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.

April 2006

April 30, 2006

Bulgaria and US sign deal for military bases
"US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Bulgarian counterpart Ivailo Kalfin have signed an agreement that will see around 2,500 American troops based on Bulgarian soil. It marks another step in Washington's reorganisation of its military presence after the Cold War.

The Bulgarian parliament is yet to ratify the document, which is seen as an effort by Sofia to repay Washington for supporting its entry into Nato."

Mexico set to decriminalize pot, cocaine
"Mexico's Congress approved a bill today decriminalizing possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use - including cocaine and even heroin - raising potential questions about joint U.S.-Mexican anti-narcotics operations.

The only step remaining was the signature of President Vicente Fox, whose office indicated he would sign the bill, which Mexican officials hope will allow police to focus on large-scale trafficking operations rather than minor drug busts.
The bill says criminal charges will no longer be brought for possession of up to 25 milligrams of heroin, 5 grams of marijuana (about one-fifth of an ounce, or about four joints), or 0.5 grams of cocaine - the equivalent of about 4 'lines,' or half the standard street-sale quantity (though half-size packages are becoming more common).

'No charges will be brought against ... addicts or consumers who are found in possession of any narcotic for personal use,' according to the Senate bill, which also lays out allowable quantities for an array of other drugs, including LSD, ecstasy and amphetamines."

Head of visitor tracking program wants global ID system
"The head of the Homeland Security Department's visitor tracking program on Tuesday called for the creation of a 'global ID management system' to make travel easier while enhancing security."

U.S.: FBI Sought Info Without Court OK
"The FBI secretly sought information last year on 3,501 U.S. citizens and legal residents from their banks and credit card, telephone and Internet companies without a court's approval, the Justice Department said Friday."

Congress cracking down on U.S. leaks
"If the measure is approved by Congress, the nation's spy chief would be ordered to consider a plan for revoking the pensions of intelligence agency employees who make unauthorized disclosures. It also would permit security forces at the National Security Agency and the CIA to make warrantless arrests outside the gates of their top-secret campuses.
At the request of National Intelligence Director John D. Negroponte, the legislation would allow agency security forces at the NSA and CIA to make arrests outside the grounds of those agencies. Ware said the measure is 'just clarifying the authority' of agency security officers 'to arrest individuals.'"

Congress may consider mandatory ISP snooping
"Last week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a Republican, gave a speech saying that data retention by Internet service providers is an 'issue that must be addressed.' Child pornography investigations have been 'hampered' because data may be routinely deleted, Gonzales warned.

Now, in a demonstration of bipartisan unity, a Democratic member of the Congressional Internet Caucus is preparing to introduce an amendment--perhaps during a U.S. House of Representatives floor vote next week--that would make such data deletion illegal.

Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette's proposal says that any Internet service that 'enables users to access content' must permanently retain records that would permit police to identify each user. The records could not be discarded until at least one year after the user's account was closed.
DeGette said in a statement that her amendment was necessary because: 'America is the No. 1 global consumer of child pornography, the No. 2 producer. This is a plague we had nearly wiped out in the seventies, and sadly the Internet, an entity that we practically worship for all the great things it has brought to us, is being used to commit a crime against humanity.'"

Tennessee Supreme Court Overturns ID Roadblocks
"On Thursday, the Tennessee Supreme Court unanimously found the use of roadblocks to check identification papers, driving licenses and automobile registrations to be unconstitutional. The court struck down a Chattanooga Housing Authority (CHA) 'residency' checkpoint at Poss Homes on 2409 Washington Street. The authority, which has its own police force, claimed the stops would protect residents from crime and illicit drug use by turning away non-residents."

Liquor Chief Charged With Drunken Driving
"The director of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission abruptly resigned Thursday after she was charged with drunken driving.

Police said officers responded to a two-car crash Saturday night in Portland and smelled 'a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage' from inside Teresa Kaiser's vehicle. There were no reported injuries in the wreck.

Kaiser admitted having two glasses of wine over five hours at the home of friends, a police report said. Kaiser's blood-alcohol level was 0.16 percent, twice the legal limit for driving in Oregon, said police Detective Paul Dolbey."

April 23, 2006

Baghdad Slipping Into Civil War
"The new clashes between Shia militiamen dressed in Iraqi military and police uniforms and resistance fighters and residents from the Sunni Adhamiya district of Baghdad have convinced many that what Baghdad is witnessing is no less than a civil war."

'No police' to face charges in London shooting of Brazilian: report

Israel Preparing to Retake Gaza Strip
"In a growing barrage of Israeli pressure against Hamas, a senior military commander said Israel is actively preparing to reoccupy the Gaza Strip and a powerful lawmaker said the entire Palestinian Cabinet could be targeted for assassination after the appointment of a wanted militant to head a new security force."

Venezuelan oil firm cuts SEC ties

High oil, weak dollar push gold up
"Investors lapped up more gold on Monday, boosting bullion prices by more than $1 as oil prices held firm and the U.S. dollar slipped, keeping inflation concerns alive."

US firms suspected of bilking Iraq funds
"American contractors swindled hundreds of millions of dollars in Iraqi funds, but so far there is no way for Iraq's government to recoup the money, according to US investigators and civil attorneys tracking fraud claims against contractors."

Sex and money bought Iraq contracts
"A contractor in Iraq has pleaded guilty to providing money, sex and designer watches to US officials in exchange for more than $US8 million ($10.8 million) in reconstruction contracts.

Philip Bloom faces up to 40 years in prison after admitting paying more than $US2 million in bribes to US officials with the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ruled Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003.
"The contracts were paid with Iraqi funds held in the Development Fund for Iraq, which has been at the centre of many of the corruption scandals in Iraq."

Nearly 30 percent at Guantanamo jail cleared to go
"Nearly 30 percent of the Guantanamo detainees have been cleared to leave the prison but remain jailed because the U.S. government has been unable to arrange for their return to their home countries, the Pentagon said on Friday.

The Pentagon refused to identify these 141 men despite having released on Wednesday its first comprehensive list of detainees held at the prison for foreign terrorism suspects at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."

Pentagon Guantanamo List Angers Nations
"The Pentagon list is incomplete: It identifies only Guantanamo detainees who had 'enemy combatant' hearings. More than 750 people have passed through the high-security detention center, located on a U.S. Navy base at the southeastern edge of Cuba, since it opened in January 2002."

Justices Reject Gitmo Detainees' Appeal
"A federal judge said the detention of the ethnic Uighurs at the military prison in Cuba was unlawful but there was nothing courts could do. Without comment, the justices declined to consider an unusual direct appeal of that decision.
Solicitor General Paul Clement told justices that there were 'substantial ongoing diplomatic efforts to transfer them to an appropriate country.' In the meantime, Clement said, the men have had television, a stereo system, books and recreational opportunities including soccer, volleyball and pingpong."

Spy Chief: CIA Detainees Will Be Held Indefinitely
"Negroponte also told TIME that three dozen or so of the worst al-Qaeda terrorists held in secret CIA prisons are likely to remain in captivity as long as the 'war on terror continues.' He added, 'These people are being held. And they're bad actors. And as long as this situation continues, this war on terror continues, I'm not sure I can tell you what the ultimate disposition of those detainees will be.' Negroponte's comments appear to be the first open acknowledgement of the secret U.S. detention system and the fact that captives such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammad - involved in Sept. 11 or other major attacks on U.S. interests around the world - may be held indefinitely."
It's hard to recomend this servile article for overall content - but it is notable in that TIME assisted the current administration in trotting out this position that stands so opposed to the hard-fought principle of Habeas Corpus.

New Orleans police giving back weapons confiscated post-Katrina
"A handful of people showed up Monday to try to get back guns confiscated by the New Orleans Police Department after Hurricane Katrina - and not many of those walked away with a weapon."

New Orleans Will Begin Returning Seized Firearms Monday, Says SAF
"Gun owners will have to provide proof of ownership, which could include a bill of sale, a description of the firearm including brand and model and the serial number or a notarized affidavit that describes the firearm. Citizens claiming their firearms will need proper identification, such as a driver's license. Before firearms are returned, New Orleans police will conduct a background check."

NYC Police To Randomly Scan Students For Weapons

National Archives Pact Let C.I.A. Withdraw Public Documents
"The National Archives signed a secret agreement in 2001 with the Central Intelligence Agency permitting the spy agency to withdraw from public access records it considered to have been improperly declassified, the head of the archives, Allen Weinstein, disclosed on Monday.
Like a similar 2002 agreement with the Air Force that was made public last week, the C.I.A. arrangement required that archives employees not reveal to researchers why documents they requested were being withheld.

The disclosure of the secret agreements provides at least a partial explanation for the removal since 1999 of more than 55,000 pages of historical documents from access to researchers at the archives. The removal of documents, including many dating to the 1950's, was discovered by a group of historians this year and reported by The New York Times in February."

George Washington U. to Receive Jack Anderson's Papers -- but FBI Wants to See Them First
"During his life and career as a muckraking journalist in Washington, Jack Anderson cultivated secret sources throughout the halls of government -- sources who passed on information that allowed Anderson to investigate and write about Watergate, CIA assassination schemes, and countless scandals. His syndicated column, Washington Merry-Go-Round, earned him the enmity of the corrupt and powerful -- so much so that during the Watergate years, associates of Nixon had discussed assassinating the columnist. They never went through with the plot. Anderson died last December at the age of 83.

His archive, some 200 boxes now being held by George Washington University's library, could be a trove of information about state secrets, dirty dealings, political maneuverings, and old-fashioned investigative journalism, open for historians and up-and-coming reporters to see.
Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation have told university officials and members of the Anderson family that they want to go through the archive, and that agents will remove any item they deem confidential or top secret."

In Pursuit of Anderson's Papers, FBI Says It Will Go to Prosecutors if Talks With Family Fail
"The Federal Bureau of Investigation said on Wednesday that it will ask the Justice Department to take action if the government cannot reach an agreement with the family of the muckraking journalist Jack Anderson to search through his papers. The FBI believes that Anderson's archive, which is now held by George Washington University's library, contains classified information -- although most of it is likely decades old.
Asked why the FBI was pursuing the archive now -- decades after Jack Anderson was photographed holding classified documents -- Mr. Carter said the agency had only recently learned that the archive might contain classified information."

Gonzales calls for mandatory Web labeling law
"Web site operators posting sexually explicit information must place official government warning labels on their pages or risk being imprisoned for up to five years, the Bush administration proposed Thursday.

A mandatory rating system will 'prevent people from inadvertently stumbling across pornographic images on the Internet,' Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said at an event in Alexandria, Va.

The Bush administration's proposal would require commercial Web sites to place 'marks and notices' to be devised by the Federal Trade Commission on each sexually explicit page. The definition of sexually explicit broadly covers depictions of everything from sexual intercourse and masturbation to 'sadistic abuse' and close-ups of fully clothed genital regions."

Evidence of work fraud untapped
I've linked this article not because it's particularly meritorious - but because it raises issues that may become focal points of upcoming change. Recent congressional proposals have included workplace Social Security verification at the point of hire.

Owner of Controversial Web Site Gets 5 years' Probation
"The site stirred international controversy for allowing military personnel to post war photographs, including gruesome ones purporting to be dead Iraqi insurgents, in exchange for viewing its sexual content for free.
Ownership of his infamous Web site -- whose address isn't printable in The Ledger because it contains an expletive -- is to be transferred to the Polk County Sheriff's Office."
Bet they could use that website to work out some donkey act with Sheriff Joe.

April 12, 2006

Gold tops $600 for first time since December 1980

U.S. security plans could lead to 'invisible barrier' at border, says Wilson
"Canadians want a smart border, not a 'thick one,' and new U.S. security plans risk erecting an 'invisible barrier,' Michael Wilson said in his first speech Wednesday as ambassador to the United States.
It's possible, said Wilson, that Canada will devise a security card similar to the one U.S. officials are working on to incorporate proof of nationality.

'It could be identical. It could have the same information. It's too early to be precise.'

That's certainly what U.S. officials are hoping will happen.

'That would really harmonize things at the border,' said Jim Williams, director of the U.S.-VISIT program at Homeland Security.

Officials have also started to talk about sharing databases of information to check the identity of each other's residents, although they're concerned about privacy issues."

Warrantless Wiretaps Possible in U.S.
"Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales left open the possibility yesterday that President Bush could order warrantless wiretaps on telephone calls occurring solely within the United States - a move that would dramatically expand the reach of a controversial National Security Agency surveillance program.
Justice spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos played down Gonzales's remarks, saying he 'did not say anything new' about the NSA program.

'The Attorney General's comments today should not be interpreted to suggest the existence or non-existence of a domestic program or whether any such program would be lawful under the existing legal analysis,' Scolinos said in a statement."

EFF Files Evidence in Motion to Stop AT&T's Dragnet Surveillance
"The evidence that we are filing supports our claim that AT&T is diverting Internet traffic into the hands of the NSA wholesale, in violation of federal wiretapping laws and the Fourth Amendment," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "More than just threatening individuals' privacy, AT&T's apparent choice to give the government secret, direct access to millions of ordinary Americans' Internet communications is a threat to the Constitution itself. We are asking the Court to put a stop to it now."

Whistle-Blower Outs NSA Spy Room
"AT&T provided National Security Agency eavesdroppers with full access to its customers' phone calls, and shunted its customers' internet traffic to data-mining equipment installed in a secret room in its San Francisco switching center, according to a former AT&T worker cooperating in the Electronic Frontier Foundation's lawsuit against the company.

Mark Klein, a retired AT&T communications technician, submitted an affidavit in support of the EFF's lawsuit this week. That class action lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco last January, alleges that AT&T violated federal and state laws by surreptitiously allowing the government to monitor phone and internet communications of AT&T customers without warrants."

Secret Agreement Reveals Covert Program to Hide Reclassification from Public
"The National Archives and Records Administration secretly agreed to a covert effort, led by the Air Force, the CIA, and other still-hidden intelligence entities, to remove open-shelf archival records and reclassify them while disguising the results so that researchers would not complain, according to a previously secret Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The secret agreement, made between the Air Force and the National Archives, was declassified pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request by the National Security Archive and posted on the NARA website yesterday.
NARA also agreed to conceal the identities of the intelligence personnel who were reviewing and removing the documents, according to the agreement, including from NARA's own staff. 'NARA will not disclose the true reason for the presence of [deleted agency] AFDO [deleted] personnel at the Archives, to include disclosure to persons within NARA who do not have a validated need-to-know.'"

Database at Center of Immigration Reform
"At the heart of any immigration bill that makes it through the heated congressional debates is likely to be a computerized system that could help employers determine instantly whether someone can legally work in this country.
Under the pilot program, employers can check the applicant's picture ID and Social Security card or work permit against federal databases with a few clicks of a mouse.

The system is linked to companies' records so employers cannot add employees to the payroll _ be they janitors or CEOs _ until the check is completed.

Department of Homeland Security employees conduct manual searches for applicants who are not automatically given the OK. Those still not cleared can contact the government to sort out the problem."

IRS seeks PayPal's aid finding hidden cash
"The Internal Revenue Service won approval from a federal court to ask PayPal to turn over information about people who might be evading taxes by hiding income in other countries, officials said Tuesday.

A federal court in San Jose, Calif., gave the IRS permission to ask PayPal - a company that enables online money transfers - for account information for American taxpayers who have bank accounts, credit cards or debit cards issued by financial institutions in more than 30 countries reputed to be tax havens."

Fabric repels stun gun attacks
"The product is a polyester fabric that bonds a conducted material and sends the electricity coming from a stun gun back where it came from. It is now available for sale only to military and law enforcement agencies, but one wonders how long before it is being worn by those on the streets of America."

ATF rids university of ninja threat

April 5, 2006

Chavez Hardens Grip on Venezuela Resources
"President Hugo Chavez has tightened his grip on Venezuela's energy resources, following through on threats to punish international companies that resist government control of the nation's oil fields.

Venezuela seized two oil fields from France's Total SA and Italy's Eni SpA after the companies failed to comply with a government demand that operations be turned over to state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said Monday.

'Those two companies resisted adjusting to our laws,' he said at a news conference. 'Those fields return to total, absolute control by Petroleos de Venezuela.'

Until PDVSA took control of the oil fields Saturday, Total and Eni had operated them under contract. Some other companies, including Exxon Mobil Corp., decided to sell their stakes among the 32 Venezuelan oil properties rather than go along with the new terms.

Ramirez, asked if companies that resist will be forced out of Venezuela, replied: 'We don't have a veto against any company here.' But he added: 'Companies that don't adjust to our laws, we don't want them to continue in the country.'"

Defense Asks Judge to Halt Gitmo Hearing
"A defense attorney for a Canadian teenager accused of killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan asked the judge on Wednesday to halt proceedings because of a lack of established rules for the military trials.
In a separate hearing Tuesday, Chester refused to say if he would use international law, or military law or federal statutes as guidelines. The chief military prosecutor, Air Force Col. Morris Davis, later said the judge can use several standards of law 'to provide a full and fair trial.'"

Mass. Lawmakers OK Mandatory Health Bill
"The plan - approved just 24 hours after the final details were released - would use a combination of financial incentives and penalties to dramatically expand access to health care over the next three years and extend coverage to the state's estimated 500,000 uninsured.

If all goes as planned, poor people will be offered free or heavily subsidized coverage; those who can afford insurance but refuse to get it will face increasing tax penalties until they obtain coverage; and those already insured will see a modest drop in their premiums.

The measure does not call for new taxes but would require businesses that do not offer insurance to pay a $295 annual fee per employee.
Individuals deemed able but unwilling to purchase health care could face fines of more than $1,000 a year by the state if they don't get insurance."

April 2, 2006

Blackwater USA says it can supply forces for conflicts
"Blackwater USA runs a 6,000-acre operation in Moyock, N.C. Its Web site states: 'We are not simply a 'private security company.' We are a professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping and stability operations firm who provides turnkey solutions.'"

Justice Department Subpoenas Reach Far Beyond Google
"In its effort to uphold the 1998 Child Online Protection Act (COPA), the U.S. Department of Justice is leaving no stone unturned. Its widely reported issuance of subpoenas to Internet search companies AOL, MSN, Google, and Yahoo is just the tip of the iceberg: The government has demanded information from at least 34 Internet service providers, search companies, and security software firms."

Wiseguy defendant doubled as FBI snitch
"The star defendant in the murder of Konstantinos 'Gus' Boulis had secretly been playing both sides of the law."

Hal, the Central Park Coyote, Dies
"Hal, the coyote who paid a visit to New York City and was captured as he loped around Central Park, died as he was being tagged for release in the wild, a state official said Friday.

The coyote stopped breathing Thursday night during the routine tagging procedure and biologists could not revive him, said Gabrielle DeMarco, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation."
Par for the course... Actually - 'Hal' was chased around this park while trying to evade his captors - and he was shot with a tranquilizer dart. Bagged and tagged by the NY Department of Environmental Conservation.

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