fashioned Midwestern patriotism.
Many residents seem uncomfortable with the controversy.
"This really shouldn't be that big a deal," Sam Johnson said. His companion, Lisa Whitestone, said, "I think it's a fair thing to be reminded that there's a cost for us to be over there."
Cameron said he never intended to discourage recruiting efforts - but he's not particularly concerned if it does.
A native of Spokane, Wash., he went to Vietnam at 19. He was injured when AK-47 fire ripped through the floor of a helicopter he was riding in, hitting his spine and collapsing his left lung.
He's had nearly four dozen surgeries since then, he said, and supports himself with his disability pension.
Cameron said he's always regretted not speaking out against Vietnam after his injury. He's hoping to steer media attention over the sign toward veterans' problems. He wants Congress to pass legislation that would prevent future cuts in benefits.
He said he's contacted several manufacturers to produce and market a line of signs like his that war opponents could post on their lawns or elsewhere. A portion of the profits would go to veterans organizations.
"I'm in awe of what's happening here," Cameron said. "If that sign can be used as a force for good, then it's worth it."
Dec 31, 10:26 AM EST
Ex-envoy says Britain used coerced intel
By SUE LEEMAN
Associated Press Writer
LONDON (AP) -- A former British ambassador has published government documents he says prove that Britain knowingly received intelligence extracted under torture from prisoners in Uzbekistan.
Craig Murray, who was removed as ambassador to Uzbekistan after going public about his concerns, defied a Foreign Office ban to publish the internal memos on his Web site Friday. The documents include memos to Foreign Office chiefs in which Murray expressed his concern over the use of "torture material."
In one memo, Murray said he was told by Foreign Office legal adviser Sir Michael Wood that it was not illegal to use information acquired by torture, except in legal proceedings. Intelligence officer Matthew Kydd had also told him the intelligence services sometimes found such material "very useful indeed, with a direct bearing on the war on terror," he said.
Murray said that even after he alerted his bosses to his concerns, they continued to use material allegedly gained under torture "on the grounds that the UK could not prove that individual detainees were tortured to extract information."
"I have dealt with hundreds of individual cases of political or religious prisoners in Uzbekistan, and I have met with very few where torture, as defined in the U.N. convention, was not employed," he wrote.
A Foreign Office spokesman said Friday that while Britain condemns the use of torture, it would be "irresponsible" for the intelligence services to reject out of hand information which might protect British citizens from a terror attack. The spokesman spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with government policy.
Uzbekistan has put more than 6,000 political prisoners in squalid jails where dozens of people have reportedly died of torture over the past several years, according to rights groups.
But the central Asian country emerged as a key U.S. ally after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, and had hosted hundreds of American troops supporting operations in neighboring Afghanistan until last month.
Hard-line President Islam Karimov had ordered the U.S. troops to leave in July after Washington joined international condemnation of a bloody government crackdown in the eastern city of Andijan that human rights groups say killed hundreds of civilians.
Dec 31, 11:39 AM EST
Hundreds get refunds in photo citation mix-up
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Hundreds of drivers cited for speeding or running red lights using photo-enforcement cameras this year won refunds because of printing errors on the mailed tickets.
Scottsdale's City Court sent out 580 refunds totaling more than $51,000 between July 28 and Nov. 7 for mistakes made by the camera operator, Redflex Traffic Systems. The photo-enforcement company reimbursed the city $33,548 for money it had to return to drivers and defensive driving schools.
A Redflex spokesman said the problem occurred when tickets were sent out without the required information matching the driver with the violation and was not a systematic problem with the cameras.
"I don't think this has ever happened before, and I don't think it will ever happen again," said Jay Heiler of Redflex. "But it is important that if we make a mistake, that we take the time to correct it."
Scottsdale is getting ready to launch the nation's first photo-enforcement effort on a freeway early next month. The city won approval from the state to place photo-radar devices on an eight-mile stretch of the Loop 101 freeway earlier this month.
The cameras will begin operating on the freeway on Jan. 9 and warnings will be issued for the first month before actual citations begin.
Tickets will be issued to drivers traveling more 11 mph over the 65 mph speed limit.
Scottsdale's existing speeding and red light cameras generated 64,858 citations in the year ending June 30. The city operates nine fixed cameras to capture speeders and red light runners and four photo-enforcement vans.
damn its even illegal to dress up like a fireman!!!!
Dec 30, 11:25 PM EST
Man arrested for allegedly impersonating police officer
PHOENIX (AP) -- A man wanted on a variety of charges including impersonating a police officer and fire department official has been arrested, authorities said Friday.
Phoenix police booked Danny Glover into jail on three felony warrants for burglary from a vehicle, identity theft and forgery.
Glover, 31, also is facing charges of criminal impersonation, aggravated assault on an officer and felony criminal damage, authorities said.
Glover was caught Thursday night by a Phoenix police surveillance team outside a Best Buy store.
After spotting officers, police said Glover got into a vehicle and attempted to flee the scene but rammed an unmarked police car and was taken into custody after a brief struggle.
Police said Glover was inside the store trying to buy items while posing as a fire chief.
wow!!! the state of arizona used sales taxes to steal over half a billion dollars from its citizens in november. a mafia thug would cry if he could make that much money shaking down people.
Dec 30, 6:54 PM EST
State revenue up again but with smaller percentage gain
BY PAUL DAVENPORT
Associated Press Writer
PHOENIX (AP) -- State tax collections in November rose significantly from a year earlier but the pace of increases slipped somewhat from glittery percentage gains recorded in recent months, legislative budget analysts reported Friday.
General fund revenue in November totaled $585.5 million in November, up $26.8 million from the forecast for the month and 10.4 percent more than in November 2004, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee staff said.
Through November, state tax collections totaled $264.6 million over projected levels in the budget approved last spring for the current 2005-2006 state fiscal year, now half over.
How much money is in the state's treasury, particularly new dollars, will influence decisions by the Republican-led Legislature and Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano on spending, tax cuts and other fiscal matters.
The 10.4 percent growth rate for November revenue is considerable but below the 15-20 percent growth rates of previous months, the JLBC staff report noted.
Sales tax collections in November were 15.4 percent over a year earlier, slightly lower than recent months, while the 12.7 percent growth in individual income tax collections from a year earlier was substantially below the 20-25 percent increases seen in recent months, the report said.
The JLBC staff said previously that it was unlikely that the big percentage increases seen in the beginning months of the current fiscal year would maintain that pace, at least in part because the comparisons would begin to involve months in the fiscal year when tax collections began to surge.
On the Net:
Joint Legislative Budget Committee: http://www.azleg.state.az.us/jlbc.htm
hmmmm..... a government monopoly that drives up the cost of booze!!!!!!
State to end 17-year hiatus on new liquor licenses
Dec. 31, 2005 12:00 AM
For the first time in 17 years, Arizona is about to start the process of issuing new licenses to sell alcohol, with nearly a quarter of the new licenses going to Maricopa County.
The Department of Liquor Licenses and Control said Friday that it will soon make application forms available for the 126 new licenses it will issue under a new state law in the current fiscal year.
The Legislature passed the law at the urging of industry groups, which cited the state's population growth. Without an increase in the number of licenses, the cost of licenses purchased from existing holders becomes artificially high, the groups argued.
The licenses to be issued include 42 for each of three types: bar (Series 6), beer and wine bar (Series 7) and liquor store (Series 9).
Prices for each type of license will vary by county and be based on values determined by appraisers, the department said.
The department expects the sales will fetch about $6 million for the state.
Five new licenses of each of the three types will be issued in Pima County and 10 of each type in Maricopa County.
One new license of each type will be issued in Apache, Gila, Graham, Greenlee, La Paz and Santa Cruz counties, while three new licenses of each type will be issued in Cochise, Coconino, Mohave, Navajo, Pinal, Yavapai and Yuma counties.
The mandate to issue new licenses was included in a wide-ranging bill that, among other things, also allowed in-store sampling of alcohol at stores licensed for off-premises consumption.
i suspect this is unconstitutional because the state just seizes your car without any court hearing and forces you to pay some towing company money to store it for 30
New law likely to boost impounds of cars
State enforcement agencies brace for tougher DUI rules, auto storage
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 2, 2006 12:00 AM
Thousands more vehicles a year could be impounded across the state under a 2-month-old law that has law enforcement officers and tow truck drivers scrambling to keep up with the pace and has surprised drivers and car owners struggling to get their cars back.
The law took effect Nov. 1, and requires officers and deputies to impound vehicles for 30 days under certain circumstances, including underage drinking and driving, extreme and aggravated DUI and driving with a revoked or on some suspended licenses.
"It is stopping those that have a great potential for causing collisions and injury to people on the roads," Tucson police Sgt. Christopher Andreacola said. "Our process prior to this was we write you a ticket. The problem is the people doing this behavior showed a propensity to ignore those tickets and do nothing about it and keep driving."
Tucson has impounded about 1,000 vehicles, while the Department of Public Safety has impounded nearly 600, Mesa more than 360 and Chandler and Scottsdale about 200 vehicles each. In the past, vehicles were often towed, but there was no mandatory 30-day impound and owners could retrieve their vehicles much more easily. Now, an owner can't get the vehicle out until certain criteria are met, depending on the offense. Agencies said they expect to have a better idea of the full effect of the new law after six months.
Early on, law enforcement agencies are struggling to handle the increased workload to train officers, educate the public and handle additional paperwork and inquiries and mandated impound hearings. Some agencies have hired or reassigned staff to deal with it. Police have created brochures to help educate drivers when a car is impounded and many have information on Web sites in English and Spanish.
Statewide, thousands of cars have been impounded, although not all agencies are enforcing the law in earnest.
In Scottsdale, police have impounded BMWs, Porsches, Hummers and collectible classic hot-rod street cars. Others are hardly worth the fees to get them out of storage, police said.
"This is very clearly sending a message to people who drink and drive that this is not going to be tolerated," Scottsdale Lt. Tony Gibson said. "They are already driving on suspended license, and there is a high risk of killing folks. Taking their car is the only way to slow them down."
Many of the impounded vehicles aren't driven by the owners, who are surprised that their cars have been impounded and they're on the hook for the bill to get it out.
Police can only deal with the car owner, a lien holder, an authorized attorney or a spouse to get the car released. Many of those cars impounded have been released before the 30 days, ranging from a third to nearly a half of the impounds, depending on the agency.
"You get the son who will call trying to not tell the parents. But the car belongs to the parents," Gibson said. "And professional businesspeople who have been arrested in the company car."
Police say it is too soon to tell what the real impact will be, saying holiday DUI task force numbers may have inflated the impounds and officers are still becoming familiar with the law.
In Mesa, officers often come to work on Mondays with 90 phone messages from drivers and car owners and dozens of people in the lobby. Scottsdale and Mesa are trying to find a way to handle more Spanish-speaking car owners and drivers calling for information or coming in for assistance than anticipated.
But often people come unprepared and they don't read information given to them when the car is impounded. Other agencies say callers fail to give enough information for them to contact them.
Similar to Calif. laws
Former Phoenix Police Chief Harold Hurtt started the push for the new law based on similar laws in California aimed as a deterrent to unsafe driving, said Phoenix Detective Tom Van Dorn, an agency attorney.
Gilbert and Phoenix aren't enforcing the law yet. Phoenix is still in the process of hiring civilian staff, developing training and creating a database for the mandated hearings. They hope to start by March and estimate impounding about 5,000 cars a year, Van Dorn said.
The Arizona law is full of twists and turns, raising questions with law enforcement agencies and the public.
The law requires law enforcement agencies to conduct post-storage hearings, where vehicle owners can contest the legal grounds for the impound. Police must notify the registered owners and lien holders within two days by certified mail and owners have 10 days after the impound to request a hearing. Police must hold the hearing within five days.
Towing companies that already are towing cars under police contracts also handle the 30-day impounds. The new law requires a towing company to store the vehicle at a cost of up to $15 a day, or $450 for 30 days.
Richard Thompson, owner of Valley Express Towing, who holds contracts with Mesa, the Department of Public Safety, Gilbert and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, said the increased impounds have filled his storage yard and forced him to get another one. Thompson is unsure of the financial impact to his business because under some police contracts, he can charge more for daily storage.
"I think it is a good law. It is about time we are cracking down on these drivers," Thompson said. "I like that it makes people more responsible, and I think it works."
bush - i'm not spying!!!! i'm not the king! i'm protecting you serfs from terrorists!!!!! blah, blah, blah, ......
Bush reiterates a defense of domestic eavesdropping
Says revelations about program have hurt safety
Walter F. Roche Jr. and Edwin Chen
Los Angeles Times
Jan. 2, 2006 12:00 AM
SAN ANTONIO - Emphasizing that "we are at war with an enemy who wants to hurt us again," President Bush on Sunday strongly defended the domestic eavesdropping program that began in 2002 and repeated his contention that the disclosure of its existence has caused the country "great harm."
In a brief exchange with reporters after visiting wounded solders at Brooke Army Medical Center, Bush said the surveillance, conducted by the National Security Agency, targeted known al-Qaida members or associates and involved intercepts of only a few numbers in the United States.
"If somebody from al-Qaida is calling you, we'd like to know why," he said. "We're at war with a bunch of cold-blooded killers."
The NSA is normally required to seek permission, on a case-by-case basis, from a special panel of federal judges before conducting any type of surveillance within the United States. Bush contends that the congressional authorization to use force against al-Qaida, approved a week after the Sept. 11 attacks, enabled him to approve NSA intercepts of telephone calls and e-mails without seeking court orders under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Bush said Sunday that the program, which was disclosed by the New York Times last month, had been vetted repeatedly by both Justice Department officials and members of Congress.
"This program has been reviewed, constantly reviewed, by people throughout my administration. And it still is reviewed," he said.
Bush's comments came after he was asked about a newspaper report that a top Justice Department official had questioned the legality of certain aspects of the surveillance, resulting in its temporary suspension. He avoided answering directly and instead raised a spirited defense of the program.
"We're at war, and as commander in chief, I've got to use the resources at my disposal, within the law, to protect the American people," he said.
The New York Times reported Sunday that in March 2004, administration officials made an emergency visit to then-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft's hospital room after his deputy, James Comey, who was serving as acting attorney general during Ashcroft's absence, refused to approve continuation of the program. Ashcroft was recovering from gallbladder surgery and had been in intensive care under tight security, the paper said.
Comey could not be reached Sunday for comment.
Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of the Judiciary Committee, said the report of Comey's refusal to give his approval heightened concerns.
He said that when people like Comey "had real doubts about the program, it calls into question the way the president and vice president went about changing it."
The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., has said his panel will hold hearings.
But citing widespread discussion of the issue, the Senate's second-ranking Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said the Senate Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, whose sessions usually are closed to the public, was the proper venue.
"We're already talking about this entirely too much out in public . . . and it's endangering our efforts to make Americans more secure," he said on Fox News Sunday.
Sunnis paid by U.S. for propaganda work
New York Times
Jan. 2, 2006 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON - A Pentagon contractor that paid Iraqi newspapers to run positive articles written by U.S. soldiers also has been compensating Sunni religious scholars in Iraq for assistance with its propaganda work, according to employees.
Lincoln Group, a Washington-based firm, was told by the Pentagon to identify religious leaders who could create messages that would persuade some Sunnis to participate in national elections and reject the insurgency, according to a former employee.
Since then, the company has retained Sunni scholars to write reports for the military on the content of propaganda campaigns, the former employee said. But documents say the firm's ties to religious leaders is aimed at enabling it to influence Iraqi communities on behalf of clients.
government NEVER makes mistakes :) - you can trust the government
Background checks leave some to hang in the balance
Jan. 2, 2006 12:00 AM
STAMFORD, Conn. - Jessica Smith thought she was a shoo-in for a cashier's job at an Office Depot in Minnesota last summer. The store manager was encouraging, saying he just needed to run a criminal background check.
But a week later, Smith received a rejection letter that cited a lengthy rap sheet, including drug convictions in Washington.
"I have no record," Smith, 19, said as she flipped through court documents. "They all say felony and guilty. I've never even been to Washington."
Smith, who fought for six weeks to clear her name before eventually landing the job, was a casualty of one of the latest trends in business hiring. Companies increasingly rely on pre-employment background checks to ease security concerns and protect against costly lawsuits.
"It's very important and it's getting more important," said Robert Belair, a privacy attorney in Washington, D.C., and editor of the Privacy and American Business newsletter. "The incidence of negligent-hiring lawsuits is way up."
But the burgeoning field lacks consistent standards, causing errors that can disqualify reputable job applicants, some industry experts and consumer advocates say. When criminals slip through with clean records, the consequences are more severe.
Early this month, FedEx Corp. was accused in a lawsuit of hiring a sex offender who was later charged with molesting an 8-year-old boy while at work in Fairfield, Conn..
FedEx spokeswoman Sandra Munoz said the company's background check did not reveal a criminal history. The company conducts criminal background checks on all job candidates, she said.
"That person is either lying or Federal Express is wildly incompetent in how they do the background checks," said Neal Rogan, the boy's attorney.
But people with knowledge of the industry were not surprised by the charges.
"There are no standards for what is a background check," said Tal Moise, chief executive of Verified Person, a New York-based company that performs background checks. "This is an industry that has delivered historically a very low-quality product."
A national task force funded by the Justice Department this month recommended national standards for screening companies.
"The nation's security, as well as on-the-job efficiency, and certainly civil liberties and privacy interests, all demand the development of a blueprint," the task force concluded.
Background screeners say companies must conduct thorough searches to determine whether applicants have criminal records. That means searching multiple counties and checking for addresses not listed on job applications.
In the FedEx case, the employee worked in Connecticut but had a criminal record in Maine, according to the family's lawsuit. The FBI's criminal database is generally not public, except for law enforcement and some organizations. State depositories are often sealed or prohibitively slow, so screeners send runners from courthouse to courthouse.
"It's very easy to miss it, even if it's done properly," said Mary Poquette, co-chairwoman of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners. "There is no way to be absolutely sure the person they're hiring does not have a criminal record or a pending case because the records are scattered throughout 3,142 counties."
A survey this year by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 68 percent of personnel officers said they always run criminal checks on applicants. Thirteen percent say they sometimes do.
The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a non-profit consumer rights group that handled Smith's case, says it regularly receives inquiries from applicants related to background checks.
"It is a simmering issue and has grown in the last several years," said Tena Friery, research director for the group.
Smith's background check was conducted by ChoicePoint Inc., which earlier disclosed this year that thieves had accessed its massive database of consumer information.
In another ChoicePoint case, a lawsuit is pending in Connecticut in which Randy Cruz says he was fired from Boston Market after a background check falsely turned up two felony convictions that actually were misdemeanors.
ChoicePoint declined to comment on Cruz's case but said it resolved Smith's case in about two weeks.
Companies of all sizes have been sued for negligence for not performing pre-employment background checks.
Massachusetts-based Trusted Health Resources filed for bankruptcy after it was ordered to pay $26.5 million in damages in 1998 to the family of a quadriplegic murdered by his health aide. The company did not run a check on the worker, who had six felony convictions.
In a case involving Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Tarsha Perry's 12-year-old daughter was in the cosmetic aisle when an employee of the nation's largest retailer repeatedly fondled her, according to a lawsuit filed last year in a South Carolina court. The employee, Curtis Scott, was a registered sex offender, according to the suit.
Despite earlier allegations of assaults in its stores, Wal-Mart policies did not include background checks for most employees, the lawsuit said. The retailer began running backgrounds on all applicants last spring and now checks to see if employees are on sex-offender lists, Wal-Mart spokesman Marty Heires said.
hmmmm.... depending who you talk to china executes 10,000 to 15,000 people a year. something george w. bush would probably love to have happen in the USA.
China decides, acts swiftly in its death-penalty cases
New York Times
Jan. 1, 2006 12:00 AM
YUJIAGOU, China - From the prison cell where he contemplated an executioner's bullet, a migrant worker named Wang Binyu gave an anguished account of his life. Unexpectedly, it rippled across China like a primal scream.
For three weeks, the murders Wang committed after failing to collect unpaid wages were weighed on the Internet and in Chinese newspapers against the brutal treatment he had endured as a migrant worker. Public opinion shouted for mercy. Lawyers debated the fairness of his death sentence. Others saw the case as a bloody symptom of the harsh inequities of Chinese life.
But then, in late September, the furor disappeared as suddenly as it had begun. Online discussion was censored and media coverage was almost completely banned. Then, Wang's final appeal was rushed to court. His father, never notified, only learned about the hearing by accident. His chosen defense lawyer was forbidden from participating.
During the hearing, Wang, 28, shouted, "All of you are on the same side," according to his father, who lives in northern Gansu Province. "If you want to kill me, just kill me," Wang said.
On Oct. 19, they did. Wang was executed so quickly, and quietly, that it took weeks for the word to fully trickle out that he was dead.
China executes more people every year than the rest of the world combined. By some estimates, the number of executions is more than 10,000 a year. The government's relentless death-penalty machine has long been its harshest tool for maintaining political control and curbing crime and corruption.
But it has now become a glaring uncertainty about China's commitment to the rule of law. There is widespread suspicion, even within the government, that too many innocent people are sentenced to death. This year, a raft of cases came to light in which wrongful convictions had led to death sentences, or, in one case, the execution of an innocent man.
Reform or backtracking?
Reforming capital punishment has become a priority within the Communist Party's legal system, partly because of international pressure to reduce abuses. Within the party-run legislative system, there is a broader debate about how to improve criminal law.
But achieving those reforms is hardly certain. Hard-liners are loath to restrict the power of the police and the courts to take a tough line. Death penalty reforms scheduled to take effect in stages this year are actually little more than a return to the status quo of 1980.
China is wary enough about its death-penalty system that it has long designated its number of executions as a state secret. A hint at the number came last year when a high-level delegate to the National People's Congress publicly estimated that it was "nearly 10,000."
In 2004, Amnesty International documented at least 3,400 executions, out of 3,797 worldwide that year, but cautioned that China's number was probably far higher. Outside scholars have put the annual number as high as 15,000.
In the fall, the People's Supreme Court announced that it would reverse a decision from the early 1980s that ceded the final review on many death-penalty cases to provincial high courts. Legal analysts say Deng Xiaoping, then the paramount leader, ordered the move out of anger that courts were moving too slowly to crack down on crime. But the shift also often meant that any semblance of due process was stripped away.
Under the new policy, which takes effect next year, the People's Supreme Court will assume responsibility for reviewing all capital cases. The state news media has estimated that executions could drop as much as 30 percent.
"They feel that mistakes were made in so many cases," Yi Yanyou, an associate professor at Tsinghua University Law School, said in explaining the motive for the change. Yi said the changes would be meaningful but did not represent reform. One idea for change that he offered was to require unanimous consent among judicial panels making final reviews.
He Weifang, a liberal constitutional scholar at Beijing University, said the changes should improve the review process but argued that only deeper constitutional reform could remove the political pressures that can seep into many high-profile death cases.
Wang's initial trial, on June 29, ended with a death sentence. His family was not notified of the trial date and did not attend. He seemed destined to be one of the thousands of people executed each year with little public notice. But on Sept. 4, the New China News Agency, the government's news service, published a jailhouse interview with Wang that was astonishing for its content and for the mere fact that it was printed.
"I want to die," Wang said. "When I am dead, nobody can exploit me anymore. Right?"
Of his crime, Wang said, "I just could not take it any longer. I had taken enough from them." But, he later added, "I should not have killed the other people. I did not mean to let it happen."
He offered a lament for his fellow migrant workers. "My life is a small thing," he said. "I hope that society will pay attention and respect us."
Sources in the Chinese press say the authors of the article picked the case because they thought it dovetailed with a campaign by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to help peasants. Newspapers, assuming the interview signaled official approval, jumped on the story.
Interviews with legal scholars followed, with some arguing that the system should be nimble enough to give Wang a more lenient sentence. Internet discussion boards were filled with indignation.
Death toll for U.S. troops in Iraq tops 840 in 2005
New York Times
Jan. 1, 2006 12:00 AM
BAGHDAD - At least 844 American service members were killed in Iraq in 2005, nearly matching 2004's total of 848, and the number of service members wounded in 2005 was significantly higher than in the previous year, according to information released by the U.S. government and a non-profit organization that tracks casualties in Iraq.
The Associated Press, which keeps its own statistics, reported the year's death toll as slightly lower, saying 841 had been killed.
The 9,157 GIs wounded in Iraq in 2005 far exceeded the 7,956 wounded in 2004.
The deaths of two Americans announced by the U.S. military on Friday - a Marine killed by gunfire in Fallujah and a soldier killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad - brought the total killed since the war in Iraq began in March 2003 to 2,178. The total wounded since the war began is 15,955.
In 2005, the single bloodiest month for American troops was January, when 107 were killed and nearly 500 were wounded. At the time, American forces were conducting numerous operations to secure the country for the Jan. 30 elections.
The second worst month was October, when 96 Americans were killed and 603 wounded.
More than half of all 2005 American military deaths, 427, were caused by homemade bombs, most of them planted along roadsides and detonated as vehicles passed.
American commanders have said that roadside bombs, the leading cause of death in Iraq, have grown larger and more sophisticated. Many are triggered by remote detonators.
In historical terms, the number of casualties in Iraq is still relatively small. At the height of the Vietnam War, the American military was sustaining 500 killed and wounded each week.
In an article in the Jan 1, 2006 issue of the Arizona Republic titled:
"2006 6 ways to make state better place to live"
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon promised to make Phoenix a bigger and better police state. His number 1 reason said:
"1. Increase local law enforcement resources, from the state budget surplus ...."
F*ck You Mayor Gordon! Your a police state thug!!
this could be a victory for the people of the world in the drug war. bolivia next president may legalize coca :)
Posted 12/29/2005 8:23 PM Updated 12/29/2005 8:29 PM
Bolivians waiting for word on what to do with coca
By Danna Harman, USA TODAY
CHIMORE, Bolivia — The day after Evo Morales' victory in Bolivia's presidential election last week, government counternarcotics teams were streaming back from patrols into their base in the Chapare jungle. Col. Rosalio Alvarez Claros, commander of this base, watched them from his small office window.
"We will continue with our work here as usual, until someone tells us to stop," he said. "And that hasn't happened yet."
It might soon.
Morales, 46, a former coca farmer who got his start as a political leader of the cocaleros, or coca growers, campaigned on the promises of decriminalizing all cultivation of coca, the raw material for cocaine, and ending eradication efforts. He has reiterated his intention of fulfilling those pledges when he takes office next month.
Doing so would be a slap in the face to Washington, which gives Bolivia — the world's third-largest coca producer, after Colombia and Peru — $150 million a year in aid. Two-thirds of the money goes toward eradication of coca leaf, destruction of cocaine laboratories and encouraging alternative agricultural projects for coca growers.
Morales is the latest Latin American leader to come to power on an anti-American platform. He's friendly toward Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who commonly ridicules U.S. policies in Latin America, and Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Morales will travel today to Cuba to visit with Castro.
Morales partied until dawn Thursday at a victory celebration with coca growers, the Associated Press reported. "We are winning the green battle: The coca leaf is beating the North American dollar," Morales told supporters.
His coca campaign platform appealed to farmers and tapped into anti-American sentiment that views U.S. drug policies in the region as imperialism.
Relying on coca money
"We are sustained by coca," says coca farmer Leandro Valencia, 63, who admits that his plots — in the valley near Morales' hometown of Villa Catorce de Septiembre — are illegal. "I put my three children through school on coca money. ... You talk about drug problems, but whose problem is that? I care about money for my family."
By growing coca, Valencia says, he can make "10 times" what he would growing pineapples or yucca, a staple crop here.
"It is the foreigners who came in here and started tempting us with big and easy money," Valencia says.
Morales has said his position on coca growing does not mean he intends to be soft on drug trafficking. "Yes to coca, no to cocaine" was one of his campaign slogans. He has suggested that the additional coca cultivated would be absorbed by the local, legal market, or alternatively would jump-start a legal export industry for products made with coca such as tea, wine, soft drinks and toothpaste. During the campaign, he was vague about how to create such an export market.
The movement to legalize coca growing may be catching on elsewhere in the region. In neighboring Peru, where more than 123,000 acres are planted in coca, a rising star in politics these days is Ollanta Humala, a populist, anti-U.S. leader in Morales' mold who has also vowed to decriminalize coca growing if elected president in April.
"There is as radical a coca movement here as in Bolivia, and the two coordinate," says Jaime Antesana Rivera, an expert on drug trafficking at Lima's Peruvian Institute of Economics and Politics.
Morales' position on coca production has not been consistent. During the campaign, he advocated total legalization, but after the Dec. 18 vote, he suggested the government might put limits on cultivation. He has not changed his vow to stop the eradication program.
It is also not clear whether Morales will actually follow through on all his campaign rhetoric.
The United States is reluctant to comment on Morales or his policies before his inauguration Jan. 22. "We will make an evaluation of what kind of relationship we will have with Bolivia based on the drug policies Bolivia's new president pursues," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says.
Bolivia grows about 67,000 acres of coca a year, according to Col. Luis Caballero Tirado, head of Bolivia's special counternarcotics police force. Under an agreement with the Bolivian government, 38,000 acres, mainly in the Yungas region, are cultivated legally and used for local, legal, consumption. The remainder of the acreage is illegal coca farms.
Revered culturally by Bolivian Indians, the coca leaf is chewed to ward off hunger and fight illness and is used in traditional ceremonies. Even some of the anti-narcotics special forces chew it. Legal uses of the leaf also include tea and medicinal pastes.
Coca tea, for example, is sold in markets and served at tourist hotel breakfasts. The coca liquid, says Sdenka Silva, owner of a coca museum in La Paz, "produces an anesthetic effect in the mouth, light euphoria, and sensation of increased awareness and energy."
The cocaine chain
Coca leaves can be more profitably made into cocaine. Typically the product is sold to middlemen who transport it to jungle laboratories, where it is mashed and processed into a cocaine paste. It is then moved out of the region to more sophisticated labs, where it is condensed and further refined.
The coca growers here are paid $800 to $1,000 for providing enough leaves to make a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cocaine paste, Caballero says. Once processed, the price of that kilo of paste cocaine goes up to $2,500, he says.
Some of the cocaine from here goes through Mexico to the USA, but most, Caballero says, moves through Brazil to Europe.
The U.S. State Department estimates that Bolivia produces and sends 71 tons of cocaine to the world market annually. In 2005, the Bolivian military uprooted and destroyed 19,800 acres of coca fields. The Bolivian counternarcotics forces, trained by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, destroyed 3,888 jungle cocaine labs, confiscated nearly 50 tons of cocaine paste and arrested 4,208 suspected drug traffickers, according to the Bolivian government.
U.S. DEA agents are in Bolivia training police and military counternarcotics forces, but they do not participate in raids.
"We catch more, they produce more, then we catch more," Alvarez says. "The drug traffickers have more money and better technology than we do. Look, our mobile (phones) don't even get reception when it rains. So, who's winning? It is hard to say."
VA experts find help lines regularly give wrong info
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWS SERVICE
Saturday, December 31, 2005
WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs has found that people who call its regional offices for help and advice are more likely to receive completely wrong answers than completely right ones.
To see how well its employees answer typical questions from the public, VA benefits experts in 2004 made 1,089 anonymous calls to each of the agency's U.S. regional offices, which process disability claims.
According to an internal VA memo on the program, buried in the department's Web site, 22 percent of the answers callers got were "completely incorrect," 23 percent were "minimally correct" and 20 percent were "partially correct." Nineteen percent were "completely correct," and 16 percent were "mostly correct."
This week, VA officials said they'd taken steps since 2004 to improve their performance, among other things setting up a small pilot program to monitor employees silently as they answered veterans' questions.
Posted on Sun, Jan. 01, 2006
VA help lines often give incorrect information
SOME WORKERS RUDE TO CALLERS, MEMO SAYS
By Chris Adams
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON - A veteran who turns to the Department of Veterans Affairs for information about benefits might want to get a second opinion.
According to the VA's own data, people who call the agency's regional offices for help and advice are more likely to receive completely wrong answers than completely right ones.
To see how well its employees answer typical questions from the public, VA benefits experts in 2004 called each of the agency's U.S. regional offices, which process veterans' disability claims.
The so-called mystery callers, saying they were relatives or friends of veterans inquiring about possible benefits, made 1,089 calls. Almost half the time they got answers that the VA said were either completely incorrect or minimally correct.
According to an internal VA memo on the mystery-caller program that's buried in the department's Web site, 22 percent of the answers the callers got were "completely incorrect," 23 percent were "minimally correct" and 20 percent were "partially correct." Nineteen percent were "completely correct," and 16 percent were "mostly correct."
The program also found that some VA workers were dismissive of some callers and unhelpful or rude to others.
One caller, for example, said, "My father served in Vietnam in 1961 and 1962. Is there a way he can find out if he was exposed to Agent Orange?" The VA's response, according to the VA memo: "He should know if they were spreading that chemical out then. He would be the only one to know. OK (hung up laughing)."
The memo said the response was "completely incorrect" because it gave no information -- and also was "rude and unprofessional."
Another mystery caller asked about a grandfather who had been injured in the Korean War. "When he dies, is he eligible for burial in Arlington National Cemetery?" the caller asked.
Response: "I can't answer for Arlington. You can call your congressmen. They love doing those kinds of things for their constituents." The VA's evaluation: "Completely incorrect. ... Unprofessional; unwilling to help."
The 2004 survey found improvements in some categories compared with a similar study with identical questions in 2002. Timeliness improved, but scores on "willingness to help" and "courtesy/professionalism" dropped.
can you trust the government? F*ck NO!!!!!
NSA Web site plants 'cookies' on computers
December 29, 2005
NEW YORK - The National Security Agency's Internet site has been placing files on visitors' computers that can track their Web surfing activity despite strict federal rules banning most of them.
These files, known as "cookies," disappeared after a privacy activist complained and The Associated Press made inquiries this week, and agency officials acknowledged Wednesday they had made a mistake. Nonetheless, the issue raises questions about privacy at a spy agency already on the defensive amid reports of a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States.
"Considering the surveillance power the NSA has, cookies are not exactly a major concern," said Ari Schwartz, associate director at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a privacy advocacy group in Washington, D.C. "But it does show a general lack of understanding about privacy rules when they are not even following the government's very basic rules for Web privacy."
Until Tuesday, the NSA site created two cookie files that do not expire until 2035 - likely beyond the life of any computer in use today.
Don Weber, an NSA spokesman, said in a statement Wednesday that the cookie use resulted from a recent software upgrade. Normally, the site uses temporary, permissible cookies that are automatically deleted when users close their Web browsers, he said, but the software in use shipped with persistent cookies already on.
"After being tipped to the issue, we immediately disabled the cookies," he said.
Cookies are widely used at commercial Web sites and can make Internet browsing more convenient by letting sites remember user preferences. For instance, visitors would not have to repeatedly enter passwords at sites that require them.
But privacy advocates complain that cookies can also track Web surfing, even if no personal information is actually collected.
In a 2003 memo, the White House's Office of Management and Budget prohibits federal agencies from using persistent cookies - those that aren't automatically deleted right away - unless there is a "compelling need."
Peter Swire, a Clinton administration official who had drafted an earlier version of the cookie guidelines, said clear notice is a must, and `vague assertions of national security, such as exist in the NSA policy, are not sufficient."
Daniel Brandt, a privacy activist who discovered the NSA cookies, said mistakes happen, "but in any case, it's illegal. The (guideline) doesn't say anything about doing it accidentally."
The Bush administration has come under fire recently over reports it authorized NSA to secretly spy on e-mail and phone calls without court orders.
Since The New York Times disclosed the domestic spying program earlier this month, President Bush has stressed that his executive order allowing the eavesdropping was limited to people with known links to al-Qaida.
But on its Web site Friday, the Times reported that the NSA, with help from American telecommunications companies, obtained broader access to streams of domestic and international communications.
The NSA's cookie use is unrelated, and Weber said it was strictly to improve the surfing experience "and not to collect personal user data."
Richard M. Smith, a security consultant in Cambridge, Mass., questions whether persistent cookies would even be of much use to the NSA. They are great for news and other sites with repeat visitors, he said, but the NSA's site does not appear to have enough fresh content to warrant more than occasional visits.
The government first issued strict rules on cookies in 2000 after disclosures that the White House drug policy office had used the technology to track computer users viewing its online anti-drug advertising. Even a year later, a congressional study found 300 cookies still on the Web sites of 23 agencies.
In 2002, the CIA removed cookies it had inadvertently placed at one of its sites after Brandt called it to the agency's attention.