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Tea Party Crashes: The Most UnPatriotic Act

Patriot act
© Horsbey
9/11 Whistleblower indicted on the Patriot Act

I confess that since November I've been holding my breath, watching the clock for how long Tea Party newcomers could hold out against the entrenched Republican elite on Capitol Hill. Collapse was inevitable, however I admit to feeling bitterly surprised at how rapidly they have thrown in the towel.

For the record, most of the Tea Party quit their principles of liberty on February 14, 2011 - 20 days into the new Congress - when Tea Party leaders abruptly abandoned their opposition to the Patriot Act and voted to extend intrusive domestic surveillance, wire tapping and warrantless searches of American citizens. In so doing, they exposed the fraud of their soaring campaign promises to defend the liberty of ordinary Americans, and fight government intrusions on freedom. All those wide eyed speeches that flowed with such thrilling devotions, all of it proved to be self-aggrandizing lies.

The Tea Party didn't even put up a fight. Briefly they rejected a sneak attack to renew three surveillance clauses of the Patriot Act on a suspension vote. That filled my heart with hope. One push from the Republican elite, however and they went down with a loud thud.

My disappointment is particularly acute. Rather notoriously, I am distinguished as the second non-Arab American to face indictment on the Patriot Act, after Jose Padilla.

My status was pretty close to an enemy non-combatant. One would presume that I must have joined some terrorist conspiracy? Or engaged in some brutal act of sedition, such as stock piling weapons and munitions to overthrow those crooks in Congress?

You would be wrong. I got indicted for protesting the War in Iraq. My crime was delivering a warm-hearted letter to my second cousin White House Chief of Staff, Andy Card, which correctly outlined the consequences of War. Suspiciously, I had been one of the very few Assets covering the Iraqi Embassy at the United Nations for seven years. Thus, I was personally acquainted with the truth about Pre-War Intelligence, which differs remarkably from the story invented by GOP leaders on Capitol Hill.

Stormtrooper

Egypt: Army orders last protesters out of Cairo square

Egyptian protester
© UPI
Egyptian demonstrators protest in Cairo's main square square during the biggest anti-government protests in three decades in a bid to topple the government President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, Egypt on January 31, 2011.
A few dozen Egyptian protesters who have held out in Cairo's Tahrir Square were cordoned by military police and soldiers on Monday, and they said they had been told by the army to leave or face arrest.

Traffic flowed relatively unhindered through the square, the hub of the mass uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak on Friday.

"We have half an hour left, we are cordoned by military police. We don't know what to do. We are discussing what to do now," one of the protesters, Yahya Saqr, told Reuters, adding that a senior officer "told us we have one hour to empty the square or we will be arrested".

Military police in red berets surrounded the protesters, who numbered about 40. The head of the military police was at the scene. Activists said two protesters had been detained.

Most of the anti-Mubarak banners which had adorned the square had been removed. Images of young Egyptians killed in the unrest, hailed as "martyrs of the revolution", still hung from lampposts.

Magnify

Panel Casts Doubt on FBI Scientific Evidence in Anthrax Case

anthrax spores
© unknown
Anthrax spores
An independent panel of scientists has determined that the FBI did not have enough scientific evidence to produce a conviction in the case of the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people.

The National Academies of Sciences released a review Tuesday of the science used in the investigation. The $1.1 million report, which was commissioned by the FBI, concluded that the man accused in the case, Bruce Ivins, could have carried out the attacks, but the science alone did not prove it.

In October and September of 2001, letters containing anthrax killed five people and infected 17 others. Recipients included NBC News, The New York Post, Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

Even after over 600,000 investigator work hours spent by the FBI's "Amerithrax Task Force," the case against Ivins was largely circumstantial.

Ivins killed himself in 2008 just as the government was prepared to indict him. The Justice Department closed the case last year, concluding Ivins had acted alone in stealing the spores from the government lab where he worked.

The report released Tuesday questioned the link between a flask of anthrax found in Ivins' office and the letters.

Beaker

Feds Approve Monsanto Herbicide-Resistant Crops

corn
© Ian Hayhurst / Jared Rodriguez
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved plantings of three genetically engineered (GE) crops in as many weeks, including Monsanto Co.'s Roundup Ready sugar beets and alfalfa that are engineered to tolerate Roundup Ready weed-killing herbicide.

The USDA on February 11 also legalized, without restriction, the world's first GE corn crop meant for biofuel production. Biotech giant Syngenta's Event 3272 seed corn will simplify ethanol production and is not meant to feed animals or humans.

The approvals flew in the face of legal and regulatory challenges posed by GE crop opponents and members of the agricultural industry. Opponents fear the GE crop varieties could contaminate conventional food crops and promote the overuse of herbicides like the glyphosate-based Roundup and more toxic chemicals used to kill glyphosate-resistant weeds.

Monsanto won a victory on February 4 when the USDA partially deregulated Roundup Ready sugar beets. A federal court in August 2010 temporarily banned the beets and ordered the USDA to re-review the environmental impacts of the Roundup Ready sugar beets as the result of a lawsuit filed by farmers and environmental groups.

Plaintiff attorney Paul Achitoff from the environmental group Earthjustice said the USDA's decision to allow plantings of the sugar beets under "lax conditions" violates federal law. However, the USDA said the beets pose no "plant pest risk" and farmers can start planting them before a final Environmental Impact Statement is issued in 2012.

Dollar

US: Deficit is Biggest as Share of Economy Since 1945

Obama budget
© AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Copies of President Obama's 2012 budget are delivered to the Senate Budget Committee by staff member Dylan Morris, Monday, Feb. 14, 2011, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Not since World War II has the federal budget deficit made up such a big chunk of the U.S. economy. And within two or three years, economists fear the result could be sharply higher interest rates that would slow economic growth.

The budget plan President Barack Obama sent Congress on Monday foresees a record deficit of $1.65 trillion this year. That would be just under 11 percent of the $14 trillion economy -- the largest proportion since 1945, when wartime spending swelled the deficit to 21.5 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.

The danger is that a persistently large gap in the budget could threaten the economy. Investors would see lending their money to the U.S. as riskier. So they'd demand higher returns to do it. Or they'd simply put their cash elsewhere. Interest rates on mortgages and other debt would rise as a result.

And if borrowing turned more expensive, people and businesses might scale back their spending. That would weaken an economy still struggling to lower unemployment, revive real estate prices and restore corporate and consumer confidence.

So far, it hasn't happened. It's still cheap for the government to borrow money and finance deficits. But economists fear the domino effect if all that changes.

Bad Guys

US: Army Admits Gulf War Medical Records Destroyed

Op Desert storm
© Peter Turnley / Corbis
St. Petersburg, Fla. - A letter from the Department of the Army telling units to destroy their records after the end of Operation Desert Storm has made it more difficult for injured veterans to get the medical benefits they need.

The letter, never made public before now, says units were told to destroy their records because officials had no room to ship the paperwork back to the United States. The letter goes on to say it was in direct contradiction to existing Army regulations.

"This could have been one, five, six, a couple of hundred or this could be thousands (of soldiers)," says Andrew Marshall, a Florida regional officer with the nonprofit Disabled American Veterans group. "You don't know."

One solider trying to get help from the Veterans Administration for combat-related injuries says he has been turned down because his records are missing. He did not want to be identified.

He says he has all the medical records for the time he was in the states, but the records for everything that happened outside of the country are gone.

Bad Guys

Defector who told the West about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction admits he lied

Image
© unknown
Lied: Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, known by the alias Curveball, admits he lied when he told German intelligence that the Iraqi dictator had mobile weapons laboratories as part of a secret biological programme
An Iraqi defector who convinced the West that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which was used as a basis for war, has admitted he lied.

Engineer Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, known by the alias Curveball, told German intelligence that the Iraqi dictator had mobile weapons laboratories as part of a secret biological programme.

However, in an interview with the Guardian newspaper, he now says he lied in order to rid his country of the brutal regime, which he had fled in 1995.

Stop

Egypt's military dissolves Parliament, suspends constitution

Image
© unknown
Protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square carry Egyptian police officers on their shoulders Sunday.
Egypt's military dissolved the country's Parliament and suspended its constitution Sunday following the ouster of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak, telling Egyptians it would be in charge for six months or until elections can be held.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces said it would appoint a committee to propose changes to the Constitution, which would then be submitted to voters. The council will have the power to issue new laws during the transition period, according to a communique read on state television.

Sameh Shoukry, Egypt's ambassador to the United States, said Sunday that the generals have made restoring security and reviving the economy its top priorities.

"This current composition is basically a technocratic government to run the day-to-day affairs, to take care of the security void that has happened, and to also address the issues related to the economy," Shoukry told CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS."

Handcuffs

Silvio Berlusconi WILL face trial for having sex with 17-year-old Moroccan belly dancer

Berlusconi
© Getty
In the dock: Silvio Berlusconi salutes during his visit to Mineo in Sicily today
Silvio Berlusconi was yesterday sent for trial on charges of sex with an underage prostitute and abuse of power.

An all-female panel of judges ruled that the Italian Prime Minister should be tried based on 782 pages of wire taps, intercepted text messages and bank details.

If convicted, he could face 15 years in prison. Mr Berlusconi, 74, denies the charges and claims he is the victim of a political witch hunt.

He has been at the centre of torrid allegations since it emerged he had paid teenage Moroccan belly dancer Karima El Mahroug.

Prosecutors said he also used his influence to secure her release when she was arrested.

Star of David

A Sovereign Palestinian State?

Over the past few months, numerous nations have taken the step of officially recognising a Palestinian state, or the right for Palestinians to have a 'sovereign' state of their own. Over the course of a few weeks at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Guyana and Peru all declared Palestine as a 'free and sovereign State". On January 19th, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev joined the chorus when he met with the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, in the West Bank oasis town of Jericho and reaffirmed his country's support for a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem.

While such moves are to be welcomed, we shouldn't allow them to obscure the reality on the ground in Palestine and Israel. For several decades, Israeli authorities have followed a policy of building illegal (according to international law) Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. As of early 2011, half a million Jewish settlers are living in over 150 settlements (comprising small to medium-sized towns) in both the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem. The simple reality is that the extent of these settlements is such that, unless most of them are removed, there is simply no 'sovereign' Palestinian land on which a Palestinian State could ever be established. As a result, all affirmations by other nations, however well-intentioned, of a Palestinian right to statehood ring rather hollow.