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Sat, 24 Oct 2020
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British contractor in Iraq gets 20 years for 2 killings

Danny Fitzsimons, first Westerner convicted in an Iraqi court since the war began, had been facing the death penalty.

An Iraqi court Monday convicted a British man and sentenced him to 20 years in prison over the shooting deaths of two contractors, making him the first Westerner convicted in an Iraqi court since the 2003 U.S. invasion.

Danny Fitzsimons, 30, was found guilty in the 2009 fatal shootings of a British and Australian contractor who worked with him and with attempting to kill an Iraqi guard.

Fitzsimons, who had been facing the death penalty, told The Associated Press as he was being led from the courtroom by Iraqi guards that he was happy with the sentence. But when asked whether he thought the trial was fair, he said: "No."

Target

Egypt imposes travel ban on Mubarak

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© Gallo/Getty
Mubarak stepped down after an 18-day long popular uprising across Egypt
Egypt's general prosecutor has imposed a travel ban on former president Hosni Mubarak and his family pending further investigations.

The prosecutor Abdel Magid Mahmud on Monday also ordered the freezing of all of their financial assets inside the country.

"The decision today is acting on complaints received on wealth accumulated by former president and his family," a statement from the prosecutor's office said. The statement did not elaborate on the complaints.

Judicial officials said the decision applied to the deposed president, his wife Suzanne, his two sons Ala and Gamal, and their wives.

Newspaper

An Empire of Lies- Why Our Media Betrays Us

media distrust
© n/a
Last week the Guardian, Britain's main liberal newspaper, ran an exclusive report on the belated confessions of an Iraqi exile, Rafeed al-Janabi, codenamed "Curveball" by the CIA. Eight years ago, Janabi played a key behind-the-scenes role - if an inadvertent one - in making possible the US invasion of Iraq. His testimony bolstered claims by the Bush administration that Iraq's president, Saddam Hussein, had developed an advanced programme producing weapons of mass destruction.

Curveball's account included the details of mobile biological weapons trucks presented by Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, to the United Nations in early 2003. Powell's apparently compelling case on WMD was used to justify the US attack on Iraq a few weeks later.

Eight years on, Curveball revealed to the Guardian that he had fabricated the story of Saddam's WMD back in 2000, shortly after his arrival in Germany seeking asylum. He told the paper he had lied to German intelligence in the hope his testimony might help topple Saddam, though it seems more likely he simply wanted to ensure his asylum case was taken more seriously.

For the careful reader - and I stress the word "careful" - several disturbing facts emerged from the report.

Monkey Wrench

Natural gas explosion at Pierce Transit maintenance facility

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© Unknown
Lakewood, Wash. (USA) - A natural gas explosion Monday at Pierce Transit headquarters rattled nerves, but nobody was hurt.

It happened around 5 p.m. at 3701 96th Street SW in Lakewood.

The fire sparked in a compressed natural gas tank at the back side of the Pierce Transit parking lot, according to Lakewood Fire officials. The facility compresses natural gas fuel for buses, said Lind Simonsen with Pierce Transit. Nobody was close to the explosion when it occured, and nobody was hurt.

The heat was so intense, firefighters were forced to back off to a safe distance to fight the fire, said investigators.

Several witnesses reported an explosion followed by a large column of flames.

2 + 2 = 4

Majority in Poll in U.S. Back Employees in Public Unions

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As labor battles erupt in state capitals around the nation, a majority of Americans say they oppose efforts to weaken the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions and are also against cutting the pay or benefits of public workers to reduce state budget deficits, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Labor unions are not exactly popular, though: A third of those surveyed viewed them favorably, a quarter viewed them unfavorably, and the rest said they were either undecided or had not heard enough about them. But the nationwide poll found that embattled public employee unions have the support of most Americans - and most independents - as they fight the efforts of newly elected Republican governors in Wisconsin and Ohio to weaken their bargaining powers, and the attempts of governors from both parties to cut their pay or benefits.

Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent. While a slim majority of Republicans favored taking away some bargaining rights, they were outnumbered by large majorities of Democrats and independents who said they opposed weakening them.

Those surveyed said they opposed, 56 percent to 37 percent, cutting the pay or benefits of public employees to reduce deficits, breaking down along similar party lines. A majority of respondents who have no union members living in their households opposed both cuts in pay or benefits and taking away the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Bizarro Earth

Chile Survivors Live in Squalor a Year After Quake

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© Claudio Santana/AFP/Getty Images
Coastal town of Dichato, Chile, on March 1, two days after the huge 8.8-magnitude earthquake triggered several waves of devastating tsunamis. Chile has been hit by numerous aftershocks, some reaching over 6 points on the Richter scale, as well as heavy damages in coastal towns resulting from tsunamis.
Around 3,000 people whose coastal town was leveled by Chile's massive earthquake and tsunami one year ago still live in squalid conditions that some compare to a "concentration camp."

In El Molino camp, some 450 temporary homes line streets of rubble, with no running water and shared makeshift bathrooms.

Residents lost everything when the nearby town of Dichato on the central coast was razed by the giant quake -- measuring 8.8 on the moment magnitude scale -- and subsequent tsunami on February 27, 2010.

Jimena Toledo, a community leader, regularly visits inhabitants of the wooden shacks, stepping over trash and other debris to walk down the streets, which are regularly flooded with mud during the winter months.

"Life in the village is bad, bitter, and ugly. I think it's like a concentration camp. People shut themselves in their homes at nine o'clock at night and that's it," Toledo told AFP.

"It wasn't like that before... we went out."

The government set up the camp, which is one of Chile's largest, three weeks after the quake, renting the land from a forestry company.

Almost all the former residents of Dichato now live there after the destruction of around 80 percent of their fishing town, which was once popular with tourists. Twenty-six people died there.

"Few people go to Dichato. Although they don't want to believe it, this is a new town," Toledo said of the camp.

A fruit and vegetable market takes place several days of the week, and many people have set up stalls selling basic goods.

Another 106 temporary villages sprung up after the quake to house the more than 4,000 families worst affected by the tragedy, which left 524 people dead and at least 31 missing, as well as 30 billion dollars in losses.

Pills

US: Young Lives Wrecked by Prescription Drug Epidemic in Southern Ohio

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© John Kuntz, The Plain Dealer
Jo Anna Krohn and her son Blake, 25, visit the grave of her son Wesley Workman, 18, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound with OxyContin in his system.
In the grand experiment known as the American democratic system, jury selections are designed to bring together a wide cross-section of any community.

As Scioto County Prosecutor Mark Kuhn kicked off the process of selecting a jury for a drug-related murder trial last year, he asked those selected randomly to raise their hands if someone in their family or in a friend's family had a drug problem.

One by one, all 31 potential jurors stuck their hands in the air.

Even for a seasoned prosecutor who has seen thousands of drug cases come through the Scioto County system in his six years on the job, it was a stunning verdict about the depth of the drug problem in the county.

"That was simply unbelievable," Kuhn said, shaking his head on a recent morning as he stood in the hallway at the Scioto County Courthouse, a manila folder full of arraignments tucked under his arm. A courtroom full of defendants awaited him -- most of his cases typically will somehow involve prescription drug abuse.

Such is life in Scioto County, a Southern Ohio county on the Ohio river where a prescription drug epidemic crosses all socioeconomic lines, wrecking young lives from ramshackle trailer parks to cushy suburban homes. The pain pills come in varying forms and dosages, but there is no question which one is king -- OxyContin, the fifth most prescribed drug in the world.

Beer

US: Ex-MADD Chapter President Arrested For DUI

Ex-MADD Chapter President Arrested For DUI
© Unknown
Ex-MADD Chapter President Arrested For DUI

Florida - The Gainesville chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving closed in the mid-90s, but it's volunteer president is gaining notoriety after being arrested on a drunk driving charge last week. 48-year-old Debra Oberlin reportedly failed a field sobriety test one hour after she was stopped for driving erratically in Gainesville city limits.

An odor of alcohol and bloodshot eyes tipped the officer that the driver could be driving drunk. Oberiln admitted to drinking four beers and blew a .234 and a .239 on the breath alcohol meter. Gainesville's legal breath alochol limit is .08.

Che Guevara

People Power!: 100,000 Rally in Wisconsin snow

Even the snow can't keep the people's voice from being heard.


Ambulance

Four Americans dead in UAE plane crash

Abu Dhabi - Four Americans aboard a turboprop plane were killed when their aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff in the United Arab Emirates, US and Emirati officials said Monday.

Investigators were examining the wreckage to determine a possible cause for the fiery Sunday evening crash. The identities of those killed _ the only people on board _ were not immediately disclosed.

A statement by the US Embassy to local media said the plane was en route to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on the first leg of a trip back to the United States.