What's really happening in country – #2

Militants, swept from battleground, return when troops leave, U.S. says
By Tom Lasseter
Knight Ridder

AR-RAMADI, Iraq — Iraq’s insurgency has concentrated much of its fight against U.S. and Iraqi forces in towns along the murky waters of the Euphrates River, beginning with Al-Qaim on the Syrian border and running through towns such as Al-Hadithah, Al-Haqlaniyah, Hit, Ar-Ramadi and Al-Fallujah. They’re all in Al-Anbar province, the heartland of Iraq’s Sunni Muslim minority, which dominated the government under Saddam Hussein.

In the cities where U.S. forces have set up bases — such as Ar-Ramadi and Al-Fallujah — the fighting has destroyed much of the infrastructure but failed to completely secure the areas. In smaller towns, American forces launch repeated raids to clear the streets of insurgents, only to see them return as soon as the Marines and soldiers are gone.

Three weeks of reporting alongside American troops in Al-Anbar’s main centers of guerrilla resistance found that U.S. forces are failing to make headway, and some commanders fear that much of the military effort is wasted.

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What's really happening in country – #3

Sunni infighting involving al Qaeda erupts in Iraq
Sat Aug 27, 2005 09:02 AM ET

RAMADI, Iraq (Reuters) – Two Sunni Arab tribes, one loyal to al Qaeda and the other to the government, clashed in western Iraq, killing at least 20 people and wounding scores, clerics and hospital officials in the town said on Saturday.

The tribes fought months ago and violent confrontations erupted again on Friday and Saturday near Qaim, where U.S. Marines launched several offensives to root out insurgents from May to July.

Clerics in the town say members of the Karabilah tribe — allied to al Qaeda — attacked homes of the rival Albu-Mehel tribe — many of whom are members of Iraq’s new security forces in their province of Anbar.

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What's really happening in country – #4

Under US noses, brutal insurgents rule Sunni citadel

Guardian gains rare access to Iraqi town and finds it fully in control of ‘mujahideen’

Omer Mahdi in Haditha and Rory Carroll in Baghdad
Monday August 22, 2005

The executions are carried out at dawn on Haqlania bridge, the entrance to Haditha. A small crowd usually turns up to watch even though the killings are filmed and made available on DVD in the market the same afternoon.

One of last week’s victims was a young man in a black tracksuit. Like the others he was left on his belly by the blue iron railings at the bridge’s southern end. His severed head rested on his back, facing Baghdad. Children cheered when they heard that the next day’s spectacle would be a double bill: two decapitations. A man named Watban and his brother had been found guilty of spying.

With so many alleged American agents dying here Haqlania bridge was renamed Agents’ bridge. Then a local wag dubbed it Agents’ fridge, evoking a mortuary, and that name has stuck.

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What's really happening in country – #5

US jets target Zarqawi hideout
August 28, 2005

US jets launched multiple air strikes yesterday against a “terrorist safe house” in Iraq’s western Al Anbar province, destroying the building where up to 50 al-Qaeda militants were believed to be hiding.

A statement said the coalition ground forces were alerted by local residents that a number of terrorists had gathered in an abandoned building north-east of the Husaybah, located on the Syrian border about 320km west of Baghdad.

There were reports that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq and the second most-wanted terrorist on the US list after al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, was in the area.

“Iraqi citizens reported that approximately 50 terrorists were in the building at the time of the air strike,” the statement said.

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Bush's way with words, vs. Cindy Sheehan's

Catapulting the Propaganda
The President, Cindy Sheehan, and How Words Die
By Tom Engelhardt

“See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.” — George Bush, “President Participates in Social Security Conversation in New York,” May 24, 2005.

Forced from his five-week vacation idyll in Crawford by the mother of a dead boy he sent to war, the President has recently given two major speeches defending his war policies and, between biking and boating, held a brief news conference at Tamarack Resort in Donnelly, Idaho. On August 22nd, he addressed the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Salt Lake City for 30 minutes; on August 24th, he spoke for 43 minutes to families of the Idaho National Guard in the farming community of Nampa, Idaho.

As his poll figures continue on a downward spiral, he has found it necessary to put extra effort into “catapulting the propaganda.” Though he struck a new note or two in each speech, these were exceedingly familiar, crush-the-terrorists, stay-the-course, path-to-victory speeches. That’s hardly surprising, since his advisors and speechwriters have been wizards of repetition. No one has been publicly less spontaneous or more — effectively — repetitious than our President; but sometimes, as he says, you “keep repeating things over and over and over again” and what sinks in really is the truth rather than the propaganda. Sometimes, just that extra bit of repetition under less than perfect circumstances, and words that once struck fear or offered hope, that once explained well enough for most the nature of the world they faced, suddenly sound hollow. They begin to sound… well, repetitious, and so, false. Your message, which worked like a dream for so long, goes off-message, and then what do you do?

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"What's really happening in America"

Hi Mr. Miller,

I heard you on ‘TO THE POINT’ last week.

It was really refreshing to listen to you debate about the state of today’s media.

I am frustrated by the media, democratic party and congressional representatives who refuse to fight this trend of ‘Christian Evangelical Conservatism.’ I look at what’s going on in the beltway and I’m amazed at how out of touch my representatives are with what is happening to the middle class. Let me use myself as an example:

My father attended Yale and got his MBA at Harvard, I got my BA from Lewis & Clark College. I live in Los Angeles working as a Print Broker for a diverse range of companies. My company is about 3 years old so I’m only bringing in about 35k a year. My wife worked at Microsoft for 5 years and had a great benefits package including health and pension benefits. Last year Microsoft fired their admin. staff (my wife) and had them rehired through a temporary agency, Spherion. Now my wife does the exact same thing at Microsoft but she’s a Spherion employee. She receives less pay, medical was so bad we had to get our own plan in order to cover our two children and the pension package is a joke. We both have to work so daycare costs 240 each week and medical insurance is 525 a month. 525 we were putting away for retirement. That’s 18,000 a year. I’m telling you, we live a modest life no debt, I drive a 92 volvo and my wife has a Saturn which will be paid for in a few months. But we’re not getting ahead – the American dream just ain’t happening for us. This is what’s really happening in America (from my perspective) and where is the Democratic party or my democratic representatives??? I’ve written letters to Feinstein, Boxer, Pelosi, etc., etc. and I get a ‘thanks for your letter, we are deeply concerned’ response. What does this have to do with your discussion on ‘TO THE POINT’? Hell, I dunno, but you were really ‘on the money’ when you were speaking on ‘TO THE POINT’ and I related to you. Thanks.

Best wishes,
[name withheld]

It's getting worse

Man dies in scuffle with security guards
A Cleveland man died last Sunday after a scuffle with security guards at the Walmart Super Center located at 6626 FM1960 in Atascocita.

According to witnesses, Stacy Driver ran out of the store and was pursued by Walmart loss prevention employees. A short time later, Driver was dead, and the Walmart employees were trying to explain the last moments of his life to police.

Charles Portz said he was getting out of his car when he saw a heavy blonde haired man being chased by five people who appeared to be security or store employees. He said he saw them wrestling the man to the ground. “The blacktop was extremely hot,” said Portz “He had no shirt on and they wouldn’t let him up off the blacktop.” He said one of the men had Driver in a chokehold and had his knee in the back of his neck as the men tried to subdue him. “He kept trying to get up and they kept pushing him back down,” Portz said.

According to Portz, Driver began to plead with them men. “He’s begging, ‘Please call an ambulance, let me up, do something, I’m gonna die,” said Portz. He said the loss prevention employees called the police more than once, but another bystander called for an ambulance after realizing Driver was in trouble. Portz said he eventually began to plead with the Walmart employees. “I told them, this guy doesn’t look like he’s breathing,” Portz said, “They said, ‘He’s all right.” He says he continued to plead with the men, pointing out that the man’s fingernails were turning gray. “They said he’s just high on something,” adding, “They just kept him pinned down for twenty minutes or more until the ambulance came.” He said he believed Driver was dead when the ambulance left with him, but he was not certain.

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What's happening in New York State

From William Betz:

It seems that New York State is entitled to $191 million in HAVA funds to replace the voting machines. If there is no compliance, the State has to give the money back and, moreover, it has to refund money to the extent that compliance falls short. Carol Berman, former NYS election commissioner and former NYS senator, spoke at the meeting. She made it very clear that there had been no problems with the lever voting machines, and that the only costs involved with them involved routine maintenance and repair. Still it appears the State is in a mad rush to replace them for the sake of getting the federal money. What a joke. The choice New York faces is between optical scan machines (which leave a paper trail) and the paperless electronic machines that enable hackers and crooks to control elections. Either choice will entitle the State to the HAVA money, which appears to be the most important thing that ever came down the pike.

Let’s see who profits from this, in addition to the voting machine companies. (You don’t suppose Diebold, et al., are contributing to some republican campaign coffers for the sake of getting a contract, do you?)


Bad press hurting Diebold's sales

Press Contact: Ilene Proctor or Angus Hsu
Direct Line: (310) 271.5857
Cell: (310) 721.2336 OR Linda Schade 301-270-6150
E-mail: proctor@artnet.net

Diebold’s Election Division Jolted by Reliability and Security Concerns
Voting Unit Proves Drag on Earnings and Corporate Image

Washington, DC – Diebold’s Elections Division is in serious trouble. In this week’s delayed second quarter earnings report Diebold admits that negative perceptions of Diebold’s AccuVote TS and TSx voting systems have produced ‘lower revenue’ and lower ‘margin and earnings per share’. In its second quarter earnings report, Diebold had high hopes its Elections Division would prop up earnings in its troubled ATM division by 5% to 37%. These problems are likely to escalate as problems in the largest voting market in the United States, California, may cause Diebold to be excluded from that market.

After a dramatic 20% failure rate in a recent Alameda County demonstration, over 18,000 TSX voting machines sit idle in warehouses all over the California. Some governments have refused to pay for the units until the problems are fixed. Election officials in Alameda County are considering another supplier altogether. Diebold’s election problems come at a time when Diebold’s core business is suffering from price pressure and the overall down trend in ATM deliveries.

Elaine Ginnold, Alameda County’s acting registrar of voters, said problems reported in the recent tests have her seriously thinking about a switch of strategy in which the county would emphasize paper ballots using optical scanners rather than touch-screen devices.

Diebold provides election systems statewide in Georgia, and most of Maryland. These states use an older version of the AccuVote(R) touch screen the TS6, but critics say even those machines are flawed and prone to screen freezes and other Election Day
problems. Law suits alleging security and accuracy defects are pending in Maryland, and in Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney recently revealed an internal memo from Georgia Sectary of State Cathy Cox. Attached was a list of thirty problems with Diebold machines including lack of certification. Oddly Diebold is slated to deploy the troublesome and out of production TS6 in Baltimore City Maryland next month.

“The problems seen in California are consistent with problems with the Diebold election machines in other parts of the county. In Montgomery County, MD the IT report on Election Day 2004 found that up to 12 percent of machines failed totally or partially on Election Day. The same types of problems seen in the California tests — screen freezes, machine crashes, and error reports — occurred in Maryland on Election Day,” said Linda Scahde of TrueVoteMD.org.

Internally Diebold’s problems in California may trigger another management shake-up in the election division. Insiders say the recent departure of Gregory T. Geswein, senior vice president and chief financial officer was directly related to Diebold’s California problems. Second-quarter net income was $33.3 million, or 47 cents a share, down 24% from $43.6 million, or 60 cents a share in the year-ago period.

Hackett hits the bull's eye (literally)

Hackett calls Limbaugh “fatass drug addict”

Appearing on today’s edition of “The Ed Schultz Show,” Paul Hackett made several stand-out statements (mp3 file). My favorite came in reference to his being attacked by Rush Limbaugh:

That’s typical for that fatass drug addict to come up with something like that. There’s a guy … I didn’t hear this, but actually when I was on drill this weekend, I’ve got to tell you, he lost a lot of Republican supporters with his comments. Because they were coming up to me, telling me, “I can’t believe he said that! Besides that, he called you a soldier. He doesn’t know the difference between a soldier and a marine!”

So generally, the consensus is Rush doesn’t know squat about patriotism. He’s typical of the new Republican. He’s got a lot of lip and he doesn’t walk the walk. The fact of the matter is, I went to Iraq to serve my country. I left my nice house, my nice wife by my choice because I thought it was the right thing to do. And man, if I was good enough to be able to see into the future that Rob Portman was going to step down from Congress, I mean I should actually be running for something a lot more than Congress. I went to Iraq because I wanted to serve my country and be with my Marines.

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