Daily Archives: November 23, 2007

British spies were operating in Paris on the night Diana was killed

Mr Al Fayed is convinced the couple were murdered in an MI6 plot and that the crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel was orchestrated.

Daily Express | Nov 23, 2007

DIANA: SPIES WERE IN PARIS

By Jo Willey

British spies from M15 or M16 were operating out of Paris on the night Diana was killed in a car crash, her inquest heard yesterday.

Keith Moss, Britain’s former Consul-General in Paris, said he was aware of their presence but didn’t know why they were there.

Questioned by Michael Mansfield QC, representing Harrods boss Mohamed Al Fayed whose son Dodi died in the Paris crash, Mr Moss said he may even have unwittingly met them.

The jury has been told Mr Al Fayed is convinced the couple were murdered in an MI6 plot and that the crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel was orchestrated.

Mr Moss said he knew nothing of the activities of the security services, adding that there were issues over whether agents were “declared” to the local authorities.

In reply to questioning by Mr Mansfield, he said: “You asked me if I knew if there were officers from MI5 and MI6 posted to Paris. I know that there were officers from the security services there, but whether they were from MI5 or MI6, I do not know the differentiation.”

Earlier, the inquest was told that Princess Diana’s life might have been saved if French police had been tipped off that she was in Paris.

The claim came in a conversation Mr Moss had with a man who claimed he was from the French diplomatic protection unit.

The man approached Mr Moss inside the Pitie-Salpatriere Hosp-ital in the hours after Diana’s death and said French officers could have carried out secret surveillance during her visit to Paris. Mr Moss, number two to ambassador Sir Michael Jay on the day Diana died – August 31, 1997 – said the man approached him outside the room where her body was being kept while VIPs including President Jacques Chirac paid their last respects.

He told the inquest: “He asked me whether we knew that the Princess had been in France and if we did know, why hadn’t his service been informed.

“He then went on to say that, if a contact had been made with his organisation, then they would have conducted discreet surveillance or security coverage during  her visit.”

Mr Mansfield asked: “If they had known and made surveillance, did he say words to the effect that this incident would possibly not have happened?”

Mr Moss replied: “That was the inference of what he was saying to me, yes. I replied that as far as I was concerned, we were totally unaware of her visit to France or the fact that she was in Paris.”

Mr Mansfield asked why Mr Moss had not reported the conversation.

He said: “You recognise now, do you not, that it might have been quite significant to discover who this man was and how he thought he would have been able, had they been tipped off, how they might have prevented her death. That’s a pretty important question.”

But Mr Moss insisted: “It didn’t seem to be at the time.”

He passed on the man’s remarks to the ambassador a few moments later but said he did not record it in a statement at the time.

Mr Moss admitted he sanctioned Diana’s embalming after consultation with the UK but could not remember with whom.

Diana medics ‘wasted time’, could have saved her

The Australian | Nov 21, 2007

LONDON: Princess Diana might have survived her fatal Paris car crash in 1997 if French medical staff had not wasted precious time, a leading British surgeon indicated at her inquest yesterday.

Thomas Treasure, a former president of the European Association for Cardio-thoracic Surgery, said there might have been a “window of opportunity” to get her to hospital half an hour earlier and save her.

Medics did “very substantial good” when they were first on the scene, but once the princess was put in an ambulance for the drive to hospital, time began “slipping away”, he told the High Court in London.

Professor Treasure said Diana’s injuries were extremely serious but she might have survived if the journey to the hospital had been short, a specialist team had been on standby and a surgeon had opened up her chest from the front instead of the side.

“They had done a lot of good in that first half hour but from here, the next big amount of good that could be done required a surgeon,” he said.

Inquest lawyer Nicholas Hilliard asked Professor Treasure: “Is it your view that part of that time, the essential period, was squandered?”

He replied: “It’s a hard word, isn’t it? But I think opportunities were lost … when I pick through this with the benefit of hindsight (and ask) ‘Was this recoverable?’, the answer is, ‘Yes, it just about was’.”

The inquest has heard that Diana was freed from the wreckage of her Mercedes at 1am, within 35 minutes of the crash. She had suffered an apparent cardiac arrest and received heart massage at the scene. She was then put in an ambulance but it was not until 1.40am that medics thought her condition sufficiently stable to take her to hospital.

Even then, the ambulance driver was told to go slowly so as not to destabilise her. The ambulance had to stop for about five minutes just metres from the hospital when her blood pressure plunged to dangerously low levels. Once she got to the hospital, doctors battled to save her but gave up about 4am.

Professor Andre Lienhart, who investigated Diana’s treatment for a French probe, told the inquest earlier that she was “agitated”, had “refused treatment” and had pulled a drip out of her arm while being treated in the Alma tunnel.

Police Secrecy Behind Unmanned Aircraft Test

Houston Chronicle | Nov 21, 2007

By Stephen Dean

WALLER COUNTY, Texas — Houston police started testing unmanned aircraft and the event was shrouded in secrecy, but it was captured on tape by Local 2 Investigates.

Neighbors in rural Waller County said they thought a top-secret military venture was under way among the farmland and ranches, some 70 miles northwest of Houston. KPRC Local 2 Investigates had four hidden cameras aimed at a row of mysterious black trucks. Satellite dishes and a swirling radar added to the neighbors’ suspense.

Then, cameras were rolling as an unmanned aircraft was launched into the sky and operated by remote control.

Houston police cars were surrounding the land with a roadblock in place to check each of the dignitaries arriving for the invitation-only event. The invitation spelled out, “NO MEDIA ALLOWED.”

HPD Chief Harold Hurtt attended, along with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and dozens of officers from various police agencies in the Houston area. Few of the guests would comment as they left the test site.

News Chopper 2 had a Local 2 Investigates team following the aircraft for more than one hour as it circled overhead. Its wings spanned 10 feet and it circled at an altitude of 1,500 feet. Operators from a private firm called Insitu, Inc. manned remote controls from inside the fleet of black trucks as the guests watched a live feed from the high-powered camera aboard the 40-pound aircraft.

“I wasn’t ready to publicize this,” Executive Assistant Police Chief Martha Montalvo said. She and other department leaders hastily organized a news conference when they realized Local 2 Investigates had captured the entire event on camera.

“We still haven’t even decided how we were going to go forward on this task, so it seemed premature to me to announce this to the media,” Montalvo said. “But since, obviously, the media found out about it, then I don’t see any reason why just not go forward with what we have so far.”

Montalvo told reporters the unmanned aircraft would be used for “mobility” or traffic issues, evacuations during storms, homeland security, search and rescue, and also “tactical.” She admitted that could include covert police actions and she said she was not ruling out someday using the drones for writing traffic tickets.

A large number of the officers at the test site were assigned to the department’s ticket-writing Radar Task Force. Capt. Tom Runyan insisted they were only there to provide “site security,” even though KPRC cameras spotted those officers heavily participating in the test flight.

Houston police contacted KPRC from the test site, claiming the entire airspace was restricted by the Federal Aviation Administration. Police even threatened action from the FAA if the Local 2 helicopter remained in the area. However, KPRC reported it had already checked with the FAA on numerous occasions and found no flight restrictions around the site, a point conceded by Montalvo.

HPD leaders said they would address privacy and unlawful search questions later.

South Texas College of Law professor Rocky Rhodes, who teaches the constitution and privacy issues, said, “One issue is going to be law enforcement using this and when, by using these drones, are they conducting a search in which they’d need probable cause or a warrant. If the drones are being used to get into private spaces and be able to view where the government cannot otherwise go, and to collect information that would not otherwise be able to collect, that’s concerning to me.”

HPD Assistant Chief Vickie King said of the unmanned aircraft, “It’s interesting that privacy doesn’t occur or searches aren’t an issue when you have a helicopter pilot over you and it would not be used in airspace other than what our helicopters are used in already.”

She admitted that police helicopters are not equipped with cameras nearly as powerful as the unmanned aircraft, but she downplayed any privacy concerns, saying news helicopters have powerful cameras as well.

HPD stressed it is working with the FAA on reviewing the technical specifications, the airworthiness and hazards of flying unmanned aircraft in an urban setting. Future test flights are planned.

The price tag for an unmanned aircraft ranges from $30,000 to $1 million each and HPD is hoping to begin law enforcement from the air by June of 2008 with these new aircraft.

$100 a barrel fair oil price claims Venezuela’s Chavez

 

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah (R) embraces Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez at the end of the 3rd OPEC Summit in Riyadh November 18, 2007.

Reuters | Nov 22, 2007

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Wednesday $100 per barrel is a fair price for oil, as global crude prices approach triple digits.

“The price of oil (is) almost 100 dollars per barrel, which is the fair price, and I’m sure we’ll continue along that path,” Chavez told a group of demonstrators in Caracas.

Venezuela has consistently called for higher oil prices and tends to be more aggressive in seeking production cuts in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries than other OPEC members.

Chavez has boosted his popularity at home by using oil revenues to finance social development programs.

Venezuela is the fourth-largest exporter of oil to the United States.

Related

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Here come the thought police

Baltimore Sun | Nov 19, 2007

By Ralph E. Shaffer and R. William Robinson

With overwhelming bipartisan support, Rep. Jane Harman’s “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act” passed the House 404-6 late last month and now rests in Sen. Joe Lieberman’s Homeland Security Committee. Swift Senate passage appears certain.

Not since the “Patriot Act” of 2001 has any bill so threatened our constitutionally guaranteed rights.

The historian Henry Steele Commager, denouncing President John Adams’ suppression of free speech in the 1790s, argued that the Bill of Rights was not written to protect government from dissenters but to provide a legal means for citizens to oppose a government they didn’t trust. Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence not only proclaimed the right to dissent but declared it a people’s duty, under certain conditions, to alter or abolish their government.

In that vein, diverse groups vigorously oppose Ms. Harman’s effort to stifle dissent. Unfortunately, the mainstream press and leading presidential candidates remain silent.

Ms. Harman, a California Democrat, thinks it likely that the United States will face a native brand of terrorism in the immediate future and offers a plan to deal with ideologically based violence.

But her plan is a greater danger to us than the threats she fears. Her bill tramples constitutional rights by creating a commission with sweeping investigative power and a mandate to propose laws prohibiting whatever the commission labels “homegrown terrorism.”

The proposed commission is a menace through its power to hold hearings, take testimony and administer oaths, an authority granted to even individual members of the commission – little Joe McCarthys – who will tour the country to hold their own private hearings. An aura of authority will automatically accompany this congressionally authorized mandate to expose native terrorism.

Ms. Harman’s proposal includes an absurd attack on the Internet, criticizing it for providing Americans with “access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda,” and legalizes an insidious infiltration of targeted organizations. The misnamed “Center of Excellence,” which would function after the commission is disbanded in 18 months, gives the semblance of intellectual research to what is otherwise the suppression of dissent.

While its purpose is to prevent terrorism, the bill doesn’t criminalize any specific conduct or contain penalties. But the commission’s findings will be cited by those who see a terrorist under every bed and who will demand enactment of criminal penalties that further restrict free speech and other civil liberties. Action contrary to the commission’s findings will be interpreted as a sign of treason at worst or a lack of patriotism at the least.

While Ms. Harman denies that her proposal creates “thought police,” it defines “homegrown terrorism” as “planned” or “threatened” use of force to coerce the government or the people in the promotion of “political or social objectives.” That means that no force need actually have occurred as long as the government charges that the individual or group thought about doing it.

Any social or economic reform is fair game. Have a march of 100 or 100,000 people to demand a reform – amnesty for illegal immigrants or overturning Roe v. Wade – and someone can perceive that to be a use of force to intimidate the people, courts or government.

The bill defines “violent radicalization” as promoting an “extremist belief system.” But American governments, state and national, have a long history of interpreting radical “belief systems” as inevitably leading to violence to facilitate change.

Examples of the resulting crackdowns on such protests include the conviction and execution of anarchists tied to Chicago’s 1886 Haymarket Riot. Hearings conducted by the House Un-American Activities Committee for several decades during the Cold War and the solo hearings by a member of that committee’s Senate counterpart, Joseph McCarthy, demonstrate the dangers inherent in Ms. Harman’s legislation.

Ms. Harman denies that her bill is a threat to the First Amendment. It clearly states that no measure to prevent homegrown terrorism should violate “constitutional rights, civil rights or civil liberties.”

But the present administration has demonstrated, in its response to criticism regarding torture, that it can’t be trusted to honor those rights.

Studies clarify how Tamiflu adversely affects the brain

“Diet, injections, and injunctions will combine, from a very early age, to produce the sort of character and the sort of beliefs that the authorities consider desirable, and any serious criticism of the powers that be will become psychologically impossible.”

“Gradually, by selective breeding, the congenital differences between rulers and ruled will increase until they become almost different species. A revolt of the plebs would become as unthinkable as an organized insurrection of sheep against the practice of eating mutton.”

– Bertrand Russell, “The Impact of Science on Society”, 1953

Yomiuri Shimbun | Nov 1, 2007

Two groups of Japanese researchers have discovered how the prescription flu drug Tamiflu reaches the brain through animal testing, they said on Wednesday.

A large number of people are reported to have behaved abnormally after taking Tamiflu, with some cases resulting in sudden deaths.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry’s working group has denied a causal relationship between the drug and abnormal behavior because the brain has a defense system, called the blood-brain barrier, which attempts to prevent drugs and other foreign substances from entering the brain.

The new finding, however, may reverse the ministry’s views.

After entering the body, Tamiflu takes an active form, mainly due to enzymes in the liver, preventing viruses from multiplying.

However, at the blood-brain barrier, a substance called P-glycoprotein works to remove foreign substances that try to enter the brain.

A group of researchers led by Prof. Takuo Ogihara at Takasaki University of Health and Welfare in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, compared ordinary mice with mice incapable of producing P-glycoprotein, administering them with the drug.

The group’s study showed that Tamiflu’s blood concentration went up to 65 to 85 percent in mice without P-glycoprotein, whereas the level was 14 to 17 percent in ordinary mice.

When the mice were given Tamiflu in its active form, the blood concentration in the brain remained at about 1 percent for both types of mice, proving that Tamiflu reaches the brain more easily when it has yet to be activated, according to the researchers.

In the case of humans, the amount of enzymes in the liver and the amount of P-glycoprotein differs from person to person.

If the result of the animal experiments can be applied to humans, it suggests that Tamiflu may reach the brain of certain types of people, become activated there and adversely affect their behavior, according to the researchers.

Profs. Yuichi Sugiyama and Masakatsu Shibasaki of Tokyo University reached the same conclusion in a similar experiment.

Research by the Tokyo University group also showed that when Tamiflu was given to laboratory mice three to 42 days old, the blood concentration of Tamiflu in mice up to six days old was six times higher than that in mice 21 days old or older.

The study also showed that the amount of P-glycoprotein was small when the mice were still premature, but it increased drastically once they reached the age of 11 days.

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Is there a third ‘Blackwater brother’ nicknamed Corruptee?

“Is he warning his brother that he has insider information, trying to tell him not to go there because the government is headed that way and there’s trouble ahead? … There are all kinds of implications, justifying further investigation.”

Raw Story | Nov 20, 2007

by Mike Aivaz and Muriel Kane

State Department Inspector General Howard “Cookie” Krongard has been at the center of a firestorm of criticism over his alleged attempt to suppress investigation of Blackwater’s shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians, combined with his apparent lies about the position of his brother, A.B. “Buzzy” Krongard, on the Blackwater advisory board.

House Oversight Chair Henry Waxman announced on Friday that he would call both brothers to testify about what Cookie knew and when he knew it. This brought forth a letter from Krongard’s lawyer, requesting that Waxman drop the hearings because “There is no legitimate legislative purpose to be gained by publicly pitting two brothers against each other.”

Keith Olbermann took up the matter of Howard Krongard and his lawyer’s astonishing statement on Monday, asking John Dean, former Nixon White House counsel and author of Broken Government, “Of the many, many, many rationalizations for leaving broken government broken, is this the silliest combination ever?

“Obviously, one of the key purposes of any committee is to find out whether it’s gotten truthful testimony,” Dean replied. “Why he let his lawyer even send this deservedly puts him in your oddball file.”

Olbermann then cited a report by the New York Times that “Howard appears to be estranged from several family members. … Buzzy Krongard has said that when Howard called him a few weeks ago as he prepared his testimony, it was their first conversation in months.” He suggested that Howard should have nothing to fear from hearings that might relieve him of suspicions of partiality towards his brother.

Dean replied that the situation might not be that simple. “I’m certainly curious as to what, indeed, Buzzy may have told Blackwater about his relationship with his brother,” he stated. “Did he tell them, for example, that ‘We have a strained relationship,’ which would cause a problem for his brother and stop him investigating Blackwater?”

Olbermann insisted again that it would seem Howard ought to welcome Buzzy’s testimony, because “the Buzzy version of this conversation is that not only did he tell his brother … but his brother said ‘Why would you do that? Are you sure that’s a good idea?’ … If he actually doubted the appropriateness of his brother joining their board, that might be the most principled stand by anybody during either of Mr. Bush’s two terms.”

Dean laughed, but also offered a less benign interpretation of the conversation, saying, “Is he warning his brother that he has insider information, trying to tell him not to go there because the government is headed that way and there’s trouble ahead? … There are all kinds of implications, justifying further investigation.”

Olbermann finally asked Dean, “Is Congressman Waxman here at Oversight missing the forest for the trees on this one? I mean, the Buzzy and Cookie show is entertaining, obviously, at the nickname level, and then, you know, brother slap-fight way in a macabre kind of way. But is this not really just a component?”

“It is a component of a larger investigation,” Dean asserted, “and I cannot escape the metaphor that has been running through my head, that we might see Waxman running into a cookie that is starting to crumble because it’s run into a buzzsaw brother. … Waxman isn’t one who will turn away from digging this entire matter out.”

“I‘m just wondering … if there‘s a third Krongard brother whose nickname is Corruptee,” Olbermann concluded.

Continues…

Krongard family feud to continue in Congress

Baltimore Sun | Nov 20, 2007

By Stephen Kiehl

Rep. Henry A. Waxman said yesterday that he is moving forward with plans to call Baltimore’s Krongard brothers before his committee next month – despite attempts by Howard “Cookie” Krongard during the weekend to cancel the hearing.

“There is no legitimate legislative purpose to be gained by publicly pitting two brothers against each other,” Cookie Krongard’s lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder, wrote to Waxman, chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Van Gelder wrote, “I would ask that this committee not hold any additional hearings into this matter.”

Cookie Krongard and his brother A.B. “Buzzy” Krongard clashed publicly last week over Buzzy Krongard’s involvement with Blackwater USA, the embattled security firm. Cookie Krongard, the State Department inspector general, told the oversight committee that his brother was not on the Blackwater advisory board.

But Buzzy Krongard was on the board, and he called the committee to say that he had told his brother of his position weeks earlier. To sort out the conflicting accounts, Waxman scheduled a hearing for the week of Dec. 3 and asked both Krongard brothers to appear.

Krongard Insider Trading on 9/11

The case grew more complicated during the weekend, when Cookie Krongard’s lawyer released handwritten notes that Cookie Krongard said he had taken during an Oct. 31 phone conversation with his brother. “Was on short list for advisory board but is not taking it,” the notes say.

Cookie Krongard’s lawyer says that with the release of the notes, there is little that a hearing would accomplish. But the issue is not settled for Waxman. The California Democrat sent a memo to committee members Friday, saying, “These discrepancies between the testimony of Howard [Cookie] Krongard and the information from Buzzy Krongard raise questions about the truthfulness of Howard Krongard’s testimony.”

Blackwater came up because it presented a potential conflict of interest: Cookie Krongard’s State Department office is investigating whether the security firm smuggled weapons into Iraq and has been accused of blocking an inquiry into allegations that its guards killed at least 17 Iraqi citizens without obvious provocation. Buzzy Krongard was invited to join the Blackwater board this summer.

Cookie Krongard recused himself from any Blackwater investigations last week, after he learned that his brother was on the board. Buzzy Krongard resigned from the board Friday to avoid any conflict.

Blackwater Chairman Erik Prince said in a statement, “The publicized allegation of an ‘apparent conflict of interest’ against his brother Howard, with whom Buzzy has not been close for years, is just that, an allegation.”

The brothers grew up in Baltimore’s middle-class Ashburton neighborhood, were lacrosse standouts in high school and at Princeton University, and have succeeded in business and government. Buzzy Krongard, 71, is a former chairman of Alex. Brown & Sons and was the No. 3 official at the CIA from 2001 to 2004.

Cookie Krongard, 66, was a lawyer for Deloitte & Touche and with the international law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer before being appointed to his State Department post in 2005. The brothers rarely speak or see each other, so some friends said they believe there was little chance of a conflict of interest.

New al-CIA-duh Created to Fight Old al-CIA-duh

Kavkaz Center | Nov 18, 2007

U.S. creating gangs of mercenaries to fight Taliban, Al Qaeda

The US is considering a plan to create gangs of mercenaries from local population in the border areas of Pakistan to fight al-Qaida and the Taliban, emulating its tactics in Iraq’s Anbar province.

The plan would involve increasing the number of US trainers in Pakistan by dozens from the current number of around 50, and the direct financing of a separate tribal “paramilitary force” that has so far proved largely ineffective. Washington would also pay militias that agreed to fight al-Qaida and foreign “extremists”.

The plan, leaked to the New York Times, comes amid increasing concern over gains made by Islamic rebels in the region of Swat, near the Afghan border. In recent weeks, major battles have left many Pakistani soldiers, rebels and civilians dead.

Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, said one of the main reasons for imposing emergency rule was to deal with the growing threat from Islamic rebels.

The tribal proposal – a strategy paper prepared by staff members of the US special operations command – has been circulated to counterterrorism experts, but has yet to be formally approved by the command’s headquarters in Tampa, Florida, the Times said.

Some other elements of the campaign, approved in principle by the US and Pakistan, await funding.

They include 0m (£170.7m) over several years to help train and equip the frontier corps, a “paramilitary force” that has around 85,000 members and is recruited from border tribes.

In the past, the US has expressed frustration at Musharraf’s tactics in dealing with rebels in the border area, especially a truce, agreed earlier this year, which has backfired, with pro-Taliban forces becoming stronger.

Blackwater’s new weapon: laser dazzlers

Media Monarchy | Nov 19, 2007

The State Department has a high-tech solution to keeping its security contractors from killing any more Iraqi civilians unnecessarily: Give the mercs laser dazzlers and helmet cameras.

U.S. officials also tell ABC News that “the State Department plans to double the number of its diplomatic security agents to 90 so that one of its agents can accompany every convoy guarded by Blackwater and other private security contractors.”

This isn’t the first time the dazzlers – which temporarily blind its targets, with pulses of green laser light – have been pitched as life-savers for non-combatants in Iraq. (Better to fire light flashes than warning shots, the theory goes.) In May 2005, the Marines in Anbar province issued an “urgent” request for the dazzlers, which they said would cut down on civilian casualties. By February of this year, the Marines claimed that “close to 50 innocent Iraqis were killed and nearly 140 were wounded in Anbar between March and December by Marines who did not have the dazzlers as an alternative to lethal force.”