07/19/2013 archive


Panama arrests ex-CIA station chief sought by Italy in rendition case

By Tim Johnson, McClatchy

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Robert Seldon Lady was the CIA station chief in Milan when Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr was pulled from the streets of that city as part of an operation that Italian prosecutors later said involved 22 American agents, all of whom fled Italy shortly afterward.

Italy’s main news agency, ANSA, reported that Lady was detained in Panama and that Italian Justice Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri would have two months to formally request his extradition.

Italy’s top court of appeals in September confirmed a nine-year jail term for Lady in the extraordinary case, the first attempt by a foreign judiciary to prosecute U.S. officials for the controversial practice of extraordinary rendition – the practice of sending a person detained in one country to another country for questioning without requesting the approval of a court.

Nasr was snatched from Milan’s Via Guerzoni before noon Feb. 17, 2003, by two men who sprayed chemicals in his face and forced him into a white van. He turned up in an Egyptian prison, where he spent four years before his release. U.S. officials suspected him of recruiting radical Muslims in Italy for jihad in the Middle East, but he was never charged with a crime in Italy or Egypt.

Italian prosecutors said they proved that the van was part of a CIA scheme to round up Nasr, move him to an air base north of Venice and on to Ramstein Air Base in Germany, before delivering him to Egyptian interrogators.

If Lady now faces the threat of being returned to Italy, Nasr has fared little better. During his four years in an Egyptian jail, Nasr tried to commit suicide three times, his attorney told Knight-Ridder newspapers, which was later bought by The McClatchy Co., in 2006.

“He’s been exposed to torture ever since he was kidnapped in Italy,” attorney Montasser Zayat said then. “He said he was beaten even on the plane that took him to Germany before he was handed to Egypt.”

Lady has since been released and has flown back to the United States.  An INTERPOL Warrant for his arrest remains in force.

Germany backs away from claims NSA program thwarted five attacks

By Matthew Schofield, McClatchy

Thursday, July 18, 2013

(German Interior Minister Hans-Peter) Friedrich had made the assertion about the number of attacks that the NSA programs – which scoop up records from cellphone and Internet accounts – had helped to avert after a brief visit to the United States last week. But on Tuesday, he told a German parliamentary panel, “It is relatively difficult to count the number of terror attacks that didn’t occur.” And on Wednesday, he was publically referring to just two foiled attacks, at least one and possibly both of which appeared to have little to do with the NSA’s surveillance programs.

(O)pposition politicians and commentators now are talking about the arrogance of the U.S. application of “winner’s power” (a reference to the political authority the United States had here during the Cold War, when Germany was divided between east and west, and West Germany leaned heavily on America for support), and how traditionally strong relations between the two countries have been harmed by the scandal.

Perhaps most troubling was how quickly the government backed down on the claims that the surveillance helped foil terror plots. Gisela Piltz, a Liberal Party member of the Bundestag intelligence committee, said she could not give exact details of what took place in the secret hearing but noted: “There was a clear discrepancy between the previously reported number of foiled terror attacks and the number we talked about.”

Piltz said that while terrorism is a real threat, the U.S. monitoring programs have done little to prevent it.

“Germans are not safer because of U.S. espionage,” Piltz said. “It is true Germany has been lucky not to have suffered a terror attack, but there has to be a balance. We cannot sacrifice freedom for security, and when in doubt I would always opt for freedom.”

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Ta-Nehesi Coates: Raising the Wrong Profile

In 2003, State Senator Barack Obama spearheaded a bill through the Illinois legislature that sought to put the clamps on racial profiling. Obama called racial profiling “morally objectionable,” “bad police practice” and a method that mainly served to “humiliate individuals and foster contempt in communities of color.” [..]

That is why it is hard to comprehend the thinking that compelled the president, in a week like this, to flirt with the possibility of inviting the New York City Police Commissioner, Ray Kelly, the proprietor of the largest local racial profiling operation in the country, into his cabinet.

Paul Krugman: Hitting China’s Wall

All economic data are best viewed as a peculiarly boring genre of science fiction, but Chinese data are even more fictional than most. Add a secretive government, a controlled press, and the sheer size of the country, and it’s harder to figure out what’s really happening in China than it is in any other major economy.

Yet the signs are now unmistakable: China is in big trouble. We’re not talking about some minor setback along the way, but something more fundamental. The country’s whole way of doing business, the economic system that has driven three decades of incredible growth, has reached its limits. You could say that the Chinese model is about to hit its Great Wall, and the only question now is just how bad the crash will be.

Robert L. Borosage: Fed Chair to Congress: Stop Killing Jobs

In his congressional testimony yesterday, Fed Chair Ben Bernanke called out the Congress. He warned them to stop the reckless and mindless spending cuts that are killing jobs and growth. Their stupidity, he suggested, poses the biggest threat to Americans going back to work.

Of course, he didn’t phrase it quite like that. His testimony was purposefully vanilla, designed not to cause indigestion on Wall Street. But that didn’t stop him from indicting the Congress. In his first sentence he stated:

“The economic recovery has continued at a moderate pace in recent quarters despite the strong headwinds created by federal fiscal policy.

Translated: If you idiots abandon your destructive austerity fetish, we might be able to put people back to work.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: McDonald’s Accidentally Served Up a Minimum Wage ‘McManifesto’

Marie Antoinette, meet Ronald McDonald.

A lot of people are angry about McDonald’s new financial advice website for employees, an ill-conceived project which drips with “let them eat cake” insouciance. “Every dollar makes a difference,” McDonald’s lectures its struggling and often impoverished workers.

But it’s time to ditch the resentment and offer McDonald’s a word of thanks. It has just performed an invaluable service for campaigns like Raise the Minimum Wage and petitions like this one by serving up a timely and exhaustively researched brief on their behalf. This new website provides invaluable data for a living-wage “McManifesto.”

You want fries with that?

Eugene Robinson: Obama is the wrong person to lead discussion about race

We should talk honestly about unresolved racial issues, such as those exposed by the Trayvon Martin case, but President Obama is not the best person to lead the discussion. Through no fault of his own, he might be the worst. [..]

The designation “first black (fill in the blank)” always brings with it unfair burdens, and one of Obama’s – he bears many – is that almost anything he says about race will be seen by some as favoring the interests of black Americans over white Americans.

At this point in his presidency, Obama could ignore this absurd reality and say whatever he wants. He must be sorely tempted. But the unfortunate fact is that if his aim is to promote dialogue about race, speaking his mind is demonstrably counterproductive.

Dale Weihoff: Fruits of NAFTA

Drug cartels existed long before the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, but not drug cartels as we know them today. As we approach the 20th anniversary of NAFTA, we can no longer ignore its contribution to building a powerful and violent criminal enterprise that has brought Mexico close to being labeled a failed state and made the Mexican-U.S. border into a war zone.

Most often when we analyze trade agreements, the focus is on trade volumes, jobs and manufacturing statistics, poverty levels and immigration–all extremely important ways to understand the impact of neoliberal policies bequeathed to us from Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. But to fully appreciate how devastating free trade has been, we need to look more closely at the aftermath of free trade on the bonds that hold communities together. It starts out small, a single thread that eventually leads to unraveling the whole cloth.

On This Day In History July 19

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

July 19 is the 200th day of the year (201st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 165 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1848, a two-day Women’s Rights Convention opens in Seneca Falls, New York. There the “Bloomers” are introduced.

The Seneca Falls Convention was an early and influential women’s rights convention held in Seneca Falls, New York, July 19-20, 1848. It was organized by local New York women upon the occasion of a visit by Boston-based Lucretia Mott, a Quaker famous for her speaking ability, a skill rarely cultivated by American women at the time. The local women, primarily members of a radical Quaker group, organized the meeting along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a skeptical non-Quaker who followed logic more than religion.

The meeting spanned two days and six sessions, and included a lecture on law, a humorous presentation, and multiple discussions about the role of women in society. Stanton and the Quaker women presented two prepared documents, the Declaration of Sentiments and an accompanying list of resolutions, to be debated and modified before being put forward for signatures. A heated debate sprang up regarding women’s right to vote, with many including Mott urging the removal of this concept, but Frederick Douglass argued eloquently for its inclusion, and the suffrage resolution was retained. Exactly 100 of approximately 300 attendees signed the document, mostly women.

The convention was seen by some of its contemporaries, including featured speaker Mott, as but a single step in the continuing effort by women to gain for themselves a greater proportion of social, civil and moral rights, but it was viewed by others as a revolutionary beginning to the struggle by women for complete equality with men. Afterward, Stanton presented the resulting Declaration of Sentiments as a foundational document in the American woman’s suffrage movement, and she promoted the event as the first time that women and men gathered together to demand the right for women to vote. Stanton’s authoring of the History of Woman Suffrage helped to establish the Seneca Falls Convention as the moment when the push for women’s suffrage first gained national prominence. By 1851, at the second National Women’s Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts, the issue of women’s right to vote had become a central tenet of the women’s rights movement.

Le Tour 2013: Stage 19

Christophe Riblon is the first French Stage Winner of Le Tour had a great race, gutting it out over a U.S. rider, rookie Tejay Van Garderen, in the final 2.2 K.

Though it didn’t rain the descent from Col de Sarenne, as predicted, was pretty dramatic.

Tejay Van Garderen (leader over the top) lost gearing (I’m pedaling and nothing is happening) and had to replace and catch up with Riblon.  Riblon, the eventual stage winner, drove off a left hander and into a swampy ditch and had to pick up his bike and wade back to the road.

Toward the tail end of the descent Froome had a puncture and he too had to replace his bike before the final climb.

Contador, who was attacking all day, eventually eked out a 20 second lead over Froome going into the final ascent up Alpe Huez.  But it wasn’t enough and he was soon overtaken and finished a minute behind on the day.

It might have been different- with 5 K to go in the race Froome’s a blood sugar dropped precipitously and he had to have a team mate drop back to the support car and pick up a tube of glucose (they call it energy gel, but I’ve known Diabetics).  This is a big no no in the final kilometers and eventually he was penalized 20 seconds; not, alas, enough to change the overall dynamics of the race.  If you are a big Contador fan it’s not unreasonable to think that if Froome had not cheated he might have lost up to 3 minutes.

Nairo Alexander Quitana Rojas’ outstanding performance leapfrogged him into 3rd.

General Classification

Rank Name Team Time
1 FROOME Christopher SKY PROCYCLING 71h 02′ 19”
3 QUINTANA ROJAS Nairo Alexander MOVISTAR TEAM + 05′ 32”

In the Green Jersey competition nothing much changed except that Peter Sagan is now firmly over 100 points ahead.


Rank Name Team Points
6 ROJAS José Joaquin MOVISTAR TEAM 145

For King of the Mountains (Polka Dot) Nairo Alexander Quitana Rojas gained 2 points on Chris Froome with yesterday’s performance and Riblon and Van Garderen moved into contention.

King of the Moutains

Rank Name Team Points

In Team Competition Radioshack had a terrible day, dropping about 11 minutes.  On the strength of Riblon’s victory (and of course his team mates performances) the French team AG2R moved into 2nd place and Katusha of Russia, while still under 1 hour behind overall, moved back toward the pack.


Rank Team Time
1 TEAM SAXO-TINKOFF 212h 29′ 26”
2 AG2R LA MONDIALE + 06′ 05”
4 MOVISTAR TEAM + 24′ 33”
6 KATUSHA TEAM + 48′ 06”

I must say that given the strength of Quitana Rojas I have newfound respect for the performance of the other young riders in contention for the White Jersey.

Young Rider

Rank Name Team Time
1 QUINTANA ROJAS Nairo Alexander MOVISTAR TEAM 71h 07′ 51”
3 TALANSKY Andrew GARMIN – SHARP + 10′ 52”
4 BARDET Romain AG2R LA MONDIALE + 25′ 13”

Today’s Stage 19, Bourg-d’Oisans to Le Grand-Bornand, may actually be the toughest of the Alpine Stages especially considering the effort expended yesterday.  It has 2 Beyond Category climbs, 2 Category 1s and a Category 2.

It is raining on and off and there is water on track which might make for some tricky descents.

Today and tomorrow are the only racing days left so if riders are going to make a move, now is the time.  Given Froome’s difficulty on Alpe Huez it is not beyond the realm of possibility that he could break down and give back a chunk of time though I’ll not kid you, 5 minutes is a lot.

Sites of Interest-

The Stars Hollow Gazette Tags-

Grayson’s Amendment

If you can’t get congress to abide by the Constitution and its amendments, then resort to a tactic they might fall for, amend the egregious law with the appropriate amendment:

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Congressman Alan Grayson (FL-09) submitted an amendment today to the National Defense Authorization Act, which would prohibit the Department of Defense from collecting information on U.S. citizens without probable cause of a terrorism or criminal offense. Grayson’s amendment is a response to recent reports that the National Security Agency (NSA), which falls under the Defense Department, has been secretly collecting the telephone records and the private internet communications of U.S. citizens.

Grayson called these reports “disturbing.” “Without probable cause, there’s no excuse for the NSA to be compiling this type of data on American citizens who have done nothing wrong-particularly without their knowledge,” he said. “This amendment prevents the Defense Department from collecting ANY information about U.S. citizens within the country-no telephone records, no internet records, no physical locations-unless there is probable cause of a terrorism or criminal offense.

Grayson's Amendment to the NDAA photo Graysonamend_zps0e008d5d.png

Click on image to enlarge

What digby said:

Hmm. I could swear I’ve heard that somewhere before. Oh wait:


The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized

I can’t wait to see how many members of Congress vote against the 4th Amendment.

This should not be necessary.

Wall Street’s Biggest Fear: Eliot Spitzer

Why is the financial world freaking out over the possibility of former New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer becoming New York City’s Comptroller? Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Thomas Ferguson laid it out in his article republished at naked capitalism:

Who, when the Justice Department, Congress, and the Securities and Exchange Commission all defaulted in the wake of a tidal wave of financial frauds, creatively used New York State’s Martin Act to go where they wouldn’t and subpoena emails and corporate records of the malefactors of great wealth, winning convictions and big settlements.

Who in 2005, as New York State Attorney General, actually sued AIG instead of thinking up ways to hand it billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money.

Who brought a suit over the Gilded Age compensation package Stock Exchange head Richard Grasso had been awarded by his chums on the board.

And who in 2013 with business as usual once again the order of the day, is promising to review how the Comptroller’s Office, which controls New York City’s vast pension funds, does business with Wall Street and corporate America. With his incisive questions about Wall Street’s fee structures and criticism of the passive stances most pension funds take to skyrocketing executive compensation in the companies they invest in, Eliot Spitzer is the last person on earth Wall Street wants to see in that slot.

The chorus of outrage from Wall Street pundits and media over Spitzer’s return after embarrassing exit from the governor’s office after his out of state tryst with prostitutes (omg, he had the nerve to use his own money) and, according to a New York Times article, his out of control ego and combative, go-it-alone style.

Prof. Ferguson dismisses the hyperbole as a “smoke screen” for the real objections that Spitzer would stop Wall Street from using the city’s pension funds to make profits for the 1% while cheating the workers out of a lifetime of investment. Spitzer as an activist for the 99% scares the crap out of them.

The compelling case for activism in the Comptroller’s Office by somebody of Spitzer’s intelligence, knowledge, and experience rests mostly on quite different grounds. As Spitzer has observed, most pension funds put up little or no resistance to management’s soaring claims for compensation. These come massively at the expense of investors as a group; pushing back would benefit investors in general and, obviously, beneficiaries of City pension funds. At a time when the air is filled with sometimes dubious claims of pension fund inadequacies, increasing returns to the City pension funds would be a real triumph. You can be sure, however, that the threat to ever-escalating executive salaries fuels a lot of the animus to Spitzer within much of big business and finance.

No less important, though, is another reality to which Spitzer has alluded to from time to time. Wall Street overcharges for financial advice and pension funds often find it expedient to tolerate this, rather than shop vigorously around. Studies of pension funds returns routinely note the frequency with which high fees accompany relatively shoddy performance, often over many years. It is high time attention was focused on this situation; Spitzer would likely do that.

And the Office of the Comptroller has subpoena power, that’s a lot of power:

First, part of the comptroller’s job is ensuring that private sector employees working on city projects are paid the prevailing wage. If an employer, for example a construction company, is reported to be paying workers below-market rates, the comptroller can open an investigation and subpoena payroll records if the employer won’t cooperate.

In addition, the comptroller has the authority to review all legal settlements entered into by the city’s corporation counsel. Last fiscal year, the city paid $486 million to settle lawsuits filed against its agencies or employees, the comptroller’s office said in a report last month. The settlements were for cases such as malpractice at city hospitals or police misconduct.

That’s just for starters.