Monday, August 31, 2009
Although it was not addressed in the strategic review sent to both the Pentagon and NATO headquarters today, it is widely anticipated that McChrystal will ask for more troops to deal with the situation in a separate request expected in a couple of weeks, a proposal that may face considerable opposition in many NATO countries.
While the 2009 Pew Global Attitudes survey of 25 nations found broad global support for President Obama and his policy goals, the one notable exception was his decision to send additional troops to Afghanistan.
Significant opposition to troop increases was found in all NATO countries polled; at least half of those surveyed in Germany (63%), France (62%), Poland (57%), Canada (55%), Britain (51%) and Spain (50%) disapproved of sending more troops to Afghanistan.
In addition to opposing new troop commitments, many in NATO countries want troops withdrawn altogether.
Officials in the United Arab Emirates have apparently seized a cargo of arms sent by the North Koreans to Iran. While the arms were conventional in nature, it does raise additional alarms because - of course, North Korea has developed a nuclear bomb and Iran is trying to do likewise. And there have been other indications that the two nations have been collaborating on Iran's nuclear program.
The seizure, therefore, is a significant one and should not be quickly dismissed by those who fail to grasp the potential threat a nuclear Iran would present to the world.
He was referring to a British newspaper report that claims that the only Pan Am bomber to be convicted was released to Libya - not for humanitarian reasons because of his ill health - but so that the government could cut an oil deal with that nation.
The Scottish government is denying the allegation - but it isn't beyond the scope of possibilities that oil was the overriding reason. If so, then the release of Abdel Baset al-Megrah becomes far more than a poor decision. It becomes a reprehensible one.
One of the Pan Am family members told CNN today that if the allegation is true then something must be done about it. She likely was just expressing her frustrations. Since, it's pretty obvious, that nothing can be done. There's already been reporting speculating that the decision to release al-Megrah wasn't finalized until after the White House gave the UK the green light.
My friend concludes, "this just shows that terrorism does pay." Sadly, I fear that he's right.
Friday, August 28, 2009
I say this knowing full well that there are those who are going to latch on my words and criticize me for opposing debate and dissent. But anyone who knows me will realize nothing could be further from the truth. On my show, News Talk Online on Paltalk.com, and on this blog, I encourage people who disagree with me to air their opinions.
But some of what has been going on is akin to incitement to riot. And one incident, in particular, is downright frightening.
Remember the guy who brought an assault rifle and a handgun to protest outside a town hall meeting while President Obama was inside? Well, in an interview, he says that just the previous day, he attended a church service where the pastor gave a fiery sermon and prayed for Obama's death and that he go to hell.
Yes, technically the man had the right, apparently, to carry arms to the protest. And, technically, the pastor can pray for whatever he wishes. But would the reverend have rejoiced over the blood on his hands had something terrible happened as a result? Would he have felt indemnified because, after all, it wasn't his doing but God's?
Does there not come a time when common sense and decency ought to prevail when it comes to the health care debate? Or any other political rhetoric in these times?
The protests that are being waged are being compared by their organizers to the Boston Tea Party - a precursor to a revolution that overthrew a tyrannical occupying force. We are taught to herald the actions of the Patriots because from the ultimately bloody battle this wonderful experiment called the United States of America was born. But is the comparison to King George a fair one?
The Tea Party was about taxation without representation. Today, we have worse taxation, but with representation.
The presidency is not a monarchy. The people who steward our government are elected by the people. Yet, we the people are so engrossed in our own self indulgences and economic survival that we've neglected to do our part in keeping our government in check.
I hope you've gotten this far in this essay to fully understand my point. I think protest and redress of government is not only healthy but essential. But the shouting down of those with whom we disagree, the implied and real threats, the deliberate misrepresentation of the facts is unacceptable.
To those who may be reading this who are uninitiated, let me take this moment to inform you that I am not a partisan. As I often say on my show, I am not only non-partisan, I'm anti-partisan. So, least you think my condemnation of tactics is directed at only one side, let me assure you it is not. We've spent hours researching claims and counterclaims on my show in order to bring the facts to the audience. And we've found distortions promulgated by both sides.
Ultimately, the citizens of this great nation need to take responsibility for what's happening in Washington. We have a duty to be informed about the issues and to let our representatives know our opinions. Our obligation as citizens does not end at the ballot box. It only starts there.
We will continue, through the show and the blog, to address the issues and try to stimulate the debate so that each of us can reach his or her own conclusions. Mine is not a monolithic ideological audience that I'm trying to "lead." I not only request but demand that those who disagree with my assertions speak out.
But threats or even implied threats of violence do not deserve a seat at the table. We also have a duty to speak out when that happens - even when we agree with the positions of those who do it.
If we don't - the debate will be strictly along partisan lines. Democratic and Republican talking points will prevail - and clear thinking on any of the important issues of the day will fail to rise.
Worse, we run the risk of violence and people actually getting hurt.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Sign of the times
A top health adviser to President Obama says half of all Americans could contract the swine flu and 90,000 people could die.
Meanwhile, it appears that a swine flu vaccine won't be ready until Thanksgiving. So what's the best public health policy to pursue?
A 22-year-old Columbia University graduate believes he has the answer.
Justin Kamen, founder of the group Students Prep America, believes school openings should be delayed until a vaccine is available.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/4nitsirk/3777148973/
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says it is filing a federal lawsuit against a Wayne County, Michigan judge who demanded that that a Muslim woman remove her hijab in court. CAIR says the woman felt so intimidated by the judge’s repeated demand that she eventually removed her religious headscarf.
The suit follows a Michigan Supreme Court ruling backing another judge's similar order to a Muslim woman to remove her hijab so he could see her face to help determine her truthfulness while testifying in a small claims case. In that case, the woman refused and the judge tossed out her claim against a rental car company.
“The judge’s actions contradict both the constitutional right to freedom of religion and President Obama's recent statement in support of the right to wear hijab,” said CAIR attorney Melanie Elturk. “This judge targeted a Muslim woman’s religious attire, but he could just as easily have demanded the removal of a Sikh turban, Jewish yarmulke or a Catholic nun’s habit.”
In President Obama’s June address to Muslims worldwide, he said that freedom in America is, "indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion.
"That is why," he said "the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it."
The messages alternatively referred to a Fox News Channel blog posting making the assertion or to a piece in the American Spectator by Matthew Vadum which charges that the president is trying to politicize September 11.
I answered them that the fact of the matter is 9/11 family members have been calling for a National Day of Service on September 11 to honor the memories of their relatives who died in the terrorist attacks and are quite happy that the day has been established by the president. What follows in its entirety is an essay by the co-leader of that movement in response to the Vadum article:
By David Paine
Matthew Vadum's article in American Spectator ("Obama's Plan to Desecrate 9/11", August 24, 2009), sadly attempts to do the very thing it criticizes -- politicize 9/11.
I am the president of the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance Initiative, which my good friend Jay Winuk and I co-founded together following the terrorist attacks.
On 9/11 Jay lost his brave brother Glenn, an attorney and volunteer EMT in the collapse of the south World Trade Center tower. Shortly thereafter Jay and I, along with the leaders of all 22 of the 9/11 family member and support groups came together to create this observance as a forward-looking way for all of us and the nation to forever remember the lives of those lost and injured, as well as pay tribute to the many who rose in service following the attacks and continue to do so today in our Armed Forces. We have worked closely for more than seven years on a bi-partisan basis with Republicans and Democrats alike, conservatives and liberals. And this year thankfully, we finally achieved our mutual goal when Congress, in a broad bi-partisan vote, passed legislation that provided federal recognition for the first time of September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance – a very proper and official affirmation of something that hundreds of thousands of people from all 50 states and 170 countries have observed informally since 2002.
We just wanted to set the record straight that this is not, in any way, a government initiative created by President Obama or any government official. We want to make it clear to all concerned that this is entirely a privately-funded, nonprofit observance, supported on a near unanimous basis by the left, middle and right.
Mr. Vadum improperly and unfairly drags the 9/11 families into a much broader political disagreement that exists between those with differing views of how this country should be run. The 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance is a wonderful, patriotic, and constructive observance created by the 9/11 community. It basically tells Osama bin Laden that we will not accept the legacy that he hopes to pass onto to children for generations to come -- solely the visions of evil that he created. This is our chance to take back the day, and see to it that something positive arises from the ashes of 9/11.
Accordingly, we respectfully request that 9/11 not be used any further by either side of the political spectrum to inspire anger, further political agendas, or create destructive divisions between well-meaning and in some cases heart-broken people. To us, doing so represents the true desecration of the day, and worse, it dishonors the many brave patriots who gave their lives and rose in service on 9/11 and afterwards.
David Paine is president and co-founder of MyGoodDeed Inc., the 9/11 nonprofit organization that helped create the September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance.
The United States’ population is now over 306 million and is growing at the net gain of one person every 10 seconds. By 2050 the U.S. population is expected to reach 438 million. According to the Population Reference Bureau, the United States is the only developed country that significantly contributes to global population growth.
Among the concerns that these statistic raises are the effects of over-population on climate change, dwindling water resources in some regions of the nation and the impact of population growth on the cost of health care.
Those concerned with population growth also argue that it will result in a revamping of the nation's social systems such as health care and education.
Joining us on News Talk Online on Paltalk.com today to talk about why the issue of population growth has not been part of the public debate was David Paxson, founder and president of World Population Balance.
Roni Deutch, the Tax Lady, also joined us to talk about the tax implications of the current health reform proposal. Deutch says there are hidden taxes and fees at play - the representation, she says that most people won't be taxed further to pay for reform is - she says - misleading at best.
As summer draws to a close, some parents may notice the telltale signs of school-induced anxiety in their kids. Most kids usually get excited about buying new school clothes and supplies, and look forward to seeing their friends. For others there is marked anxiety about having to face new teachers, meeting new kids and finding the classroom. How do parents know that their children may need help getting through the start of the new school year?
Dr. Anne Marie Albano, director of the Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders and author of a parent guide on school refusal behavior, says that parents and children must work together to lessen a child’s anxiety.
“This type of excessive worrying in kids should not be dismissed. While it is normal to have butterflies about what new responsibilities and expectations 10th grade may bring, night sweats and disturbed sleep leading up to the first day of school is not your garden-variety nervousness.” She adds, “Kids with anxieties aren't able to look towards school in a positive way, they are just plain scared about what could go wrong or how bad things can get when in school. For these kids, anxiety takes over and they are unable to settle in for the school year.”
A few suggestions from Dr. Albano:
· If your school offers you the opportunity to bring children in early to help get them acclimated to the school building, take advantage of that.
· Bring your child to meet teachers before the first day of school .
· Involve your child in the fun our picking out school clothes and supplies.
· Start a scrap book of positive school memories.
· If none of this works, get a referral of child psychiatrist or psychologist. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to help.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tofachstoler/3855777138/
Better than sex?
Drinking the recommended daily amount of water is more important to women than having enough sex, according to a national survey conducted by Cooking Light magazine.
When asked what women’s priorities were in terms of their health and well-being, drinking enough water ranked fifth and sex ranked seventh. Over 1,000 women across the country participated in Cooking Light’s Women’s Wellness Poll which surveyed their opinions on healthy living, eating and exercise.
Six health and wellness activities trump women’s desire for sex in Cooking Light’s Women’s Wellness Poll:
1. Getting enough sleep
2. Keeping stress level low
3. Finding time to relax
4. Eating healthfully
5. Drinking the recommended amount of water
6. Finding time to exercise
7. Having enough sex
Plus: Bad news for fast food chains as two-thirds (67%) of women surveyed say they could easily survive without the drive-thru.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dpade1337/421790705/
"Doctor Death" is the headline on the front page of today's New York Post.
The Daily News goes further with a headline that screams "The Doc Did It."
Why even dispense with a trial? Let's save the taxpayer's a lot of money by simply letting the media declare Michael Jackson's personal physician guilty of his death. After all, the LA medical examiner has ruled his demise a homicide. And we know that the cops have been checking the doctor's medical records. He's obviously a "person of interest" if not a "target" or a "suspect" in the investigation.
The Daily News goes so far as to list "some of the sedatives" that it says Dr. Conrad Murray "administered" to Michael Jackson when he complained he couldn't sleep. It even lists the times. According to the News, Murray gave Jackson Valium at 1:30 AM, Lorazepam at 2, Midazolam at 3 and Propofol at 10:40.
The paper quotes a detective's affidavit which concludes Murray gave Jackson "lethal levels" of Propofol. The story then dutifully reports that Murray "has not been charged" but adds that it is "likely that Murray could soon face charges."
The Post, and I presume countless other newspapers across the nation, reports similarly, quoting one source familiar with the report as saying the Propofol interacted with the other sedatives to put Jackson into a "fatal coma."
But the one thing that's really missing from all this breathless reporting, much of it based on the actual record, is that these are just allegations. Allegations that may or may not be introduced as evidence in a trial if Murray is ultimately charged. And if they are, they won't just be presented in the newspaper with no retort. Unless he pleads out, Murray would mount a defense. And sometimes things come out during trials that upset the prosecutorial apple cart.
I'm not defending Dr. Murray here. I have no way of knowing whether he is guilty as declared by the media. But I do know that it's dangerous to declare that "The Doc Did It" - especially when he's not been charged by prosecutors.
Another high profile case comes to mind. That of the media persecution of Richard Jewell, who was a "person of interest" following the Centennial Park Olympic bombing in Atlanta. Jewell, a security guard at the park, thrust himself into the limelight after discovering a pipe bomb and helping to evacuate people before it went off. He seemingly craved attention - so much so that the agents investigating the bombing started focusing on him. Painting a picture of a wanna be cop using the bombing as a way to market his police-like prowess in an attempt to get a job in law enforcement.
The media then all but convicted Jewell of the bombing. The previously obscure figure's name was known to most Americans. He was the guy, many thought. When there's smoke there's fire. Why would they be focusing on him if he didn't do it? The cops must know some things that haven't been revealed.
Except, of course, he didn't do it. Jewell sued several media outlets, including the New York Post and settled for an undisclosed amount of money.
A good defense attorney can cloud up a case that may be built against Dr. Murray. How do we know he was the one who administered these "lethal levels?" Is it possible Jackson took some of the meds on his own and Murray was unaware of it?
Perhaps Murray's indulgent behavior toward his star patient did lead to Jackson's death. If so, that will come out at trial, presuming he is ultimately charged.
Until then, declaring in a bold headline that "The Doc Did It" is irresponsible at best. Let's at least wait until a jury of his peers says so before declaring Dr. Murray, no matter how culpable in Jackson's death he appears, guilty.
“I applaud the Attorney General’s decision to appoint a special US Attorney to review the interrogation abuse cases that were rejected for prosecution by George Bush’s Justice Department,” said Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee.
“The Obama administration also deserves praise for the release of the 2004 CIA Inspector General report as well as related DOJ memos. These materials are truly disturbing, including the CIA’s basic conclusion that ‘unauthorized, improvised, inhumane, and undocumented detention and interrogation techniques were used’ in its program. Reading about misdeeds such as threats to kill a detainees’ children or the staging of mock executions leaves us appalled."
Rep. Jerold Nadler, chair of the Judiciary constitution subcommittee, joined Conyers in issuing the statement.
Monday, August 24, 2009
The announcement reportedly has strained relations between the FBI and the CIA and one news organization, NBC, reported that CIA Director Leon Panetta was so angered that he threatened to quit. Both the White House and the CIA are denying the report.
Also recommended are procedures to ensure that the transferring of prisoners from one country to another complies with U.S. law.
“The new policies ... will allow us to draw the best personnel from across the government to conduct interrogations that will yield valuable intelligence and strengthen our national security,” Holder said.
The White House is denying that this signals a rift between the FBI and the CIA.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
The federal judges who are reviewing lawsuits filed by Guantanamo inmates have found that 29 of the 35 men whose cases they’ve completed have been unlawfully detained. For ordinary convicted criminals, that would mean that the authorities who imprisoned them would have to let them go. But the jailer at Guantanamo – the executive branch – is still holding 20 detainees the judges have cleared for release.
The impasse over releasing these prisoners is usually discussed as a logistical problem of foreign diplomacy or domestic politics. But it also raises a deeper question of principle: What is the meaning of the constitutional right of habeas corpus – a core American right to be free from unjust imprisonment – in the new and potentially expanding context of terrorism detention?
The right appears in the original text of the Constitution and is meant to protect the liberty of individuals even when it’s politically unpopular. That protection comes from the federal courts, where judges are not elected but rather are kept independent of popular sentiment by lifetime appointments. Habeas petitions are most commonly filed by prisoners claiming errors in their convictions due to faulty forensic evidence, prosecutorial misconduct or other wrongs.
The traditional remedy to wrongful imprisonment is release. But in the case of the Guantanamo prisoners, the shape of justice has been much fuzzier. In June 2008, the Supreme Court said the detainees have the right to sue for their freedom via habeas petitions, ending years of litigation by the Bush administration to try to block them. But a February ruling by the federal appeals court in Washington – sought by the Bush administration and embraced by the Obama administration – declared that, while Guantanamo detainees have the right to sue and have their imprisonment found illegal, they don’t have a right to actual release.
The appeals court wasn’t moved by the fact that these foreigners had been taken against their will and erroneously placed under U.S. jurisdiction – a finding that trial judges have made in the overwhelming majority of cases so far. Instead, the court likened the captives’ predicament to that of undocumented immigrants who are caught, saying the president has wide discretion to detain people who for political reasons are difficult to send elsewhere.
Since the February decision, trial judges who’ve rejected the government’s evidence as too flimsy have been barred from ordering the president actually to release detainees. Now the judges resort to a vaguer admonition that the executive branch "take steps" toward releasing them.The appellate ruling overturned the order of Judge Ricardo Urbina of the U.S. District Court in Washington, who last October directed the government to immediately release a group of Chinese Muslim Uighurs into the United States, American judges not having the power to order release into a foreign country. Urbina wrote that officials’ failure for years to find a suitable country to take the Uighurs amounted to flouting "the court's authority to safeguard an individual’s liberty from unbridled executive fiat" – an authority necessary, he said, to fulfill the constitutional promise of habeas corpus. Thirteen Uighurs remain at Guantanamo despite having been cleared of terrorism suspicions as early as 2003.
The decision blocking Urbina’s order was authored by Judge A. Raymond Randolph of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, who wrote three previous opinions rejecting constitutional claims by Guantanamo detainees. All those decisions were reversed by the Supreme Court. In April, lawyers for the Uighurs asked the high court to take their case and undo this decision as well. But in the meantime, the appeals court decision effectively applies to all the Guantanamo habeas cases, because they’re all governed by the D.C. Circuit.
The Obama administration has urged the Supreme Court to leave the decision alone, despite the president’s public pledge to "abide by" the trial judges’ rulings in habeas cases. The administration’s legal brief argued that detainees who remain at Guantanamo after judges have said they don’t belong there are not being imprisoned but rather are enjoying "harborage" while the president figures out the logistics for a safe release.
The Supreme Court recessed for the summer without saying if it would take the Uighurs’ case. Court observers speculated that the justices were reluctant to intervene at a politically sensitive time. Elected officials were strenuously opposing the idea of releasing detainees into this country, and the administration had managed to find homes abroad for four Uighurs. Recent news reports suggest the others may soon be resettled.
Just days before the court recessed, Congress stepped in to add a new wrinkle. It passed, and Obama signed, a law requiring the president to submit a report to legislators before any Guantanamo captive may be released or transferred using taxpayer funds.
It’s unclear how or whether the new law will affect the courts’ power to enforce detainees’ habeas rights. If Congress tries to delay the release of someone a court has found to be held unlawfully, some legal scholars say, the detainee could sue, claiming the law is an unconstitutional violation of his habeas right or of the separation of powers among the judicial, executive and legislative branches.
Meanwhile, the federal trial judges in Washington are continuing to scrutinize piles of classified evidence and hear closed-door arguments in more than 150 other Guantanamo cases, reviewing details about the detainees’ capture, their alleged hostile conduct and any mitigating facts. In six of the 35 cases completed to date, they’ve agreed with the president that the prisoners are so closely affiliated with al-Qaida or the Taliban that they should be detained indefinitely by the military. But in the vast majority of cases – the mildest and generally least complicated have gone first – they have decided against the government because of weak evidence or poor logic.
Two weeks ago, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly blasted the government's evidence for detaining Khalid Abdullah Mishal Al Mutairi, a Kuwaiti citizen, for more than seven years, saying the case was based on nothing but "speculation."
In June, Judge Richard Leon said Abdulrahim Abdul Razak Al Janko’s detention as a terrorist affiliate "defies common sense." Janko, a Syrian, may have associated with U.S. enemies for a few days in 2000, the judge said, but by his 2002 arrest, he’d been tortured by al-Qaida and imprisoned for a year and a half in an infamously "horrific" Taliban prison, the uncontested evidence showed. "Surely extreme treatment of that nature evinces a total evisceration of whatever [enemy] relationship might have existed!" wrote Leon, who has ruled against detainees more often than any other judge.
In May, Judge Gladys Kessler invalidated the imprisonment of a Yemeni man, Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed, explaining that the evidence against him "is hotly contested for a host of different reasons ranging from the fact that it contains second- and third-hand hearsay to allegations that it was obtained by torture."
The judges couldn’t order that these prisoners be released by a particular date, as they can in ordinary habeas cases. They wrote only that the government should "take all necessary and appropriate steps to facilitate" the detainees’ release "forthwith."
Asked when the detainees cleared so far will be released, Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd told ProPublica that the State and Defense Departments and other agencies are "working to make appropriate arrangements to carry out transfers of these individuals in a manner consistent with national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, as well as U.S. policies concerning humane treatment."
The Washington Postt, citing anonymous administration officials, reported Thursday that nearly a dozen countries have agreed to accept Guantanamo detainees, and that it has been difficult to repatriate some prisoners because they fear they will be persecuted if they return home.
One prominent Guantanamo case could test the now three-way tug-of-war among the branches of government over detainees’ rights. In an exception to the limited orders judges have been issuing, Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle recently directed that President Obama "promptly release" young Afghan Mohammed Jawad, whose detention was chiefly based on a confession that a military judge had earlier rejected for being obtained under death threats. She was able to do so because the administration had already volunteered to end Jawad’s widely criticized military detention and had proposed a concrete timeline for releasing him from Guantanamo. The government mentioned the possibility, which observers view as remote, of filing a more conventional criminal charge. Officials have said that some 30 detainees may ultimately be prosecuted in civilian or military court.
The judge accepted the timeline for releasing Jawad as soon as today, putting the government under court order to live up to its promise. But before Jawad can be put on a plane back to Afghanistan, the president must submit classified details about the transfer to Congress. Boyd said he was "not going to speculate" about what the president would do if Congress balked.
The unusual conflict over the power of the federal courts to enforce the habeas rights of terrorism suspects could affect more than the Guantanamo inmates and could become more complex. Detainees held for as long as six years at a U.S. air base in Bagram, Afghanistan, are also claiming the right of habeas corpus, in a case to be considered this year by the federal appeals court in Washington. And policy makers looking at U.S. detention strategy are pondering the habeas rights, if any, of future captives, as the fight continues against what many view as the global threat of terrorism.
The procedure was performed by Dr. Vivek Y. Reddy and his colleague, Dr. Srinivas R. Dukkipati. With the patient under general anesthesia, the physicians guided two catheters into the patient’s heart to seal the LAA with a pre-tied suture loop. The technique is a safe alternative to drug therapies such as the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin) that can have serious side effects, as well as open-heart surgery, and more invasive implant surgery.
“People who take Coumadin because of atrial fibrillation include active and otherwise healthy people, as well as elderly people for whom the drug may be contraindicated,” said Dr. Valentin Fuster, director of Mount Sinai Heart.
Drs. Reddy and Dukkipati joined Mount Sinai this month to focus on building the institution’s services for heart-rhythm disorders. They had been performing pre-clinical testing of the non-surgical LAA device, and this procedure represents the first time it's been used on a patient in the United States.
AFib-related deaths have increased over the past two decades and now account for one-quarter of all strokes in the elderly. Those who do take warfarin must rigorously manage the drug’s level in their blood. High levels can cause excessive or internal bleeding, even after minor falls, bruises, or cuts. For some, this management regime can mean monthly tests over the course of many years. In eliminating the need to take warfarin, the LAA procedure can reduce the need for frequent medical visits.
The patient was a 78-year-old woman from Miami who had suffered a stroke and a fall. The hospital says she is recovering well and no longer needs to take the drug for stroke prevention. Patients receiving non-invasive procedures usually return to normal activities in about a week.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
"Breaking up these dangerous cartels and stemming the flow of drugs, weapons and cash across the Southwest border is a top priority for this Justice Department," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "The cartels whose alleged leaders are charged today constitute multi-billion dollar networks that funnel drugs onto our streets and what invariably follows is more crime and violence in our communities."
Three of the suspected leaders were charged in both Brooklyn and Chicago. Joaquin "el Chapo" Guzman-Loera, Ismael "el Mayo" Zambada-Garcia and Arturo Beltran-Leyva, who are allegedly among the most powerful drug traffickers in Mexico, are alleged to be present and former heads of an organized crime syndicate known as the "Sinaloa Cartel" and "the Federation."
The indictments charge that between 1990 and December 2008 they and others were responsible for importing into the United States and distributing nearly 200 metric tons of cocaine, additional large quantities of heroin, and the bulk smuggling from the United States to Mexico of more than $5.8 billion in cash proceeds from narcotics sales throughout the United States and Canada.
Biloxi after Katrina
Atlantic coastal residents are monitoring the strengthening of Hurricane Bill, a signal that hurricane season is beginning to heat up after a slow start.
Joining us on News Talk Online on Paltalk.com at 5 PM New York time on Thursday to discuss hurricanes and how to survive them will be Robert Abrams, emergency preparedness expert and author of Watered-Down Truth: A Flood of Lies That Was More Deadly than Hurricane Katrina.
Abrams has been touring the country evaluating cities’ emergency preparedness protocols and consulting with local leaders on how to save lives should another natural disaster occur. During his national tour, Abrams has noticed that public and private sectors in most cities are still not communicating properly and utilizing their resources. According to Abrams, in a case like Katrina, individuals should know the role of their local government and be prepared to take personal responsibility in their home or business.
During his tours, Abrams, with the help of local disaster relief officials, gives the following tips:
Know the role of your local government – Are there emergency services in place should a disaster occur? Where is their central “Command and Control” located?
Your plan must be flexible – Based on conditions should you shelter-in-place or evacuate?
Have multiple evacuation plans – Based on traffic and road closures, do you have multiple exit strategies?
Have supplies ready – Do you have adequate supplies and equipment to shelter-in-place? What supplies do you need?
Educate with others – Is everyone (family, staff, etc.) properly briefed and prepared? Have you conducted Emergency Drills?
According to Abrams, “The most vulnerable in a natural disaster are health care facilities, such as hospitals and nursing homes. We saw too many elderly die during Katrina, and it could have been prevented had cities prepared for the worst.”
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/elyonline/110481366/
Maybe not much longer
I have some good news for my friend Dari who is a single mom and a new car sales woman in New Jersey. You'll soon be able to have dinner with your children.
Dari can't remember the last workday she got home in time to eat with her children because of the hugely successful Cash For Clunkers program.
Before it was initiated, you could go to nearly any car dealership in the nation and sit down and jaw with the sales people for hours without hardly any interruption. Now at many dealerships across the nation, customers must wait for service as harried sales staff like Dari try to accommodate as many of them as possible. Well, the gold rush may be coming to an end.
The Obama administration could announce as soon as tomorrow that the program is coming to an end. While this might not be so good for Dari's pocketbook, it would let her get off work in time so she can sit down to a nice meal with her kids.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/threadedthoughts/3808715790/
The Associated Press is reporting that the CIA also hired Blackwater to target al Qaeda leaders. The AP quotes an unnamed source which says the 2004 contract, which remains classified, was canceled because it was unsuccessful.
This is not to suggest that the CIA empowered Blackwater to act against innocent civilians in Iraq. But it may be a partial explanation about why the company felt indemnified and justified in its alleged actions.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
First guest was the Cato Institute's Malou Innocent who talked about the Afghanistan election, the U.S. role in that nation, and the Obama administration's failure to come clean with the American public about the cost of bringing control there.
Second guest was Jim Dau from the AARP who clarified that organization's position on health care reform.
Finally, we discussed a news report that alleges that the UN nuclear watchdog group has withheld information about Iran's nuclear weapons aspirations.
Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghan Veterans of America says no matter what one's political party or stance on the issue, the nation must be united in protecting the health care of veterans.
"Hundreds of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans depend on the VA for care," writes Rieckhoff in an email to supporters. He says the IAVA is committed to ensuring that all veterans continue to have full access to VA health care without penalty or cost- no matter what health care plan moves forward.
"President Obama and VA Secretary Shinseki spoke this week on the issue, and they, along with congressional leaders from both parties, have assured IAVA that veterans' health care will not be affected by any changes to our national health care," he says.
"IAVA will closely monitor the situation, and we'll make sure they keep that promise."
Today we'll hear from the horse's mouth - so to speak - as AARP spokesman Jim Dau joins me on News Talk Online on Paltalk.com at 5:30 PM New York time.
One great thing the AARP has been doing is helping its 35 million members sort through the arguments on health reform - a difficult task with all the disinformation floating around on all sides.
Frequent hand washing a top recommendation
The federal government has just issued guidelines for businesses to plan for and respond to the upcoming flu season.
The guidance, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is designed to help employers prepare now for the impact of seasonal and 2009 H1N1 influenza could have this fall and winter on their employees and operations.
Employers’ plans should address such points as encouraging employees with flu-like symptoms or illness to stay home, operating with reduced staffing, and possibly having employees who are at higher risk of serious medical complications from infection work from home, according to the CDC guidance.
It is not known whether the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus will cause more illness or more severe illness in the coming months, but the CDC recommends that everyone be prepared for influenza. Because seasonal and 2009 H1N1 influenza pose serious health threats, the CDC says employers should work with employees to develop and implement plans that can reduce the spread of flu, and to encourage seasonal flu vaccination as well as H1N1 vaccination when that vaccine becomes available.
Among the top preventative suggestion: regular and frequent hand washing and routine cleaning of commonly touched surfaces.
The CDC says businesses should review sick leave policies and ensure employees understand them, according to the guidance. Employers should try to make sick leave policies flexible for workers who may have to stay home with ill family members or if a child’s school is closed, the CDC says.
Employers should consider offering vaccine against seasonal flu, and encourage employees to be vaccinated against seasonal and H1N1 flu, the guidance says.
Employers also might cancel non-essential face-to-face meetings and travel, and space employees farther apart, the report says. And employees who are at higher risk for flu complications might be allowed to work from home or stay home if the flu is severe, it says.
My suggestion: use Paltalk to conduct meetings!
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mstinas/3195481964/
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz is reporting today that the UN nuclear watchdog agency is withholding information about Iran's nuclear weapons aspirations and capabilities.
The damning report charges that the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, is withholding publication of data obtained by his own inspectors which include evidence of Iran's attempts to develop a nuclear weapon in contradiction of UN resolutions. ElBaradei has denied that any such evidence exists.
If the report is accurate it calls into question the veracity and effectiveness of the one agency charged with protecting the world against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. It also suggests what many of us have suspected all along. That despite public protests to the contrary, Iran is very much in pursuit of nukes and is therefore a real danger to the rest of the world.
The United States has assigned troops to try and ensure that there's peace in Afghanistan during the elections there. Our little contribution, once again, to democracy in a world where democracy is a foreign concept (no pun intended). But what kind of democracy are we promoting?
Reports of pre-election violence are trickling out. But like in Iran, whose citizens toil under an abusive totalitarian regime, and in Venezuela, where the president has been shutting down opposition media outlets, the Afghan government is trying to control the message by imposing a media blackout on the violence.
If they want our help in keeping order during the elections then the United States should insist that the open reporting of events - essential to a democratic process - be preserved. Otherwise, we shouldn't be putting our troops in harm's way for this election.
Which, of course, leads to yet another question. What is the military mission there anyway? Is it to find Osama bin Laden and his cronies? Or is it to promote a very limited democracy which clearly doesn't extend much past Kabul?
The Obama administration seems to be facing the same problem in Afghanistan as did the Bush White House in Iraq in defining the mission. Obama claims to be a student of presidential history. If he is as smart as he appears, then he knows that this is one recent history he doesn't want to repeat.
Some 75 people have died in a spat of explosions in Baghdad. Hundreds more have been wounded.
This, dear people of Iraq, is the price you have to pay for nation building and democracy. We in the west know, of course, what's best for you. That's why we went in and deposed the dictator Saddam Hussein, a bastard, no question, who didn't hesitate to turn his wrath on his political opponents to remain in power. But at least apolitical Iranians going about their business in the nation's capital didn't have to worry about being blown up along the way.
Whopping ratings for Beck
Last week I reported that a poll showed that the Fox News Channel's audience is pretty narrow. It translated into an imagery of angry white middle aged men and other disenfranchised Americans sitting before the screen as their collective blood pressures merged into some kind of volcanic eruption each time the name Obama or the words health reform were uttered. But if that poll is accurate, there must be a LOT of angry white guys in America.
That's because last week the FNC came in as number two. No, not as number two in the rating wars between the other cable news networks. Number two in basic cable altogether.
The only cable channel that fared better than Fox was the USA network.
And as for the controversial Fox pundit Glenn Beck: he may be losing advertisers, but those who remain are surely paying a premium to be associated with a show that had, last week, its best ratings ever.
Remember when the first Gulf War pushed CNN into prominence? Well a new war is raging - over health reform. And those who are dubious about the plan turn to Fox to stay on top of every battle. Instead of watching scuds land in Israel and bombs drop on Baghdad, they watch for verbal confrontations at and outside town hall meetings.
As for the aforementioned CNN, my dear alma mater ranked 26th in prime time and 23rd in total day. MSNBC ranked 24th in prime and 32nd in total day.
Say what you will about perceived slanted coverage at Fox, but its programming clearly resonates with a significant segment of the population. Too popular to be just watched by angry white men.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
When I received a press release from Cindy Sheehan, the well known anti-war activist whose son died in combat in Iraq, saying she would be protesting near the Martha Vineyards property where the Obama family will be vacationing next week, I wrote about it and invited her to come on my show.
At first, Sheehan accepted my invitation. But then her spokeswoman phoned me back, saying that she had reconsidered and won't come on News Talk Online on Paltalk.com because of my position on Israel.
Because of my position on Israel? You have got to be kidding.
I had invited Sheehan to come on the show to talk to my audience about her opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel wasn't even on the agenda.
That aside, what difference does it make whether she and I agree on Israel? I've proposed a Middle East peace plan with which she, obviously, takes issue. If she wants to express her opposition to it on the show, she is more than welcome. But to refuse to come on after first agreeing because she disagrees with my position is - well - it's childish.
To what point have we evolved in the political debate in the United States where we are afraid to discuss issues with people who take an opposing view? If we just talk to the people with whom we already agree, then who are we actually influencing?
Sheehan obviously takes exception to my position on Israel. That's fine. That's her right. But I take exception to her rude retraction of her agreement to come on the show - I suppose in her mind as a form of "punishment" - because we don't agree on Israel.
Sheehan has lost all credibility in my book. I feel sorry for her that her hate for Israel is clouding her judgment - on issues that are totally unrelated. She should be ashamed of herself - though I doubt that she is. She probably thinks she's taking a higher moral ground, when in fact, she is only just embarrassing herself.
Let's review three examples.
A woman attends a town hall meeting hosted by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and carries a sign to the microphone which depicts President Obama as a Nazi. Frank, to his credit, discredits the woman.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), a Jew who should know better, says those who shout down town hall meetings are using a "fascist tactic."
An Israeli guy talks about the benefits of his nation's national health care and a woman shouts "Heil Hitler" at him. The man is visibly and understandably shaken and angry.
Not that anyone should have to say this, but Obama is not a Nazi, those who shout down others at meetings aren't fascists and the Israeli guy is obviously not a Nazi. Those who make these outrageous claims detract from the debate, discredit those who might agree with them on health reform and, worse of all, dishonor the memories of those who fought or who were victimized by the Nazis.
This is not the first time I've said it, and sadly, it likely won't be the last. But stop with the Nazi references already!
“We are extremely pleased with today’s decision striking down a multitude of abortion restrictions, including the most extreme ultrasound requirement in the country for women seeking abortions,” said Stephanie Toti, staff attorney in the U.S. Legal Program of the Center for Reproductive Rights.
“Not only was this law an absolute affront to a woman’s decision-making power, it threatened to shut down a facility that serves the health needs of thousands of women throughout Oklahoma and surrounding states.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the legal action on behalf of Reproductive Services, a nonprofit medical clinic in Tulsa. Enforcement of the Oklahoma was temporarily blocked last October and then, in March, extended until the conclusion of the case.
The Center argued that the law violated the Oklahoma constitution and that vague ultrasound and medical abortion requirements within the law would drastically limit Reproductive Services’ ability to meet the demand for abortions from its patients, threatening its ability to stay in business. The clinic provides abortion services to more than 200 women each month.
This week's Afghan election, which saw during campaigning U.S.-style televised debates, will likely be a referendum of sorts on the U.S. involvement in that nation as much as on who becomes the next president.
Ostensibly the United States entered Afghanistan to search and destroy Osama bin Laden and his cronies. But the mission, which President Obama insists is unavoidable and has U.S. national security implications (sounds a lot like President Bush's rhetoric re: Iraq, doesn't it?) is, at least right now, focused on protecting the electoral process.
Meanwhile, there have been allegations of ballot tampering ahead of the vote. The presidential complex has been attacked. And the question of what will happen if a Taliban-leaning president is elected has been raised.
Joining us on News Talk Online on Paltalk.com tomorrow to help analyze all of this will be the Cato Institute's Malou Innocent, who observes that the atmosphere surrounding Afghanistan's presidential elections is analogous to the country as a whole: dysfunctional.
Innocent, a foreign policy analyst and author of an upcoming Cato white paper, "Escaping the Graveyard of Empires: A Strategy to Exit Afghanistan" says it is doubtful the Afghan elections will be a watershed moment for liberal democracy in a country that has never had a strong central government. Regardless of who wins, all politics is, she notes, local in Afghanistan. Many Afghans feel alienated from the central government, particularly in the restive southern and eastern provinces and some even believe that their next president has already been chosen by Washington.
Candidates are forging alliances with warlords; tribal elders are being offered jobs, territory, and forgiveness of past sins; and Taliban militants threaten to cut off fingers marked with purple ink used to indicate when someone casts a vote.
Innocent believes that, going forward, the biggest challenge for the Obama administration will be to reconcile the imbalance between what the country is - a complex tapestry of traditional tribal structures - and what the United States wants it to be - a burgeoning nation-state governed centrally from Kabul.
It's happened before
The British government has been saying this for months now but few people have taken notice - that homegrown terrorists will likely target the UK homeland soon. Now there's been a confirmation of sorts. As news reports are beginning to emerge which suggest an attack or attacks are likely.
According to one report, al Qaeda is warning of what it calls "spectacular attacks" in the UK.
England has a particular problem with second generation Muslims who feel disenfranchised and unassimilated, setting up an environment where such attacks have been tried before, and likely will be attempted again.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kaysha/24289688/
Rendering of 8 acre memorial when completed
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum today announced that a 9/11 Memorial preview site will open near the World Trade Center later this summer. The sire will provide the public the opportunity to learn about the Memorial and Museum, view the construction progress at the World Trade Center site and participate in the creation of the museum by sharing their 9/11 story. The 9/11 Memorial Preview Site will be located at 20 Vesey Street, near Church Street in lower Manhattan and will be open to the public seven days a week.
“Thousands of people visit the World Trade Center site each day seeking information on the events of 9/11 and the plans for the rebuilding,” National September 11 Memorial & Museum President Joe Daniels said. “The 9/11 Memorial Preview Site will allow people to see the current construction and to explore the plans for the Memorial and Museum. Most importantly, it will provide the public with the opportunity to participate in building this institution by sharing their 9/11 story for the museum’s collection. These personal stories of people who experienced the events of 9/11 all over the country and the world will become a part of the museum and help make history.”
Included at the site will be models and renderings of the project illustrating what the World Trade Center site will look like when the rebuilding is complete along with selected artifacts from the museum’s collection and a historic 9/11 timeline. Live construction images of the World Trade Center site will also be displayed at the preview site, allowing visitors to view current construction and to print images or send them to friends.
An on-site recording booth will allow the public to contribute to the museum’s planned introductory exhibition that will include a sound scape of people remembering, in multiple languages, where they were on September 11, 2001 and how they learned of the attacks.
More and more air carriers are experimenting with adding wi-fi as an option for their passengers.
While many of us like to read a book or snooze on a flight, others just can't get enough of their Facebook, Twitter or Paltalk and will welcome the opportunity to surf while flying.
I'm wondering how this affects the prohibition on use of cellphones while in flight? Some cellphone providers let you go "off the grid" and use wi-fi to connect. Presumably that will mean your cellphone wouldn't interfer with aviation. On the other hand, how is a flight attendant to know whether you're using wi-fi or cell service?
Then there's the voice-over-IP technology to get around all this. Skype and Paltalk, for example, allow you to make voice calls over the Internet.
I guess it's just another amenity the airlines need to add in order to keep the customer satisfied. And another way to pass the time the next time you're on the plane but delayed.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bre/1046632525/
What is so curious about this case is that, not only does Rahman Bunairee have a visa and a job, but the Taliban tried to kill him - blowing up his house in July while he was stringing for the VOA there.
Unless there's something else going on here that hasn't been revealed, this would seem to be a case of our government officials stopping the wrong people from coming into the nation. We hear too many reports of innocent, law abiding people who have been detained. Yet there's been case after case of people who have come into the United States after training with al Qaeda abroad. Somehow they make it through immigration.
Roni Deutch, the Tax Lady, who previously has appeared on News Talk Online on Paltalk.com returns at 5:30 PM New York time August 25, this time to discuss the tax implications of the proposed health care reform bill.
Deutch says small businesses will be affected by the bill if it passes. She will also be available to talk about tax benefits available to parents who have children who are going to college this fall.
DNA - which we've been led to believe proves absolute guilt - or - in the case of the great work of the Innocence Project and others - absolute innocence.
It's used to positively identify bodies. It was just used to prove that a Canadian woman who was being held by the Kenyans as an impostor was who she claimed to be - so she could be released, returned to her country and reunited with her son.
The shocking part of the research which shows that DNA evidence can be made up is that it's fairly easy to do. Of course, it's really unlikely that any criminals would take the time to fabricate DNA while they are on the scene of a crime. But the knowledge that it's possible may be just enough to place doubt in the minds of some jurors in the future. And the widespread use of DNA in court hearings will likely now face legal challenge.
Protesters in Berkeley demonstrated against the hiring by the University of California Berkeley of John Yoo as a law professor there.
Yoo is the former legal adviser to the White House who penned the memo supporting the use of enhanced interrogation techniques - including waterboarding - on terrorism suspects.
While it's understandable that many people disagree with the legal concept, the reality is that Yoo was merely giving his opinion as requested by his boss - the president of the United States. As Harry Truman once reminded us, the buck stops on the Oval Office desk, not on that of the legal adviser.
The protesters may be well intentioned - but their ire is misdirected. Yoo broke no laws. While the memo he penned was part of the administration's due process he wasn't the one who ultimately authorized the enhanced interrogation techniques.
Next thing you know there'll be protests against hiring lawyers who defended accused baby killers. Yoo has the right to employment and as a former legal counsel to the White House he undoubtedly brings credentials and experiences to the classroom students will find invaluable.
Of course, the United States military has been taking on a diminishing role in Iraq and - eventually, all U.S. soldiers will thankfully be withdrawn. But it would seem to me that the prudent thing to do is wait until then to release the militia members on the Iraq populous. Let's at least wait until the American troops are out of harm's way!
Monday, August 17, 2009
This story was first published in The Washington Post.
Marcelo Salazar was killed in Iraq in April 2005 while working as a truck driver. He left behind his partner Vicky Buhawe, center, and their four-year-old son John Mark Buhawe, left. Vicky has no right to benefits under the Defense Base Act because she was not married to Marcelo, and their son is only eligible for a one-time payment of about $14,000. (Francine Orr/ Los Angeles Times)
To outsource the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has turned to the cheapest labor possible. About two-thirs of the 200,000 civilias working under federal contracts in the war zones are foreigners. Many come from poor, Third World countries. Others are local hires.
These low-paid foreign workers face many of the same risks soldiers do. Mortars have killed Filipinos who served meals in mess halls. Assassins have targeted Iraqis translating for soldiers. Roadside bombs have ripped into trucks driven by Turkish nationals. These workers have been wounded like soldiers. They have died like soldiers.
The United States has a system to provide care for such civilian casualties. Developed in the 1940s, it is an obscure type of workers' compensation insurance, funded by taxpayers and overseen by the Labor Department. Mandated by a law called the Defense Base Act, the system requires almost every federal contractor working abroad to purchase insurance to cover injuries arising from work or war, for all employees, American or foreign.
American civilian workers have had trouble enough getting payment for their injuries. AIG, the primary provider of such insurance, has battled them over everything from prosthetic legs to treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, according to court records and interviews. But at least the Americans have a fighting chance.
For foreign workers, the system has not even come close to delivering on its promises. In Nepal, I spoke with a family in a remote valley of tumbling rivers and jewel-green rice fields. After neighbors heard news reports over the radio, the family watched an Internet video that showed that their son had been executed in a dusty ditch in western Iraq on his way to work at a base for U.S. soldiers. Neither the company nor the United States had made any effort to contact them. The elderly couple, who had relied upon their son's salary, wondered how they would survive.
In the Philippines, I spoke to a woman who received a cellphone message when her son's father died: "God took him." She, too, had never been told of her rights to benefits by the employer or the United States. Her partner's wages were so low that the death payment would have amounted to about $14,000. Not much, perhaps. But on the day I met her in a slum of tin shanties and reeking sewage, she did not know where she would find food that night for her three 3-year-old son. She still has received no payments.
These are not isolated examples. They are part of a pattern of neglect by the U.S. government and its contractors to inform civilian workers of their rights or even to deliver care that has already been purchased by taxpayers. While about two-thirds of the contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan are foreigners, only about 15 percent of claims are filed by foreigners, according to an analysis of Labor Department and Pentagon records by ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom.
Since foreigners work many of the same jobs as Americans, albeit for far less money, the reasons for the disparity seem obvious. Their care has been entrusted to an overwhelmed bureaucracy and the machinations of insurance firms and multinational corporations. And the government has so far shown little interest in helping them out.
Seth Harris, the deputy secretary of labor, said at a congressional hearing in June that the program has "systemic problems," and he urged Congress to enact new legislation. "The program is not designed for the circumstances we're in right now," Harris told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. "We are trying to meet a complex, 21st-century challenge with a program from World War II."
Harris's history lesson is spot on. Congress, corporate America and individual laborers banded together 60 years ago to create the program for wounded war workers after what is perhaps one of the most forgotten chapters of World War II.
On the day of the Pearl Harbor bombing, Japanese forces also attacked the South Pacific outpost of Wake Island. At the time, about 1,200 American construction workers were beefing up the island's defenses. Most were employed by an Idaho construction company, Morrison Knudsen. Aided by the contractors, who manned gun batteries in some cases, U.S. Marines repelled the first attack, but they fell to a second assault on Dec. 23, 1941.
The Japanese sent both civilians and soldiers to prisoner-of-war camps in China. But a contingent of 98 contract workers was kept on the island as forced labor. They were all men, mostly white, from towns across America. Photos show them with pomaded hair and fedoras. When the U.S. Navy attacked the island in October 1943, the Japanese lined up the workers and executed them, dumping their bodies in a mass grave.
A single, unknown man escaped, only to be recaptured a few weeks later. In a macabre echo of the fate that would befall several contractors in Iraq, the Japanese commander, Adm. Shigematsu Sakaibara, later confessed to personally beheading him, according to an account by Mark Hubbs, a retired Army Reserve officer who researched the incident. All told, more than 150 civilian contractors from Wake Island were killed, executed or died in prison camps.
The civilians' entanglement in the war caught the military and the contracting firms unprepared. Earlier in the year, Congress passed the Defense Base Act, requiring defense contractors to purchase workers' compensation insurance for employees building overseas bases as the U.S. girded for war. But it was a law for workplaces, not war zones. The law did not deal with hostile acts. Nor did it cover employees killed outside the workplace, such as civilians who died in prison camps. The families of the Wake Island men were left without income.
"These people were just coming out of the Depression. There were young wives with children, dependent parents," said Bonnie Gilbert, an Idaho writer whose father was an imprisoned worker. "They were between a rock and a hard place."
The families' plight spurred action. Led by Morrison Knudsen, contracting firms lobbied Congress and financed a charity to help the families with mortgage bills and doctors visits. Each Christmas, the men's children were given a check for around $9, according to a report published by the firms. The War Department directed emergency funds to the cause.
Congress, meanwhile, created the outlines of the current benefits system. The Defense Base Act was amended to require employers to provide coverage on a nearly 24-hour basis in war zones. To persuade insurers to write policies, Congress also passed the War Hazards Compensation Act in December 1942. The act reimburses carriers for injuries or deaths due to combat, lowering their risk for catastrophic expenses.
In creating the system, Congress recognized that civilian contractors played a vital part in fighting the war. Sen. Elbert D. Thomas, D-Utah, then chairman of the Senate's Education and Labor Committee, urged passage by telling fellow lawmakers that the war was everybody's business. "When once total war ... is undertaken, the sooner we bring home to our people the fact that all are responsible for the war, all might suffer by the war and therefore all should sustain the losses, the better off we will be in a social and governmental way," he said.
The sympathetic response to the Wake Island tragedy contrasts with the attitude toward contractors today. They are now often labeled as mercenaries or war profiteers. Their contributions to the war efforts are lost amid reports of six-figure salaries, murdered Iraqis and substandard construction. Last Sunday, a British security guard working for ArmorGroup was arrested by Iraqi authorities after allegedly gunning down two colleagues in the Green Zone -- an action that would amount to a contractor version of fratricide.
Nearly 1,600 civilian workers have died in Iraq, and more than 35,000 have reported injuries. Since 2001, Congress has held scores of hearings for injured veterans, but only two for injured contractors. The Government Accountability Office has published more than 100 studies on veterans' benefits since March 2003. It has done two on the Defense Base Act.
Nor, with a few exceptions, have the contract firms stepped forward for their employees. No company leads a charge to fix the system. Notably silent is Washington Group International, a major contractor in Iraq. The company, which has reported 19 deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, was once known as Morrison Knudsen. Now part of URS Corp., the company declined to answer questions about contractor deaths.
It's not surprising that neither the government nor the firms have felt much pressure to act. Many of the foreign workers and their families do not speak English. They do not have a senator to argue their case or a corporation to lobby for them. The result is an invisible, disposable army suffering its wounds in silence.
My suggestion is that Israel unilaterally declare its borders. Those on the other side of those borders may, if they wish, declare their own nations as well.
Those neighbors who wish to recognize Israel and its borders would begin diplomatic relations with Israel. Commerce and cultural exchanges would commence. People would go to Israel to seek jobs. Israel would extend a helping hand by helping that nation develop economically.
If a neighbor elected to not recognize Israel then the borders between Israel and that entity would remain closed.
My guess is that the Gaza would become the declared nation of Palestine and would prosper, while the West Bank would remain under the control of Hamas which would continue to seek the destruction of Israel. Until the people in that region made a political change, then they would not benefit from relations with Israel as would those in the Gaza and they'd have to turn solely to their Arab neighbors for help.
The world would see a blossoming Palestine, bearing the fruits of peaceful relations with Israel, and a continuing struggling West Bank which would have only its own political leadership to blame for its failures.
Who said New Yorkers don't have hearts?A quick-thinking employee at Silvercup Studios in Greenpoint, Queens was able to rescue a Peregrine Falcon chick, either been abandoned by its mother or that had fallen from its nest from a nearby church steeple, as it was being pecked at by doves on a sidewalk.
The man, Morgan Pitts, rushed in and rescued the bird and brought it to his colleague at Silvercup, Mike Gallart who is married to Wendy Gallart, director of marketing and communications at The Animal Medical Center in Manhattan. Gallart immediately called his wife when he saw what was happening. She arrived and was able to transport the bird back to The AMC where it is being nursed back to health.
The Peregrine Falcon became an endangered species in many areas due to the use of pesticides, especially DDT. Since the ban on DDT from the beginning of the 1970s onwards, the populations recovered, supported by large scale protection of nesting places and releases to the wild.
The bird, reportedly, is doing well.