Hundreds of Afghan civilians who worked as informants for the U.S. military have been put at risk by WikiLeaks’ publication of more than 90,000 classified intelligence reports which name and in many cases locate the individuals, The Times newspaper reported Wednesday.
Click here to see The Times article, but note, it’s behind a subscription firewall.
The article says, in spite of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s claim that sensitive information had been removed from the leaked documents, that reporters scanning the reports for just a couple hours found hundreds of Afghan names mentioned as aiding the U.S.-led war effort.
One specific example cited by the paper is a report on an interview conducted by military officers of a potential Taliban defector. The militant is named, along with his father and the village in which they live.
“The leaks certainly have put in real risk and danger the lives and integrity of many Afghans,” a senior official at the Afghan foreign ministry told The Times on condition of anonymity. “The U.S. is both morally and legally responsible for any harm that the leaks might cause to the individuals, particularly those who have been named. It will further limit the U.S./international access to the uncensored views of Afghans.”
One former intelligence official told the paper that the Taliban could launch revenge attacks on “traitors” in the coming days.
President Obama first warned on Tuesday that operatives inside Afghanistan and Pakistan who have worked for the U.S. could be at risk following the disclosure, former and current U.S. officials told the Associated Press.
As lawmakers and health experts wrestle over whether a controversial chemical, bisphenol-A, should be banned from food and beverage containers, a new analysis by an environmental group suggests Americans are being exposed to BPA through another, surprising route: paper receipts.
The Environmental Working Group found BPA on 40 percent of the receipts it collected from supermarkets, automated teller machines, gas stations and chain stores. In some cases, the total amount of BPA on the receipt was 1,000 times the amount found in the epoxy lining of a can of food, another controversial use of the chemical.
Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst with the environmental group, says BPA’s prevalence on receipts could help explain why the chemical can be detected in the urine of an estimated 93 percent of Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We’ve come across potentially major sources of BPA right here in our daily lives,” Lunder said. “When you’re carrying around a receipt in your wallet for months while you intend to return something, you could be shedding BPA into your home, into your environment. If you throw a receipt into a bag of food, and it’s lying there against an apple, or you shove a receipt into your bag next to a baby pacifier, you could be getting all kinds of exposure and not realize it.”
What a shame for this young couple. I really hope it all works out for them.
Go read Ian Welsh. He does a pretty good job describing the netroots divide.
My mom died a year ago today, and here’s what I wrote then:
Tonight, just for a second, I thought, “I should call Mom and tell her Howard Dean’s on Countdown tonight.” And then I remembered she wasn’t here anymore.
It was a rough year for her. Since last December, she had three ruptured vertebrae in her back, which required two different surgeries and a total of five weeks of rehab in a nursing home. She was never pain-free again. She had congestive heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, compromised kidney function from years of diuretic use, and a host of other problems.
And she was stubborn as hell. The day before she died, my sister was arguing with her, telling her to turn the air conditioning on during this crippling heat wave. “It makes it harder for your heart to pump,” my sister said.
“Oh, really?” Mom said. “That’s funny, because the nurse comes to check me twice a week and she says my heart is extraordinarily strong.” My sister shook her head; I rolled my eyes and laughed. That was my mother’s version of “Considering that you’re 86 and have congestive heart failure, you’re not doing too bad.”
My mother was, um, a tad prone to exaggeration. Whenever she wanted you to do something, she would make up a story about “a friend” that such-and-such had happened, and here’s what happened to them, and “they wanted you to know what they did.”
Sure, Mom. Anything you say. Usually, we let it go in one ear and out the other.
Marie was what they call “a pistol.” She thought everyone was in awe of her and wanted to be her friend. Maybe she was right, but she also thought this about the cleaning people in the nursing home and the random supermarket baggers. Who knows?
She used to tell us about when she went to college and majored in English; a few years ago, my sister found out she’d taken one night class. We never told her we knew.
We don’t know how many times she was engaged; she told me it was five times. My sister said she never heard that. Again, who knows?
Marie loved to read, and when I was a kid, I read all her books: Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, John O’Hara. (The nuns were upset with her for letting me. She told them if I was old enough to understand, I was old enough to read them. And if I didn’t understand, what was the big deal?) I got my love of words from her. She used to keep scratch pads with word games by the phone, and we all learned to play them.
She dragged us to every museum in the city, I think. And when I was a little older, about 11, she’d give me two quarters for the trolley, a packed lunch, a map and a dime for an emergency phone call, and send me downtown to visit the historical sites. (I was a little surprised later when I found out no one else’s mother ever allowed that.)
My mom also had a mean streak. She was very funny, but she would say all kinds of hurtful things to us, and as we got older, we just learned to roll our eyes and say to ourselves, “Oh, Marie.”
It got a lot worse after my father died. She was so used to having a chauffeur on call, she was furious with us any time she wanted us to leave work and drive her someplace – usually to her doctor’s office, two blocks away. “You know, I was telling the doctor they sent me to that I had to take a cab, and she was shocked,” she told us. “She said, ‘You carried them around, now it’s time for them to carry you.” (Another one of her imaginary parables.)
But about two months ago, we saw a change. She started thanking us for everything we did, and she was trying a lot harder to be self-sufficient. She stopped complaining, mostly. Because she started to get up and move around, we were now able to take her places again. She was, finally, a pleasure to be around.
On Sunday morning, my sister and I took her to the local pancake house. Then she asked if I could move the plants off her porch so she could turn on the air conditioning. So we went up to her condo, moved the plants and talked for a bit before we left. (That’s when she refused to turn on the AC.) I’d brought her some fudge from when I was on vacation, and I figured she’d dive into it as soon as we left.
My sister was upset during the drive home. “You’re so patient with her,” she said. “I don’t know how you do it. You know, she really should turn on the air-conditioning, the heat is bad for her.”
“Look, she’s always lived exactly how she wanted to live, and she’s going to die the same way,” I said. “One day her aide will come in and find her in bed after she dies in her sleep. I’ve already accepted that.”
Monday morning, we got the call. Her home health aide showed up, couldn’t get in and got the maintenance people to let her in, where she found Mom’s lifeless form curled up in bed. The air-conditioning, of course, was off.
So we all went over and waited until the funeral home people showed up to get her. My brother looked stunned; my sister was crying quietly. Like my dad, I don’t show emotion easily, so I was okay, I thought.
Until I found the fudge I’d brought her in the freezer, and saw she’d never touched it. That’s when, standing in her tiny kitchen, I began to cry. Just a little.
See, things like this are what convinces me that the netroots would be better off lobbying the system than backing progressive candidates — since so many of them don’t stay progressive in the face of this corrupt system. I’m a big believer in working with what actually exists, and not what we wish it would be. Work to change it, sure — but work it in the meantime:
Five of the nation’s largest health insurers are in serious discussions about creating a new nonprofit group and bankrolling it to the tune of about $20 million to influence tight congressional races and boost the image of their industry.
Aetna Inc., Cigna Corp., Humana Inc., United HealthCare Inc. and WellPoint Inc. are weighing the new drive in part to shape the government regulations that will implement this year’s sweeping new health care legislation. Two lobbying sources familiar with talks underway by high-level insurance executives say that a decision to go forward with such an effort is likely to be made by at least four of the insurers—and possibly Cigna – in coming weeks.
The two sources tell the Center for Public Integrity they expect millions of dollars will be pumped into issue advertising in a number of races where candidates sympathetic to health industry concerns have a shot at winning.
“The objective is to make the House more accommodating to concerns that have been raised,” says one industry source. “They’re looking at toss-up candidates,” adding that the companies want to “focus resources to influence campaigns.”
Representatives of Aetna, Cigna, Humana, United HealthCare, and WellPoint could not be immediately reached for comment.
Overall, the insurers are expected to focus on swaying about two dozen close House contests, says one source.
The insurers’ goal will be to help elect members who can be allies in the all important regulatory writing process now underway to implement key parts of the health care legislation that was signed into law earlier this year.
The sources stress that insurers are particularly concerned at this stage about a provision in the new law that mandates they spend 80 cents of every premium dollar received on the welfare of patients. The high financial stakes mean insurers have been pushing hard with state regulators to allow for broader definitions of what constitutes patient welfare expenditures. This issue is “probably the most important one right now,” explains a source.
It depresses me that this crappy healthcare bill, as imperfect as it is, will be torn apart by this pack of wolves until there’s nothing left but bones. But hey, victory!
There’s a thread that runs through most of the calls I listen to: Demand is weak; we are responding by cutting the fat and becoming leaner and meaner; when demand picks up, we’ll be in good shape.
Most of the companies I follow have a line in their income statements: Restructuring charges. When they close a plant and lay people off (“headcount reductions”), they have to pay severance and, for instance, break leases. And that’s what restructuring charges are all about. Granted, I don’t follow upper-class companies like Exxon or IBM or Microsoft; but pretty much every US company I do follow has this line in its income statement. And even most of the blue-chips have probably taken these restructuring charges at some point in the past two or three years. Yes, even Microsoft ($290 million in the March quarter of 2009).
Just as an aside here, there’s a reason for them breaking it out like that as a separate line-item in their expenses: that way, they can present it as a “one-time charge”. Analysts like me are supposed to discount it in looking at their “real” underlying cash flow and in forecasting their financial futures. It’s a one-time charge. Trouble is, it almost never is a one-time charge. That line, Restructuring Charges, appears, for most of my companies, every single quarter. Sometimes you begin to wonder what’s left to restructure.
Most CEOs and CFOs on earnings calls are not taking the big-picture view. They’re focused on the details of their own particular business. Still, I often ask myself if they see the connection that’s staring you right in the face: when is “the consumer” going to start spending again? Well, maybe when you stop firing him.
I can’t urge strongly enough that you attend meetings of your local police board. Whether you have councilmen, commissioners, etc., some of them are assigned to the police department. And they have to have public meetings.
Your town may even have a civilian oversight board. You should look into volunteering.
Because when citizens leave the police department to the cops and the politicians, you get stories like this.