The Plug Nickel Times is proud to bring you website links to news information that you may not find through your local media. All links are offsite unless otherwise noted - followed links should open in another browser window. Links can become dated or otherwise fail to function, for this reason we quote the actual headline of an article. This may allow you to find an alternate copy of the article through a news index or search engine. Some sites we link to may require a registration process to view an article - this website may be useful to you in those instances. Comments, corrections and submissions are welcome - an email link is at the bottom of the page.

January 1-15, 2005

January 14, 2005

7 Dead, 38 Wounded in Shiite Mosque Bombing - Two Aides of Sistani Killed

Falling like Flies: 53 Iraqi Parties Withdraw from Elections

Audit: FBI Still Improperly Investigates Spy Charges
"The Justice Department's inspector general said the FBI did not take seriously the allegations of a contract linguist who accused a co-worker of possible espionage. Sibel Edmonds, who worked for the bureau as a contract linguist from September 2001 until she was fired the following March, had also expressed concerns over the FBI's foreign language translation program. 'Our investigation concluded that the FBI did not, and still has not, adequately investigated these allegations,' Inspector General Glenn Fine wrote in an unclassified summary of a report that examined the allegations."

The Sky's the Limit
"Just before the New Year, the Washington Post disclosed a $16 million contract renewal from the Pentagon to defense company CACI. The piece neglected to note CACI's role as one of the two main civilian contractors implicated in the prisoner abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. And just yesterday, the other major contractor, the Titan Corporation, won a new $164 million deal from the Defense Department."

Congress killed measures to ban U.S. use of torture
"The Senate had approved the new restrictions, by a 96-2 vote, as part of the intelligence reform legislation. The restrictions would have explicitly extended to intelligence officers a prohibition against the use of torture or inhumane treatment, and it would have required the CIA as well as the Pentagon to report to Congress about the methods they were using.

But in intense, closed-door negotiations, according to congressional officials, four senior lawmakers from the House and Senate deleted the restrictions from the final bill after the White House expressed opposition to the measure. Two congressional negotiators said in interviews that lawmakers had ultimately decided that the question of whether to extend the restrictions to intelligence officers was too complex to be included in the legislation."

Can the FBI Monitor Your Web Browsing Without a Warrant?
"Today the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the FBI and other offices of the US Department of Justice, seeking the release of documents that would reveal whether the government has been using the USA PATRIOT Act to spy on Internet users' reading habits without a search warrant."

FBI Keeping Records on Pre-9/11 Travelers
"The bureau is keeping 257.5 million records on people who flew on commercial airlines from June through September 2001 in its permanent investigative database, according to information obtained by a privacy group and made available to The Associated Press."

January 12, 2005

U.S. mulls strikes on Syria

U.S. Ends Fruitless Iraq Weapons Hunt
"The search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has quietly concluded without any evidence of the banned weapons that President Bush cited as justification for going to war, the White House said Wednesday."

Russian deputy FM discusses crisis with Israeli officials
"Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov visited Israel on Wednesday and discussed with government officials a recent crisis between Moscow and Jerusalem over reported Russian plans to sell Syria missiles capable of striking targets within Israel."

N Korea wages war on long hair
"A campaign exhorting men to get a proper short-back-and-sides has been aired by state-run Pyongyang television. The series is entitled Let us trim our hair in accordance with Socialist lifestyle.
The programme allowed men aged over 50 seven centimetres of upper hair to cover balding. It stressed the 'negative effects' of long hair on 'human intelligence development', noting that long hair 'consumes a great deal of nutrition' and could thus rob the brain of energy. Men should get a haircut every 15 days, it recommended."

January 11, 2005

'This is not a life.'
"Iraqis are reminded daily of the 70% unemployment with the gas shortage driving the costs of everything through the roof. Even petrol is 1000 Iraq Dinars (ID) per liter on the black market, which unless you are willing to endure 12-24 hours waiting in a line, is the only way to get your tank filled.

When I was in Iraq one month ago it was 300 ID per liter. Imagine what you would do if in your country you had 70% unemployment, were without a job, and the cost of fuel rose 333% in one month, thus driving the costs of everything from food to heating oil up?

Speaking of the gas crisis, this morning a pipeline between Kirkuk and the Beji refinery was exploded, and several lines southwest of Kirkuk were also destroyed."

City of ghosts
"On November 8, the American army launched its biggest ever assault on the Iraqi city of Falluja, considered a stronghold for rebel fighters. The US said the raid had been a huge success, killing 1,200 insurgents. Most of the city's 300,000 residents, meanwhile, had fled for their lives. What really happened in the siege of Falluja? In a joint investigation for the Guardian and Channel 4 News, Iraqi doctor Ali Fadhil compiled the first independent reports from the devastated city, where he found scores of unburied corpses, rabid dogs - and a dangerously embittered population."

Electoral Lists
"A kind person in Baghdad sent me this. It is a translation of an official announcement from last month, which appeared in a Kuwaiti newspaper. It is a complete listing of the parties, coalitions and individuals that are contesting the January 30 elections. (Note that the Iraqi Islamic Party has since withdrawn). Note also that each voter can vote for only one of these lists. Where the list consists of a single individual, the voter would have to really want that person in parliament, and he or she would need on the order of 44,000 votes.

The names of the individual candidates for the most part have still not been publicly revealed. So Iraqis are expected to vote for a list based on the head of the list, who is known, and its general orientation. The United Iraqi Alliance (also translated as Unified Iraqi Coalition), e.g., groups a large number of religious Shiite parties, and is likely to attract a majority of the Shiite vote."

Media gag on 'Iraqi abuse' soldier case
"The British public is not allowed to be told evidence heard against a British soldier at a court martial in Germany yesterday after a judge imposed reporting restrictions on the press."

Decision allows use of vehicle tracking device without a warrant
In a decision that could dramatically affect criminal investigations nationwide, a federal judge has ruled police didn't need a warrant when they attached a satellite tracking device to the underbelly of a car being driven by a suspected Hells Angels operative.
Hurd opined that authorities wouldn't need a warrant had they decided to follow Moran, so using a GPS device was merely a simpler way to track his car 'as it traveled on the public highways,' he wrote. 'Moran had no expectation of privacy in the whereabouts of his vehicle on a public roadway. Thus, there was no search or seizure and no Fourth Amendment implications in the use of the GPS device.'"

Police Begin Fingerprinting on Traffic Stops
"If you're ticketed by Green Bay police, you'll get more than a fine. You'll get fingerprinted, too. It's a new way police are cracking down on crime. If you're caught speeding or playing your music too loud, or other crimes for which you might receive a citation, Green Bay police officers will ask for your drivers license and your finger. You'll be fingerprinted right there on the spot. The fingerprint appears right next to the amount of the fine."

Police Change Fingerprinting Policy
"Under the revised policy, officers will still take a fingerprint for civil ordinances such as disorderly conduct or shoplifting, or if you can't present a valid driver's license for identification."

City reviews obscenity ticket
"The city attorney's office is considering whether it should dismiss a public obscenity citation given to a war protester who displayed a sign that reads 'This war is Bushit.' The protester, Mike Wallschlaeger, 41, of Mosinee was cited Friday near the Marathon County Courthouse after a passer-by complained to police about the sign. Police seized the sign."

January 9, 2005

Insurgents Kill Baghdad Police Deputy, Bomb Police
"Gunmen assassinated Baghdad's deputy police chief outside his home, and a suicide bomber in a patrol car killed three Iraqis at a police station on Monday, a police source said."

Iraqi police chief assassinated
"The acting police chief in the northern Iraqi town of Samarra has been assassinated, a police official says."

US troops kill Iraqi civilians
"U.S. troops targeted by a roadside bomb have mistakenly killed two Iraqi policemen and two bystanders hours after an American warplane bombed the wrong house, exacting a heavy civilian toll, Iraqi officials say."

'The Salvador Option'
"The Pentagon may put Special-Forces-led assassination or kidnapping teams in Iraq."

Mysterious jet tied to torture flights
"Leonard T. Bayard--whoever he may or may not be--became the sole owner of the mysterious Gulfstream jet on Nov. 16, according to public records compiled by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The records show that Bayard Foreign Marketing purchased the plane, for an undisclosed sum, from Premier Executive Transport Services, whose address is the same as that of a Dedham, Mass., law firm that incorporated Premier Executive in January 1994.

The Massachusetts law firm's address is shared by a second company, Crowell Aviation Technologies Inc., which according to Dun & Bradstreet claims to have only a single employee and $65,000 in annual revenue.

Government records show, however, that Crowell is one of only nine companies, along with Premier Executive, that has Pentagon permission to land aircraft at military bases worldwide."

January 7, 2005

Probe into Colombia rebel arrest
"Colombian police said they captured Rodrigo Granda, a senior member of the Farc guerrilla group, in the Colombian border town of Cucuta in December. But the Farc say he was abducted in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, with help of Venezuelan and US officials."

Monsanto fined $1.5m for bribery
"The US agrochemical giant Monsanto has agreed to pay a $1.5m (£799,000) fine for bribing an Indonesian official."

Electoral Vote Challenge Meets Venomous Response in Congress
"In special sessions of both chambers of Congress Thursday, Republican lawmakers met a handful of Democratic colleagues with vitriolic diatribes when the latter raised concerns about electoral irregularities that took place during Ohio's controversial November 2 election process. The Democrats' challenge came on the heels of a congressional report detailing numerous allegations of disenfranchisement in Ohio.

In a departure from traditional procedure, the joint session of Congress convened to certify the electoral vote count and officially recognize George W. Bush as president elect broke up for two hours of separate debate among senators and representatives. The special session was activated when Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) joined Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) and other House members in challenging the certification of Ohio's 20 crucial electoral votes."

Bush team scolded for disguised TV report
"Shortly before last year's Super Bowl, local news stations across the country aired a story by Mike Morris describing plans for a new White House ad campaign on the dangers of drug abuse. What viewers did not know was that Morris is not a journalist and his 'report' was produced by the government, actions which constituted illegal 'covert propaganda,' according to an investigation by the Government Accountability Office."

Education Dept. paid commentator to promote law
"Seeking to build support among black families for its education reform law, the Bush administration paid a prominent black pundit $240,000 to promote the law on his nationally syndicated television show and to urge other black journalists to do the same.
The campaign, part of an effort to promote No Child Left Behind (NCLB), required commentator Armstrong Williams 'to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts,' and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show in 2004."

January 6, 2005

Guerrillas Kill 9 US Troops - 18 Bodies of Lured Workers Found in Mosul

US soldiers killed in Baghdad blast

Allawi extends emergency laws
"Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has said he has extended emergency laws for 30 days. The emergency rule was first imposed for 60 days in November before a major assault on Falluja. It gives Allawi special powers to impose curfews, close borders and airports and detain suspects without following normal legal procedures."

Gonzales Helped Set the Course for Detainees

Chief of Army Reserve Criticizes Policies

Students Arrested for Cyber Bullying
"Investigators with the Attorney General's High-Tech Crimes Unit say the situation started when a 15-year-old female student created a website called 'Loranger's biggest' The website featured pictures of a 14-year-old male student. He responded with his own web site, which investigators say included a list of students he called 'The Preps,' and poems so graphically violent, investigators say 'they crossed the line.'"

More Before and After satellite imagery of tsunami damage in Indonesia and Sri Lanka

January 4, 2005

Iraqi governor killed, Green Zone hit

Baghdad suffers multiple bomb attacks

Spy chief says 200,000 fighters in Iraq
"The head of the Iraqi intelligence service has estimated that there are more than 200,000 active fighters and sympathisers in the war-torn country."

Iraq abuse "went on until July"
"Sexual and physical abuse of Iraqi prisoners continued at least three months after the Abu Ghraib scandal was revealed, according to accounts by alleged victims published in the latest issue of Vanity Fair magazine."

Dahr Jamail has updated the photos taken in Fallujah in late November 2004
(this gallery of photographs is very graphic in its depiction of violent death)

Iran boosts air defenses at nuke sites
"Concerned that the US or Israel may be planning an air strike against its nuclear facilities, Iran has beefed up its air defenses around various nuclear sites, Israeli security sources have told The Jerusalem Post. Iran is also said to be intermittently pointing its Shihab rockets in the general direction of Israel.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stressed Tuesday that Israel has no intention of leading any air strike on Iran, and believes that the US-led international diplomatic effort to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions is the only appropriate path at this stage.

Further underlining Teheran's concerns, an Iranian newspaper reported Wednesday that US warplanes had flown over its nuclear facilities near the borders with Iraq and Afghanistan over the past few days. The US aircraft that entered Iranian air space included F-16 multi-role fighters and F/A-18 attack jets, according to a report in the Aftab newspaper."

Witness says Thatcher had role in coup plot
"The star witness against Sir Mark Thatcher has revealed the most detailed allegations yet of his role in a West African coup attempt, including claims that he helped test a helicopter for the operation.
But Mr Steyl, a South African pilot convicted last month of violating South Africa's foreign military assistance act, has agreed to testify against Sir Mark in South Africa in return for escaping a hefty jail term."

Gonzales Torture Memo Controversy Builds
"Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales' confirmation hearing this week may become more contentious because the White House has refused to provide copies of his memos on the questioning of terror suspects."

US security contracts draw scrutiny
"The largest Homeland Security Department contractors include two companies that paid millions to settle charges they defrauded the Pentagon, one that paid a foreign corruption fine, and one accused of botching a computer system for veterans hospitals, records show.

About a quarter of the $2.5 billion awarded to the 50 largest Homeland Security contractors came under no-bid contracts, according to the department's records. At the Pentagon 44 percent of contracts were awarded under 'other than full and open competition.'"

U.S. Fails to Make List of World's Freest Economies
"The Index of Economic Freedom, published by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal since 1995, finds that the United States is letting Big Brother grow obese as other countries get lean and fit. Chile, Australia and Iceland improved enough to leave the U.S. in a tie with Switzerland for 12th place.
The U.S. earned top scores in property rights, banking/finance and monetary policy. What hurt it: a miserable rating in fiscal burden of government, worse than all but 30 countries in the survey.

'This reflects poor scores in the area of taxation. The U.S. corporate tax rate ranks 112th out of the 155 countries scored, and its top individual tax rate ranks an only somewhat better 82nd. The fiscal burden rating also reflects the fact that federal spending that has reached levels not seen since World War II and that now costs the average household more than $20,000 per year,' The Heritage Foundation announced."

FCC launches probe into latest network profanity slip
"When Motley Crue's Vince Neil wished bandmate Tommy Lee a happy New Year live on NBC, he couldn't resist inserting a profanity - and now the FCC is involved.

The Federal Communications Commission has received complaints about the New Year's Eve 'Tonight' show and is beginning a preliminary probe, a spokeswoman said Tuesday. But it's likely little will come of it."

Big brother fears over police tracker system   (UK)
"The latest in crime-fighting communications technology can save a police officer's life by enabling colleagues to find him through a GPS transmitter in his handset.

But police officers fear the new £2.9bn communications system could lead to Big Brother-style tactics by superior officers who will be able to track their every move."

January 2, 2005

Falluja's destruction continues
"Speaking to Aljazeera on Saturday, Iraqi journalist Fadil al-Badrani added that a few who returned last week - and had been happy to find their houses mostly intact - watched in disbelief as US forces pushed their homes over in the past four days.
Most complained of US soldiers pointing their weapons at them even in the simplest of situations, while others asked why they had been prevented from putting front doors back on to their homes.
Lakes of sewage foul the streets. The smell of corpses inside charred buildings pervades the atmosphere. No water or electricity are available and there are constant warnings to watch out for landmines and booby traps."

Iraq election officials quit after threats

Guerrillas kill 32, Car Bomb Kills 19, Wounds 6   (Iraq)

Israeli incursions continue unabated
"The Israeli army has launched a major incursion into the northern Gaza Strip shortly after wrapping up an operation in the south of the occupied territory, sources on both sides said."

Long-Term Plan Sought For Terror Suspects
"Administration officials are preparing long-range plans for indefinitely imprisoning suspected terrorists whom they do not want to set free or turn over to courts in the United States or other countries, according to intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials."

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