Toxic Intervention: Are NATO Forces Poisoning Libya with Depleted Uranium as They 'Protect' Civilians?

President Obama’s criminal launch of an undeclared and Congressionally unauthorized war against Libya may be compounded by the crime of spreading toxic uranium oxide in populated areas of that country.

This is latest concern of groups like the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons, which monitor the military use of so-called depleted-uranium (DU) anti-tank and bunker-penetrating shells.

Images of Libyan civilians and rebels celebrating around the burning hulks of the Libyan army’s tanks and armored personnel carriers, which had been hit by US, French and British aircraft ordnance in the early hours of the US-led assault on the forces of Col. Muammar Gaddafy, could well have been unknowingly inhaling the deadly dust of the uranium weapons favored by Western military forces for anti-tank warfare.

Libyan rebels celebrate on burning Gaddafy military vehicle may be inhaling toxic uranium oxideLibyan rebels celebrating on burned-out Gaddafy military vehicle may be unknowingly inhaling toxic uranium oxide

Specifically, the British-built Harrier jets used by British naval air forces and also by US Marine pilots, are often equipped with pod-mounted cannons that fire 20 mm shells–shells that often have uranium projectiles designed to penetrate heavy armor.

So far, the US has not introduced its A-10 Thunderbolts, known also as Warthogs, into the Libyan campaign, probably because these sub-sonic, straight-wing craft, while heavily armored, are vulnerable to shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles which Libyan forces are known to possess in large numbers. Once the air-control situation is improved by continued bombardment, however, these specialized ground-attack aircraft will probably be added to the attacking forces. The A-10 has a particularly large automatic cannon which fires an unusually large 30 mm shell. These shells are often fitted with solid uranium projectiles for attacking tanks, APCs or groups of fighters holed up in concrete bunkers.

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UPDATE (3/31/11)! The US has now begun flying A-10s over Libya, which means it is even more likely that DU shells are being used against Gaddafy’s armor and military emplacements.

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CIA Contractor Raymond Davis Sprung from Murder Rap in Pakistan after US Pays 'Blood Money'

 
Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor indicted for the murder of two young Pakistani motorcyclists, whom he gunned down in the back in broad daylight through his car windshield in a busy section of Lahore, Pakistan, has been freed, after the payment of $2.34 million in “blood money,” called diyya, to relatives of the two slain men.

The surprise “deal,” which Pakistani news reports are saying appears to have been forced on the relatives of the two men, who up to March 15 had insisted they wanted no blood money but only justice, was announced in a court session March 16 in Lahore, at which the prosecution’s case of murder was to have been presented.
There were angry protests in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad on word of the pardon of DavisThere were angry protests in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad on word of the pardon of Davis
 

Both the US Ambassador, who expressed regret for the killings and gratitude to the victims’ families for their “generosity” in agreeing to the pardon, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, denied that they had paid any blood money for a deal, but that did not mean the CIA didn’t put up the cash. The New York Times (which withheld for two weeks at the behest of the White House information it had that Davis was a CIA contractor, even as it reported the official US lie that he was a “diplomat”) is reporting that a “new” counsel” representing the families of Davis’s victims, Raja Irshad, is saying the blood money was paid by the Pakistani government, but it, and the Wall Street Journal, are both also reporting that the US is reimbursing Pakistan. A more likely ultimate source of the funds is the CIA, which operates with a “black budget,” free of outside scrutiny.

The integrity of this “deal” is in question, though, with Pakistani media reporting that the two families suspiciously “went missing” several days before the hearing, with some having been seen taken away by unidentified men. They were delivered, also by unidentified men, to the court the day of the hearing, where each was asked by the judge if they pardoned Davis, and if they had received the blood money required under the country’s Sharia Law. Each reportedly replied affirmatively to both questions.

The 19 have subsequently vanished, leading to charges in Pakistan that they were compelled to accept a deal, and have subsequently left the country, fearing retaliation from groups that were demanding that Davis face trial for murder.

Hate to Say It, but We Told You So!

It seems rather silly now, doesn’t it, all the US concern about terrorism?

The nuclear crisis in Japan, which continues to worsen, threatens to become a total multiple meltdown, combined with the perhaps even more disastrous explosion and fire in one or several spent fuel rod ponds. If any of these things happen, not to mention many of them, several hundred square miles of Japan would be rendered indefinitely uninhabitable, costing hundreds of billions of dollars. And it could be worse. If the winds are blowing south during such a disaster, all of Tokyo, which has a metropolitan population of over 30 million, could have to be evacuated.

A study by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission back in 1997, found that one spend fuel disaster could devastate almost 200 square miles of the US, and cause half a trillion dollars in damage!

And we’re spending hundreds of billions of dollars a year chasing after a few thousand ragtag Taliban fighters and supposedly pursuing a few hundred Arab terrorists, most of whom are fighting back with their shoes and their underwear?

So where is the real risk to America’s security?

Well, for starters, we could consider the 23 nuclear plants currently operating in the US that were built by General Electric using the same basic flawed design as those that are blowing up in Fukushima, Japan right now. Those plants, which are located in my state of Pennsylvania, as well as everywhere from Alabama to Nebraska and Vermont, are as much as 40 years old. They are only still in operation today because the NRC is such an industry-captive regulator that it has granted them long license extensions running way past their sell-by date. It has even given many of them the okay to run at capacities exceeding 100% of design standards!

There are other plants, also creaky with age, such as the ones in San Onofre and Diablo Canyon, California, which were knowingly built within a few miles of major earthquake faults–faults which could produce earthquakes on a scale of the one that just hit Japan. Both those facilities were designed to allegedly be able to survive (when new) a 7.5 quake. That was an untestable assertion of faith, but in any case, with an 8, an 8.5 or a 9, all bets would be off.

The Idiocy and Hubris of Engineers: Will GE Get Whacked for the Catastrophic Failure of its Nuke Plants in Fukushima?

GE, the company that boasts that it “brings good things to life,” was the designer of the nuclear plants that are blowing up like hot popcorn kernels at the Fukushima Dai-ichi generating plant north of Tokyo that was hit by the double-whammy of a 9.0 earthquake and a huge tsunami.

The company may escape tens or hundreds of billions of dollars in liability from this continuing disaster, which could still result in a catastrophic total meltdown of one or more of the reactors (as of this writing three of the reactors are reported to have suffered explosions and partial meltdowns, and all could potentially become more serious total meltdowns with a rupture of the reactor container), thanks to Japanese law, which makes the operator–in this case Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) liable. But if it were found that it was design flaws by GE that caused the problem, presumably TEPCO or the Japanese government could pursue GE for damages.

In fact, the design of these facilities–a design which, it should be noted, was also used in 23 nuclear plants operating in the US in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Vermont–appear to have included serious flaws, from a safety perspective.

The drawings of the plants in question, called Mark I Reactors, provide no way for venting hydrogen gas from the containment buildings, despite the fact that one of the first things that happens in the event of a cooling failure is the massive production of hydrogen gas by the exposed fuel rods in the core. This is why three of the nuclear generator buildings at Fukushima Dai-ichi have exploded with tremendous force blasting off the roof and walls of the structures, and damaging control equipment needed to control the reactors.

One would have thought that design engineers at GE would have thought about that fact, and provided venting systems for any hydrogen gas being vented in an emergency into the building. But no. They didn’t.
 A second GE nuclear reactor building at Fukushima Dai-ishi suffers a hydrogen gas explosion.There goes the neighborhood: A second GE nuclear reactor building at Fukushima Dai-ishi suffers a hydrogen gas explosion.

Word Games: Most US Media Hide an American Atrocity in Afghanistan Behind 'NATO' and Fudge the Victims' Ages

The people of Afghanistan know who was flying the two helicopter gunships that brutally hunted down and slaughtered, one by one, nine boys apparently as young as seven years old, as they gathered firewood on a hillside March 1. In angry demonstrations after the incident, they were shouting “Death to America.”

Americans are still blissfully unaware that their “heroes” in uniform are guilty of this obscene massacre. The ovine US corporate media has been reporting on this story based upon a gutless press release from the Pentagon which attributes the “mistake” to “NATO” helicopters.

The thing is, this terrible incident occurred in the Pech Valley in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, where US forces have for several years been battling Taliban forces, and from which region they are now in the process of withdrawing. Clearly then, it is US, and not “NATO” helicopters which have been responding to calls to attack “suspected Taliban forces.”

So why can’t the Pentagon say that? And if they won’t say that, why won’t American reporters either demand that they clearly state the nationality of whatever troops commit an atrocity, or exercise due diligence themselves and figure it out?

There is a second issue too. Most publications appear to have followed the lead of the highly compromised New York Times, and are going with the Pentagon line that the boys who were killed were aged 9-15. That’s bad enough. It’s hard to see how helicopter pilots with their high-resolution imaging equipment, cannot tell a 9-year-old boy when they see one, from a bearded Taliban fighter. But at least one news organization, the McClachy chain, is reporting that the ages of the boys who were murdered from the air were 7-13. If that latter range of ages is correct, then it is all the more outrageous that they were picked off one by one by helicopter gunners. No way could they have mistaken a 7-year-old for an adult.
 Taking out little boys in AfghanistanUS helicopter gunship: Taking out little boys in Afghanistan

Madison a Foretaste of Things to Come: The Next Big Occupation Could be Boomers Taking Over the Capitol Building

The dramatic and inspiring occupation of the Wisconsin Statehouse in Madison by angry public workers and their supporters over the past few weeks is an exciting preview of what we can expect to see in the halls of Congress before long, as right-wing forces, funded by corporate lobbies and corporate-funded think-tanks push hard for cutbacks in Social Security and Medicare.

The drive to undermine these two critically important social programs is moving into high gear as the 79-million Baby Boomers this year start to reach eligibility, even as their other assets–their homes and their investment portfolios–are still shriveled by the Wall Street heist known as the “fiscal crisis” and Great Recession.

For years, the right has been gravely warning of the supposedly looming “bankruptcy” of Social Security and the even more imminent “bankruptcy” of Medicare, as though these twin disasters for the elderly were an actuarial imperative. In fact, both programs are political creations, whose problems have political causes and political solutions.

Social Security is starting to draw down the huge reserves it had built up, not because of an increase in retirees (the bulge in retirees hasn’t hit yet), but because the share of national income that is subject to the Social Security FICA tax has fallen, from 90% back in the 1980s to just 84% now, as the wealthy have appropriated an increasingly large share of the total national income. If more of the income of the rich were slapped with the FICA tax, to bring the total share of income subject to FICA back to 90%, there would be plenty of money to pay promised benefits into the foreseeable future. The same can be said of Medicare. More taxes on the rich would ensure the funding of that program too.

There is no inherent reason why only the first $106,000 of a person’s income should be subject to the FICA tax. It could be the first $200,000, or the first $500,000, and if it were the latter, we could be talking about improving benefits for retirees, or lowering the retirement age, not just preserving current levels. Benefits could be better still if investment income were no longer exempted from a FICA tax (and the Medicare tax).

But here’s the big point: Corporate America, and its political lackeys in the Republican and Democratic Parties, know that they are about to confront a dramatically more powerful protagonist in their campaign to kill Social Security and Medicare: the Boomer Retirees.
Next time, angry Boomer retirees occupying the Capital Rotunda in DC?Next time, angry Boomer retirees occupying the Capital Rotunda in DC?

Davis Arrest Throws US Undercover Campaign in Pakistan into Disarray

The ongoing case of Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor facing murder charges in Lahore for the execution-style slaying of two apparent agents of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, is apparently leading to a roll-back of America’s espionage and Special Operations activities in Pakistan.

A few days ago, Pakistan’s Interior Department, which is reportedly conducting a careful review of the hundreds of private US contractors who flooded into Pakistan over the last two years, many with “diplomatic passports,” and many others, like Davis, linked to shady “security” firms, arrested an American security contractor named Aaron DeHaven, a Virginia native who claims to work for a company called Catalyst Services LLC.

The Catalyst Services LLC website describes the company, with offices in Afghanistan, Dubai, the US and Pakistan, as having experience in “logistics, operations, security and finance,” and as having a staff led by “individuals who have been involved in some of the most significant events of the last 20 years,” including “the break-up of the Soviet Union, the US effort in Somalia, and the Global War on Terror.”

DeHaven is being held on a 14-day remand, charged with overstaying his visa and with living in an unauthorized area.

Meanwhile, the English-language Express Tribune in Pakistan reports that according to ISI sources, 30 “suspected US operatives” in Pakistan have “suspended” their operations in the country, while 12 have fled the country.

The paper quotes the Pakistan Foreign Office as saying that 851 Americans claiming diplomatic immunity are currently in Pakistan, 297 of whom are “not working in any diplomatic capacity.” The paper says that the country’s Interior Department claims that 414 of the total are “non-diplomats.” The majority of these American operatives, the paper says, are located in Islamabad (where the US is building a huge fortress-like embassy reminiscent of the one in Baghdad), with the others in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar. Most are suspected of being involved in covert missions that report to the US Joint Special Operations Command, with many suspected of being active-duty Special Forces personnel from the Army’s Delta Force. (The website of the JSOC says its responsibility is “synchronizing Department of Defense plans against global terrorist networks and, as directed, conducting global operations.”)
Aaron DeHaven, a US "security" contractor arrested and held by Pakistani authoritiesAaron DeHaven, a US "security" contractor arrested and held by Pakistani authorities

Pakistani and Indian Newspapers Say US CIA Contractor Raymond Davis is a Terrorist

Pakistani and Indian newspapers are reporting that Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor in jail in Lahore facing murder charges for the execution-slayings of two young men believed to by Pakistani intelligence operatives, was actually involved in organizing terrorist activities in Pakistan.

As the Express Tribune, an English-language daily that is linked to the International Herald Tribune, reported on Feb. 22:

“The Lahore killings were a blessing in disguise for our security agencies who suspected that Davis was masterminding terrorist activities in Lahore and other parts of Punjab,” a senior official in the Punjab Police claimed.

“His close ties with the TTP [the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan] were revealed during the investigations,” he added. “Davis was instrumental in recruiting young people from Punjab for the Taliban to fuel the bloody insurgency.” Call records of the cellphones recovered from Davis have established his links with 33 Pakistanis, including 27 militants from the TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi sectarian outfit, sources said.

The article goes on to explain a motive for why the US, which on the one hand has been openly pressing Pakistan to move militarily against Taliban forces in the border regions abutting Afghanistan, would have a contract agent actively encouraging terrorist acts within Pakistan, saying:

Davis was also said to be working on a plan to give credence to the American notion that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are not safe. For this purpose, he was setting up a group of the Taliban which would do his bidding.

According to a report in the Economic Times of India, a review by police investigators of calls placed by Davis on some of the cell phones found on his person and in his rented Honda Civic after the shooting showed calls to 33 Pakistanis, including 27 militants from the banned Pakistani Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an group identified as terrorist organization by both the US and Pakistan, which has been blamed for the assassination of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and for the brutal slaying of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. (You’d think this would be a big story for the Wall Street Journal, especially on the editorial page, but so far, there has been no mention of it in Murdoch’s rag.)
CIA man Raymond Davis keeps some pretty nasty company in Pakistan.CIA man Raymond Davis keeps some pretty nasty company in Pakistan.