United States News Digest
Homelessness Rising Among Iraq, Afghanistan War Vets
While the reported numbers are small, so far, given the numbers of people serving in George Bush's two wars, and the rate of mental illness among them, the problem of homelessness among veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is likely to grow over the coming years, according to Stars and Stripes June 2. Linda Boone, the executive director of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, says that about 70 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan contacted her organization for help in 2004, and another 125 have petitioned the Veterans Administration. "It's not a big wave, but it's an indicator that we still haven't done our job," she said. VA officials say they're much more able to reach out to such veterans than in earlier times, but Boone says that most don't seek help for mental and emotional problems for years after they return from combat, meaning that the problem will likely get worse.
Army Lowers Standards for Officers
The Army will raise the upper age limit for enlisted soldiers and civilians to attend Officer Candidate School (OCS), to 42, and permit more flexibility in waiving minor criminal or civil offenses the potential officer candidate may have committed, the Baltimore Sun reported June 9. The current rules require that officer candidates finish their training prior to reaching age 29, and that they should be in "good moral standing." The Army's plans to increase the number of active-duty soldiers to 510,000 this year, and reorganize into modular combat brigades, as well as fill in rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, have created a need for many more officers, and they hope to generate 600 more graduates from OCS to help fill that need. The Army National Guard and the Army Reserve are preparing similar programs.
Major Gen. Robert Scales (ret.) told the Sun that he found it "disturbing" that the Army was willing to waive regulations on offenses, and commented that it was unusual to stretch the age limit so high. "Now that we're in the third year [of Iraq and Afghanistan], we're starting to see some fissures in the officer corps," he said.
U.S. Will Not Block ElBaradei Third Term at IAEA
The U.S. State Department announced on June 9 that it would support a third term for Mohammed ElBaradei as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, after a meeting between ElBaradei and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. They reportedly agreed on the urgency of halting the spread of nuclear weapons, and that the UN agency should focus on suspicious Iranian activities. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that if other nations on the IAEA's board voted this summer to reappoint ElBaradei, the U.S. would join the consensus. Reuters reported that U.S. officials acknowledged that has Washington reversed its position because it had been unable to erode support for ElBaradei, in spite of a year-long campaign of pressure, adding that its support was conditioned on ElBaradei getting tougher with Iran.
Reuters otherwise reports that ElBaradei has informed Iran that the IAEA board would hear a report on progress in the agency's Iran probe next week. The June 9 Los Angeles Times, on Iran's huge nuclear plant near Natanz, reports that an IAEA team has begun work there, to verify whether Iran is complying with its announced enrichment suspension.
House Bill Gives CIA More Overseas Authority
A statement issued May 24 by U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, declared that H.R. 2475, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006, is "the first intelligence authorization that will fund programs and budgets to be managed by the new Director of National Intelligence." It will also give the CIA authority to coordinate all "human intelligence activities overseas," according to an article by Walter Pincus in the Washington Post June 7. These activities include those carried out by Pentagon and FBI personnel. The language of the bill was "designed to clarify roles of the CIA director and the new Director of National Intelligence (DNI) regarding the collection of intelligence outside the United States 'by any department, agency or element' of the U.S. government," the Post said. CIA Director Porter Goss would develop this process, but it would be subject to the approval of the DNI, John D. Negroponte.
Is Bush Campaign Funding Coming Under Suspicion?
Investigators are now beginning to look into a tax-avoidance scheme run out of the Isle of Man, a tax haven off the coast of Britain, involving Texas billionaire brothers Sam and Charles Wyly, the London Independent reported June 6. The Wyly brothers are huge Bush family supporters, each having given $200,000 to various campaigns.
Earlier this year, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morganthau began investigating what seemed to be a scheme to turn over stock options to trusts, some with no employees, or headquartered in local farmhouses. By such means, the Wyly brothers have managed to avoid paying taxes in the range of $100 million in one scheme, and as much as $700 million in another, that ranged over 11 years. Morganthau's findings have now provoked the interest of the IRS and the SEC, both of which have joined in the probe.
Judge Upholds Gregoire Election
In a ruling issued June 6, Washington State Judge John Bridges upheld the election of Gov. Christine Gregoire (D), and rejected GOP claims that wrongdoing, fraud, and felon voters were the reason why her GOP opponent Dino Rossi lost. Prior to this case, Rossi, a Republican, won the initial election tally by 261 votes. He also won the mandatory machine recount by 42 votes. But in the final hand recount, paid for by the Democrats, Gregoire moved ahead. This set the stage for a showdown.
The Republicans contested the hand recount in court, focussing their argument on foul-ups in the counting, most of them located in King County (Seattle). They argued that the two initial machine-counted tallies were less error-prone than the final hand recount. They also claimed that hundreds of felons voted illegally. But the judge rejected the method proposed by Republicans for apportioning the number of felons who voted for Gregoire. The judge went further in his statement, saying Gregoire would have won even if the Republicans' faulty arithmetic was applied. Judge Bridges said the burden of proof for nullifying an election was not met. "An election such as this should not be overturned because one judge picks a number and applies a proportional analysis. To do so within the context of the facts of this case would constitute the ultimate act of judicial egotism and judicial activism." The Republican attorney said he was surprised by how thoroughly the judge dismissed the proposed method for deducing illegal votes.
Bolton Caught in Major Fraud
John Bolton, President Bush's choice for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, has been caught in a major fraud. Associated Press reported June 4. Bolton reportedly forced the illegal firing of the head of UN chemical weapons inspections in 2002, to prevent inspections in Iraq before the war. The fact that John Bolton had forced an emergency meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in April 2002, to ram through a vote of no confidence in its longstanding chief, Brazilian Jose Bustani, was known at the time. An effort a month earlier to force the regular meeting of the board to fire Bustani had failed, and a personal visit by Bolton to intimidate Bustani into resigning also had failed. (Bustani reported that when he refused, Bolton told him: "Now we'll do it the other way.")
What AP has now discovered is that Avis Bohlen, a career diplomat who retired as a top deputy to Bolton in June 2002, has revealed what was suspected at the time, that the pretext for dumping Bustani, i.e., "mismanagement," was a fraud, that Bolton was trying to stop Bustani from sending a team into Iraq to confirm that Iraq had destroyed its chemical weapons. The U.S. had no veto over such a move, as it did in the UN Security Council. Bohlen told AP, "It was that that made Bolton decide he had to go," describing Bolton as "very much in charge of the whole campaign."
Note that the April 2002 action came just weeks after the now-infamous agreement between Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to go to war on Iraq, long before the UN votes.
In July 2003, a year after the dumping of Bustani, an appeal board of the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labor Organization, which hears UN agencies' cases, ruled that the firing had been "unlawful" and that international civil servants must not be made "vulnerable to pressures and to political change."
Lyndon LaRouche's comment on the revelations was that Bolton had been caught in a fraud on the United Nations, which is certainly grounds for rejection to the post of U.S. Ambassador to the UN, and would totally discredit him in that post if he were to be allowed through in the Senate.