The Role  CACI, Titan, Blackwater and Halliburton

Iraq for Sale: the War Profiteers (Robert Greenwald 2006) is about the privatization of the war in Iraq and four of the Wall Street corporations that endangered enlisted troops, committed war crimes and cheated taxpayers out of billions of dollars. The film has just become available for free viewing on YouTube.

The film’s most shocking revelation is that torture at Abu Ghraib was primarily the responsibility of two private corporations, CACI International and Titan. CACI was originally contracted to perform database services in Iraq. The contract was expanded to include army intelligence work and eventually the interrogation and torture of prisoners.

Titan was originally contracted to provide translation services. According to GIs interviewed for the film, Titan never assessed their translators for their language skills and provided no training nor supervision of their ongoing work.

The GIs who tortured prisoners at Abu Ghraib were ordered to do so by these civilian contractors. When the scandal broke, the GIs were court martialed and faced average sentences of eighteen years. The civilian contractors who ordered the torture were merely sent home. Many went to work for new contractors and returned to Iraq within weeks.

Gouging the Taxpayer

The role of Halliburton (the company Dick Cheney ran before becoming vice-president) and Blackwater in Iraq has been well publicized thanks to a series of high profile scandals.

Even before the war started, the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) was awarded a no-bid contract to provide meals, water and construction, laundry, repair and transport services. Because it was a no limit cost-plus contract, there was a strong incentive for Halliburton/KBR to add on and inflate billable services.

Specific examples include charging the Pentagon $45 for a can of Coke, $99 for a bag of laundry and $250,000 on a three year lease for a $25,000 SUV. Instead of repairing trucks and SUVs that broke down, KBR would order GIs to burn or blow them up so they could charge the taxpayer for new ones. Hundreds of millions of dollars simply disappeared.

n 2005, Pentagon auditors ascertained that Halliburton had overcharged them by more than $1 billion. Despite a high profile Congressional investigation, the Pentagon paid the $1 billion over charge. Not only was there no effort to prosecute Halliburton, but their contract in Iraq was expanded.

Placing GIs at Risk

In addition to gouging the taxpayer, Halliburton/KBR placed GIs at significant risk in the slipshod way they provided water and food service. Out of the sixty-seven water treatment plants they operated in Iraq, sixty-three were unsafe due to contamination with giardia, cryptosporidium and other infectious organisms.

The mess halls Halliburton/KBR also placed GIs at substantial risk because the company refused to provide a twenty-four hour food service. Iraqi insurgents were quick to learn the meal schedules and frequently attacked as GIs waited an hour in line to be fed.

stuartbramhall:

 

 

The FCC voted 3 to 2 this week to preserve Net Neutrality. It could impact how your Internet Service Provider (ISP) runs their network and what type of recourse you have if you think they’re doing. something shady. ISPs, telecom carriers and Republicans hate it.

Originally posted on Freedom Is Just Another Word...:

5 Things You Need to Know About the FCC’s Net Neutrality.

if you care about the openness of the Internet—and you should—listen up.

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How Safe is Air Travel?

If you’re planning a plane trip soon you need to know about a condition that can cause airline pilots to develop brain fog and become confused and disoriented during flights. It’s known as aerotoxic syndrome. Tristan Loraine, former pilot and founder of the Aerotoxic Association, has documented dozens of cases (and two deaths) among pilots and cabin crews. It can also affect passengers and is suspected as the cause of unexplained midair collisions.

A Dorset (UK) coroner investigating the 2012 death of a British Airways pilot Richard Westgate has brought the issue to mainstream media attention by calling on British Airways and Britain’s Civil Aviation authority to take “urgent action to prevent future deaths.”  Frank Cannon, the lawyer for the Westgate case, also represents fifty other air crew, employed by several different airlines, affected by the condition.

The Cause of Aerotoxic Syndrome

Although aircraft manufacturers have known about the problem for decades, the term “aerotoxic syndrome” was first coined in 1999 by doctors treating air crews for the condition. The cause of the condition is repeated exposure to organophosphates* (as well as hundreds of carcinogens) that leak into the air used for pressurization. Sufferers typically show elevated levels of the organophosphate tricresyl phosphate (TCP) in their blood.

Commercial passenger planes compress air from the engines to pressurize the cockpit and cabin. There are seals meant to separate engine oil and so-called “bleed air,” but these commonly leak with age (most airlines rely mainly on aircraft that are fifteen to twenty years old) and inadequate maintenance. A recent 60 Minutes-Australia investigation found contaminated air in 50% of the aircraft they tested. The clip below also cites a 2007 memo by a senior Boeing inspector warning that “lives need to be lost” before Boeing takes action on preventing aerotoxic syndrome.

Loraine Calls for Organophosphate Detectors and Filtration Systems

Lorrine sees the introduction of Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner — the first and only new commercial jet in which air isn’t drawn from the engines — as an admission of the risk by the airlines. The former pilot, who has made a documentary about aerotoxic syndrome, insists at minimum airlines should install organophosphate detectors in their cabins and cockpits. He claims the reason they refuse to do so is because they would go off all the time and alarm passengers.

He also points out that current aircraft could be fitted with filtration systems at a cost of no more than £20,000 each.

The FAA Position on Aerotoxic Syndrome

Shortly after a 2010 CNN expose on aerotoxic syndrome, Senator Diane Feinstein championed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 required the agency to establish a research program focused on aircraft engine/APU bleed air cleaning and monitoring technology.

The following paragraph summarizes their findings:

The FAA conducted a safety database assessment (i.e. a computer search of the airlines own data) of airliner cabin air quality events involving 121 commercial air line operators. The results of the analysis indicate an extremely low occurrence involving bleed air contamination from engine oil or hydraulic fluid. While there are reports of purported personal injury in news media, medical privacy laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 prohibit the FAA from obtaining corroborating data which could be used to determine a causative relationship between air contaminant events and associated risk to passenger and flightdeck crew health

In other words, instead of testing the air quality of passenger airlines like 60 Minutes Australia, they merely rely on the airlines’ data to conclude the problem was non-existent.

The Significance of Genetic Variability

Like British and Australian regulators, the FAA is using broad statistical sampling to argue the so-called aerotoxic syndrome is no more prevalent in air crew than the general population – therefore it doesn’t exist. The fallacy here is that people have enormous genetic variability in their capacity to metabolize organophosphates. Paraoxonase (PON1) is one enzyme that inactivates some organophosphates through hydrolysis.  A 2006 report found a 13-fold variation in adults in PON1 levels and efficacy.

It logically follows that individuals with low PON1 levels are at higher risk of developing aerotoxic syndrome with repeated exposure to TCP.

Safer than Childbirth in Africa

The good news here is that air travel is probably safer than drinking arsenic or childbirth in Africa. However it’s clearly not as safe as airlines and regulators would lead us to believe. Those with urgent and compelling reasons to get on a commercial jet should either make sure it’s a Dreamliner or bring their own oxygen tank.

*Organophosphates are chemical compounds commonly used as insecticides. Because they are potent nerve poisons, they are commonly used as chemical warfare agents. Phosgene, the nerve gas used in Nazi gas chambers, was an organophosphate.

 

Link to Loraine’s 2007 documentary Welcome Aboard Toxic Airlineshttp://www.factnotfictionfilms.com/welcomeaboardtoxicairlines.html

Good websites for additional information on aerotoxic syndrome

http://new.flyersrights.org/nesletter/11-22-11/

http://aerotoxic.org/

Also posted on Veterans Today

stuartbramhall:

 

 

Students organize debt strike against Corinthian College for duping them into signing up for a worthless degree. Hopefully the first of many assaults against the student loan racket.

Originally posted on Hwaairfan's Blog:

Students Loan Strike against for Profit Colleges*

By Lauren McCauley

Taking a stand against the for-profit schools which they say have saddled them with mountains of debt, a number of recent graduates, dubbed the Corinithian 15, on Monday launched a student debt strike.

The former students, with help from the anti-debt collective Rolling Jubilee, are refusing to pay the federal loans that Corinthian College Inc., the for-profit college chain, reportedly duped the students to sign up for, in exchange for a degree which they say is worthless.

“I was excited to attend Everest College online because they promised to help me find a well-paying career,” said student loan striker Latonya Suggs, from Cincinnati, Ohio. Suggs said she “took out thousands in loans so that I could make a better life for my son,” but upon graduating found that the criminal justice degree she obtained from Everest is not even recognized…

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White Like Me

Scott Morris (2013)

Film Review

White Like Me is a frank examination of white privilege featuring long time white civil rights activist Tim Wise. Contrary to popular misconception, the political disenfranchisement of people of color didn’t end with the Civil War or the 1960s civil rights movement. The majority of black people attend poorly funded, segregated inner city schools, face massive job discrimination and have much poorer health status. Thanks to these historic structural disadvantages, they also bear the brunt of the 2008 downturn and growing inequality.

Blaming the Victim

Many white conservatives use Obama’s election to the White House to shift the blame to the African American community for their miserable economic and social conditions. If a black man can achieve the highest office in the nation, they argue, it must mean that racism has ended. By extension, it must be their own fault if African Americans remain at the bottom of the heap.

They conveniently overlook the fact that Obama lost the white vote by a 57% to 43% landslide. In some southern states, he only garnered 10% of the vote.

Examples of White Privilege

In examining specific privileges, white people enjoy Wise begins by discussing three important federal programs that blacks were excluded from until the late sixties: Social Security, Federal Housing Authority (FHA) loans and VA loans.

He traces how Roosevelt deliberately excluded domestic servants and agriculture workers (occupations employing 80% of African Americans) to win the support of southern Democrats.

At the same time, the FHA made it virtually impossible for blacks to access loan guarantees with the following language:

Areas surrounding a location are investigated to determine whether incompatible racial and social groups are present, for the purpose of making a prediction regarding the probability of the location being invaded by such groups. If a neighborhood is to retain stability, it is necessary that properties shall continue to be occupied by the same social and racial classes. A change in social or racial occupancy generally contributes to instability and a decline in values.

There were no specific laws excluding black veterans from VA-guaranteed loans – this was down to banks refusing to give them mortgages, even when the federal government guaranteed them.

White Affirmative Action

Other privileges whites have enjoyed include freedom from racial profiling by police and white affirmative action in education. This begins in elementary school when white kids have the option of attending well-funded non-ghetto schools. It continues at the college level, where white beneficiaries of affirmative action are called “legacy” students. On average, colleges admit twice as many white students whose parents or grandparents attended as minority students who qualify for affirmative action.

Whites also have the privilege of indulging in occasional marijuana use without losing their civil and human rights for the rest of their life. The film quotes from Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow  to demonstrate how the War on Drugs deliberately targets people of color for mass incarceration.

The filmmaker also features University of Massachusetts professor John Bracey, who explains how structural racism hurts white people. As one example, Bracey talks about the millions of poor whites who have lost access to welfare benefits, thanks to the deliberate misportrayal of social safety net programs as primarily benefiting minorities.

Coming to Grips with White Privilege

Wise concludes with advice for white people who are genuine in wanting to conquer their unconscious racism:

Among other suggestions he calls on them to

1. make the conscious decision not to be colorblind and close their eyes to racial disparities and inequality. In order to address racial disparities, we must first learn to see them.
2. acknowledge that we all have unconscious racial biases that can affect our behavior in ways that maintain or exacerbate inequality.
3. study and honor the long tradition of white anti-racist activists who are our role models.

Wise also has a book entitled White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son.

stuartbramhall:

 

 

The four-month truce between Greece and the EU is a tactical win for the Greeks as it gives them breathing room to build stronger alliances with the Sino-Russian bloc. Prime Minister Tsipras will certainly exploit his visit to Moscow in May (http://failedevolution.blogspot.gr/2015/02/confirmed-putin-calls-tsipras.html), while he investigates the possibility of financial aid from BRICS. The latter is rapidly building an autonomous financial system to decouple their economies from the neoliberal monetary monopoly.

Originally posted on ThereAreNoSunglasses:

German retreat gives a chance for Greeks to prepare for Grexit

failed revolution

by system failure
The details of the new agreement between Greece and the lenders are rather of little importance. It seems that the four-month period will function mostly as a truce period rather than a period of substantial progress for the two sides to build a bridge between them.
The generalities in the new agreement are very convenient mostly for the Greek side because they will give the flexibility to the Greek government to take some measures during this period against austerity, in order to fight the humanitarian disaster in Greece, as promised.
However, the financial lobbyists, represented by the Troika, insist in the final sadistic fiscal targets, exactly because they know that a devastated economy is impossible to meet them. They will use this four-month period only as an excuse to say later that they treated Greece with…

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oil tanker

US Backs Russian UN Resolution Targeting ISIS

According to Bloomberg’s, on Feb 10 the UN Security Council adopted a binding Russian resolution threatening economic and diplomatic sanctions against countries and individuals that help ISIS and other terrorist groups profit from trading oil, antiquities or hostages. As the US vetoes most Russian Security Council resolutions, this was an historic event.The resolution requires governments to ensure that they aren’t engaged in direct or indirect trade with ISIS and al-Qaeda-affiliated groups such as the al-Nusra Front in Syria. According to Bloomberg’s, the resolution will significantly impact Turkey and Syria, which allow the purchase of oil from the militant group.Facts the article omits are probably more significant than the omissions.

First Bloomberg’s neglects to mention that the US initially opposed the resolution and spent three days frantically trying to counter and/or change the draft language.  Presumably this relates to inconvenient truth that Israel is one of the main destinations of the smuggled oil

Second it fails to comment on an extremely odd scenario in which the Assad government is purchasing smuggled oil from ISIS:

Thirdly it (deliberately?) leaves Israel and unnamed EU nations off the list of countries buying oil from ISIS.

The text of the resolution, which stops short of threatening the use of force, urges governments to share information on ISIS  financing networks, bans exports of all antiquities from Syria and reiterates the call on countries to prevent ISIS from benefiting from political concessions or ransom payments made to secure the release of hostages.

It also requires countries to block aircraft, auto and truck traffic, including oil tankers, traveling to or from areas in Syria and Iraq where the extremist groups operate.

ISIS earns about $1 million a day from oil sales.

In addition, according to a recent BBC investigation, ISIS also receives substantial income from looting and smuggling of antiquities from historical and archaeological sites in both Iraq and Syria. The primary market for the stolen objects is Europe and the Gulf states. Ten thousand year old artifacts can bring in as much as $1 million each. An Iraqi intelligence official told the Daily Mail that ISIS earned £23 million in early 2014 alone by selling 800 items stolen from the ancient city of Al-Nabk near Damascus.

In 2014, ISIS also brought in approximately $45 million in 2014 from kidnapping for ransom.

The resolution doesn’t spell out specific penalties for countries found guilty of helping ISIS. It would require the Security Council to debate whether any violations have occurred and what punitive measures it would order. The resolution requires all 193 members of the UN to report within 120 days on measures they’ve taken to comply with it. The UN’s existing al-Qaeda sanctions committee will monitor and report on any progress.

All in all, it looks like a pretty shrewd move by Russia. Obama now has 120 days to report back how he plans to sanction US allies Turkey and Israel – or face a UN Security Council resolution calling for sanctions on the US. While the US would surely veto such a resolution, it provides an excellent opportunity for Russia to embarrass Obama and Israel by exposing their financial and military ties to ISIS.

This past week, the US also backed a Russian resolution to the UN Security Council supporting the Minsk Ceasefire.

photo credit: Seniority via photopin (license)

Also posted at Veterans Today