Friday, December 31, 2010

Ouattara ally: Ivory Coast now in 'war situation'

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) - A top ally of Ivory Coast's internationally recognized leader said Friday that the country is already in a "civil war situation," while the incumbent leader who refuses to step down after the disputed election accused world leaders of launching a coup to oust him.

The United Nations has said that the volatile West African nation, once divided in two, faces a real risk of return to civil war, but Prime Minister Guillaume Soro told reporters that the country is already at this point - "indeed in a civil war situation."

"This is what's at stake: Either we assist in the installation of democracy in Ivory Coast or we stand by indifferent and allow democracy to be assassinated," Soro said at a news conference, adding that more than 200 people already have been killed and 1,000 others wounded by gunfire.

Human rights groups accuse incumbent Laurent Gbagbo's security forces of abducting and killing political opponents, though Gbagbo allies deny the allegations and say some of the victims were security forces killed by protesters. The U.N. has confirmed at least 173 deaths.

Gbagbo gave an address late Friday on state television in which he accused the international community of mounting a coup d'etat to oust him and said Ivorians were being subjected to international hostility.

"No one has the right to call on foreign armies to invade his country," Gbagbo said. "Our greatest duty to our country is to defend it from foreign attack."

The United Nations had been invited by all parties to certify the results of the Nov. 28 presidential runoff vote. The U.N. declared Alassane Ouattara the winner, endorsing the announcement by the country's electoral commission. But Gbagbo has refused to step aside now for more than a month, defying international condemnation and growing calls for his ouster.

The European Union said late Friday that it had approved sanctions on 59 more people, in addition to 19 already sanctioned last week including Gbagbo and his wife. Gbagbo and about 30 of his allies also face U.S. travel sanctions, though such measures have typically failed to reverse illegal power grabs in Africa in the past.

West African leaders have said they are prepared to use military force to push Gbagbo out, but are giving negotiations more time for now. For many, the credibility of the international community is at stake if it is unable to ensure that Ouattara takes power.

Gbagbo points to Ivory Coast's constitutional council, which declared him president after throwing out more than half a million votes from Ouattara strongholds. The council invalidated election results in those areas, citing violence and intimidation directed at Gbagbo supporters. The top U.N. envoy in Ivory Coast has disputed that assessment.

"All dictators are alike and all dictators will not negotiate their departure - they are made to leave," Soro said. "For the time being we are letting diplomacy do its work but when the time comes, each of us will assume our responsibilities."

Soro was appointed prime minister under Ouattara's government, which has been holed up in the Golf Hotel under U.N. protection despite its widespread international recognition. Soro, a former rebel leader from the north, served in a coalition government with Gbagbo but is now aligned with Ouattara.

Meanwhile, a pro-Gbagbo youth leader has encouraged his supporters to seize the Golf Hotel, saying that Ouattara and Soro have until Saturday to "pack up their bags" and leave. The building is being guarded by some 800 U.N. peacekeepers and hundreds of rebels loyal to Ouattara.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said he is "deeply alarmed" by the youth leader's comments, and he has called on Gbagbo supporters to "refrain from such dangerous irresponsible action," a U.N. spokesman said.

The youth leader, Charles Ble Goude, is known as the "street general" for organizing a violent anti-French and anti-U.N. gang that terrorized the foreign population in Ivory Coast in 2004-2005.

Human rights groups have warned that security forces loyal to Gbagbo have been abducting political opponents in recent weeks. The United Nations, citing witness reports, believes up to 80 bodies may be inside one building nestled among shacks in a pro-Gbagbo neighborhood on the outskirts of Abidjan.

Investigators have tried to go there several times, and even made it as far as the building's front door before truckloads of men with guns showed up and forced them to leave. A second mass burial site is believed to be located near Gagnoa in the interior of the country, the U.N. said. Gbagbo's government has repeatedly denied the existence of mass graves.

"Denying access to alleged mass grave sites and places where the victims' mortal remains are allegedly deposited constitutes a clear violation of international human rights and humanitarian law," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said.

Pillay also warned that those committing human rights violations at the direction of others could also be held accountable.

"They, too, have a direct individual criminal responsibility for their actions and omissions," she said. "It is no excuse that they may have been merely carrying out orders, directions or instructions from above."

Ivory Coast was divided into a rebel-controlled north and a loyalist south by a 2002-2003 civil war, and the long-delayed presidential election was intended to help reunify the nation. However, tensions over the outcome have sparked violence including several attacks on U.N. peacekeepers.

Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer, was officially reunited in a 2007 peace deal. However, Ouattara still draws his support from the northern half of the country, where residents feel they are often treated as foreigners within their own country by southerners.

A high-level West African delegation is expected to return to Abidjan on Monday.

Col. Mohammed Yerima, director of defense information for the Nigerian military, said that defense chiefs from the 15-nation regional bloc ECOWAS met Friday to begin strategizing what sort of assault they'd use if those talks fail. But his comments appeared to suggest no such attack was imminent, as he said the plans would only be presented to ECOWAS leaders in Mali in mid-January.

"The most important thing is - the political option is the best," he said.

Belarusian KGB raids journalists' homes, offices
MINSK, Belarus (AP) - The Belarusian KGB has been searching the homes and offices of independent journalists following an election that handed the authoritarian president a fourth term, journalists and a media watchdog group said. Reporters Without Borders condemned the systematic raids, which it...

Moscow police detain 68 anti-Kremlin protesters
MOSCOW (AP) - Moscow police detained 68 people during anti-Kremlin protests that drew hundreds of people on New Year's Eve. Police said about 50 were detained at a similar protest in St. Petersburg. In Moscow, an opposition group had city permission to hold a rally on one corner of a central...

US missiles kill 8 in northwest Pakistan

A US missile strike killed eight alleged militants in northwest Pakistan on the final day of a year that has seen a major escalation in drone attacks targeting insurgents flowing into neighbouring Afghanistan, Pakistani intelligence officials said.
Four missiles struck a convoy of militants travelling by car and on foot near the town of Ghulam Khan in the North Waziristan tribal area along the Afghan border, the two officials said on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to speak to the media.

Ghulam Khan is known to be dominated by fighters from a militant group headed by Maulvi Gul Bahadur.

It was the third day this week of missile attacks on the North Waziristan tribal region, part of a ramped-up US campaign to take out al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters seeking sanctuary outside Afghanistan.

More than 110 such missile strikes have been launched this year - more than double last year's total. Nearly all have hit North Waziristan, a region that hosts several militant groups battling US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, including the feared Haqqani network.

Daily Telegraph

Pakistan makes two nuclear weapons available to Saudi Arabia

With an eye on the nuclear arms race led by its neighbor Iran, Saudi Arabia has arranged to have available for its use two Pakistani nuclear bombs or guided missile warheads, debkafile's military and intelligence sources reveal. They are most probably held in Pakistan's nuclear air base at Kamra in the northern district of Attock. Pakistan has already sent the desert kingdom its latest version of the Ghauri-II missile after extending its range to 2,300 kilometers. Those missiles are tucked away in silos built in the underground city of Al-Sulaiyil, south of the capital Riyadh.

At least two giant Saudi transport planes sporting civilian colors and no insignia are parked permanently at Pakistan's Kamra base with air crews on standby. They will fly the nuclear weapons home upon receipt of a double coded signal from King Abdullah and the Director of General Intelligence Prince Muqrin bin Abdel Aziz. A single signal would not be enough.
Our military sources have found only sketchy information about the procedures for transferring the weapons from Pakistani storage to the air transports. It is not clear whether Riyadh must inform Pakistan's army chiefs that it is ready to take possession of its nuclear property, or whether a series of preset codes will provide access to the air base's nuclear stores. The only detail known to our Gulf sources is that the Saudi bombs are lodged in separate heavily-guarded stores apart from the rest of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.
This secret was partially blown by Riyadh itself. In recent weeks, Saudi officials close to their intelligence establishment have been going around security forums in the West and dropping word that the kingdom no longer needs to build its own nuclear arsenal because it has acquired a source of readymade arms to be available on demand. This broad hint was clearly put about under guidelines from the highest levels of the monarchy.

Partial nuclear transparency was approved by Riyadh as part of a campaign to impress on the outside world that Saudi Arabia was in control of its affairs: The succession struggle had been brought under control; the Saudi regime had set its feet on a clearly defined political and military path; and the hawks of the royal house had gained the hand and were now setting the pace.

Debaka File

Terrorist watch list: One tip now enough to put name in database, officials say

A year after a Nigerian man allegedly tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner, officials say they have made it easier to add individuals' names to a terrorist watch list and improved the government's ability to thwart an attack in the United States.

The failure to put Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on the watch list last year renewed concerns that the government's system to screen out potential terrorists was flawed. Even though Abdulmutallab's father had told U.S. officials of his son's radicalization in Yemen, government rules dictated that a single-source tip was insufficient to include a person's name on the watch list.

Since then, senior counterterrorism officials say they have altered their criteria so that a single-source tip, as long as it is deemed credible, can lead to a name being placed on the watch list.

The government's master watch list is one of roughly a dozen lists, or databases, used by counterterrorism officials. Officials have periodically adjusted the criteria used to maintain it.

But civil liberties groups argue that the government's new criteria, which went into effect over the summer, have made it even more likely that individuals who pose no threat will be swept up in the nation's security apparatus, leading to potential violations of their privacy and making it difficult for them to travel.

"They are secret lists with no way for people to petition to get off or even to know if they're on," said Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.

440,000 on list

Officials insist they have been vigilant about keeping law-abiding people off the master list. The new criteria have led to only modest growth in the list, which stands at 440,000 people, about 5 percent larger than last year. The vast majority are non-U.S. citizens.

"Despite the challenges we face, we have made significant improvements," Michael E. Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said in a speech this month at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "And the result of that is, in my view, that the threat of that most severe, most complicated attack is significantly lower today than it was in 2001."

The master watch list is used to screen people seeking to obtain a visa, cross a U.S. border, or board an airliner in or destined for the United States.

The standard for inclusion on it remains the same as it was before - that a person is "reasonably suspected" to be engaged in terrorism-related activity. But another senior counterterrorism official, who like some others would speak only on the condition of anonymity, said that officials have now "effectively in a broad stroke lowered the bar for inclusion."

Timothy Healy, director of the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center, which maintains the master list, said the new guidelines balance the protection of Americans from terrorist threats with the preservation of civil liberties. He said the watch list today is "more accurate, more agile," providing valuable intelligence to a growing number of partners that include state and local police and foreign governments.

Each day there are 50 to 75 instances in which a law enforcement official or government agent stops someone who a check confirms is on the watch list, a senior official at the Terrorist Screening Center said. Such "positive encounters" can take place at airports, land borders or consular offices, or during traffic stops.

The official recounted an incident two years ago in which a state trooper pulled over a truck driver for a traffic violation.

The driver appeared nervous, was traveling to several states, had three cellphones and plenty of food in his truck, and made several calls during the stop. The trooper was able to confirm through a call to the Terrorist Screening Center that the man was on the watch list. It turned out, the official said, that an FBI case agent had an open al-Qaeda-related investigation on the truck driver.

The names on the watch list are culled from a much larger catch-all database that is housed at the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean and that includes a huge variety of terrorism-related intelligence.

TIDE troubles

From its inception in 2005, the database, the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE, was plagued by technical difficulties.

In 2008, the counterterrorism center undertook a multimillion-dollar upgrade to streamline and more fully automate the database so that only one record exists per person, no matter how many aliases that person might have.

Those improvements should reduce errors and free up analysts for more pressing tasks, said Vicki Jo McBee, the counterterrorism center's chief information officer.

The new system will also ease the sharing of fingerprints and iris and facial images of people on the watch list among screening agencies, McBee said. And rather than sending data once a night to the Terrorist Screening Center's watch list, which can take hours, the new system should be able to update the list almost instantly as names are entered, McBee said.

Deployment has not been smooth. TIDE 2, as it is called, failed readiness tests and missed a December launch deadline. But now, McBee said, all tests have been passed and the system will be launched in January.

Meanwhile, the National Counterterrorism Center has developed a 70-person pursuit group to investigate "sleeper" terrorism threats, with four teams examining the regional hotbeds in Africa; in Yemen and the Arabian Gulf; in Pakistan and Europe; and in the United States. A fifth picks up the rest of the world.

"We try to look at the unknowns, the terrorists lurking in the dark that you don't know about, like the Abdulmutallabs of the world," said an official familiar with the group.

The teams, which include analysts from the CIA, FBI, Defense Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency, might take a tip about a suspect flying to the United States on a certain route, then study travel records to see whether they can find travelers who match the pattern.

They also mine Internet sites for clues, in "a careful, legal way," the official said. For instance, though analysts had not identified Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistan-born Connecticut man, before his May attempt to blow up a car in Times Square, a pursuit team delineated his network of associates in the United States in part by gleaning details from social networking sites, she said.

Much of the pursuit group's work is filtering out irrelevant information.

"We get a huge kick out of" handing a lead to the FBI, the official said. "But . . . the ruling-out is almost as important as the actual finding of leads."


Pakistan says it will defend spy chief in US suits

ISLAMABAD (AP) - Pakistan will strongly contest two U.S lawsuits that link its spy chief and his agency to the deadly 2008 attacks in Mumbai, the government said Thursday.

The statement shows how sensitive Pakistan is to claims that its agents were involved in the assault that killed 166 people in India. It could also be evidence of pressure on the weak civilian government by the powerful spy service.

It appeared that the goal of the tough Pakistani stance was to get the lawsuits dismissed.

The suits have already caused tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan. The U.S. depends on Pakistani cooperation to fight Taliban fighters in its border area with Afghanistan, and friction over other issues could harm the alliance.

The lawsuits were filed in New York in November. The plaintiffs include relatives of victims in the Mumbai attacks.

The bloody, coordinated attacks on several sites in Mumbai, including luxury hotels, a cafe, a train station and a Jewish center, have been blamed on the Pakistani Islamic militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, a defendant in the suits.

The 60-hour siege by 10 Pakistani militants, which has been called India's 9/11, paralyzed India's financial capital and deeply wounded the national psyche.

The court papers repeat long-standing allegations that Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence has "nurtured and used international terrorist groups," including Lashkar.

"Defendant ISI provided critical planning, material support, control and coordination of the attacks," the lawsuits allege, pressing wrongful death and additional claims against the ISI, its chief Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha and others.

The ISI is a powerful military institution that operates largely independently, with little oversight by the civilian government.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said Pasha cannot be made to testify in a U.S. civil court and that the New York City cases should be dismissed.

The Foreign Ministry's statement Thursday indicated that Pakistan, through its embassy in Washington, will seek to get the lawsuits tossed out. It declared that Pasha, the ISI and other Pakistani officials named will be "fully and properly" defended and noted the prime minister's view against pursuing the court cases.

Pakistan has denied any government agency was involved in the attacks in India, its archrival. The two countries have fought three wars since 1947. Pakistani security has detained seven suspects in the case, but their trials have stalled.

Experts say civil lawsuits such as the ones filed in the Brooklyn federal court rarely succeed beyond being symbolic.

A U.S. court could find that Pasha is protected by sovereign immunity. International defendants who aren't protected often don't respond to summonses and, as a result, never enter a U.S. courthouse.

Even if a judge orders damages, the chances of collecting are slim. Sometimes, judges have dismissed cases after the U.S. government indicated its opposition to them on diplomatic grounds.

Because of the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. diplomats has a keen interest in maintaining Pakistan's cooperation, but tensions frequently emerge.

After the name of the CIA station chief was made public in connection with a potential Pakistani lawsuit over U.S. missile strikes, there were claims that ISI was responsible for the leak in retaliation for the New York lawsuits. ISI denied leaking the name.

The station chief was pulled out of Pakistan earlier this month after receiving threats to his life.

The U.S. has pushed Pakistan, with limited success, to fight Taliban and al-Qaida fighters sheltering in its tribal belt along the border with Afghanistan. Pakistan also is widely believed to secretly cooperate in the U.S. drone campaign by providing intelligence to help pinpoint missile targets.

On Monday, Pakistani helicopter gunships pounded a militant hideout in the Kurram tribal region near Afghanistan, killing at least 20 suspected insurgents, local government official Jamil Khan said. Many Taliban militants escaping a Pakistan army operation in the nearby Orakzai tribal region are believed to have fled to Kurram.

In Larkana, a southern city which is a power base of the ruling Pakistan People's Party, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a car on Monday, killing two intelligence officers, local police chief Irfan Baloch said.

Baloch would not name the intelligence agency the victims worked for or suggest a motive, saying that a police investigation was in progress.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

US can't seal Af-Pak border: Pentagon

WASHINGTON: Acknowledging that terrorists have a safe haven inside the tribal areas of Pakistan from where they operate and cross over to Afghanistan, a top Pentagon official on Wednesday said that it would be a tough job to seal the Af-Pak border.

"As far as the border itself, I think it's naive to say that we can stop, you know, forces coming through the border," said Col Viet Luong Commander, Task Force Rakkasan and 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.

"In order to secure the border, as well - as you know, it takes a lot. It takes effort on the other side, by the Pakistanis," said Luong, who is responsible for eastern Afghanistan which includes the volatile Khost province and 261 km of Af-Pak border.

In a special video conferencing with Pentagon reporters from Kabul, he said, "as our footprint is expanded along the security line of effort, it's harder and harder for these guys to come and bed down in these villages."

"To secure the border in the traditional sense, if you're talking about, you know, like what we would do along our own border with Mexico down in the southwestern United States, that's not what we're doing. It takes an inordinate amount of resources and force to be able to do that," he said in response to a question.

"You can look at this as a defence in depth, whereby you have your front line defenders, which are - which really starts on the Pakistani side of the house, by the way. They have hundreds of border checkpoints across backed up by dozens of checkpoints on our side that's manned by Afghan border police, and then we back those guys up with US and ANA forces, really to hand over the border piece to the Afghan border police," he observed.

"You can get more effects by defending in depth than you are in line. So we pick and choose where - the best places that we can defend the border, and then be able to target those guys where they feel safe in. I think that's been the key to our success," he said.


that works both ways

US defence department says sex abuse is rampant in military

US troops have been involved in a multiplicity of sexual abuse complaints according to a new report.

Statistics and testimonies from military personnel have revealed that sexual assaults recur with each new intake of soldiers.

Over 3,230 complaints were recorded in 2009 according to the US Department of Defence.

The report says there was an 11 percent increase in sexual assaults in fiscal 2009 compared to the previous year.

The report claims one in every three women complains about being sexually assaulted while serving in the US military.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs has confirmed that sexual abuse happens in the US military at rates twice that of the civilian average, meaning women who join the military are more likely to be raped by a fellow American soldier than they are of being killed by enemy fire.


I'd like to see this report?

"No refusal" DUI checkpoints could be coming to Tampa

Tampa, Florida-- With New Year's Eve only days away, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration expects this to be one of the deadliest weeks of the year on the roads.

But now a new weapon is being used in the fight against drunk driving.

It's a change that could make you more likely to be convicted.

"I think it's a great deterrent for people," said Linda Unfried, from Mother's Against Drunk Driving in Hillsborough County.

Florida is among several states now holding what are called "no refusal" checkpoints.

It means if you refuse a breath test during a traffic stop, a judge is on site, and issues a warrant that allows police to perform a mandatory blood test.

It's already being done in several counties, and now Unfried is working to bring it to the Tampa Bay area.

"I think you'll see the difference because people will not drink and drive. I truly believe that," she said.

Not everyone is on board, though.

DUI defense attorney Kevin Hayslett sees the mandatory blood test as a violation of constitutional rights.

"It's a slippery slope and it's got to stop somewhere," Hayslett explained, "what other misdemeanor offense do we have in the United States where the government can forcefully put a needle into your arm?"

The federal government says Florida has among the highest rates of breathalyzer refusal.

"Now you've got attorneys telling their clients, don't blow, don't blow! Because we know from the results from these machines that they're not operating as the state or the government says they're supposed to operate," said Stephen Daniels, a DUI consultant and expert witness.

Supporters, though, say you could see the "no refusal" checkpoints in the Bay area by October.

"We don't want to violate people's civil rights. That's the last thing we want to do, but we're here to save lives," Unfried said.

She adds that this type of checkpoint would be heavily advertised, with the goal of deterring any drunk driving.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has recently said he wants to see more states hold similar programs.

10 News

Wait till the TSA hears about this.

I wonder if they can only take blood, how about if people might get nervous having to give blood on the side of the road, they might benefit from a mild sedative, you know to save all them lives..

A Battle Over Uranium Bodes Ill for U.S. Debate

NATURITA, Colo. — The future of nuclear power in America is back on the table, with all its vast implications, as global warming revives the search for energy sources that produce less greenhouse gas.

But in this depressed corner of western Colorado — one of the first places in the world that uranium, nuclear energy’s primary fuel, was ever dug from the ground in industrial scale — the debate is both simpler and more complicated. A proposal for a new mill to process uranium ore, which would lead to the opening of long-shuttered mines in Colorado and Utah, has brought global and local concerns into collision — jobs, health, class-consciousness and historical memory among them — in ways that suggest, if the pattern here holds, a bitter national debate to come.

Telluride, the rich ski town an hour away by car and a universe apart in terms of money and clout, has emerged as a main base of opposition to the proposed mill, called Piñon Ridge, which would be the first new uranium-processing facility in the United States in more than 25 years if it is approved by Colorado regulators next month.

To residents here like Michelle Mathews, the fact that many opponents of the mill hail from Telluride is a crucial strike against their arguments.

“People from Telluride don’t have any business around here,” said Ms. Mathews, 31, who works as a school janitor and ardently supports the idea of bringing back uranium jobs. “Not everyone wants to drive to Telluride to clean hotel rooms.”

Here in Naturita and the cluster of tiny communities in and around the Paradox Valley, where the mill could be built (cumulative population about 2,000), people disagree not just about the wisdom of the mill, but about whether uranium, laid down here in tufts of volcanic ash more than 100 million years ago, was a blessing or a curse. Minerals found in association with uranium, especially vanadium, which is used in hardening steel, sparked the first real rush in the 1930s; uranium for bombs and energy then followed in a stuttering pattern of boom and bust into the 1980s, when the nation’s nuclear energy program mostly went into mothballs.

Opponents say that the nostalgia many residents here cherish about the boom years is the product of willful forgetfulness about the well-documented cancer deaths and environmental destruction the uranium mines produced. They also say that the mill company is cynically exploiting the idea of a return to simpler times.

“They say it’s going to be different this time around,” said Craig Pirazzi, a carpenter who moved to the Naturita area from Telluride a few years ago and is now a member of the Paradox Valley Sustainability Association, which opposes the mill. “But our opposition to this proposal is based on the performance of historic uranium mining, because that’s all we have to go on — and that record is not good.”

Supporters, meanwhile, say that the opponents of Piñon Ridge are guilty of promulgating ignorant fears about something they do not understand.

Even the question of who has a right to speak up has become a point of contention. Is the mill purely a local concern in a sparsely populated area, or a broader regional issue that would affect people much farther away, through, say, radioactive dust particles that might be thrown aloft?

“They’re saying not in my backyard — now how big is their backyard?” said George Glasier, a local rancher and investor who founded Energy Fuels, the company proposing the mill, and is now a stockholder and consultant. Energy Fuels is a publicly traded company based in Canada; a United States subsidiary would operate the mill.

A study commissioned by Sheep Mountain Alliance, the main opposition group, of which Mr. Pirazzi is also a member, concludes that the backyard for Piñon Ridge would in fact be huge — far bigger than proponents suggest. The now-closed uranium mines that would supply the $175 million mill, company officials have said, extend out 100 miles or so, which means that delivery trucks would travel on narrow country roads, stirring up dust that the study said could end up in the snowpack and water supply all over the region.

“In one aspect we’re being nimby’s by saying we will be affected by the negative aspects of this,” Mr. Pirazzi said. “But that is a valid concern — our health, our air, our water is going to be affected by it, and we have every right to protect our property values and our health.”

A key underlying dynamic of the discussion is that this area has often been out of sync with the national economy.

When much of the rest of the nation was suffering in the Great Depression in the 1930s, for example, miners and their families here prospered as the military bought vanadium.

Another boom came in the 1950s, during the cold war, in uranium for bombs. The economy surged again in the 1970s as the energy crisis renewed enthusiasm for nuclear power — a period that ended in tears with reactor disasters at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979 and Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986.

The crash after that was utter and profound, as plans for reactor plants all over the country were canceled. Mines and mills across the West, seeing demand for nuclear fuel dry up, closed down as well. Today only one uranium mill in the United States is fully operational, in Blanding, Utah.

Bust times, in turn, put the local economy even more in thrall to Telluride, which began building out as a ski town in the 1980s.

“There were probably 300 men going to Telluride to do carpentry,” said David Helkey, 50, a mechanic who commuted to Telluride for years.

Postrecession, Telluride’s construction-driven second-home market is not what it was either, and for many residents, that has made the mill and the idea of reopened mines all the more attractive.

“Our economy just totally tanked,” Mr. Helkey said.

Other residents here are fatalistic. Hazards or no, they say, uranium is the hand that geology dealt this area. Most supporters of the mill also say they believe officials from Energy Fuels who say that tighter regulation would make everything different.

“It’s safer now,” said Sherri Ross, who works the front desk at the Ray Motel in Naturita, and spent her early childhood in Uravan, a mill town about 15 miles from here that was so contaminated with radiation by the 1980s, when the mill closed, that the whole town was razed and mostly entombed. Ms. Ross, 51, said her father died of cancer that she attributes partly to radioactive dust exposure — and also to his smoking — but wholeheartedly supports uranium’s return.

The roughly 300 new jobs that Energy Fuels officials project, mostly in reopened mines, would give the region an economic lease on life, she said.

Other veterans of uranium’s past are wary, by dint of experience.

Reed Hayes, 73, said he is still haunted by the night in July 1967, when he was working at a mill in Moab, Utah, and fell off a catwalk into a caustic vat of refined uranium pellets, called yellowcake, and acid. He quit a month later, but has suffered ever since, he said, with rashes on various parts of his body, including sometimes even inside his mouth.

“We were told that the uranium would never hurt us,” said Mr. Hayes, who has struggled for years to get compensation. “But I’ve learned a whole lot about it — that it’s hurt a lot of people and killed a lot of people.”

And it also changed every community it touched. Moab was once prime peach-growing country, for example — about 40,000 trees, including 2,000 owned by Mr. Hayes’s father, graced the town. It all went in the early 1950s as the orchards were chopped down to house uranium workers.

Gesturing to the three stately peach trees growing behind his house in the Paradox Valley, Mr. Hayes said, “We raised Elbertas. That’s what I have here, too.”

I don't think I like these new No Labels people...

Groups Call Government’s Coal Ash Analysis Skewed

The Environmental Protection Agency is planning for the first time to regulate the disposal of coal ash, the potentially hazardous residue of the burning of coal in power plants and other large industrial facilities.

The proposed rules are the direct result of a disastrous spill of hundreds of millions of gallons of coal ash two years ago this month, set off when the wall of a power plant’s containment pond collapsed near Kingston, Tenn.

The E.P.A. is weighing two proposals for regulating coal ash. One plan, favored by industry, would leave most regulation in the hands of the states and would encourage producers of coal ash to recycle the material into cement and other materials. The alternative, pushed by many environmental advocates, would declare coal ash a so-called special substance (a step below “hazardous”), set strict rules for construction of containment facilities, and put regulation in federal hands.

On Wednesday, three groups said the E.P.A. and the White House Office of Management and Budget had significantly overstated the benefits of the first alternative when it asserted that the weaker regulation would encourage recycling and bring more than $23 billion in health, environmental and energy benefits. In fact, the groups said, the government’s own data put the benefits of the proposal at only $1.15 billion while posing significant threats to human health and the environment.

In their analysis, the three groups — the Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice and the Stockholm Environment Institute — said the flaws in the E.P.A. study came from double-counting pollution reductions, overstating emissions levels from cement factories and unrealistic assumptions about potential energy savings.

“Unfortunately, E.P.A. and O.M.B. just got this wrong,” Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project, said in a statement. The E.P.A. “has let itself be distracted by bogus economic arguments, instead of determining how best to protect the public from leaking ash dumps.”

The groups called for adoption of the stricter alternative, saying it was the only way to protect communities near hundreds of coal ash dumps scattered around the country. They also said that most states failed to require even rudimentary standards for coal ash landfills and ponds and that the threat of another major spill demanded strong federal oversight.

The E.P.A. said it would review the report submitted by the groups as it prepares a final rule. “E.P.A. has proposed a rule that will for the first time ever regulate coal ash,” Betsaida Alcantara, an agency spokeswoman, said in an e-mail Wednesday.

“We’ve asked the public and experts to submit their comments and data as we work to finalize our decision on how best to regulate coal ash,” she said. “We will review the analysis announced today along with the more than 400,000 public comments we’ve received to ensure our decision is based on the best science.”


$5 gas and $1000 a month on electric to run your A/C. The change you wanted

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

3 suicide bombers used to kill tenacious Iraqi cop

BAGHDAD (AP) - Police commander Lt. Col. Shamil al-Jabouri knew al-Qaida wanted him dead. He was renowned in the tense northern city of Mosul for his relentless pursuit of the terror group, and insurgents had tried at least five times to kill him for it. On the sixth attempt, al-Qaida left little to chance.

As al-Jabouri slept Wednesday morning on a couch in his office, three men wearing police uniforms over vests laden with explosives slipped through an opening in the blast walls surrounding the compound where his building stood, police said.

Police manning one of at least four observation towers surrounding the compound shot one of the attackers in a yard and his vest exploded. Under the cover of that blast, police said, the other two suicide bombers charged about 100 yards (90 meters) and made it into al-Jabouri's single-story building.

They detonated their vests simultaneously - one at the door of al-Jabouri's office - killing the commander instantly and injuring a policeman sleeping in a trailer nearby. The two blasts brought the whole building down, burying the slain commander under the rubble, police said.

The attack on the commander responsible for hunting al-Qaida in Mosul - a former militant stronghold - was a reminder of the significant gaps in Iraqi security, the challenges the new government will face in trying to close them and the lengths insurgents will go to take out people they perceive as threats.

Just 10 days ago, al-Jabouri led a raid that ended in the death of the top al-Qaida figure in Mosul, his colleagues said. And two months ago he had been instrumental in stopping a gang that had been targeting jewelry stores in the city - robberies that are frequently ways for terror groups to refill their coffers.

"We've lost a sword of Mosul who chased al-Qaida terrorists out of the city," said Abdul-Raheem al-Shemeri, a top security official on the Mosul Provincial Council.

An Al-Qaida affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq, took responsibility in a statement posted on the Internet. It said al-Jabouri had been targeted several times before, but had not been deterred from fighting al-Qaida.

"This day was the decisive one," the group said.

According to the militants' statement, the attackers were dressed in police uniforms, which likely helped them get close to the compound - an abandoned soccer stadium - without raising suspicion.

U.S. Maj. Erik Peterson worked with al-Jabouri as Iraqi police were taking over security from the Iraqi army for the western half of the city, an operation that began last summer.

"He was a legend in the police force," Peterson said. "Every time you would go to visit him, he already had someone new he was looking for or had just arrested."

Peterson said that by killing officials like al-Jabouri, al-Qaida is trying to institute fear in the local population.

Militants had tried to kill al-Jabouri at least five times before, police officials said. A few months ago, al-Jabouri's guards shot a suicide bomber who approached the commander in an attempt to blow himself up, police said.

Hospital officials in Mosul, 225 miles (360 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, confirmed the death and said at least one policeman was injured.

Rescuers worked frantically to clear the rubble of the collapsed building but found no others dead, probably because the attack occurred in darkness around 6 a.m., before most people had arrived for work.

Al-Jabouri leaves behind a wife and four children. He had been a police officer since 2003. Three of his brothers also serve in the police force, colleagues said.

"He loved his duty, and he had the highest level of commitment to his work," said police official Mazin Mahmud.

Al-Qaida-linked militants across the country, and especially in Mosul, have made wiping out Iraqi security officials like al-Jabouri one of their main goals, in part to intimidate others from joining the security forces. Suicide bombers have been al-Qaida's most lethal weapon, killing hundreds of civilians and members of the security forces.

Mosul is home to a mixed Sunni Arab and Kurdish population, with a small Christian minority. The city along the Tigris River has long been a destination for Sunni militants infiltrating Iraq's porous border with Syria.

Violence has fallen around Iraq in the past two years, but al-Qaida and other insurgents have still shown themselves capable of carrying out attacks, particularly on security and government facilities, in hopes of destabilizing the country.

For much of this year, Iraq's politicians were deadlocked trying to form a new government after inconclusive March elections. The paralysis was resolved only earlier this month when parliament finally confirmed the Cabinet of returning Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

A new government was sworn in only last week but political leaders have still not agreed on who should fill important roles including ministers of defense, interior and national security.


Almost fifty imams and muftis killed in North Caucasus by Wahabis - Islamologist

Moscow, December 29, Interfax - Renowned islamologist Roman Silantyev cited statistics according to which about fifty Islamic spiritual leaders were killed in the North Caucuses for fighting against Wahhabism.

"Almost 50 people were killed. These people could have formed a big muftiat," he said in the The Faith and the World program on the Voice of Russia radio.

According to the islamologist, there are few such people left in Russia: "they are killed almost every month, losses is some muslim boards are irreplaceable, the greater number of people who were able to actively fight against Wahhabism have been killed."

"Others are demoralized and stopped opposing or just deserted to the enemy. The situation is critical," Silantyev believes.

He is satisfied that Russian authorities ordered to give security guards to Muslim spiritual leaders in the North Caucasus, "or we can just stay without allies."


U.S. Officials Find Afghan Network Undermining Government, Aiding Taliban

KABUL—U.S. officials in Afghanistan have spent thousands of hours over the past few years charting what they call "Malign Actor Networks"—webs of connections between members of President Hamid Karzai's family, businessmen, corrupt officials, drug traffickers and Taliban commanders.

Using intelligence drawn in part from informants and a powerful wiretapping system, these officials say they have found an economic and political order—underwritten by billions of dollars in aid, reconstruction and logistics funds from the West—that is undermining the Afghan government from within and aiding a Taliban insurgency that is trying to topple it from without.

The officials and their Afghan allies have had less success, however, breaking these bonds.

The futile attempts so far at prosecuting one individual—a banker named Haji Muhammad Rafi Azimi—illustrate the depth the problem.

Mr. Azimi has bribed senior officials, moved money for drug traffickers and kept the Taliban flush with cash, say several current and former Afghan and U.S. officials who described what they say are hours of wiretaps, information provided by informers and financial documents connected with the bank where Mr. Azimi works.

In an interview, Mr. Azimi denied any wrongdoing.


Chavez insists he will not accept US envoy, dares Washington to expel Venezuelan ambassador

CARACAS, Venezuela - The U.S. government on Wednesday said it is important to have an ambassador in Venezuela, and is considering the possible consequences after President Hugo Chavez rejected Washington's chosen envoy.

Chavez on Tuesday dared the U.S. government to expel his ambassador, saying he will not allow the U.S. diplomat Larry Palmer to be ambassador because he made what Chavez described as blatantly disrespectful remarks about Venezuela.

"If the government is going to expel our ambassador there, let them do it!," Chavez said, adding: "if they're going to cut diplomatic relations, let them do it!"

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner declined to respond to Chavez's comments and repeated that the United States hopes to improve strained relations with Venezuela. He said President Barack Obama's administration was continuing to review possible consequences that Venezuela's refusal to accept Palmer might incur.

"We believe it is precisely because there are tensions in the relationship that it is important to maintain diplomatic communications at the highest level," Toner said. "We believe it is in our national interest to have an ambassador in Caracas."

Palmer, who is awaiting Senate confirmation, angered Chavez by suggesting earlier this year that morale is low in Venezuela's military and that he is concerned Colombian rebels are finding refuge in Venezuela.

Chavez, whose economy relies heavily on oil sales to the United States, has accused Palmer of dishonouring the his government by expressing concerns on several sensitive subjects — including 2008 accusations by the U.S. Treasury Department that three members of Chavez's inner circle helped Colombian rebels by supplying arms and aiding drug-trafficking operations.

"For an ambassador to come, he has to respect this homeland," Chavez said.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said last week that Venezuela's decision not to accept Palmer — after initially giving its approval — will have consequences on relations with Venezuela. The State Department has also been strongly critical of decree powers granted to Chavez by his congressional allies this month, a manoeuvr Crowley described as one more way for the leftist president to "justify autocratic powers."

"Now the U.S. government is threatening us that they're going to take reprisals. Well, let them do whatever they want, but that man will not come," Chavez said Tuesday.

The U.S. Embassy in Caracas, meanwhile, has been without an ambassador since Patrick Duddy finished his assignment and left in July.

Chavez's latest actions in pushing through controversial laws are contributing to the diplomatic tensions.

The National Assembly on Dec. 17 granted Chavez broad powers to enact laws by decree for a year and a half. Opponents have condemned that and a package of other laws approved by Chavez's congressional allies, saying the legislative offensive amounts to an authoritarian power grab and will give Chavez new abilities to crack down on dissent.

The measures have been hurriedly passed before a new legislature takes office Jan. 5 with enough opposition lawmakers to prevent passage of some types of major laws.

Chavez said Tuesday that he used his decree powers to establish 10 military districts — many of them in three western states bordering Colombia, two of which are led by opposition governors. Chavez did not elaborate on how the districts will be administered, but they could be under the equivalent of martial law.

Chavez had discussed the idea previously, calling the special military zones an effort to boost security. He said Tuesday that he had established the first 10 such districts by decree and that he expects to create more, including in urban areas such as Caracas and Maracaibo.

Marcel Granier, a media executive whose channel RCTV was pushed off the airwaves by the government in 2007, condemned the latest decree saying Chavez "is trying to put a military authority above the civil one."

Chavez has defended his decree powers, saying he is trying to quickly provide funding for housing construction after floods and landslides that drove thousands from their homes, and also plans measures to accelerate his government's socialist-oriented efforts.

Other laws passed by Chavez's congressional allies this month increase state control of universities and block foreign funding to any nongovernment organizations that defend "political rights" — a change critics say will hobble some human rights groups.

The National Assembly also passed laws that make it easier for the government to revoke TV or radio licenses, speed up the process if Chavez decides to nationalize more banks, and allow for the suspension of any lawmakers who defect from a party during their term.

One of the most controversial laws extends broadcast-type regulations to the Internet — barring messages that "disrespect public authorities," ''incite or promote hatred" or crimes, or that could create "anxiety in the citizenry or alter public order."


US Air Force builds supercomputer out of 1,760 PlayStation 3s

US Air Force researchers have created the Defense Department’s largest interactive supercomputer -- the 35th fastest in the world -- from 1,760 Song PlayStation 3s, The Air Force Times reported.

The amalgamation of consoles, nicknamed the “Condor Cluster,” will be used to “process high-resolution satellite images and boost surveillance capabilities” according to The Times. It will allow scientists to monitor a 15.5-mile area in real time.

Mark Barnell, director of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio -- where the computer was unveiled earlier this month -- said that the computer is also capable of reading 20 pages per second with up to 30 percent of the characters removed and recovering all the words without error.

The “Condor Cluster” is energy efficient and at $2 million, has a price tag well below that of traditional computing equipment.

“We’re striving hard to make affordable and constrained systems, where they can really use them and make a difference,” Barnell said, adding that it is thought to be the seventh “greenest” computer in the world.

The “Condor Cluster” can achieve about 1.5 GigaFLOPS -- floating point operations per second, the unit by which supercomputing power is measured -- per watt of computing power, about fifteen times more powerful than a typical supercomputer.

“We have quite a few research and development efforts working on those kind of applications to do confabulation and prediction and that will open up a variety of areas which could help with a lot of other efforts and a lot of the areas in which the Air Force would like to go,” Barnell said.


China Cuts Export Quotas for Rare Earths by 35%

(Corrects percentage cut in quotas in headline, first paragraph and amount in first half of 2010 in second paragraph in story published Dec. 28.)

China cut its export quotas for rare earths by 35 percent in the first round of permits for 2011, threatening to extend a global shortage of the minerals needed for smartphones, hybrid cars and guided missiles.

The government allotted 14,446 metric tons of rare earth exports split among 31 domestic and foreign-invested companies, the Ministry of Commerce said today in a statement. That compares with the first round this year of 22,282 tons and the second round of 7,976 tons, according to previous ministry statements. The government usually issues two rounds of export quotas every year.

China, which accounts for more than 90 percent of world supplies, slashed export quotas by 72 percent in the second half of this year, sparking a surge in prices. Japan, the world’s biggest user, has sought alternate supplies with companies including Hitachi Metals Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corp. seeking cooperative ventures at home and abroad to secure the minerals.

“This is in line with government officials’ comments that we need to protect the environment and resources,” said Chen Jiazuo, an analyst at metal researcher Beijing Antaike Information Development Co. “Controlling domestic production capacity, output and exports will continue to be the theme.”

Chinese government departments are still negotiating full-year rare earth export quotas for 2011, the ministry said in a separate statement today. Full-year permits should not be forecast based on the first-round limits announced earlier, according to the statement.

Industry ‘Sustainability’

The government will decide on the full-year quotas after evaluating domestic output and demand, as well as global requirements, the ministry said. The “sustainability” of the industry in China also will be reviewed, according to the statement.

Last year, China’s government clamped down on its rare earth industry, setting production quotas to bolster prices. China said in July that it would reduce export quotas in the second half to supply its own electronics industry and overhaul a mining sector blamed for causing widespread environmental damage.

“As China has advanced technologies in rare earth production, companies can seek cooperation to develop mines abroad,” Antaike’s Chen said.

China will also raise export taxes for some rare earth elements to 25 percent next year, the Ministry of Finance said this month. That was up from the 15 percent temporary export tax on neodymium, used in batteries for hybrid cars including Toyota’s Prius and Honda Motor Co.’s Insight.

U.S. Tensions

The latest move to curb exports may further exacerbate tensions with the U.S., which last week said it may file a World Trade Organization complaint over restraints on supplies of the minerals. Rare earths are 17 chemically similar elements including neodymium, cerium and lanthanum that are used in the production of electronics.

Molycorp Inc., the owner of the world’s largest non- Chinese rare-earth metals deposit, agreed this month to form joint ventures with Japan’s Hitachi Metals Ltd. to produce alloys and magnets in the U.S. Hitachi Metals, Japan’s largest maker of rare-earths magnets, uses as much as 600 tons of the metals each year.

Shares of Molycorp rose $2.85, or 5.8 percent, to $52.29 at 10:33 a.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Rare Element Resources Ltd., a Vancouver-based rare-earth miner, jumped $2.29, or 20 percent, to $14.02 in New York. General Moly Inc., which is developing a molybdenum mine in Nevada, climbed 42 cents, or 7.1 percent, to $6.32.

Toyota Venture

Toyota Tsusho Corp., a trading company affiliated with the carmaker, formed a venture with Sojitz Corp. and a Vietnamese state-run mining company to export rare earth metals to Japan from 2012, spokesman Katsutoshi Yokoi said in September.

Toyota spokeswoman Shiori Hashimoto declined to comment on China’s latest move today, saying the company already was exploring alternative sources of rare earth.

The price of neodymium oxide, used in magnets in BlackBerrys, has surged more than fourfold to $88.5 a kilogram from $19.12 in 2009 because of rising demand and reduced supply from China, according to Sydney-based Lynas Corp., which is building a A$550 million ($542 million) rare earths mine in Western Australia.

Demand growth for neodymium and dysprosium may be 15 to 20 percent per annum, Damien Krebs, a metallurgy manager at Australia’s Greenland Minerals and Energy Ltd., said in an interview on Nov. 10. Neodymium is also used in mini hard drives in laptops and headphones in Apple’s iPod.

‘Guide’ Industry

China is close to establishing an association that will work under government oversight to “guide” the domestic rare earths industry, Wang Caifeng, a member of the committee overseeing the group’s formation, said at a conference in Beijing today.

The China Association for Rare Earth will be organized under the authority of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and include the biggest 93 domestic producers of the minerals, Wang said.

Output and export of rare earths from China have been reduced because some of the companies mining the minerals were causing “severe” environmental damage and had to be closed, Wang said.

“Excessive mining in southern provinces is still severe and it severely damages the environment. That’s why China is controlling mining, and naturally output and export will be reduced,” Wang said.


Guardian details sex charges against Julian Assange

WikiLeaks cable reveals how a Brazilian 'terrorist' got a US visa last year

Santiago, Chile
A Brazilian who helped kidnap the US ambassador to his country in 1969 should never have received a tourist visa from the State Department last year, according to a US diplomatic cable posted yesterday by Wikileaks.

After the US consulate pasted the precious visa into former student radical Paulo de Tarso Venceslau's passport, but before it returned the passport to him, officials realized what had happened. A top diplomat wrote to Washington asking whether it would be best to let him slide "in light of the distance from the crime, the circumstances under which it took place, and our desire for a forward-looking relationship."

The US had long considered Mr. Venceslau a terrorist for holding former US Ambassador Charles Burke Elbrick hostage for four days in 1969 along with a group of radical students that included current Brazilian congressman Fernando Gabeira and Franklin Martins (a minister for President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva). The group, known as Revolutionary Movement 8th October (MR-8), demanded the release of 15 political prisoners held by the Brazilian military dictatorship. It worked.

The newly released WikiLeaks cable is the first indication of why Venceslau was approved for a visa last year after having been turned down three times previously for having terrorist affiliations.

Did Obama really change policy?
Once approved, Venceslau went to the press and suggested that President Obama – who had recently won the Nobel Peace Prize – had made a policy change.

"Will these be new times? Did Obama really change things?" he said to newspaper O Globo.

Venceslau wasn't the only one to speculate that Obama's administration had relaxed US policy by issuing the visa. Opponents of the US leader took to the Internet to denounce the administration for being soft on terror.

On the website, some readers called the move "revolting," the result of dependence on Brazilian oil exports, and an example of Obama's communism.

Initial visa approval not a policy change
If the WikiLeaks cable is both genuine and complete, the initial visa approval wasn't a policy change at all.

According to the cable, Venceslau didn't mention any past arrests or convictions on his visa application, and he told the consul general in São Paulo that Brazilian law doesn't require people to include political crimes when declaring their criminal record. The consulate checked his name and it came up clean, according to the cable.

Once Venceslau went to the press after he got the visa, Charge d' Affaires Lisa Kubiske wrote: "Cancellation of the visa, which would be the standard course of action, will likely lead to significant and negative reaction in the Brazilian media at a time when both official Brazilians and the public are considering new possibilities for US-Brazil relations."

But Ms. Kubiske didn't blithely advocate for Venceslau, either.

"Issuance of a visa ... might have implications for broader US policy and messaging on terrorism."

She said the minimum the US would accept in return for the visa would be "a public repudiation of the crime and of kidnapping as a tactic."

A spokeswoman at the US consulate in São Paulo wasn't immediately available to comment.

While the initial visa acceptance may have been an error, the follow-up shows that diplomats wanted to take advantage of Obama's popularity after he won the Nobel Prize. Unfortunately, the effort to foment good will may have been for naught.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who leaves office this weekend, said this week he has been disappointed by how much Obama's policies in Latin America resemble those of earlier US presidents.

"Relations have changed little" between the US and Latin America, Lula said this week. "The reality is they didn't change at all. That makes me sad."


Intensified drone strikes kill 18 in North Waziristan

MIRAMSHAH: At least 18 suspected militants and civilians were killed on Tuesday in what appears to be a surge in US drone attacks in the volatile North Waziristan, official sources said.

The death toll from seven back-to-back strikes in the region adjacent to the border with Afghanistan during the past 24 hours jumped to 43.

On Monday unmanned aircraft targeted three vehicles in Mirali tehsil, killing 25 suspected militants. The majority of those killed belonged to Orakzai Agency and Bannu district.

Local officials said that two missiles were fired at two suspected compounds at around 10am on Tuesday in Sherkhel area, an abandoned Afghan refugee camp in Ghulam Khan tehsil. Four people were killed.

The area people said that Kochis (Afghan nomads) lived in the compounds.

Local people were searching the place for survivors when the drone fired two missiles, killing four more people and injuring three others.

The names of the dead and wounded could not be ascertained.

In the third strike, a pickup truck carrying the wounded people from Ghulam Khan was targeted near another abandoned refugee camp called Nawab camp. Two missiles were fired in which four people were killed.

Sources said that two cars were heading towards the destroyed truck when the drone fired another volley of missiles, leaving another six people dead.

AP adds: The strikes come in the final days of a year that has seen an unprecedented number of drone attacks as part of a ramped-up US campaign to take out Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters seeking sanctuary outside Afghanistan.

Around 115 missile strikes have been launched this year – more than doubling last year’s total. Nearly all have landed in North Waziristan, a region that allegedly hosts several militant groups battling the US and Nato troops in Afghanistan, including the Haqqani network.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Abbas vows: No room for Israelis in Palestinian state

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced on Saturday that when a Palestinian state is established, it will have no Israelis in it.

“We have frankly said, and always will say: If there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli in it,” Abbas told reporters in Ramallah.

He was commenting on unconfirmed reports suggesting that the PA leadership might agree to the presence of the IDF in the West Bank after the establishment of a Palestinian state.

“We are ready to have peace on the basis of international legitimacy and the road map, which we have accepted, as well as the Arab Peace Initiative,” Abbas said. “But when a Palestinian state is established, it would have no Israeli presence in it.”

The PA president criticized Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and accused him of placing obstacles on the road to peace.

“He who prefers settlements over peace is responsible for the obstacles to peace,” he added.

“If he really was interested in peace, he would have at least preferred peace to settlements.”

Abbas accused the Israeli government of “deception” with the purpose of blaming the Palestinians for the current impasse in the peace talks. He also criticized the US administration for failing to put pressure on Israel to stop the construction in the settlements and east Jerusalem.

“The US administration has tried to stop the settlements, but Netanyahu refused,” he said. “We know that there’s a clear American position, but these days we don’t hear it any more. We hope we will hear it in the future.”

Abbas said that the PA has presented in writing to the US its position regarding all the core issues, but has still not heard Israel’s reply.

“All the final-status issues must be solved according to international resolutions,” he said. “All these issues will be resolved at the negotiating table, and this includes the issue of the refugees, which Israel tried to get rid of, but to no avail.”

On Friday night, Abbas met in Bethlehem with members of the tiny Christian community in the Gaza Strip who received permission from Israel to travel to the West Bank for Christmas.

Abbas expressed hope that his Fatah faction and Hamas would be able to resolve their differences so that the Gaza Strip would be part of the future Palestinian state. He also voiced hope that he would be able to travel to the Gaza Strip in the near future.

Abbas hailed Bolivia, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil and Ecuador, which have recognized a Palestinian state with the 1967 borders. He said that the Palestinians were now hoping that other countries, especially the EU, Russia, Canada, the US and Japan, would follow suit and declare their recognition of a Palestinian state.

“The whole world is now with us,” Abbas said. “These countries have recognized us because they love peace and want to support peace.”

Cables Portray Expanded Reach of Drug Agency

WASHINGTON — The Drug Enforcement Administration has been transformed into a global intelligence organization with a reach that extends far beyond narcotics, and an eavesdropping operation so expansive it has to fend off foreign politicians who want to use it against their political enemies, according to secret diplomatic cables.

In far greater detail than previously seen, the cables, from the cache obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to some news organizations, offer glimpses of drug agents balancing diplomacy and law enforcement in places where it can be hard to tell the politicians from the traffickers, and where drug rings are themselves mini-states whose wealth and violence permit them to run roughshod over struggling governments.

Diplomats recorded unforgettable vignettes from the largely unseen war on drugs:

¶In Panama, an urgent BlackBerry message from the president to the American ambassador demanded that the D.E.A. go after his political enemies: “I need help with tapping phones.”

¶In Sierra Leone, a major cocaine-trafficking prosecution was almost upended by the attorney general’s attempt to solicit $2.5 million in bribes.

¶In Guinea, the country’s biggest narcotics kingpin turned out to be the president’s son, and diplomats discovered that before the police destroyed a huge narcotics seizure, the drugs had been replaced by flour.

¶Leaders of Mexico’s beleaguered military issued private pleas for closer collaboration with the drug agency, confessing that they had little faith in their own country’s police forces.

¶Cables from Myanmar, the target of strict United States sanctions, describe the drug agency informants’ reporting both on how the military junta enriches itself with drug money and on the political activities of the junta’s opponents.

Officials of the D.E.A. and the State Department declined to discuss what they said was information that should never have been made public.

Like many of the cables made public in recent weeks, those describing the drug war do not offer large disclosures. Rather, it is the details that add up to a clearer picture of the corrupting influence of big traffickers, the tricky game of figuring out which foreign officials are actually controlled by drug lords, and the story of how an entrepreneurial agency operating in the shadows of the F.B.I. has become something more than a drug agency. The D.E.A. now has 87 offices in 63 countries and close partnerships with governments that keep the Central Intelligence Agency at arm’s length.

Because of the ubiquity of the drug scourge, today’s D.E.A. has access to foreign governments, including those, like Nicaragua’s and Venezuela’s, that have strained diplomatic relations with the United States. Many are eager to take advantage of the agency’s drug detection and wiretapping technologies.

In some countries, the collaboration appears to work well, with the drug agency providing intelligence that has helped bring down traffickers, and even entire cartels. But the victories can come at a high price, according to the cables, which describe scores of D.E.A. informants and a handful of agents who have been killed in Mexico and Afghanistan.

In Venezuela, the local intelligence service turned the tables on the D.E.A., infiltrating its operations, sabotaging equipment and hiring a computer hacker to intercept American Embassy e-mails, the cables report.

And as the drug agency has expanded its eavesdropping operations to keep up with cartels, it has faced repeated pressure to redirect its counternarcotics surveillance to local concerns, provoking tensions with some of Washington’s closest allies.

Sticky Situations

Cables written in February by American diplomats in Paraguay, for example, described the D.E.A.’s pushing back against requests from that country’s government to help spy on an insurgent group, known as the Paraguayan People’s Army, or the EPP, the initials of its name in Spanish. The leftist group, suspected of having ties to the Colombian rebel group FARC, had conducted several high-profile kidnappings and was making a small fortune in ransoms.

When American diplomats refused to give Paraguay access to the drug agency’s wiretapping system, Interior Minister Rafael Filizzola threatened to shut it down, saying: “Counternarcotics are important, but won’t topple our government. The EPP could.”

The D.E.A. faced even more intense pressure last year from Panama, whose right-leaning president, Ricardo Martinelli, demanded that the agency allow him to use its wiretapping program — known as Matador — to spy on leftist political enemies he believed were plotting to kill him.

The United States, according to the cables, worried that Mr. Martinelli, a supermarket magnate, “made no distinction between legitimate security targets and political enemies,” refused, igniting tensions that went on for months.

Mr. Martinelli, who the cables said possessed a “penchant for bullying and blackmail,” retaliated by proposing a law that would have ended the D.E.A.’s work with specially vetted police units. Then he tried to subvert the drug agency’s control over the program by assigning nonvetted officers to the counternarcotics unit.

And when the United States pushed back against those attempts — moving the Matador system into the offices of the politically independent attorney general — Mr. Martinelli threatened to expel the drug agency from the country altogether, saying other countries, like Israel, would be happy to comply with his intelligence requests.

Eventually, according to the cables, American diplomats began wondering about Mr. Martinelli’s motivations. Did he really want the D.E.A. to disrupt plots by his adversaries, or was he trying to keep the agency from learning about corruption among his relatives and friends?

One cable asserted that Mr. Martinelli’s cousin helped smuggle tens of millions of dollars in drug proceeds through Panama’s main airport every month. Another noted, “There is no reason to believe there will be fewer acts of corruption in this government than in any past government.”

As the standoff continued, the cables indicate that the United States proposed suspending the Matador program, rather than submitting to Mr. Martinelli’s demands. (American officials say the program was suspended, but the British took over the wiretapping program and have shared the intelligence with the United States.)

In a statement on Saturday, the government of Panama said that it regretted “the bad interpretation by United States authorities of a request for help made to directly confront crime and drug trafficking.” It said that Panama would continue its efforts to stop organized crime and emphasized that Panama continued to have “excellent relations with the United States.”

Meanwhile in Paraguay, according to the cables, the United States acquiesced, agreeing to allow the authorities there to use D.E.A. wiretaps for antikidnapping investigations, as long as they were approved by Paraguay’s Supreme Court.

“We have carefully navigated this very sensitive and politically sticky situation,” one cable said. “It appears that we have no other viable choice.”

A Larger Mandate

Created in 1973, the D.E.A. has steadily built its international turf, an expansion primarily driven by the multinational nature of the drug trade, but also by forces within the agency seeking a larger mandate. Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the agency’s leaders have cited what they describe as an expanding nexus between drugs and terrorism in further building its overseas presence.

In Afghanistan, for example, “DEA officials have become convinced that ‘no daylight’ exists between drug traffickers at the highest level and Taliban insurgents,” Karen Tandy, then the agency’s administrator, told European Union officials in a 2007 briefing, according to a cable from Brussels.

Ms. Tandy described an agency informant’s recording of a meeting in Nangarhar Province between 9 Taliban members and 11 drug traffickers to coordinate their financial support for the insurgency, and she said the agency was trying to put a “security belt” around Afghanistan to block the import of chemicals for heroin processing. The agency was embedding its officers in military units around Afghanistan, she said. In 2007 alone, the D.E.A. opened new bureaus in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, as well as in three Mexican cities.

Cables describe lengthy negotiations over the extradition to the United States of the two notorious arms dealers wanted by the D.E.A. as it reached beyond pure counternarcotics cases: Monzer al-Kassar, a Syrian arrested in Spain, and Viktor Bout, a Russian arrested in Thailand. Both men were charged with agreeing to illegal arms sales to informants posing as weapons buyers for Colombian rebels. Notably, neither man was charged with violating narcotics laws.

Late last year in a D.E.A. case, three men from Mali accused of plotting to transport tons of cocaine across northwest Africa were charged under a narco-terrorism statute added to the law in 2006, and they were linked to both Al Qaeda and its North African affiliate, called Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

The men themselves had claimed the terrorism link, according to the D.E.A., though officials told The New York Times that they had no independent corroboration of the Qaeda connections. Experts on the desert regions of North Africa, long a route for smuggling between Africa and Europe, are divided about whether Al Qaeda operatives play a significant role in the drug trade, and some skeptics note that adding “terrorism” to any case can draw additional investigative resources and impress a jury.

New Routes for Graft

Most times, however, the agency’s expansion seems driven more by external forces than internal ones, with traffickers opening new routes to accommodate new markets. As Mexican cartels take control of drug shipments from South America to the United States, Colombian cartels have begun moving cocaine through West Africa to Europe.

The cables offer a portrait of the staggering effect on Mali, whose deserts have been littered with abandoned airplanes — including at least one Boeing 727 — and Ghana, where traffickers easily smuggle drugs through an airport’s “VVIP (Very Very Important Person) lounge.”

Top-to-bottom corruption in many West African countries made it hard for diplomats to know whom to trust. In one 2008 case in Sierra Leone, President Ernest Bai Koroma moved to prosecute and extradite three South American traffickers seized with about 1,500 pounds of cocaine, while his attorney general was accused of offering to release them for $2.5 million in bribes.

In Nigeria, the D.E.A. reported a couple of years earlier that diplomats at the Liberian Embassy were using official vehicles to transport drugs across the border because they were not getting paid by their war-torn government and “had to fend for themselves.”

A May 2008 cable from Guinea described a kind of heart-to-heart conversation about the drug trade between the American ambassador, Phillip Carter III, and Guinea’s prime minister, Lansana Kouyaté. At one point, the cable said, Mr. Kouyaté “visibly slumped in his chair” and acknowledged that Guinea’s most powerful drug trafficker was Ousmane Conté, the son of Lansana Conté, then the president. (After the death of his father, Mr. Conté went to prison.)

A few days later, diplomats reported evidence that the corruption ran much deeper inside the Guinean government than the president’s son. In a colorfully written cable — with chapters titled “Excuses, Excuses, Excuses” and “Theatrical Production” — diplomats described attending what was billed as a drug bonfire that had been staged by the Guinean government to demonstrate its commitment to combating the drug trade.

Senior Guinean officials, including the country’s drug czar, the chief of police and the justice minister, watched as officers set fire to what the government claimed was about 350 pounds of marijuana and 860 pounds of cocaine, valued at $6.5 million.

In reality, American diplomats wrote, the whole incineration was a sham. Informants had previously told the embassy that Guinean authorities replaced the cocaine with manioc flour, proving, the diplomats wrote, “that narco-corruption has contaminated” the government of Guinea “at the highest levels.”

And it did not take the D.E.A.’s sophisticated intelligence techniques to figure out the truth. The cable reported that even the ambassador’s driver sniffed out a hoax.

“I know the smell of burning marijuana,” the driver said. “And I didn’t smell anything.”


Hire Heroes

"Mission Statement

Hire Heroes USA’s (HHUSA) mission is to offer transition assistance, job search assistance, and job placement services to those who have honorably served in the US military – and to their spouses – in order to reduce veteran unemployment. HHUSA prioritizes veterans statistically most likely to be unemployed: veterans of Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM, and veterans that are wounded or disabled.

As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, HHUSA’s services are provided at no cost to the veteran."
Hire Heroes USA

Saturday, December 25, 2010

You Can’t Handle the Truth

"...The reason our current military success is meaningless is because our other governmental agencies insist on work through the government in Kabul despite a decade of experience proving the central government is corrupt, predatory, and more of a problem then solution. I mentioned “the vile rapist Assange” earlier and after weeks of reading through the Wikileaks files I have to admit to something which will surprise family and friends. I found that “U.S. diplomats come away looking sharp, insightful and decent” and I am no fan of our Department of State. Or the CIA or any of the other U.S. Government (USG) agencies who spend OPM like drunken sailors while accomplishing very little. The big problem with Wikileaks is that it is going to force USG agencies to bury information further with tighter controls resulting in stove-piping which is already a problem and that problem can only be solved by “inter-agency working groups” manned by security cleared contractors who are provide by retired CIA agents who never did a thing right in their whole careers to start with and the end result will be the poor American taxpayer will cough up even more money we don’t have while receiving even less in the way of benefit from “Top Secret America“. Yes I know that is a run-on sentence but here is the thing; I have yet to read anything in the wikileaks cables I did not already know. Billions and billions of dollars are being spent on “top secret America” and those retards can’t even come with anything that a reasonably well informed adult could not find out on his own from open sources."

He was kidnapped ... Part 2

"As it was getting darker, my family members started to lose hope of seeing k again, my dad used to call us from their house every now and then and just say "nothing new", with every phone ring everyone stays silent and freeze.
the phone rang and this time my dad had new news, he told my mom that uncle k finally arrived and they're in their way to our house..
My mom, grandma, sister, brother and I were waiting in the street I was feeling anxious to see him, the adrenaline reached the highest level ever, I could barely stand up on my shaky legs, but this time, it was from excitement …"
Days of My Life

New Documentary Project

"Looking for funding for a documentary I am doing about PTSD. I want to go back to Iraq and see how it will affect me. I also want to interview those there who have had and have not suffered PTSD and see their opinion on being there.

$10 per person will get us going.

Candle in the Dark

Belarus president re-elected, others cry fraud

MINSK, Belarus (AP) - The authoritarian leader of Belarus was declared Friday the winner of an election condemned by international monitors and his challengers, as police rounded up carol-singing protesters near the prison where most of the challengers are held.

The Central Election Commission said President Alexander Lukashenko won 79.6 percent of Sunday's vote. His nearest challenger, Andrei Sannikov, got 2.4 percent - and was beaten and jailed after the vote along with six other presidential hopefuls and hundreds of protesters.

Club-wielding riot police dispersed and beat 10,000 demonstrators protesting voting fraud Sunday.

Representatives of the opposition candidates rejected the official results. Sannikov's representative, Yuri Khadyko, urged the election agency to void the vote because of fraud and call a new one, but the commission ignored the demand.

Sannikov and his wife, a prominent journalist, are still jailed. Policemen tried to take their three-year-old son and put him into an orphanage, but his grandmother went into hiding with the boy, the Vyasna rights center said Friday.

International observers and Western governments have accused Lukashenko of using fraudulent counting and violence against opposition protesters to keep himself in power. "A monstrous system of falsification has been created in this country, and you are all accomplices of that," Ales Lagvinets, representing another opposition candidate, Grigory Kostusev, told the commission.

Late Friday, a dozen protesters sang carols and lit candles in front of the prison in central Minsk where most of the jailed candidates and activists are being held. Within minutes, riot police detained the protesters, forcing them into police trucks.

In power since 1994, Lukashenko has served three terms and become the longest-standing current in Europe. The 56-year old strongman allows no independent broadcast media, keeps 80 percent of the country's industry under Soviet-style state control and suppresses opposition with police raids and pressure.

Russia has provided Belarus with cheap oil and gas, a policy that keeps the former Soviet republic of 10 million bordering Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic nations within its sphere of influence. Once regarded as the Kremlin's obedient if loudmouthed ally, in recent years Lukashenko often has been truculent toward Moscow, even alleging that Russia is financing his opponents.

One of the arrested presidential hopefuls, Vladimir Neklyayev, was badly beaten during the rally, which protested the election results. His wife said Friday that she and his attorney have been denied access to Neklyayev in an effort to conceal the extent of his injuries. "This is the lawlessness of authorities that are afraid to show the horrible condition my husband is in," Olga Neklyayeva said.


Manning’s health deteriorates in US military brig

WASHINGTON Months of “inhumane” solitary confinement are taking a toll on the US Army private suspected of passing secret government files to WikiLeaks, one of his supporters said late on Thursday after paying him a visit.

“It has become obvious to me that (Bradley) Manning’s physical and mental well-being are deteriorating,” David House wrote on the blog Firedoglake, recounting a visit to the military brig where the accused soldier is being held.

“It’s become increasingly clear that the severe, inhumane conditions of his detention are wearing on Manning,” he wrote.

Held at a military brig in Virginia at the Quantico Marine base since July, Manning, 23, has been placed under a maximum security regimen because authorities say his escape would pose a risk to national security.

Under the strict rules, Manning is allowed out of his cell for only one hour a day for exercise outside or at an indoor gym, military officers say. But House said the Pentagon’s description of conditions was contradicted by what he learned from Manning.

“He has not been outside or into the brig yard for neither recreation nor exercises in four full weeks,” House said.

“When told of the Pentagon’s statement that he indeed receives exercise, Manning’s reply was that he is able to exercise insofar as walking in chains is a form of exercise,” he wrote.

As a “precaution,” prison authorities have decided not to issue Manning cotton sheets and instead have provided two blankets and a pillow made of material that cannot be torn into pieces.

Manning told his visitor that “his blankets are similar in weight and heft to lead aprons used in X-ray laboratories,” House said.

The army soldier was under a “Prevention of Injury” order that was the cause of some of the more strict conditions, House said, even though Manning allegedly had been cleared by a military psychologist.

“What Manning needs, and what his attorney has already urged, is to have the unnecessary ‘Prevention of Injury’ order lifted that severely restricts his ability to exercise, communicate, and sleep,” he wrote. The Pentagon has rejected allegations Manning is suffering from any abuse and insists he is being treated in the same way as other inmates under the “maximum custody” regime.

Oman Tribune

Friday, December 24, 2010

I-Team: City of Houston shuts down two radioactive water wells

HOUSTON -- A radioactive water well that is controlled by the City of Houston, and that serves residents of Jersey Village, is no longer being used, according to the communications director for Houston Mayor Annise Parker.

On Monday, a KHOU-TV investigation revealed Jersey Village water well #3 was one of 10 water wells identified by recent federal tests as having tested high for a particularly damaging form of radiation called alpha radiation.

As recently as two weeks ago, city officials had said that same well, and nine others across the city, remained online and “available for use,” even after being identified in a draft report by the United States Geological Survey as testing high for radioactive contaminants that are known to immediately increase risks for cancer.

In addition, the city says it is no longer using Spring Branch water well #6. That well was found to have smaller levels of radiation by the draft USGS report, but not enough to approach the legal limit. Instead, the federal agency found it had tested double the legal limit for arsenic, another carcinogen that can cause cancer and other ill health effects.

Earlier this week, city council member and former police chief C.O. “Brad” Bradford criticized city leaders for not doing more, sooner. He reviewed the draft copy of the USGS report, which revealed radiation was detected in nearly every groundwater well the federal agency tested in Houston. The draft was delivered to city officials in the public works department in September. Bradford said citizens were in danger and should be warned of their increased cancer risks, even if the radiation levels were below “legal” limits that force utilities to act.

“Neighborhoods in Houston should be on notice,” Bradford said. “We have a problem with the drinking water and use of water in Houston, Texas.”

Bradford noted that Houston residents just “suffered” a 40-percent rate hike on their water bills, and said he believes they deserve better.

“If Dallas and Austin and other major cities supply water without radiation, why can't Houston?” he asked.

An ongoing KHOU investigation has revealed that Fort Worth, Dallas, Austin, Beaumont, San Antonio, Arlington, and nearly every major city in the state, show zero alpha radiation in their water. Despite Houston’s nearly unique position, Mayor Annise Parker went on the defensive at a press conference early Wednesday afternoon.

MAYOR PARKER: "We have a safe water system, and we do not provide unsafe water."

KHOU: "You say again the water is 'safe.' In your opinion, how much radiation is it safe to drink?"

MAYOR PARKER: "You know I have no idea what goes into the technical water qualifications of our water system. We follow EPA guidelines."

Other elected leaders, like council member Jolanda Jones, don’t think those EPA guidelines go far enough.

She recently spoke to concerned residents of Houston's Chasewood neighborhood, who were exposed to many years' worth of radioactive water from a city water well that consistently tested higher than the EPA legal limit for alpha radiation.

However, because water wells in other neighborhoods in Houston are served by wells with less radiation, Houston’s water supply as an entire “system” stayed in compliance with federal regulations. As a result, Chasewood residents were never warned of what Jones calls a real danger to their neighborhood.

The council member noted that one street there has just 21 homes and 14 cases of cancer.

It is why Jones is calling on the city’s mayor and other leaders in public works to create a formal policy that goes farther than what she calls “lax EPA requirements” on notification. Jones suggests if a well ever tests higher than the federal legal limit for radiation, citizens in the surrounding neighborhood would be notified without delay.

The Chasewood community is a largely minority community.

Jones took to authoring newspaper articles in community newspapers such as the African-American News & Issues publication, which describes itself as “Texas’s Widest Circulated and Read Newspaper with a Black Perspective,” calling attention to what she felt were injustices and public-health threats the citizens of Chasewood were exposed to.

More recently, Jones authored a new article in the same publication entitled, “There are more potential Chasewood’s.” She included information about many of the hot-spot wells identified by the USGS report, and urged citizens to “make your voices heard” or risk having nothing done by city leaders, who she feels have not been eager to act.

Houston’s mayor on Wednesday reiterated that Houston does not have to act.

MAYOR PARKER: "We have met every standard the federal government sets."

KHOU: "The federal government has a 'legal' standard which you may meet, but the federally recognized 'health' standard of zero radiation in the water, you don't meet. So I would respectfully ask you one more time, what are you going to do to help get the citizens of Houston closer to meeting that EPA recognized, federally recognized 'health' standard, of zero radiation in the water?"

MAYOR PARKER: "We are going to continue to meet every legal requirement the federal government gives us."

KHOU: "But if it puts you at increased risk for cancer, shouldn't you be striving for more than just the legal requirements?"

MAYOR PARKER: "We will continue to meet every legal standard the federal government gives us."

When Parker asked for any last questions at her Wednesday press conference, KHOU attempted to ask if she would install filtration devices that can remove most radiation at any of the other hot-spot wells that the city wants to keep online for various reasons, but that the USGS identified as having high amounts of radiation.

Parker closed her news conference before answering the question.

An e-mail the mayor’s communications director sent KHOU early Wednesday evening described three wells the city has taken offline to date.

“..the following three wells are not being used: Chasewood, Jersey Village #3, Spring Branch #6,” Janice Evans wrote.
While some highly radioactive wells are beginning to be shut down, still of concern to council members Bradford and Jones are others that remain online. For instance, the wells the city has now shut down in Jersey Village and Spring Branch are not the most radioactive wells in each neighborhood that the USGS draft report identified.

The city shut down Jersey Village well #3, but the USGS report shows Jersey Village #6 as having the highest alpha radiation score of any test performed at any well in this chapter of tests performed by the federal agency in Houston. Similarly, while Houston officials shut down Spring Branch #6 (a well that tested high for arsenic, but not radiation), they left at least three other wells online with more radiation in Spring Branch, including two that are shown on the USGS chart to exceed 15 picocuries (a unit of measurement for radiation).

In all, eight wells shown on the USGS chart that tested at or above the federal legal limit of 15 still remain online and “available for use” in their respective neighborhoods. No filtration of any kind has been installed at any of these nine wells. They are: Sims Bayou #2, D-123 #1, Southwest #3A, Park Ten #1, Spring Branch #1SB, Spring Branch #4, Katy Addicks #9, and Jersey Village #6.

(Note: the USGS inserted the “MCL” dotted line on the chart as a reference only. The USGS, which is a non regulatory agency, performs tests for radioactive contaminants strictly based off scientific examinations of exposure to certain contaminants.)

For regulatory purposes, the EPA allows water utilities to deduct uranium, an alpha emitter, from “gross” alpha readings. Many scientists believe this regulatory deduction is inappropriate. Uranium is a radioactive element that increases risks for cancer and can also be toxic to the kidneys.

KHOU’s fight with the city to get more information about your cancer risks

KHOU has actively attempted to obtain maps which would allow us to tell you, for each of the eight wells listed above, exactly which neighborhoods and which streets are affected by the wells identified above, or any amount of radiation.

We believe you have a basic right to know if you live in an area served by a radioactive well. The information is something you might use to protect yourself, in the event you believe your health may be at risk from drinking water with radioactive contaminants.

KHOU filed a public information request to obtain these maps from the city. They are maps that officials showed KHOU briefly during a meeting at City Hall, prior to our reporting on radiation in Houston’s water supply.

While we requested copies of those maps, so we could examine them closer and share them with you, city officials are now actively fighting our attempts to get these maps. They claim that “terrorists” could use them to harm you.

Ironically, the city has already released similar maps of a well they have since closed down, maps that show where Chasewood well water reached. Included in the “affected area,” as described in emails released along with the map by the city, was the street council member Jones described as having 14 cancers in just 21 homes.

The city is fighting the release of similar maps that show water coverage areas only from wells that it has not yet shut down. The city has asked their attorneys to file a brief with the Texas Attorney General, trying to get that office to deny KHOU’s public-records request.

KHOU's legal counsel believes the maps are basic examples of public records that public citizens are entitled to in order to make important health decisions for their family. KHOU’s attorneys are actively fighting the city’s appeal in the attempt to help KHOU bring you this information.