A military strike against Iranian facilities is not out of the question, even though Tehran has reached agreement on a probe with the UN’s nuclear watchdog, says Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
The official was referring to a deal announced on Tuesday by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Barak called it an Iranian ploy to fend off international pressure.
The minister told Army Radio that “a nuclear Iran is intolerable and no options should be taken off the table,” referring to the use of force.
He said the only way Israel could see Iran develop its civilian nuclear industry is if it shuts down all of its uranium enrichment sites and uses imported fuel.
The comments came as Iranian nuclear negotiators are meeting the P5+1 group in Baghdad on Wednesday. They are to discuss the conflict over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which the West suspects of being a clandestine attempt to build an atomic weapon. Iran insists its pursuits are purely civilian.
“Dragging things out, in our eyes, is problematic, so conversations between the West and Iran must occur more frequently. North Korea also negotiated with the West but in the end tested nuclear weapons,” Barak pointed out.
Last week US Ambassador Dan Shapiro said the Pentagon has a plan for a military strike on Iran, and may carry it out if ordered.
“It would be preferable to resolve this diplomatically and through the use of pressure than to use military force,” he said.
Possible use of force against Iran has been discussed by Israel and its western allies for months. Israel insists on the right to strike when and if it sees fit, saying it will not ask for anyone’s consent. There is fear that if such an attack happens, Iran would retaliate at any forces it sees as enemies, which could result in a major regional war.
Eileen Foster and the Failure of Corporate Criminal Justice
Last month, Eileen Foster was at the National Press Club to receive the $10,000 Ron Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling. In 2007, Foster was a vice president in charge of investigating fraud at Countrywide Financial. A full time job, if you can keep it. Which she couldn’t.
Because she took her job seriously.
A Countrywide employee in Boston called Foster with evidence of widespread loan fraud in the Boston area.
Foster investigated and confirmed the employee’s report and eventually shut down six Countrywide offices in Massachusetts.
She started to pursue what appeared to be systemic fraud at the company when the executive suite got itchy.
On September 8, 2008, they came to Foster and put a 14-page document on her desk. Foster calls that a gag order. They also offered her $228,000. Foster calls that hush money. She was told if she accepted the money and signed the document, she could quit. If not, she would be fired.
She was fired.
Foster filed a complaint with the Department of Labor under the Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower provisions.
Twenty-one out of 1,500 whistleblowers have gotten a favorable response from the Department of Labor.
So, Foster knew it was a bit like hitting the lottery.
But lo and behold, she hit it.
In October 2011, the Department of Labor ruled in her favor.
And in December 2011, the CBS News show 60 Minutes did a story titled Prosecuting Wall Street that featured Foster.
Now, Bank of America, which acquired Countrywide, is appealing the Department of Labor’s ruling.
A public hearing is scheduled for October 22.
On the 60 Minutes segment, Steve Kroft reported that “Eileen Foster has never been asked — and never spoken to the Justice Department – even though she was Countrywide’s executive vice president in charge of fraud investigations.”
We asked Foster – did the Justice Department ever contact you?
“Not before 60 Minutes,” Foster says. “After 60 Minutes, yes.”
“I’m not sure I can talk about that,” she says.
“I’m encouraged, but I’m not sure if the movement is in the right direction,” Foster said. “There had been things taking place prior to the 60 Minutes piece.”
It has been widely reported that the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles opened and closed an investigation of Countrywide without bringing charges. Is that what Foster is talking about?
“I’m not talking about any specific effort.”
“If what took place in these organizations wasn’t illegal, there has been a lot of activity which has taken place since that seems to me is clearly illegal – perjury, obstruction of justice and witness tampering.”
Is it your sense that this is over and done with and that the Justice Department has moved on?
“I hope not,” Foster said. “I have a fear that it is probably over and done with.”
At the Press Club last month, Foster said that she doesn’t trust the corporate line on internal reporting of problems.
“Critics insist that a whistleblower be compelled to first report problems internally, supposedly to provide the corrupt company the chance to correct wrongdoing,” Foster said at the Press Club. “But when I followed protocol and reported internally, I was summarily eliminated. The wrongdoing was protected, not corrected.”
“We cannot allow corporate malfeasance to run rampant and become institutionalized. People need to know that many corporations use hotlines and reporting policies to silence whistleblowers and conceal fraud.”
“Corporations now screen applicants for whistleblowing tendencies and assign lawyers to participate in internal investigations so they can shield the wrongdoing under the cloak of ‘privilege,’” Foster said. “The Congress and State Legislatures should eliminate the corporate lawyer cover-up by eliminating the use of so-called privileges in these circumstances.”
“So here we are several years after the onset of the financial crisis, caused in large part by reckless lending and risk-taking in major financial institutions. And still, not one executive has been charged or imprisoned! This stands in stark contrast to the savings and loan debacle in the 1980’s, where prosecutors sent more than 800 bank officials to jail.”
“Our current administration has defended the lack of prosecutions by labeling the executives’ actions ‘bad behavior,’ but not illegal. Assistant Attorney General, Lanny Breuer, told Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes, that although the risk-taking was offensive, and the greed was upsetting, it didn’t mean the Department of Justice could bring a criminal case. Perhaps we simply need a different means to a justifiable end.”
“When prosecutors were unable to convict Al Capone of racketeering, they convicted him of tax evasion instead. If there is insufficient legal evidence to convict these executives of what we believe are obvious crimes, then the federal government should refocus. Overwhelming evidence of perjury, witness tampering and obstruction of justice exist in the numerous claims, court filings and trial and investigative transcripts. We must not let these deeds go wholly unpunished. Perhaps financial industry whistleblowers should be permitted to present their information to grand juries without the help of government prosecutors. Then the people can decide how best to address this outrageous wrongdoing.”
“We can and must uphold the law and prosecute those who break it, especially “white collar criminals”, no matter how highly placed or how cozy they are with government officials. We must insist on full and complete investigations with accountability and punishment for the guilty parties. We must ‘keep the heat on’ and see justice done.”
[For the complete transcript of the Interview with Eileen Foster, see 26 Corporate Crime Reporter 21(10), print edition only.]
Russell Mokhiber edits Corporate Crime Reporter.
This week, Northwestern and the University of Michigan law schools released a National Registry of Exonerations, a new database chronicling the ever-growing number of exonerees from our nation’s criminal justice system. The database includes over 2,000 people who spent time – sometimes decades – in prison after being wrongfully convicted of serious crimes. This includes over 100 wrongfully convicted of capital murder – which means they were awaiting execution before their sentences were reversed. The Death Penalty information Center, which tracks information about the death penalty, has documented 140 cases where inmates were released from death row with evidence of their innocence.
As astounding as the numbers in the database are, the list of the innocent is likely far longer than what is documented in this valuable resource – and not all of them were exonerated in time. Troy Davis, an African-American man in Georgia, Carlos DeLuna, a Latino man in Texas, and Cameron Todd Willingham, a white man in Texas, were all executed despite compelling evidence of innocence. The judicial system failed these men twice: it failed them first by convicting them of crimes of which they were likely innocent, and it failed them again by denying them meaningful opportunities to prove their innocence, in time to save their lives.
The National Registry of Exonerations compiles explanations across cases, helping shed light on just how these wrongful convictions happen. The explanations are themselves deeply troubling: false accusations or perjury played a role in a full half of the cases (51%); official misconduct contributed to a large percentage of the wrongful convictions (42%); and junk science or false or misleading evidence played a role in almost a quarter of the cases (24%). Although the ACLU Capital Punishment Project, along with many others, continue to push for important reforms in the area of junk science, it is hard to be optimistic that the problems of perjury or police misconduct will ever fully be untangled from the criminal justice system. Ending the death penalty will not solve these problems – but it will make sure that no one else pays for these flaws with his or her life.
- US: New proof of executing the innocent (alethonews.wordpress.com)
White middle class Americans grow up imbibing Hollywood stereotypes of police states in which the villains have exotic names and accents and are very definitely not the kind of people you’d want to drink beer or smoke a joint with. But five young people who went to Chicago to oppose U.S. wars had the misfortune to meet some secret police who seemed to fit in quite well with their peer group. Known only as “Mo” and “Gloves,” the undercover police officers were among the eleven people originally seized at an apartment in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago’s South Side. Then, suddenly, they were gone, but three of their erstwhile anti-war friends would face charges of manufacturing Molotov cocktails and conspiring to mount an attack on President Obama’s campaign headquarters. Apparently, Mo and Gloves will testify to that effect. However, attorneys at the National Lawyers Guild say there were no Molotov cocktails found at the scene, just some equipment to home brew beer.
Mo and Gloves were also apparently behind the arrest of two other activists, both from Chicago, charged with making terrorist threats and attempted possession of explosives or incendiary devices. The dynamic duo Mo and Gloves are expected to testify that the defendants confided that they wanted to burn and bomb things. One of the guys supposedly bragged that he could blow up a bridge in downtown Chicago. The other man allegedly wanted to build a pipe bomb. They are guilty, you see, of felonious and wishful thinking.
The two undercovers were clearly among the most gregarious couples in town for the NATO summit meeting. A defense attorney said lots of activists told her they had met Mo and Gloves – and were, understandably, worried.
In Cleveland, a 39-year-old police informant named Shaquille Azir appears to have lured five young guys who were associated with the Occupy movement and called themselves anarchists into a possible lifetime in prison. According to an excellent Counterpunch article by Jake Olzen, Azir talked himself into the men’s lives, encouraged them to separate from Occupy to form a People’s Liberation Army, and finally, got them to try to blow up a bridge with an inert bomb built with materials provided by the FBI. The informant Azir accomplished this feat of mass manipulation through the dispensing of vast quantities of beer. Every morning, he gave his victims a case of beer, and each evening he showed up with marijuana and another case of beer. It is, therefore logical to conclude that American capitalism is threatened, not so much by implacable opponents or internal contradictions, but by beer.
When I was a very young child, there was a television show called “I Led Three Lives.” The hero was an undercover informant who infiltrated American communist cells to expose their violent plans. The communists were all played by character actors from gangster films. The result was pure fiction, but it did hang together as a typical TV melodrama of the time. However, I think there will never be a movie about the undercover cops Mo and Gloves, who flitted around Chicago making up conversations in order to put people they had never met in prison for life. There oughta be a movie like that, but there won’t. Even the cops would be shamed.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
- Fishy arrests in Chicago (salon.com)
- The Empire Holds Its War Council in Chicago (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Chicago police accused of planting evidence in ‘Molotov cocktail’ plot (rawstory.com)
- NATO Summit Chicago Terrorist Plot: Beer-Making Equipment Deemed ‘Terror’ Device (PHOTO, VIDEO) (blippitt.com)
- Strangling Civil Liberties, One Twist at a Time (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Apollo is a small town in western Pennsylvania, part of the old coal and steel belt that surrounds Pittsburgh. The shallow Kiskiminitas River, a tributary of the Allegheny, flows through the borough. Although it is close to my hometown, I never knew much about it, except that my artist uncle once made a glass carving for the town to commemorate the Apollo astronauts the community had embraced.
I remember passing through Apollo and noticing a large industrial complex at the edge of town. Years later, I learned that this plant was owned by the Babcock & Wilcox Corporation, and it produced uranium fuel. Babcock & Wilcox, a global conglomerate, has been involved in nuclear-related industrial production ever since the Manhattan Project, designing, fabricating, and supplying components for nuclear power plants, ships, submarines, and weapons.
The facility in Apollo and another one in nearby Parks Township, initially built by the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC) in 1957 and later bought by the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) and then by Babcock & Wilcox, closed in 1986. Left behind were contaminated land and water and sick and dead residents.
Victims and their families sued the companies in the mid-1990s for damages suffered, and ARCO and Babcock & Wilcox were forced to pay $80 million to compensate victims for cancers and loss of property value. Sadly, by the time the lawsuits were settled, in 2008 and 2009, 40 percent of the claimants had died.
Meanwhile, Babcock & Wilcox declared bankruptcy in 2000 to avoid liability in thousands of lawsuits by employees subjected to asbestos, a substance that businesses have known since the 1930s causes cancer. As a condition of exiting bankruptcy, it set up a trust fund to pay asbestos claimants; the amount of money put aside was far less than the company would very likely have had to pay if it had faced those lawsuits.
Recently, nearly one hundred new lawsuits against ARCO and Babcock & Wilcox were filed by scores of people claiming that they got cancer as a result of exposure to radiation. A report to the federal court by an expert witness stated that the two companies “knew about worst-in-the-nation releases of radioactive materials that spanned decades, but opted not to do enough to protect neighbors from cancer-causing dust.” NUMEC showed an almost wanton disregard for safety. “In the first few years, the company lost so much uranium—enough to build several nuclear bombs—that the FBI investigated whether someone was actually stealing the material and selling it to a foreign country!” At the Parks Township facility, which produced plutonium and enriched uranium, NUMEC buried radioactive waste in an open unfenced field close to where children played. It is implausible that Babcock & Wilcox, with its many nuclear projects over a long period of time, did not know about the problems with the entities it was buying. Yet, it did nothing to protect its workers or the community. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
A top official in 1974 viewed memos on the facility [which Babcock Wilcox bought in 1971] and wrote that if they were accurate, ‘we are guilty of gross irresponsibility in continuing to operate our uranium facilities.’ He threatened to shut them down, but the company didn’t stop making highly enriched uranium there until 1978, and it ended all production in 1984.
The actions of these corporations helped to destroy a town and its people, and it appears they knew what they were doing. They not only located a nuclear plant in a town, but then failed to shut it down when they knew that workers and residents were being poisoned. “ ‘A lot of people have lost not only their entire savings but their homes,’ due to the health effects and loss of property value caused by the plants, said Patricia Ameno, of Leechburg, who sued the companies in a previous round of litigation . . . . ‘Their families have been torn apart by illnesses and deaths.’” Ms. Ameno, whose body has been wracked by cancer and brain tumors, added, “I saw the town I grew up in … disintegrating, just like the bricks on that plant.” One of the persons who posted a comment on the Post-Gazette article noted that a 1999 piece in the same newspaper showed that one-sixth of Apollo’s population had some type of cancer!
I posted the Post-Gazette story on a facebook page dedicated to men and women who grew up in my hometown in the 1950s and 1960s. Most know about the Apollo plant. And they all lived in a town dominated by the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company, which poisoned its own employees with asbestos and silica dust and whose now abandoned property is so full of harmful chemicals that it cannot even donate it to the town. Outside town, near the company-owned fields on which I used to play baseball, “waste lagoons” built by the company and fed by pipes that went under the river have been leaking “arsenic, chromium, lead, manganese, copper, zinc, mercury and other toxic compounds into the river.” Despite this, only two persons commented on what I posted. If a post concerns some ancient bit of trivia or the local hoagie shop, members of the group fall all over themselves to make some meaningless remark. But something so important is met with silence.
Sadly, a family member is a manager at Babcock & Wilcox. I have always wondered how he could do this. The division of the company in which he works is knee-deep in the bowels of the military-industrial system. It “manages complex, high-consequence nuclear and national security operations, including nuclear production facilities and the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve.” In others words, it is part of the U.S. war machine, making money by helping the government kill people, just like it killed people more directly in Apollo.
Thousands of people grew up in and near Apollo. They have learned what harm the corporations who employed them and their relatives and friends have done and continue to do. Men, women, and children were poisoned by that uranium fuel plant and that glass plant. Yet, for the most part, they ignore this, content to contemplate instead their “warm and fuzzy” memories, as one person put it on my hometown facebook page. And many hundreds of thousands of men and women work as managers for horrendous corporate criminals like Babcock & Wilcox without ever questioning their actions. Perhaps this tells us something about what those who raise their voices in protest are up against. Including the plaintiffs challenging Babcock & Wilcox. I wish them success.
MICHAEL D. YATES is Associate Editor of Monthly review magazine. He is the author of Cheap Motels and Hot Plates: an Economist’s Travelogue and Naming the System: Inequality and Work in the Global Economy. He is the editor of Wisconsin Uprising: Labor Fights Back. Yates can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Study Supports Communities’ Claims Against Nuclear Fuel Plants (pittsburgh.cbslocal.com)
- Evidence of US Weapons-Grade Uranium Diversions to Israel (toonaripost.com)
Monday May 21 is the third day in a row of Israeli military exercises in and around the small Palestinian village of Khirbet Atwayel outside Nablus. These exercises prevent the farmers from working on their lands and force the villagers to sleep under the sound of heavy shelling with the constant presence of soldiers.
Khirbet Atweyel is a village located on the slopes West of the Jordan valley. The 18 families that reside there are almost exclusively farmers and have been victims to the actions of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) for a long time.
Every month, Israeli soldiers arrive, erect tents, and stay for a few days while they receive various kinds of military training. These include the shooting of live rounds, rocket missiles, and other heavy artillery. During these days, the farmers are denied entry to their own lands and can only stand aside and watch while soldiers drive their jeeps and other vehicles over the fields.
Volunteers with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), together with members of the municipality of the nearby town of Aqraba, approached the village on Monday, May 21.
“As usual, the soldiers stop their activities when they see internationals in the village. Only ten minutes ago they were shooting rockets on the hills a couple of hundred meters from the town’s houses,” Basem, the mayor of Khirbet Atwayel says.
Later, whilst two ISM activists attempted to approach the field in order to better photograph the military tents, Israeli soldiers opened fire nearby. The activists were forced to turn around and flee the way they came. A rocket was fired on an adjacent hill, creating an ear piercing bang.
“These rockets are the kind of weapons they usually shoot at night. If you come here between 10-11 p.m. you will find they shoot dozens, making it impossible to sleep,” Basem says.
The military training, however, is only one of many aspects of oppression that the people of Khirbet Atwayel suffer on a daily basis. Like many other villages in the Jordan valley, Khirbet Atwayel is in Area C. It is under full Israeli civil and military control. One result is that the villagers are not allowed to have wells or water cisterns. Instead, they are forced to buy water from Aqraba and transport it in tanks to their houses. This makes the basic necessity of water enormously expensive. Irrigation of crops has become impossible and farmers are left to hope that the winter will bring enough rain.
When asked for his thoughts about the future of his village, Basem replied, “the occupiers are obviously trying to get rid of us, but we were born in this village and this land has been within our families for generations. We will never leave and give up what is rightfully ours.”
- Palestinian teen shot during Israeli military training (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- 18 year old shepherd shot by Israeli soldiers in Jordan Valley (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli Forces Abduct Palestinians From Across the West Bank, Take Them to Unknown Destinations (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- Israeli military armored vehicle rams Palestinian bus injuring at least 19 passengers (alethonews.wordpress.com)
BETHLEHEM – Israeli authorities should release the director of a new Palestinian satellite broadcaster who has been detained since Thursday, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
“Israeli authorities should consider the message they are sending by imprisoning the head of a station that covers news about prisoners,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s coordinator for Mideast issues.
“Authorities should not be holding Bahaa Khairi Moussa, and certainly not without explanation. He should be released immediately, and the station’s equipment should be returned.”
Moussa, the general director of the Palestine Prisoner Channel, was arrested Thursday in Jenin. Soldiers confiscated his station’s equipment during the raid, his colleagues said.
Reporters Without Borders, meanwhile, strongly condemned the arrest.
“Such abuses aimed at stifling the Palestinian media must cease,” the group said Monday.
“This is the third time since the start of 2012 that the Israeli authorities have victimized a Palestinian media organization. We call for the immediate release of Baha Mousa and the return of all confiscated equipment,” the Paris-based group said in a statement.
It called the raid “illegal under international law” because it took place in Palestinian territory.
In April, soldiers shut down the officers of a new broadcaster in occupied East Jerusalem and in February, soldiers raided two Palestinian TV stations, Watan and Al-Quds TV in Ramallah.
- Israel ‘arrests TV director, confiscates equipment’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel arrests 800,000 Palestinians since 1948 (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel raids Ramallah TV stations (alethonews.wordpress.com)