Saturday, May 06, 2006


Ray McGovern bio

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Financial friendly fire

Army specialist Tyson Johnson of Mobile, Ala., had just been promoted in a field ceremony in Iraq when a mortar round exploded outside his tent, almost killing him.

"It took my kidney, my left kidney, shrapnel came in through my head, back of my head," he recounted.

His injuries forced him out of the military, and the Army demanded he repay an enlistment bonus of $2,700 because he'd only served two-thirds of his three-year tour.

When he couldn't pay, Johnson's account was turned over to bill collectors. He ended up living out of his car when the Army reported him to credit agencies as having bad debts, making it impossible for him to rent an apartment.

Leftist leaders reject U.S. trade plan

Bolivia's new left-leaning president signed a pact with Cuba and Venezuela on Saturday that rejects U.S.-backed free trade and promises a socialist version of regional commerce and cooperation.
Cuba promised to send Bolivia doctors to provide medical care to poor people, and teachers to conduct literacy campaigns. Venezuela will send gasoline to the Andean nation and set up a $100 million (€80 million) fund for development programs and a $30 million (€24 million) fund for other social projects.

Cuba and Venezuela also agreed to buy all of Bolivia's soybeans, recently left without markets after Colombia signed a free trade pact with the United States.

"According to any reasonable definition of the term, this is not a trade agreement," Michael Shifter, a political analyst with the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, said of last year's ALBA deal. "It's an attempt to pose a real counterweight to the U.S. role and agenda in Latin America."

Shifter predicted few other Latin America nations would join ALBA, instead preferring trade agreements with the United States.

But he said Chavez is likely eyeing Peru as a potential ALBA member if nationalist Ollanta Humala prevails in a presidential runoff expected for May 28 or June 4. Humala was the front-runner in the April election.

BIG Brother alert

Federal and state governments are seeking to add millions of DNA profiles to anti-crime databases by including genetic information about people who are charged — but not yet convicted — of crimes.

The arrestee-testing laws generally permit a person's DNA to be taken after he or she is charged with a felony. If a defendant is acquitted or the charges are dropped, the profile is expunged from the database and the biological sample is destroyed. As long as the profile is in the database, it can be matched to other crimes.

Such databases initially contained only DNA profiles taken from convicted felons. However, New Mexico and Kansas this year enacted laws that require DNA testing for all people arrested for alleged felonies, and similar plans are under consideration in New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois and Tennessee.

Advocates such as Sepich say that testing DNA profiles of arrestees is no more intrusive than comparing fingerprints found at crime scenes to databases of convicts and arrestees. The DNA profiles do not code for any genetic characteristics, they say.

Cheney exempts his own office from reporting on classified material

A standing executive order, strengthened by President Bush in 2003, requires all agencies and "any other entity within the executive branch" to provide an annual accounting of their classification of documents. More than 80 agencies have collectively reported to the National Archives that they made 15.6 million decisions in 2004 to classify information, nearly double the number in 2001, but Cheney continues to insist he is exempt.

Not only has the administration reported a dramatic increase in the number of documents deemed "top secret," "secret" or "confidential," the president has authorized the reclassification of information that was public for years. An audit by a National Archives office recently found that the CIA acted in a "clearly inappropriate" way regarding about one-third of the documents it reclassified last year.

Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their government," Bush said in his executive order on classified information. "Nevertheless, throughout our history, the national defense has required certain information be maintained in confidence in order to protect our citizens."

Bush and Cheney have made it clear they are intent on reclaiming presidential powers lost by Bush predecessors. That erosion of power started with Richard Nixon's losing fight over the privacy of his papers after the Watergate scandal and continued through Bill Clinton's impeachment.



Iraqi president, says he recently met the representatives of seven armed groups

Now this looks promising:
"...there are groups other than the Saddamists and Zarqawists who joined the armed operations for the purpose of fighting the occupation,” Talabani was quoted as saying. “We are trying to have a dialogue with them to join the political process.”