United States News Digest
Satterfield Said To Be Involved in AIPAC Spy Case
The New York Times reported, on Aug. 18, that the second government official (USGO-2)invovlved in the Larry Franklin/AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) indictment, is David M. Satterfield, now number two at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. The Times attributes the information to "people who have been officially briefed on the case." The recent indictment alleges that USGO-2 met with defendant Steve Rosen in January 2002; later the same day, a memo containing classified information Rosen had obtained from USGO-2 was sent to AIPAC employees, and days later Rosen disclosed that classified information to a foreign national. The indictment says that Rosen and USGO-2 met again in March 2002 and discussed classified information regarding al-Qaeda, and over the next several days, Rosen disclosed the classified information to a fellow AIPAC employee and a person whom the indictment calls Foreign Official 2, who was assigned to an embassy in Washington.
Satterfield, a Middle East expert described as one of the State Department's "rising stars," was ambassador to Lebanon 1998-2001. He was confirmed by the Senate as Ambassador to Jordan in 2004. Times articles from 2001 and November 2002 describe Satterfield, as "a special United States envoy" and later a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, presenting U.S. views including the Bush Administration's Middle East "Road Map," to the Israeli government. A February 2005 Washington Post article reported from Beirut that Satterfield "kept up Washington's pressure on Syria by calling on it to withdraw its 15,000 troops from Lebanon" following the Hariri assassination.
The Times says that Satterfield is not believed to be the subject of a continuing investigation, and that "Current and former colleagues praised Mr. Satterfield as a seasoned and careful diplomat." That assessment is somewhat undercut by the identities of those quoted: Dennis Ross, a former Clinton Mideast envoy and present employee of the neo-con Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Satterfield's former boss in the Clinton-era National Security Council and State Department; Martin Indyk, now resident at the Brookings Institution, but previously associated with AIPAC.
Gov. Taft and the Ohio Workmen's Comp Scandal
The Republican Governor of Ohio, Robert Taft, pleaded no contest Aug. 18, to four misdemeanor charges of violating state ethics laws, for failure to report 52 separate incidents of gifts, amounting to about $6,000. The case arose as part of the investigation of Tom Noe, Karl Rove's man in Ohio, who is under multiple Federal-state investigations. The gifts to Taft included three golf outings, for which Noe picked up the tab, in 2001, 2002, and 2003. Taft was sentenced to pay a $4,000 fine.
The danger here, is that media sensationalism and narrow partisanship around the petty charges against Tafta secondary player in the Ohio scandalwill swamp the larger, far more important matter of Tom Noe's role, under the direction of the Dick Cheney-Carl Rove machine, in the illegal financing of the massive voter suppression in Ohio in the 2004 Presidential election which handed the national election to Bush-Cheney.
There are three grand juries proceeding against Noe:
1. A Federal grand jury convened on June 1, has been investigating Noe on charges that he conduited several tens of thousands of dollars of funds illegally into the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign.
2. A Lucas County, Ohio grand jury, convened Aug. 1, that is investigating Noe's "inability to account for" $13 million out of $50 million in Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) funds entrusted to him to manage, and the broader loss of nearly $300 million at the BWC; and,
3. A state grand jury, convened Aug. 3, that is probing the BWC's "emerging managers fund," where many of the most significant losses occurred.
Nuclear Institute Head Calls for 60 Nuclear Plants
Nuclear Energy Institute head, Adm. Skip Bowman (ret.), said that the industry's initial goal is to retain nuclear's 20% share of U.S. electricity production, which would mean building 60 new nuclear plants in the next 10 years, the Washington Times reported Aug. 15. There are currently 104 operating reactors, and the TVA's Browns Ferry unit, which has been shut since the mid-1980s, is the only plant currently scheduled to come on line. In May, Nuclear Regulatory Commission chair Nils Diaz said that the U.S. should build 100 nuclear plants over the next two decades.
Meanwhile, the communities where utility consortia are considering building new nuclear plants are competing to have their site chosen. Resolutions supporting new plants have been passed since December in Claiborne County and Port Gibson, Miss.; Oswego, N.Y.; Baton Rouge, and on the state level in Louisiana; and Calvert Cliffs, Md. On Aug. 15, Calvert County submitted its package of incentives to NuStart Energy to encourage them to add a unit at Calvert Cliffs. The existing plant's owner, Constellation Energy, paid $15.3 million in taxes to the county in FY05. Plant construction would create up to 3,000 jobs, and up to 400 permanent, high-paying skilled jobs.
Lutheran Church Denounces Israeli Wall
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America denounced Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Berlin Wall of the Middle East during its recent assembly, saying that Israeli policy throughout the territories has brought "extreme hardship" to Palestinians. The statement was called, "Peace Not Walls: Stand for Justice in the Holy Land" and was passed with an overwhelming majority of 668-269. The statement is part of the church's advocacy plan for Mideast peace.
Bishop Munib Younan, head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, said that the Wall itself is an obstacle to peace, and that many Palestinians can no longer reach their jobs, hospitals, and places of worship.
Biden: U.S. Troops Still Can't Get Enough Body Armor
The lead story of the Sunday, Aug. 14 New York Times concerned the long delays in the Pentagon program, which was initiated over a year ago, to provide U.S. troops in Iraq with stronger, more resistant body armor, to provide better protection against the munitions and more powerful explosive devices being used by the insurgents. The lack of a U.S. industrial base is cited as a major factor in the delays; the Defense Department is relying on a cottage industry of small companies with limited production capabilities. There is also a shortage of necessary raw materials.
Senator Joseph Biden (D-Del), when asked about this on NBC TV's Meet the Press, said that if Rumsfeld were the CEO of a corporation, he'd be fired by now. "I think Rumsfeld should get his notice on Monday morning," Biden said.
Bush Rebukes Another General for Telling the Truth
President Bush "privately rebuked" Gen. George Casey, after Casey said troop levels could be reduced by 30,000 early next year, the London Sunday Telegraph reported Aug. 14. Bush said that any "speculation" on troop withdrawals implied a weak resolve on the part of the U.S.
Dan Goure, a Pentagon adviser and vice president at the Lexington Institute, a Washington-based defense think tank, said, "It's number driven. The military can only maintain these levels in Iraq if it has absolutely no choice. Otherwise, the current pattern of rotations and other commitments mean that they will have to lower the numbers." He gives three scenarios: the best, 60-70,000 reduction by next autumn; Casey's 30,000 cuts in the spring as a "fall-back option"; and "Plan Ccomplete withdrawal if all-out civil war erupts."
Judge Tosses Homeland Security Labor Rules
A U.S. District Judge Aug. 12 threw out the labor rule changes planned by the Department of Homeland Security. In what Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, called an "enormous and critically important win for the rights of Federal employees, not only in DHS but in all federal agencies," Judge Rosemary Collyer blocked the Bush Administration's plans to overhaul personnel and pay rules at the Department of Homeland Security, saying the government-wide change of labor rules fails to protect workers' right to bargain collectively. Labor groups have filed similar challenges to a Pentagon plan to revise Defense Department labor rules.
In the ruling, Collyer said the new rules exceeded the scope of Federal law, citing in particular provisions giving an agency official unchecked authority to change negotiated positions in a collective-bargaining agreement. The rules were a model intended eventually for all Federal employees, under the guise of the need for "more flexibility to respond quickly to terrorist threats."