Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Torture Is Back In The News As War Criminals Are Being Rounded Up And New Wars Are Being Planned.

Torture Is Back In The News As War Criminals Are Being Rounded Up And New Wars Are Being Planned.

By Allen McDuffee

In an op-ed in today’s LA Times, Cato legal policy analyst David Rittgers says we’ll never know the real effects of waterboarding, so it’s time to “get over it.”
There is no way to prove or disprove the real worth of America’s experiment with waterboarding and coercive techniques. More important, enhanced interrogation isn’t coming back.
But that hasn’t stopped former Vice President Dick Cheney from insisting that the Obama administration should reinstate waterboarding and other coercive interrogation techniques.
It’s a routine critique by Cheney that Rittgers is aware of, but suggests that Cheney is “mostly feuding with decisions made by his old boss, not the current commander in chief.” It is not clear how Rittgers knows this about Cheney, who made no mention of Bush in his most recent iteration of this view on the May 8, 2011 edition of “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace.
It may well be the case that Cheney has unfinished business with Bush over dropping the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, but it is at least a selective reading for Rittgers to suggest that Cheney’s words are not directed at Obama with the hope that they carry political consequences for the administration. It is unlikely that even Cheney himself would make such a suggestion.
Hacktivists Scorch PBS in Retaliation for WikiLeaks Documentary ... - wired.com

Is the Libyan war legal?  Was Bin Laden’s killing legal?  Is it legal for the president of the United States to target an American citizen for assassination?  Were those “enhanced interrogation techniques” legal? These are all questions raised in recent weeks.  Each seems to call out for debate, for answers.  Or does it?
Now, you couldn’t call me a legal scholar.  I’ve never set foot inside a law school, and in 66 years only made it onto a single jury (dismissed before trial when the civil suit was settled out of court).  Still, I feel at least as capable as any constitutional law professor of answering such questions. 
My answer is this: they are irrelevant.  Think of them as twentieth-century questions that don't begin to come to grips with twenty-first century American realities.  In fact, think of them, and the very idea of a nation based on the rule of law, as a reflection of nostalgia for, or sentimentality about, a long-lost republic.  At least in terms of what used to be called “foreign policy,” and more recently “national security,” the United States is now a post-legal society.  (And you could certainly includein this mix the too-big-to-jail financial and corporate elite.)
It’s easy enough to explain what I mean. If, in a country theoretically organized under the rule of law, wrongdoers are never brought to justice and nobody is held accountable for possibly serious crimes, then you don’t have to be a constitutional law professor to know that its citizens actually exist in a post-legal state.  If so, “Is it legal?” is the wrong question to be asking, even if we have yet to discover the right one.
Pretzeled Definitions of Torture
Of course, when it came to a range of potential Bush-era crimes -- the use of torture, the running of offshore “black sites,” the extraordinary rendition of terrorist suspects to lands where they would be tortured, illegal domestic spying and wiretapping, and the launching of wars of aggression -- it’s hardly news that no one of the slightest significance has ever been brought to justice.  On taking office, President Obama offered a clear formula for dealing with this issue.  He insisted that Americans should “look forward, not backward” and turn the page on the whole period, and then set his Justice Department to work on other matters.  But honestly, did anyone anywhere ever doubt that no Bush-era official would be brought to trial here for such potential crimes?
Everyone knows that in the United States if you’re a robber caught breaking into someone’s house, you’ll be brought to trial, but if you’re caught breaking into someone else’s country, you’ll be free to take to the lecture circuit, write your memoirs, or become a university professor.
Of all the “debates” over legality in the Bush and Obama years, the torture debate has perhaps been the most interesting, and in some ways, the most realistic.  After 9/11, the Bush administration quickly turned to a crew of hand-picked Justice Department lawyers to create the necessary rationale for what its officials most wanted to do -- in their quaint phrase, “take the gloves off.”  And those lawyers responded with a set of pseudo-legalisms that put various methods of “information extraction” beyond the powers of the Geneva Conventions, the U.N.’s Convention Against Torture (signed by President Ronald Reagan and ratified by the Senate), and domestic anti-torture legislation, including the War Crimes Act of 1996 (passed by a Republican Congress).
In the process, they created infamously pretzled new definitions for acts previously accepted as torture.  Among other things, they essentially left the definition of whether an act was torture or not to the torturer (that is, to what he believed he was doing at the time).  In the process, acts that had historically been considered torture became “enhanced interrogation techniques.”  An example would be waterboarding, which had once been bluntly known as “the water torture” or “the water cure” and whose perpetrators had, in the past, been successfully prosecuted in American military and civil courts.  Such techniques were signed off on after first reportedly being “demonstrated” in the White House to an array of top officials, including the vice-president, the national security adviser, the attorney general, and the secretary of state.
In the U.S. (and here was the realism of the debate that followed), the very issue of legality fell away almost instantly.  Newspapers rapidly replaced the word “torture” -- when applied to what American interrogators did -- with the term “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which was widely accepted as less controversial and more objective.  At the same time, the issue of the legality of such techniques was superseded by a fierce national debate over their efficacy.  It has lasted to this day and returned with a bang with the bin Laden killing.
Nothing better illustrates the nature of our post-legal society.  Anti-torture laws were on the books in this country.  If legality had truly mattered, it would have been beside the point whether torture was an effective way to produce “actionable intelligence” and so prepare the way for the killing of a bin Laden.
By analogy, it’s perfectly reasonable to argue that robbing banks can be a successful and profitable way to make a living, but who would agree that a successful bank robber hadn’t committed an act as worthy of prosecution as an unsuccessful one caught on the spot?  Efficacy wouldn’t matter in a society whose central value was the rule of law.  In a post-legal society in which the ultimate value espoused is the safety and protection a national security state can offer you, it means the world.
As if to make the point, the Supreme Court recently offered a post-legal ruling for our moment: itdeclined to review a lower court ruling that blocked a case in which five men, who had experienced extraordinary rendition (a fancy globalized version of kidnapping) and been turned over to torturing regimes elsewhere by the CIA, tried to get their day in court.  No such luck.  The Obama administration claimed (as had the Bush administration before it) that simply bringing such a case to court would imperil national security (that is, state secrets) -- and won.  As Ben Wizner, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who argued the case, summed matters up, "To date, every victim of the Bush administration's torture regime has been denied his day in court."
To put it another way, every CIA torturer, all those involved in acts of rendition, and all the officials who okayed such acts, as well as the lawyers who put their stamp of approval on them, are free to continue their lives untouched.  Recently, the Obama administration even went to court to “prevent a lawyer for a former CIA officer convicted in Italy in the kidnapping of a radical Muslim cleric from privately sharing classified information about the case with a Federal District Court judge.”  (Yes, Virginia, elsewhere in the world a few Americans have been tried in absentia for Bush-era crimes.)  In response, wrote Scott Shane of theNew York Times, the judge “pronounced herself ‘literally speechless.’”
The realities of our moment are simple enough: other than abusers too low-level (see England, Lynndie and Graner, Charles) to matter to our national security state, no one in the CIA, and certainly no official of any sort, is going to be prosecuted for the possible crimes Americans committed in the Bush years in pursuit of the Global War on Terror.
On Not Blowing Whistles
It’s beyond symbolic, then, that only one figure from the national security world seems to remain in the “legal” crosshairs: the whistle-blower.  If, as the president of the United States, you sign off on a system of warrantless surveillance of Americans -- the sort that not so long ago was against the law in this country -- or if you happen to run a giant telecom company and go along with that system byopening your facilities to government snoops, or if you run the National Security Agency or are an official in it overseeing the kind of data mining and intelligence gathering that goes with such a program, then -- as recent years have made clear -- you are above the law.
If, however, you happen to be an NSA employee who feels that the agency has overstepped the bounds of legality in its dealings with Americans, that it is moving in Orwellian directions, and that it should be exposed, and if you offer even unclassified information to a newspaper reporter, as was the case with Thomas Drake, be afraid, be very afraid.  You may be prosecuted by the Bush and then Obama Justice Departments, and threatened with 35 years in prison under the Espionage Act (not for “espionage,” but for having divulged the most minor of low-grade state secrets in a world in which, increasingly, everything having to do with the state is becoming a secret).
If you are a CIA employee who tortured no one but may have given information damaging to the reputation of the national security state -- in this case about a botched effort to undermine the Iranian nuclear program -- to a journalist, watch out.  You are likely, as in the case of Jeffrey Sterling, to find yourself in a court of law.  And if you happen to be a journalist like James Risenwho may have received that information, you are likely to be hit by a Justice Department subpoena attempting to force you to reveal your source, under threat of imprisonment for contempt of court.
If you are a private in the U.S. military with access to a computer with low-level classified material from the Pentagon’s wars and the State Department’s activities on it, if you’ve seen something of the grim reality of what the national security state looks like when superimposed on Iraq, and if you decide to shine some light on that world, as Bradley Manning did, they’ll toss you into prison and throw away the key.  You’ll be accused of having “blood on your hands” and tried, again under the Espionage Act, by those who actually have blood on their hands and are beyond all accountability.
When it comes to acts of state today, there is only one law: don’t pull up the curtain on the doings of any aspect of our spreading National Security Complex or the imperial executive that goes with it.  As CIA Director Leon Panetta put it in addressing his employees over leaks about the operation to kill bin Laden, “Disclosure of classified information to anyone not cleared for it -- reporters, friends, colleagues in the private sector or other agencies, former Agency officers -- does tremendous damage to our work.  At worst, leaks endanger lives... Unauthorized disclosure of those details not only violates the law, it seriously undermines our capability to do our job."
And when someone in Congress actually moves to preserve some aspect of older notions of American privacy (versus American secrecy), as Senator Rand Paul did recently in reference to the Patriot Act, he is promptly smeared as potentially “giving terrorists the opportunity to plot attacks against our country, undetected."
Enhanced Legal Techniques
Here is the reality of post-legal America: since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the National Security Complex has engorged itself on American fears and grown at a remarkable pace.  According to Top Secret America, a Washington Post series written in mid-2010, 854,000 people have “top secret” security clearances, “33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001... 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks... [and] some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.” 
Just stop a moment to take that in.  And then let this sink in as well: whatever any one of those employees does inside that national security world, no matter how “illegal” the act, it’s a double-your-money bet that he or she will never be prosecuted for it (unless it happens to involve letting Americans know something about just how they are being “protected”).
Consider what it means to have a U.S. Intelligence Community (as it likes to call itself) made up of17 different agencies and organizations, a total that doesn’t even include all the smaller intelligence offices in the National Security Complex, which for almost 10 years proved incapable of locating its global enemy number one.  Yet, as everyone now agrees, that man was living in something like plain sight, exchanging messages with and seeing colleagues in a military and resort town near Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.  And what does it mean that, when he was finally killed, it was celebrated as a vast intelligence victory?
The Intelligence Community with its $80 billion-plus budget, the National Security Complex, including the Pentagon and that post-9/11 creation, the Department of Homeland Security, with its$1.2 trillion-plus budget, and the imperial executive have thrived in these years.  They have all expanded their powers and prerogatives based largely on the claim that they are protecting the American people from potential harm from terrorists out to destroy our world.
Above all, however, they seem to have honed a single skill: the ability to protect themselves, as well as the lobbyists and corporate entities that feed off them.  They have increased their funds and powers, even as they enveloped their institutions in a penumbra of secrecy.  The power of this complex of institutions is still on the rise, even as the power and wealth of the country it protects is visibly in decline.
Now, consider again the question “Is it legal?” When it comes to any act of the National Security Complex, it’s obviously inapplicable in a land where the rule of law no longer applies to everyone.  If you are a ordinary citizen, of course, it applies to you, but not if you are part of the state apparatus that officially protects you.  The institutional momentum behind this development is simple enough to demonstrate: it hardly mattered that, after George W. Bush took off those gloves, the next president elected was a former constitutional law professor.
Think of the National Security Complex as the King George of the present moment.  In the areas that matter to that complex, Congress has ever less power and, as in the case of the war in Libya or the Patriot Act, is ever more ready to cede what power it has left.
So democracy?  The people’s representatives?  How quaint in a world in which our real rulers are unelected, shielded by secrecy, and supported by a carefully nurtured, almost religious attitudetoward security and the U.S. military.
The National Security Complex has access to us, to our lives and communications, though we have next to no access to it.  It has, in reserve, those enhanced interrogation techniques and when trouble looms, a set of what might be called enhanced legal techniques as well.  It has the ability to make war at will (or whim).  It has a growing post-9/11 secret army cocooned inside the military: 20,000 or more troops in special operations outfits like the SEAL team that took down bin Laden, also enveloped in secrecy.  In addition, it has the CIA and a fleet of armed drone aircraft ready to conduct its wars and operations globally in semi-secrecy and without the permission or oversight of the American people or their representatives. 
And war, of course, is the ultimate aphrodisiac for the powerful.
Theoretically, the National Security Complex exists only to protect you.  Its every act is done in the name of making you safer, even if the idea of safety and protection doesn’t extend to your job, your foreclosed home, or aid in disastrous times.
Welcome to post-legal America.  It's time to stop wondering whether its acts are illegal and start asking: Do you really want to be this “safe”?
Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. His latest book is The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s (Haymarket Books).
Copyright 2011 Tom Engelhardt
LaurenLaCapra: Who needs Wikileaks? Artist hands NYT a randomly found computer with Fabrice Tourre's emails streaming into it:
From a Goldman Sachs Mortgage Team, a Single Court Case - NYTimes.com - nytimes.com

Right-wing Unleashes Campaign Against Democracy in Latin America
Upside Down World
The Heritage Foundation and Hudson Institute, right-wing Washington think tank powerhouses also co-sponsored along with the Venezuelan opposition group Liberenlos Ya!, something called Secure Free Society which does not appear to have a web page

The Mysterious Robert Gates

Special Report: Defense Secretary Robert Gates is leaving the Pentagon as a Washington “wise man,” admired by both Republicans and Democrats for his supposed judgment and integrity. But does he deserve that reputation — or is he just an especially clever manipulator of the political process? Robert Parry examines Gates’s real record.

The Reality of Robert Gates

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is leaving government with accolades from all over Official Washington. Only a few dissenting voices note that the reality of Gates’s four-plus years at the Pentagon’s helm doesn’t match the image, as former CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar observes in this guest essay.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pakistan Problems, Egyptian Voice, Wisconsin Infighting,Vermont Healthcare, Fukushima Nuclear Flood, War Criminals. There Is Oil In The Arctic And We Intend To Have It!

Pakistan Problems, Egyptian Voice, Wisconsin Infighting, Vermont Healthcare,Fukushima Nuclear Flood, War Criminals. There Is Oil In The Arctic And We Intend To Have It!

Pakistan Shuts Down U.S. 'Intelligence Fusion' Cells

Pakistan also tells the U.S. to cut back its troops in the country, in a move amid deepening mistrust after the U.S. raid to kill Osama bin Laden and a CIA contractor's shooting of two Pakistani men. Joints Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen heads to Pakistan for talks.

Reporting from Washington—

In a clear sign of Pakistan's deepening mistrust of the United States, Islamabad has told the Obama administration to reduce the number of U.S. troops in the country and has moved to close three military intelligence liaison centers, setting back American efforts to eliminate insurgent sanctuaries in largely lawless areas bordering Afghanistan, U.S. officials said.

The liaison centers, also known as intelligence fusion cells, in Quetta and Peshawar are the main conduits for the United States to share satellite imagery, target data and other intelligence with Pakistani ground forces conducting operations against militants, including Taliban fighters who slip into Afghanistan to attack U.S. and allied forces.

U.S. special operations units have relied on the three facilities, two in Peshawar and one in Quetta, to help coordinate operations on both sides of the border, senior U.S. officials said. The U.S. units are now being withdrawn from all three sites, the officials said, and the centers are being shut down.

It wasn't immediately clear whether the steps are permanent. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flew Thursday to Pakistan for a hastily arranged meeting with Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, the head of the Pakistani army. A Pentagon official said the two will probably discuss Pakistan's demands for a smaller U.S. military presence.

The closures, which have not been publicly announced, remove U.S. advisors from the front lines of the war against militant groups in Pakistan. U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeusspearheaded the effort to increase the U.S. presence in the border areas two years ago out of frustration with Pakistan's failure to control the militants.

The collapse of the effort will probably hinder the Obama administration's efforts to gradually push Pakistan toward conducting ground operations against insurgent strongholds in North Waziristan and elsewhere, U.S. officials said.

The Pakistani decision has not affected the CIA's ability to launch missiles from drone aircraft in northwest Pakistan. Those flights, which the CIA has never publicly acknowledged, receive assistance from Pakistan through intelligence channels separate from the fusion centers, current and former officials said.

The move to close the three facilities, plus a recent written demand by Pakistan to reduce the number of U.S. military personnel in the country from approximately 200, signals mounting anger in Pakistan over a series of incidents.

In January, Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor, shot dead two men in Lahore who he said were attempting to rob him. He was arrested on charges of murder but was released and left the country in mid-March, prompting violent protests in several cities.

Soon after, Pakistan ordered several dozen U.S. special operations trainers to leave the country in what U.S. officials believe was retaliation for the Davis case, according to a senior U.S. military officer.

Then, on May 2, five U.S. helicopters secretly entered Pakistani airspace and a team of U.S. Navy SEALs killedOsama bin Laden and four others at a compound inAbbottabad, a military garrison city near the capital, Islamabad. The raid deeply embarrassed Pakistan's military and inflamed anti-U.S. sentiment across the country.

Javed Hussain, a retired Pakistani brigadier, blamed the decision to close the three intelligence centers on the mistrust that has plagued U.S.-Pakistani relations in recent months. Washington's decision to carry out the raid against Bin Laden without informing Pakistan's security establishment brought that mistrust to a new low, he said.

"There is lot of discontent within Pakistan's armed forces with regard to the fact they've done so much in the war on terror, and yet they are not trusted," Hussain said. "Particularly after the Abbottabad raid … the image of the armed forces in the eyes of the people has gone down. And they hold the U.S. responsible."

The two intelligence centers in Peshawar were set up in 2009, one with the Pakistani army's 11th Corps and the other with the paramilitary Frontier Corps, which are both headquartered in the city, capital of the troubled Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

The third fusion cell was opened last year at the Pakistani army's 12th Corps headquarters in Quetta, a city long used by Taliban fighters to mount attacks in Afghanistan's southern provinces. U.S. troops have staffed the Quetta facility only intermittently, U.S. officials said.

The closures have effectively stopped the U.S. training of the Frontier Corps, a force that American officials had hoped could help halt infiltration of Taliban and other militants into Afghanistan, a senior U.S. military officer said.

The Frontier Corps' facility in Peshawar, staffed by a handful of U.S. special operations personnel, was located at Bala Hissar, an old fort, according to a classified U.S. Embassy cable from 2009 that was recently made public by WikiLeaks.

The cable, which was first disclosed by Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, hinted at U.S. hopes that special operations teams would be allowed to join the paramilitary units and the Special Services Group, a Pakistani army commando unit, in operations against militants.

"We have created Intelligence Fusion cells with embedded U.S. Special Forces with both the SSG and Frontier Corps" at Bala Hissar, Peshawar, the 2009 cable says. "But we have not been given Pakistani military permission to accompany the Pakistani forces on deployments as yet. Through these embeds, we are assisting the Pakistanis [to] collect and coordinate existing intelligence assets."

Another U.S. Embassy cable said that a "U.S. Special Operations Command Force" was providing the Frontier Corps with "imagery, target packages and operational planning" in a campaign against Taliban insurgents in Lower Dir, an area of northwest Pakistan considered an insurgent stronghold.

In September 2009, then U.S. ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, wrote in another classified messagethat the fusion cells provided "enhanced capacity to share real-time intelligence with units engaged in counter-insurgency operations" and were "a significant step forward for the Pakistan military."

The intelligence fusion cell in Quetta was not nearly as active as the facilities in Peshawar, current and former U.S. officials said. Pakistan has long resisted pressure to intensify operations against Taliban militants in Quetta. The city, capital of Baluchistan, is outside the tribal area, which explains Pakistan's reluctance to permit a permanent U.S. military presence, a U.S. official said.

Despite the ongoing tensions, Pakistani authorities have agreed to allow a CIA team to inspect the compound where Bin Laden was killed, according to a U.S. official. The Pakistanis have signaled they will allow U.S. intelligence analysts to examine documents and other material that Pakistani authorities found at the site.

A U.S. official briefed on intelligence matters said the reams of documents and electronic data that the SEALs seized at the compound have sparked "dozens" of intelligence investigations and have produced new insights into schisms among Al Qaeda leaders.


Times staff writers Alex Rodriguez in Islamabad and Ken Dilanian in Washington contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON -- A Wisconsin judge struck down the state's controversial anti-collective bargaining law on Thursday, but Democratic state senators say that doesn't mean the measure won't still go into effect.
Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi ruled that Republican legislators violated Wisconsin's open meeting law when passing the measure, which strips most public employees in the state of collective bargaining rights. A March 9 committee meeting on the measure, concluded Sumi, was "held on less than two hours notice in a location that was not open and accessible to citizens."
"Judge Sumi's ruling today speaks for itself, the Republicans' actions violated the law," said state Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) in a statement. "Today we see the price of the Republicans refusing to negotiate and putting their partisan political advantage ahead of the best interests of the people of Wisconsin."
Senate Republicans rushed to pass the anti-union bill on March 9, while their Democratic colleagues were still out of town. Democrats had left the state to deny their Republican colleagues the quorum needed to pass budget-related measures. But in an unexpected move, Walker and the Republican lawmakers split their bill into two, allowing the non-budget collective bargaining measure to fly through with no Democrats in the room.

The state Supreme Court has scheduled arguments for June 6 to determine whether it will take the case. If it decides to do so, both Republicans and Democrats widely believe that based on the court's ideological make-up, the law will be upheld
"If [Republicans] can get a Supreme Court appeal, I know we'll lose on that," said state Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee).
But it may not even make it that far; Republicans may not be able to appeal to higher courts in this instance. That's because, as a Democratic state Senate aide explained, Republicans asserted legislative immunity so they would not be party to the case when it was initially considered. Democrats, instead, took up the defense, so as to allow a legal challenge to come forward.
So without a member of the defense interested in an appeal (the Democrats certainly won't petition for one), it's not entirely clear how the case moves forward.
"They have problems, as I understand it," said the aide.
This doesn't mean that the anti-collective bargaining provision is now dead in the water. Democrats widely expect Republicans in the state legislature to simply attempt to re-pass the measure as law, and this time, the Democratic state senators won't be leaving the state to slow down the process.
"There's nothing that we can do," said state Sen. Jim Holperin (D-Conover). "Republicans have the votes to do this, and if they choose to do it, they can and they will."
"We left the state to slow the bill down and to give the state a chance to be aware of what's in it," explained state Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville). "I guess by any standard we accomplished that. ... That need no longer exists; everyone knows about it."
The only way the outcome could change, Carpenter believes, is if some of the Republican senators facing recall elections change their minds.
"Are these Republicans who voted wrong and being recalled, are they going to change? Are they going to adopt amendments? ... There's a lot of screwy things in that bill," Carpenter said. "Again, they could go back and not eliminate collective bargaining and just go ahead with the concessions that the public employee unions wanted, without going ahead and throwing out the baby."
Kelly Steele, spokesman for the pro-union coalition We Are Wisconsin, said Republican senators now "have one last chance to abandon Walker's rapidly-sinking ship or be held to account in the upcoming elections."
Cullen predicted that Republicans will try to insert the collective bargaining measure into the bi-annual budget bill that is currently making its way through the legislature and expected to pass by July 1.
"The Republicans have already had this option available, since it was first taken to court, because it was stopped not by the substance of the bill but by the way it was passed," said Cullen of a possible do-over by his Senate GOP colleagues. "So they've always had the option to pass again. They haven't wanted to do it that way; they prefer to have won in the courts. But what's clear to me is they intend to have this be the law of Wisconsin by July 1. So the only clear option they could get done for sure is put it in the budget bill."
Walker's office did not return a request for comment.
This story was updated with comments from Sen. Tim Cullen and Kelly Steele.
By The Huffington Post News Editors
The single-payer concept was omitted from the federal health care overhaul championed by President Barack Obama, in part due to Republican criticism it meant excessive government control. Progressives in Vermont, including Shumlin and ...
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Historically, Vermont does two things best: maple syrup and progressive politics. The nation's leading producer of the popular waffle-topping today became the nation's only provider of single-payer health care for all. Earlier this afternoon, Vermont governor Peter Shumlin signed into law a plan meant to transform the private-run health insurance industry into a the nation's first government-funded, government-run health care system that offers a uniform benefit package to every eligible resident.
The first phase of the law will extend coverage to all 620,000 Vermonters through the option to participate in the state health benefits exchange called Green Mountain Care, which Reuters reports, "will set reimbursement rates for health care providers and streamline administration into a single, unified system." Per a federal mandate (read: Obamacare) the exchange will offer coverage from private insurers as well as state-sponsored and multi-state plans. The plan also calls for tax credits to make coverage affordable for low-income residents.
Howard Dean is flipping out right now. But probably in a good way. After all, the last time Vermont garnered national attention for health care was 2004 during his presidential bid. Dean had made some assertive moves towards a single-payer system by expanding public insurance eligibility with measures that would alter be adopted by Obama's health care reform legislation. But as Dr. David Gratzer indicates in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Dean's attempt to level the playing field for policy pricing had little effect on the number of uninsured in the state.
Even worse, accelerating health care costs for the state actually accelerated even faster. Perhaps as a result Shumlin placed cost containment at center stage in his new, methodical and very drawn out plan. With the deadline for the first financing plan to be delivered to legislators by 2013, Green Mountain Care would likely not make an appearance until 2014.
Based on Amy Goodman's read of today's ground-breaking legislation, the fact that Vermonters will have to wait a little longer is hardly the point. After listing Vermont's historic firsts--the first to ban slavery in their 1777 constitution, the first state to shutter a nuclear power plant in the name of environmental policy, the first state to legalize same sex unions--she points out that precedent shows how the Green Mountain State's bold move will reverberate throughout the country:
Vermont has become an incubator for innovative public policy. Canada's single payer healthcare system started as an experiment in one province, Saskatchewan. It was pushed through in the early 1960s by Saskatchewan's premier, Tommy Douglas, considered by many to be the greatest Canadian. It was so successful, it was rapidly adopted by all of Canada. (Douglas is the grandfather of actor Kiefer Sutherland.) Perhaps Vermont's healthcare law will start a similar, national transformation.

Goodman also tempers fears about the cost laid out by Gratzer in his op-ed. Under the advice of Harvard economist William Hsiao, a single payer system like the one signed into law today "will produce savings of 24.3% of total health expenditure between 2015 and 2024." Shumlin pointed to the fiscal underpinnings of the state's health care reform but said firmly that it meant more than that. "We have a moral imperative to fix this problem, with 47,000 Vermonters uninsured and another 150,000 underinsured and worried about how to afford keeping their families healthy," he said.
Want to add to this story? Comments (11)  below or send the author of this post, Adam Clark Estes, an email. Have a hot tip or story idea? Let us know on the Open Wire.

Vermont Gives the 'Public Option' a Clinical Trial, David Gratzer, Wall Street Journal

New Leak Suspected at Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant

May 26, 2011 by legitgov

New Leak Suspected at Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant --Nearly 60 tons of radioactive water may have spilled26 May 2011 The operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant says radioactive water may now be leaking from a wastewater storage facility on site. The Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as TEPCO, told reporters Thursday that nearly 60 tons of radioactive water may have spilled. The latest leak was discovered amid efforts to transfer highly contaminated water from the number 2 and number 3 reactors to an improvised storage facility. TEPCO says the water level in the facility had dropped nearly two inches in just 20 hours, suggesting a leak.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as TEPCO, told reporters Thursday that nearly 60 tons of radioactive water may have spilled out, raising further concerns about the utility's ability to handle the worst nuclear crises since Chernobyl.
The latest leak was discovered amid efforts to transfer highly contaminated water from the number 2 and number 3 reactors to an improvised storage facility. TEPCO says the water level in the facility had dropped nearly two inches in just 20 hours, suggesting a leak.
The utility has been pumping massive amounts of water in an effort to cool three of Fukushima's reactors, a process TEPCO has said would be completed in three months. Large leaks have already been reported in reactors 1 and 2, and news of this latest leak is yet another setback in the effort to stabilize the reactors.

Obama: 'Don't Expect' Radiation To Reach U.S. Watch Video

Disaster in the Pacific: Nuclear Emergency Watch Video

Japan Earthquake: Assessing Nuclear Risk Watch Video

More than two months after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and massive tsunami killed about 240,000 people and crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi, TEPCO is struggling to bring the plant under control. Earlier this week, the company said all 3 reactors had gone into a state of "meltdown" within 3 days of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and the tsunami that followed, confirming what nuclear experts have suspected.
The melted fuel remains covered in water, and temperatures inside the containment vessel are below dangerous levels, officials said. But failure to disclose such information sooner, has outraged critics who say the utility and the Japanese government have responded too slowly.
At a press conference Thursday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano denied accusations of a "cover-up," but admitted the government needed to take seriously "the criticism that we haven't done enough to provide and circulate information."
Environmental group Greenpeace says the radioactive leaks are taking a toll on marine life. New data released by the group shows high levels of contamination in fish, shellfish, and seaweed samples taken 12 miles off the coast of the Fukushima plant.
Analysis by laboratories in France and Belgium found high levels of radioactive iodine and radioactive cesium in seafood, according to Greenpeace. Contamination levels were highest in seaweed samples, which contained radiation 50 times higher than official limits.
"Our data shows that significant amounts of contamination continue to spread over great distances from the Fukushima nuclear plant," said Greenpeace Radiation Expert Jan Van Putte. "Radioactive hazards are not decreasing through dilution or dispersion, but the radioactivity is instead accumulating in marine life."
The International Atomic Energy has launched its own investigation into the nuclear crises. A team of 20 IAEA experts arrived in Tokyo Monday on a fact-finding mission, where they plan to visit the Fukushima plant.

What we're watching: Thursday, May 26, 2011 Medicare politics...Joplin ...
CNN (blog)
SERBIA MAY HAVE CAUGHT MLADIC - Police in Serbia have arrested former Serbian military commander Ratko Mladic, the highest-ranking war crimes suspect still at large from the Balkan wars of the 1990s, Serbia's president announced Thursday. ..See all stories on this topic »

Ratko Mladic arrest: timeline of the war criminal hunt
The Independent
1995: Launches operation to capture UN-protected enclave of Srebrenica, allegedly orders massacre of some 8000 Muslim boys and men in Europe's largest massacre of civilians since Second World War. Indicted by UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, ...See all stories on this topic »

Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb general held responsible for the massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995, was arrested on Thursday, signaling Serbia’s intention of finally escaping the isolation it brought on itself during the Balkan wars, the bloodiest in Europe since World War II.

The Hunt for Ratko Mladic

War Crimes Suspect Ratko Mladic Caught


Balkans Memo: Executions Were Mladic’s Signature, and Downfall (May 27, 2011)

The Lede Blog: A Bosnian Serb General Who Loved the Cameras Returns to the Spotlight (May 26, 2011)
Mladic Arrest Opens Door to Serbia’s Long-Sought European Union Membership (May 27, 2011)

Serbia Insists on Summit Boycott (May 27, 2011)
  Lens Blog: The Fog Named Mladic Is Finally Caught (May 26, 2011)
Times Topic: Ratko Mladic

Europe Tested as War Crimes Suspect Remains Free (October 22, 2010)
·              Related in Opinion
Editorial: End of the Line (May 27, 2011)

VIDEO:Meeting Ratko Mladic

The Op-Ed columnist Roger Cohen recalls meeting Ratko Mladic in Belgrade in 1992.

The capture of the former general removes a major obstacle to Serbia’s becoming a member of the European Union, which had insisted that Mr. Mladic be apprehended and turned over for trial in an international court before the country could get on track to join the 27-nation union.
President Boris Tadic of Serbia gave few details in announcing the arrest but promised that Mr. Mladic would be turned over for trial at The Hague within days. “I think today we finished a difficult period in our recent history,” he said. For Europeans, buffeted by financial crises, the arrest of their most wanted war crime suspect has a resonance on the magnitude of the killing of Osama bin Laden for Americans. It also amounts to a significant diplomatic victory, suggesting that the incentive of membership in the world’s biggest trading bloc remains a crucial foreign policy tool in the post-cold war world.
Mr. Mladic had been at large for 15 years, and many European diplomats argued that Serbian officials could have arrested him long ago if they felt that the benefits of opening the door wider to the West outweighed appeals to virulent nationalism among some Serbs, who still regard Mr. Mladic as a hero.
Mr. Mladic was captured in the farming town of Lazarevo north of Belgrade after the authorities received a tip that a man resembling him was residing there. Serbia’s interior minister, Ivica Dacic, said that Mr. Mladic had been found with his own expired identification card and an old military book. Some Serbian news reports said he had been living under the name of Milorad Komadic and had labored as a construction worker. But the Interior Ministry said Thursday that it did not have evidence suggesting he had taken on a false identity.
The massacre at Srebrenica was the worst ethnically motivated mass murder on the European continent since World War II. Mr. Mladic was also accused of war crimes for the three-and-a-half-year siege of Sarajevo, in which 10,000 people died, including 3,500 children.
While close associates had predicted that Mr. Mladic would sooner kill himself than face capture, Serbian news media reported that he was alone at the time of his arrest and had two pistols with him that he made no attempt to use. The police said he did not resist arrest. Witnesses said he appeared disoriented and tired, and that one of his hands appeared to be paralyzed, possibly because of a stroke.
Many of the 27 members of the European Union had been in favor of rewarding Belgrade for its recent tilt toward Europe and the United States by advancing its move toward membership in the bloc. But some, especially the Netherlands, had insisted that as long as Mr. Mladic remained free, Serbia could not join the union.
Mr. Mladic’s crimes remained an emotional issue for the Dutch, whose peacekeepers were overrun at Srebrenica, allowing Mr. Mladic’s soldiers to mow down men and boys, their hands tied behind their backs.
“His arrest gives a strong signal to the world that anyone accused of the worst crimes can be brought to justice,” said Serge Brammertz, the prosecutor for the United Nations-based war crimes tribunal in The Hague. He said international pressure to block Serbia’s entry into the European Union was a vital prod that had precipitated the arrest. According to B92, the independent Serbian broadcasting company, residents in Lazarevo said that they were unaware that Mr. Mladic was living among them, but had spotted the police early Thursday at a house reportedly belonging to Mr. Mladic’s relatives. Serbian analysts said Lazarevo had had a large population of Bosnian Serbs since World War II, some of whom would have been sympathetic to Mr. Mladic. They said he had lived in the village for two months.
“Extradition is happening,” President Tadic said, referring to The Hague. “This is the end of the search for Mladic. It’s not the end of the search for all those who helped Mladic and others to hide and whether people from the government were involved.”
Early on Thursday evening, Mr. Mladic appeared in a court in Belgrade, where a judge must decide whether all conditions have been met for Serbia to surrender him to the tribunal. But Mr. Mladic’s lawyer, Milos Saljic, said the court halted its questioning of Mr. Mladic because of his poor health. Prosecutors said the court would continue to question Mr. Mladic on Friday and that he had three days to appeal an adverse ruling by the judge.

Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb political leader and Mr. Mladic’s former boss, is being tried in The Hague on charges of genocide for his role in the Balkan bloodshed. Slobodan Milosevic, the nationalist former president of Serbia and the architect of the war, died in 2006 while his trial was under way.
Mr. Tadic, considered strongly pro-Western in the Serbian context, stressed that the arrest of Mr. Mladic “is happening on the day Catherine Ashton is coming to Serbia,” referring to the European Union’s foreign policy chief. But it was not immediately clear how the Serbian public, which has been suspicious of the West’s demands for trials of Serbs in the Balkan wars of the 1990s, would react to news of the arrest.
As evening descended on Belgrade, witnesses said small clutches of Mladic supporters had arrived near Republic Square. About 500 people also took to the streets of Novi Sad, in northern Serbia, and tried to force their way to a radio and television station, but were held back by riot police. They chanted, “Knife, wire, Srebrenica” — a reference to the Srebrenica massacre — and called for an “uprising” in Serbia.
On Thursday, Ljiljana Smajlovic, president of the country’s Journalists’ Association, said she did not expect widespread unrest to break out as it did when aggressive Serbian nationalists and followers of Slobodan Milosevic held more sway. “The weight of evidence against Mladic is staggering,” Ms. Smajlovic said, “even if Serbs remain unconvinced that the Hague tribunal has been even-handed in its approach to war criminals in the former Yugoslavia.”
“I do not expect that Serbia, because of this arrest, will be destabilized,” Mr. Tadic said. “Whoever tries to make any trouble will end up in court.” He said that the last remaining Serbian fugitive wanted for war crimes, Goran Hadzic , will be arrested as well. Mr. Hadzic is sought in connection with massacres of Croats in Krajina, a majority-Serb section of Croatia that tried to break away in the 1990s.
Some Serbian officials also reacted with anger, illustrating that the country was still struggling to come to terms with the past. Boris Aleksic, a spokesman for the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party, said: “Serb traitors have arrested a Serb hero. This shameful arrest of a Serb general is a blow to our national interests and the state.”
The arrest comes at a crucial moment. Serge Brammertz , the chief prosecutor of the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague, was expected to release a report in the next few days saying that Serbia was not cooperating with the international effort to apprehend Mr. Mladic. Such a report would have further complicated Serbia’s attempt to become an official candidate for membership in the European Union. Ms. Smajlovic said that the fact that Ms. Ashton was in Serbia for meetings on Thursday would “lead to suspicion that the arrest was timed to honor her and also to underline Serbia now has high expectations of rapid E.U. integration.”
However, the European Union’s struggles to manage financial crises in Greece, Ireland, Spain and elsewhere may present a new obstacle to that goal, with the bloc’s drive to expand slowed in recent months. Some Serbian analysts fear a nationalist backlash if Serbia’s European Union hopes are not realized.
In hiding since 1995, sometimes in plain sight at soccer matches and funerals, and sometimes deep underground in Belgrade, Mr. Mladic was believed for years to be protected by allies in the Serbian military and intelligence services. But he appeared to have spent the last few years with no more than a handful of loyalists to help him, investigators said.
A senior Obama administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that the administration had been quietly pushing for Mr. Mladic’s capture for years.
Mr. Mladic’s arrest was welcomed by world leaders, including those gathered in Deauville, France, for the Group of Eight summit meeting. President Obama said in Deauville that the arrest was important for the families of Mr. Mladic’s victims.
President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, the host in Deauville, said the Serbian government had made a “courageous decision” that constituted “another step towards Serbia’s eventual integration into the European Union.”
The arrest was also praised, in more somber tones, by survivors of the Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo. “I want to congratulate Europe and Tadic,” said Munira Subasic, head of the Association of Mothers of Srebrenica. “I’m sorry for all the victims who are dead and cannot see this day.”

Oklahoma Daily

Manning, 22, was a soldier suspected of leaking evidence of war crimes by his government. As a result, he was arrested and imprisoned without charges. For months he was held in solitary confinement and tormented by his captors. ...See all stories on this topic »

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — An Egyptian-born Australian has had his passport returned six years after his release from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay because he is no longer considered a risk to national security, intelligence officials said Friday.

Mamdouh Habib was arrested in Pakistan in late 2001 and held as a suspected terrorist without charge before being returned from the U.S. prison on Cuba to Australia in 2005.

Australia's top spy agency said it had provided a "non-adverse security assessment" to Habib's latest passport application in March.

"This was not a recanting of its previous assessment, but rather a new assessment based on new information, circumstances and factors relevant to the issue of whether Mr. Habib currently poses a risk to Australia's security," the Australian Security Intelligence Organization said.
The statement it released Friday did not give specifics about the case.

Habib had reached an out-of-court settlement with the government last year for an undisclosed sum over his allegations that the Australian government was complicit in the torture he says he suffered while in detention.

He was detained in Pakistan for 28 days after his arrest and interrogated by Americans. He was transferred to Egypt, then six months later to the U.S. military base at Bagram, Afghanistan, and then to Guantanamo Bay.

Habib has alleged he was beaten and given electric shocks by his captors while he was in Pakistan and Egypt, kept drugged and shackled, had his fingers broken, and was sexually molested. He said Australian officials were present during parts of his ordeal.
He sued the Australian government for what he said was its failure to uphold his rights as a citizen during his detention.

Habib, a Sydney resident, said Friday he was satisfied that his court case and now is legal quest to regain a passport had both ended.

"I have received money, I have received a passport, I have received everything — my dignity back," Habib said.



 My Take: Conspiracy theorists are convinced that a rogue planet is bound to doom Earth in 2012. NASA astronomer David Morrison gives his take.

The scoop: Conspiracy theorists are convinced a rogue planet will destroy the Earth in 2012, and just as we are about to see the release of a Hollywood movie on the topic, the hype is set to increase. David Morrison, a NASA astrobiologist and expert scientist for NASA's Ask an Astrobiologist website, calls for a reality check and in 2008 he contributed this article to Discovery News.

Unbeknownst to most of us, a small but vocal group of conspiracy theorists is convinced that a rogue planet is about to enter the inner solar system and doom the Earth.
They say that this threatening planet on a 3600-year orbit was discovered by the ancient Mesopotamians, who named it Nibiru, and it was known also to the Mayans, who associated it with the end of their calendar "long count" in December 2012. In Web sites, blogs, and radio talk shows, they insist that NASA is tracking Nibiru -- but that this information is being kept from the public as part of a worldwide conspiracy.

They say the official silence can't be maintained for much longer, however, because by 2009 Nibiru will be visible to the naked eye from the southern hemisphere. They also say Earth's axis is already tilting and the length of the day is changing under its influence. As one believer recently wrote to me, "Why are you lying. It's coming, and everyone knows it."
I began to receive questions about this bizarre story in December 2007 through NASA's "Ask an Astrobiologist" site. Normally I receive up to a dozen questions per week from the public, dealing mostly with life in the universe -- but in the past 6 months the Nibiru traffic alone has grown to 20-25 messages a week, ranging from the anguished "I can't sleep," "I am really scared" or "I don't want to die" to the abusive "you are putting my family at risk" and "if NASA denies it then it must be true."

As a scientist, I'm both fascinated and astonished by the deluge of questions from people who are genuinely frightened and, apparently, unable to distinguish astronomical fact from fiction. They're watching YouTube videos and visiting slick Web sites with nothing in their skeptical toolkit, or to quote Carl Sagan no "baloney detector." Now a blockbuster disaster film called "2012" is set for release in the summer of 2009, and the commercial enterprise is clearly trying to cash in on people's concern (perhaps contributing to their fear as well).

My guess is that only a tiny fraction of people truly believes that Armageddon is coming in December 2012. But their uncritical acceptance of this story worries me as a warning of the dangers of our current scientific illiteracy.
We're facing monumental problems with global warming and loss of habitat, yet a substantial minority of Americans thinks the world was formed less than 10,000 years ago and deny that evolution is possible. Many Americans seem to prefer coal-fired generators to nuclear power plants without realizing the toll in public health that coal imposes. Billions are spent, including tax-payer dollars, for so-called alternative medicine with no scientific evidence for its efficacy. And legislators often resist efforts to collect the data that could actually demonstrate which government programs are effective and which ones don't work as intended.
In spite of my frustrations, I can always hope that Nibiru will turn into a teaching moment. Its proponents are convinced that it will be visible to the unaided eye this coming spring, and its effects on the rotation and orbit of the Earth will be obvious by summer (just in time for the release of the film "2012"). When none of this happens, I hope they'll realize that they need better tools to distinguish fact from fiction.