Friday, January 09, 2009

KBR and Halliburton offer up "BLAME THE TROOPS"

KBR Inc. and its former parent, Halliburton Co., filed a request in court to tell a jury that the U.S. Army and Iraqi terrorists are responsible for deaths and injuries to company truck drivers in Iraq in 2004.
Families of the dead and injured drivers claim in a federal lawsuit that KBR and Halliburton officials sent unarmed civilians into active-combat zones in April 2004 knowing they would be attacked and possibly killed. The contractors and their families say Houston-based KBR misrepresented the risk and should be held accountable.

The above is from Laurel Brubaker Calkins and Margaret Cronin Fisk's "KBR Seeks to Blame U.S. Army, Insurgents for Iraq Convoy Deaths" (Bloomberg News) and has to qualify as a new low even for KBR and Halliburton. Not only is so grossly insulting to the US service members, the hypothesis can't even hold up under its own weight. Let's throw logic and propriety out the window long enough to not object to the assertion that the US Army failed KBR and deaths and injuries were their fault. How do you lump 'terrorists' in there as well? So the way their little hypothesis works is that the US Army should have provided even more protection and, pay attention, so should terrorists. KBR and Halliburton wanted to make a quick buck on the cheap and risked human lives in order to do so.

The US military had to protect KBR and that wasn't fair to them. When the KBR trucks would have a flat, get stuck or whatever, KBR employees would be able to leave the scene. The US service members would have to stay with the trucks, like sitting ducks. And as Kelly Dougherty (IVAW) has explained repeatedly, they would wait and wait and then finally be told to destroy the trucks and any cargo on it. Which would frequently anger the local populations.

KBR and Halliburton put the US service members at risk and, if there's a lawsuit that needs to be filed, it needs to be against KBR and Halliburton for risking US lives. How typical of Dick Cheney's companies to want to rally when opinion on the illegal war is more favorable and to toss out the bumper sticker slogan (that we do not use here or quote here) so many jingoists used to silence dissent and serve up "BLAME THE TROOPS." I'm sure it will look lovely on the bumper of some gas guzzling SUV.

KBR remains in the news with Julie Sullivan's "Oregon troops exposed to toxic chemical in Iraq" (The Oregonian):

At least 48 Oregon soldiers assigned to protect contractors rebuilding a water treatment plant near Iraqi oil fields in 2003 were exposed to hexavalent chromium. The industrial compound, if inhaled, greatly increases the risk of lung cancer.
Last month, 16 Indiana National Guard soldiers sued Houston-based KBR, claiming the nation's largest war contractor "disregarded and downplayed the extreme danger of wholesale site contamination." The suit claims KBR hid its civilian workers' elevated chromium levels and dismissed widespread symptoms -- including constant nosebleeds that toxicologists call "chrome nose" -- as sand allergies.
[. . .]
In an e-mailed statement Thursday, KBR denied "any assertion" that the company harmed troops or was responsible for an unsafe condition at the facility. KBR has collected $28 billion in military contracts.
[. . .]
Concern for Oregon soldiers was first raised by Lt. Col. B.J. Prendergast, who served as executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry Regiment in Iraq in 2003. His soldiers had already been reassigned when he saw a command e-mail alert about the exposure. He immediately demanded an occupational health assessment for the troops. They were evaluated in Kuwait, and their history was noted in post-deployment reports at Fort Lewis, Wash. No blood or urine tests were conducted.

KBR -- giving back to the country that gave them so many billions of tax payer dollars . . . giving back cancer.

And on all those billions, Laura Strickler's "Senators Request New KBR Investigation" (CBS News -- link has text and video) reports:

CBS News has learned the Senate Armed Services Committee has requested a new investigation into the multi-billion dollar military contractor Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR). The investigation request is based on accusations from a retired Army official who managed the contractor’s work in Iraq.
Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) and ranking Republican Senator John McCain (R-AZ) sent a joint letter to the Department of Defense Inspector General on December 12, 2008 requesting the new investigation based on claims by former Army civilian Charles M. Smith who worked out of the Army's Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois.
In an interview with CBS News, Smith said after he raised serious concerns about KBR's accounting of billions in taxpayer dollars, he was removed from the project.

And in rushing to get the last entry up, I forgot to include Rick Rogers' "Medals bestowed on 5 for valor in Iraq firefight" (San Diego Union-Tribune):

Former Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jesse Hickey recalled seeing bullets hitting all around him as Marines ran for cover. As the first corpsman to reach the ambush site, he raced to rescue wounded men.
Under normal circumstances, the Marines would have pulled back and called in air power to destroy the building. But with wounded Marines in the house, that wasn't an option.
Hickey treated and evacuated several Marines, even though shrapnel hit parts of his body and he could no longer use one of his arms.
"I remember being scared, but I was scared of not being able to help those guys," Hickey said yesterday. "I never thought about what might happen to me, only of failing my Marines. When I think back about it, I wish I could've done more."
Also working to save Marines and kill the enemy during the battle were Gunnery Sgt. Robert Homer, Lance Cpl. Joshua Mooi, Cpl. Javier Alvarez and 2nd Lt. Donald McGlothlin.
At one point, Alvarez snatched an insurgent's grenade that landed in the middle of some Marines. It exploded, blowing his hand off, but he kept fighting.
Hickey, Homer and Alvarez received the Silver Star during yesterday's medals ceremony. The Silver Star for McGlothlin, who died in the battle, was awarded posthumously.

Again, that should have been in the last entry with Tony Perry's "5 platoon members honored for bravery in 2005 Iraqi firefight" (Los Angeles Times) but maybe it's better here anyway (by accident). KBR and Halliburton are blaming the US service members for the corporation(s) own failures and maybe we need that reminder of some of what the US service members actually have to deal with -- when not acting as baby sitters for corporations trying to get rich in Iraq and too damn cheap to buy their own security? KBR and Halliburton have reached a new low, even for them.

On CBS News, Martha passed on an e-mail asking that people watch this CBS News report on Gaza.

And we'll note the following press release in full on an upcoming action in DC:

Witness Against Torture

January 8, 2009

Frida Berrigan, 347-683-4928,
Gary Ashbeck, 410-913-2342,


WASHINGTON ­ On Sunday, January 11 ­ the seven-year anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantanamo ­ more than 200 human rights advocates will join 60 people who are beginning a nine-day fast to encourage President-Elect Barack Obama to keep his promise to shut down Guantanamo and end torture in his first days of office.

At DuPont Circle Park at 12:45 pm in Washington, DC, leading human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, American Civil Liberties Union, The Center for Constitutional Rights and September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, will call for an end to the Bush policies, justice for the detainees, and accountability for possible U.S. crimes. 150 demonstrators wearing orange jumpsuits and hoods will have a prisoner procession to dramatize the plight of the detainees still at Guantanamo.

"I am fasting," says Malachy Kilbride of the Washington Peace Center, "to symbolically join the prisoners, who are starved for justice."

"Obama's statements," explains Matthew Daloisio of Witness Against Torture, "bring hope that Guantanamo will close. But parts of the military and the Congress are already working to prevent Obama’s plans."

"We need justice, not more politics of fear," adds Valerie Lucznikowska of September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. "This is the promise Obama represents, and we will hold his administration to it."

The fast will be broken on January 20, when anti-torture activists will join the inauguration-day crowd. The event is part of Witness Against Torture’s 100 Days Campaign to Close Guantanamo and End Torture. Participants include The National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the Torture Abolition Survivors Support Coalition, War Resisters League, and the American Friends Service Committee.

Event: Fast and Rally Calling on Obama to Close Guantanamo and End Torture

Date and Time: Sunday, January 11; 12:45 pm

Location: DuPont Circle Park, Washington, D.C., NW

On e-mails, I'm not speaking of the above but I am speaking about the public e-mail account. If you use it and want to be quoted, it is not my job to track you down. It is not my job to do your work for you. It states very clearly on the left hand side that your e-mails are confidential unless you are threatening (put up for physical threats -- though didn't _____ ______ pretend not to grasp that?). If you're quoted here from a newspaper, you need to address your quibbles with the paper that quoted you. Griping at me will not endear you to me. Griping at me because ____ misquoted/distorted you is not my problem.

And what am I supposed to do with your e-mail? Am I supposed to say, "____ wrote and says ____ misquoted him. For the record, ____ feels ___"? To do that, I would need your permission. I am not your wet nurse, I am not your mother. You don't sleep in my bed. It is not my job to waste my time e-mailing you, "Oh, that's so awful what ____ did to you. Do you want me to note it here?" That's not my job and, point of fact, most 'misquotes' aren't. I've given enough interviews to know we are far more likely to say the wrong thing and instantly regret it or not realize how it came it off until after it's in print or on air. That's another reason why you shouldn't follow your own press -- ever. And if someone misquotes you and refuses to correct the record or at least apologize, they get a reputation quickly and people avoid giving them quotes. The reporter in question has no such reputation.

One more, and there are two for this one, if you were quoted here as you were quoted in ___ or ____ but you don't think you came off well, too damn bad. We are not ____ or _____. Links were provided to both. We can excerpt under fair use, we cannot repost in full. If you have something you'd like noted here, you can make that clear in your first e-mail. I shouldn't have to spoonfeed you. (And for the record, all the whiners today were males.)

Witness Against Torture sent a press release and made their intent very clear. It's amazing that they can do what big moneyed professionals can't. But maybe that happens when the focus is on an issue that matters as opposed to petty, personal grievances (self-obsession?)?

Community sites that posted since yesterday morning:

Public television? NOW on PBS offers:

A rise in sea levels isn't the only impact global warming is having on the world's oceans. A growing body of evidence suggests that climate change is also affecting ocean currents and the chemistry of the seas, with potentially catastrophic results.
This week, NOW travels deep into the oceans with scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) with help from other researchers for a first hand look at this stunning sea change, and what we can do about it.
"We've been aware of global warming for several decades now. We haven't taken any substantive action, and we're now what many scientists would call at tipping points," Ruth Curry, an ocean scientist at the WHOI.
In a simple experiment, using ice cubes, a beaker of water, and a hot plate, Curry shows NOW's David Brancaccio how ice acts as a heat buffer in the oceans. When the ice melts, the buffer collapses, and may cause a rapid rise in ocean temperatures, with unpredictable results.
Some ocean scientists believe that if action isn't taken quickly to address climate change, our oceans could face their biggest shock in 100 million years.
The world's oceans face a global-warming catastrophe. President-elect Barack Obama has pledged to act quickly to fight climate change but can his Administration make a difference?

That begins airing tonight in most PBS markets as does Washington Week (check local listings for both) which finds Gwen and the gas bags exploring few topics but pretending they are many. Look for lots of bad puns and what doesn't even qualify as a one-liner. John Harwood (NYT, CNBC) shows up without his twin (John Dickerson), Michael Duffy (Time magazine) and Mark Mazzetti (NYT) will attempt to grapple with topics (and what passes for topics) while Jeanne Cummings grapples with the English language (stands in front of, stands behind -- it's all so confusing for Jeanne).

Turning to public radio,
WBAI on Sunday and Monday:

Sunday, January 11, 11am-noon

Actor/author/raconteur Malachy McCourt holds forth on issues of
church, art, state.

Monday, January 12, 2-3pm


Producer and Artistic Director Mark Russell on "Under the Radar," a
spectacular international theater festival now in its 5th season;
author/artist Wafaa Bilal on "Shoot an Iraqi: Art, Life and Resistance
Under the Gun," his book about an interactive performance piece; and
pianist/composer Andrew Shapiro on upcoming performances and his new
recording of "Numbers, Colors and People," works for solo piano
merging classical and pop sensibilities. Hosted by Janet Coleman and
David Dozer.

Broadcasting at WBAI/NY 99.5 FM
Streaming live at WBAI
Archived at Cat Radio Cafe

And NPR has a streaming live concert today:

Live Friday: Sharon Little In Concert

Listen Online At Noon ET

Sharon Little 300
courtesy of the artist

Sharon Little.

WXPN, January 8, 2009 - Soulful pop singer Sharon Little was working as a waitress at the start of 2008, but it didn't take her long to grab a spot as the opening act for Robert Plant, Alison Krauss and T-Bone Burnett on their Raising Sand tour. Though she might be called an overnight sensation, Little has been honing her bluesy, jazzy style for years. Return to this space at noon ET Friday to hear her perform live in concert from WXPN and World Café Live in Philadelphia.

Little's sultry voice attracted the attention of a label early in her career, but she rejected the offer in order to pursue her own sound. She self-released the critically acclaimed album Drawing Circles in 2006, and began co-writing with Grammy-winner Scot Sax over the course of two years as they took a bunch of cross-country trips by train. Her major-label debut, Perfect Time for a Breakdown — which features "Follow That Sound," her theme song for the TV series The Cleaner — was largely inspired by their travels.

And on
broadcast TV (CBS) Sunday, 60 Minutes:

The Price Of Oil
The historic swings in oil prices last year were the result of financial speculation from Wall Street and not supply and demand, several sources from the financial and oil communities tell Steve Kroft. | Watch Video
The Chairman
CBS News correspondent David Martin profiles Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen.
Wyclef Jean immigrated to the U.S. as a child and grew up to live the American dream as a millionaire rock star. He’s now using his extraordinary talents and wealth to help his native Haiti. Scott Pelley reports.
60 Minutes, this Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
60 Minutes Update:
Obama And The Economy
President-elect Barack Obama is promoting his economic stimulus plan on Thursday in a speech at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Scott Pelley spoke with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson about the economic crisis in October. | Watch Video

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oh boy it never ends