Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

The Postville, Iowa raid was a story we covered when it happened--but did you know that, caught in all of this, were a handful of kids who were barely teenagers? When federal immigration agents raided the kosher meatpacking plant here in May and rounded up 389 illegal immigrants, they found more than 20 under-age workers, some as young as 13. Now those young immigrants have begun to tell investigators about their jobs. Some said they worked shifts of 12 hours or more, wielding razor-edged knives and saws to slice freshly killed beef. Some worked through the night, sometimes six nights a week. One, a Guatemalan named Elmer L. who said he was 16 when he started working on the plant’s killing floors, said he worked 17-hour shifts, six days a week. In an affidavit, he said he was constantly tired and did not have time to do anything but work and sleep. “I was very sad,” he said, “and I felt like I was a slave.” At first, labor officials said the raid had disrupted federal and state investigations already under way at Agriprocessors Inc., the nation’s largest kosher plant. The raid has drawn criticism for what some see as harsh tactics against the immigrants, with little action taken against their employers. But in the aftermath of the arrests, labor investigators have reaped a bounty of new evidence from the testimony of illegal immigrants, teenagers and adults, who were caught in the raid. In formal declarations, immigrants have described pervasive labor violations at the plant, testimony that could result in criminal charges for Agriprocessors executives, labor law experts said. My question is--how the fuck is Agriprocessors still in fucking business?

Two dead in church shooting: A man entered the West Knoxville 9Tennessee] church and opened fire with a shotgun. Police said one person was killed and eight others wounded. A hospital spokeswoman says five of the wounded are in critical condition. Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen identified the man killed as 60-year-old Greg McKendry, an usher and longtime church member. A city official says another member of the congregation died later from injuries. The shooting occurred at approximately 10:15 a.m., while children were putting on the musical. There were about 200 people in the church at the time.

Fire near Yosemite begins to claim homes: A growing wildfire has forced the evacuations of 170 homes near the main entrance road to Yosemite National Park and is threatening more, fire officials said. The blaze grew from about 1,000 acres to around 16,000 acres between Saturday morning and evening, said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. About 900 firefighters are battling the blaze that is burning on both sides of a steep, rugged canyon along the Merced River. "The erratic behavior is because there is so much fuel out there to burn," Berlant said. Fire crews on Saturday were being flown into the hard-to-reach area. Crews had to hike several hours to get to the fire because smoke prohibited aircraft from flying in the area. The fire also forced officials to cut the power grid to Yosemite National Park, and it had not been restored on Saturday evening.

More on the bombings in India: Authorities scoured a western Indian city Sunday for those responsible for a series of bomb explosions that killed at least 45 people, rounding up 30 people as a little-known group claimed responsibility for the attack. State government spokesman Jaynarayan Vyas also said that 161 people had been wounded when at least 16 bombs went off Saturday evening in several crowded neighborhoods of Ahmadabad - a historic city that in 2002 was the scene of some of the worst rioting between India's Hindu majority and its Muslim minority. The attack came a day after seven smaller blasts killed two people in the southern technology hub of Bangalore. Another unexploded bomb was found and defused early Sunday, the city's police commissioner, O.P. Mathur, said. He said police had detained 30 people in their investigation. Cities around the country were put on alert and security was stepped up at markets, hospitals, airports and train stations.

You hate when this happens--and when it does, it destroys the myth that the US is actually practicing consistent Counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine in Iraq. Whether it's airstrikes or shooting up cars full of people, we are not winning any hearts and minds because our troops are stuck in a no-win situation: The U.S. military said Sunday that the three people killed last month after U.S. soldiers shot at their car in one of the most secured areas of Iraq were civilians, not criminals as the military initially reported. The correction came more than a month after a bank manager at a branch inside the airport, Hafeth Aboud Mahdi, and two female bank employees were shot at by U.S. soldiers as they sped to work on a road within the secured airport compound. The road is used only by people with high-level security clearance badges. The car veered off the road, hit a concrete blast wall and burst into flames. The original statement said that Mahdi and the two women were "criminals" and that an American convoy on the side of the secured road came under small-arms fire from the vehicle. Soldiers said they shot back. A weapon was found in the debris and two U.S. military vehicles were struck by bullets from the attack, the statement on June 25 said. "When we are attacked, we will defend ourselves and will use deadly force if necessary," Maj. Joey Sullinger, a spokesman for 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, said in a statement at the time. "Such attacks endanger not only U.S. soldiers but also innocent civilians, including women and children, traveling the roadways of Baghdad."

They plan to hold an Olympics, but too bad half the atheletes will have to barf up a lung in order to compete: The haze that stubbornly cloaks China's capital in the run-up to the Summer Olympics looks worse than it really is, two senior officials asserted Saturday. The officials referred to the gray haze over the city as "fog" and "dust" but refrained from calling it air pollution. A daily air pollution index in China's capital has actually gotten worse in the week since city officials ordered more than one million cars off the streets and staggered office hours as part of an unprecedented anti-pollution campaign to clear the air for the Aug. 8-24 Olympics. For the three most recent of the past seven days, Beijing has tallied air pollution levels above 100 on an index, meaning air quality is "unhealthy" for children or senior citizens. Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the city's Environmental Protection Bureau, said at a news conference that observers should not rely on the visual appearance of the sky, or make judgments from photographs, in assessing whether Beijing is making headway in fighting air pollution. "You should not rely on photos," Du said, chastising the British Broadcasting Corp., for publishing photos on its Web site showing dismal haze in Beijing this month. What bullshit--next they'll blame American running dog gangsters for the pollution.

Of course we could have killed bin Laden--we tried to kill him, but there was no existential threat to do so in the 1990s. No one disputes that. In his seventh of month of U.S. captivity, Osama bin Laden's driver told a pair of FBI agents that it was America's fault that the al Qaida leader was alive. The message was, ''You had these opportunities, America. You didn't do anything,'' FBI agent George Crouch Jr. testified Friday at Salim Hamdan's war crimes trial. The United States could have killed bin Laden in Khartoum, Sudan, before he moved to Afghanistan in 1996, Hamdan told his interrogators. They could have killed him after al Qaida's 1998 twin bombings at the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Or after the October 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole, at the port of Aden in Yemen, which left 17 U.S. sailors dead. Instead, ''Bin Laden was emboldened.'' So he struck with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, leaving nearly 3,000 dead. Crouch was paraphrasing a portion of a nearly two-week interrogation he conducted here at the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, in June 2002, around the time that an Arabic-speaking FBI agent, Ali Soufan, arranged Hamdan's first call home. The only problem is, the realization that al Qaeda was responsible for the USS Cole bombing came after Bush took office. Clinton bombed the camps, Clinton chased bin Laden out of Sudan, Bush played golf. Sounds like Hamdan is channeling Sean Hannity...

The Washington Post details our "oil shock:" Early this month, Valero Energy in Texas got the unwelcome news that Mexico would be cutting supplies to one of the company's Gulf Coast refineries by up to 15 percent. Mexico's state-owned oil enterprise is one of Valero's main sources of crude, but oil output from Mexican fields, including the giant Cantarell field, is drying up. Mexican sales of crude oil to the United States have plunged to their lowest level in more than a dozen years. The same week, India's Tata Motors announced it was expanding its plans to begin producing a new $2,500 "people's car" called the Nano in the fall. The company hopes that by making automobiles affordable for people in India and elsewhere, it could eventually sell 1 million of them a year. Although neither development made headlines, together they were emblematic of the larger forces of supply and demand that have sent world oil prices bursting through one record level after another. And while the cost of crude has surged before, this oil shock is different. There is little prospect that drivers will ever again see gas prices retreat to the levels they enjoyed for much of the last generation. Unlike the two short, sharp oil jolts of the 1970s, the latest run-up has been accelerating over several years as ample supplies of crude oil have proven elusive and the thirst for petroleum products has grown. The average price of a barrel of oil produced by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries doubled from 2001 to 2005, doubled again by March this year and jumped as much as 40 percent more after that. Largely though, I think this is driven by unregulated speculation, greed on the part of oil companies, and an agreement between the Bush Administration and the Saudis to inject billions into the Saudi Royal Family coffers before he leaves office to help them stave off internal dissent. But I'm an idiot--what do I know?

If the University of Maryland calls on you, help them out, wingnuts: A University of Maryland center has received federal funding to study homegrown terrorist groups. Researchers at the center will also study the effectiveness of counter-terror strategies and efforts to build community resilience to attacks. University officials say the three-year-old National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism will receive nearly $12 million over the next three years from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The center, also known as START, also is developing what it says will be the world's largest and most comprehensive database of terror incidents. START hopes to have the database, covering all incidents since 1970, complete by the end of the year. About 50 social scientists will be involved in the research effort based at the center on the university's College Park campus.

The bombings in Turkey were designed to maximize casualties--what a tragedy: Two bombs exploded minutes apart in a packed Istanbul square Sunday night, killing 16 and injuring more than 150 in the deadliest attack against civilians in Turkey in almost five years. The city's governor called it a "terror attack" but officials did not blame any specific group and no one immediately claimed responsibility. CNN-Turk television, citing security sources, said police suspect Kurdish rebels may be behind it because intelligence reports had suggested the rebels were planning a bombing campaign in Turkish cities. "There is no doubt that this is a terror attack," Gov. Muammer Guler told reporters. The first bomb went off in the residential neighborhood of Gungoren in a busy square closed to traffic where people congregate at night, witnesses said. A number of people had rushed over to see what happened and help the victims when a second, more powerful blast hit close by about 10 minutes after the first. Many of the casualties were from the second explosion, witnesses said.

What a fucking disgrace--we have two wars going on, we have problems all over Africa, the Middle East, and now South Asia, we have bombings in India and Turkey, we have Russia sending its military out on show-of-force displays, and our Secretary of State is in Fiji??? US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joined her counterparts from Pacific island nations here Saturday to press Fiji's coup leaders to revive plans for elections next year. It was the first visit to Samoa by a US secretary of state in two decades. Brigadier-General Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, Fiji's interim foreign minister, attended the talks hosted by Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegao, who is also foreign minister, a US official said. Earlier this month Fiji's interim Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama reneged on a promise to hold elections by March 2009, saying the timetable was no longer achievable because of the need for electoral reforms. Bainimarama led a military coup in December 2006 which overthrew the elected government, accusing it of corruption and racism against the Indian minority, and has been under pressure to return the country to democracy. Rice arrived here from Auckland accompanied by New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters, to attend the meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), which includes New Zealand, Australia, and 14 island states, including Fiji. No word on whether the shoe shopping was good or bad.

Here's a great contrast for what your average wingnut is out there doing--Prince William is in the Caribbean, helping to chase down and arrest drug runners while they bray about surrender monkeys and how great John McCain is. How disgraceful is it that the future king of England is doing more to protect America--albeit, on the deck of a ship chasing down people who wouldn't do what they're doing if we would get our fucking act together in this country--than any of these keyboard rangers will ever do in their useless lifetimes?

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