Political Prisoner Lori Berenson Released From Peruvian Prison, Sent Back For 5 Years
Cordoba Center Near Ground Zero: A Distraction – Michael Smith Update
We get an update from mountaintop removal activist Jimmy Tobias. Jimmy was arrested this summer with others for using direct action to shut down a coal mining mountaintop removal effort in Virginia. He was held on a $3,500 bail and later released. A New York Times editorial states that movement to slow down and stop the mountaintop removal mining in that area is gaining traction and the Obama Administration is restricting permits for mountaintop removal mining.
- I’m in Rock Creek, West Virginia, where the campaign houses are located. The campaign houses have a big role, but there a million other things people work on.
- At the moment we’re gearing up for a mass mobilization in Washington that will take place between the 25th and the 27th of September, Appalachia Rising. We’re focused on bringing national attention to the issue.
- I’ve been loathe to put my faith in the EPA to solve these problems. Their actions have been really ambiguous. They go back and forth and it’s really hard to get a sense of the ultimate outcome of their actions.
- My passion is for the local organizing, because that will make it or break it, basically. We have four campaign houses, a big outdoor kitchen; everyone eats together, organizes together, works on different aspects of the campaign. The civil disobedience campaign is called Climate Ground Zero.
- Coal River Mountain Watch, Sludge Safety Project, Mountain Justice.
Guest – Jimmy Tobias, activist and direct action protester against mountaintop removal
The private security company formerly called Blackwater Worldwide has reached an agreement with the State Department for hundreds of violations of US export control regulations. The company now called US Training Services will pay the US government $42 million in fines to avoid criminal charges on export violations. Violations include shipping weapons to Iraq hidden inside containers of dog food. There are other legal troubles facing Blackwater officials, but the company continues to obtain government contracts. Last June, Blackwater was awarded a $120 million contract to provide security at a State Department regional office in Afghanistan and the CIA renewed the firm’s $100 million security contract in Kabul.
- This is a company that has been repeatedly involved with criminal activity, with murder and has gotten off scot free. It has been shielded by its handlers at the State Department or at the DOD.
- The idea that this company can pay what amounts to $146,000 per violation is outrageous.
- The real meat of it is the murder they’re involved with, the human rights violations.
- What would it take for this company to be completely knocked off the US government payroll?
- US operations in Afghanistan now have become so dependent on Blackwater, both in the CIA and State Department. Eric Prince, the owner of Blackwater, has since fled to the United Arabs Emirates, which has no extradition treaty with the United States. He moved there after five of his top deputies were indicted on conspiracy and weapons charges. This is a man who knows where the bodies are buried; he was working for the CIA, for the Joint Special Operations Command. Blackwater could reveal details of actions that would horrify the average American if they knew this was being done in their name.
- After 9/11, Eric Prince cut a deal with the number 3 man at the CIA, Alvin Buzzy Krongard. Find, Fix and Finish operations.
- There are also cases of I’ve heard of Blackwater working inside of Syria.
- Two former Blackwater employees, a man and a woman–the man worked in war zones, the woman worked on the financial side. They have filed a whistleblower case against Blackwater, alleging extrajudicial killings and bilking US taxpayers. Susan Burke recently deposed Eric Prince.
- Blackwater is involved with secret assassination programs in countries around the world, where we aren’t at war, where we aren’t informing those countries.
- The only serious challenges to Blackwater, aka Xe, aka US Training Services, are people like Michael Ratner and Susan Burke. Bill: Stop Outsourcing Security Act.
Guest – Jeremy Scahill is the author of the international bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He is a frequent contributor to The Nation magazine and a correspondent for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now! He is currently a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute. Scahill has won numerous awards for his reporting, including the prestigious George Polk Award, which he won twice. While a correspondent for Democracy Now!, Scahill reported extensively from Iraq through both the Clinton and Bush administrations.
Cuba Travel Ban
Will the Obama Administration come to a decision on how much to enable travel to Cuba? The administration could simply reinstate President Clinton’s policy, which is a costly case-by-case application, or grant general licenses to the remaining 11 categories of travel to Cuba. General license would include schools, cultural institutions, Chambers of Commerce, religious bodies, World Affairs Councils, humanitarian organizations and more.
- The travel regs are not really travel regs. They are regulations set up by the US Treasury Department at the instigation of the US State Department. You can’t spend money in Cuba.
- President Carter lifted the travel ban; there were direct flights to Cuba during the brief time he was president.
- During the Clinton administration, we were able to take a number of trips. Ban in effect for a number of rationales, we don’t wanna give money to Castro. It always surprised me that William F. Buckley was in support of ending the travel ban to Cuba.
- We can always do professional trips. I’m leading a trip for professional artists.
- Lawyers traveling to Cuba fall under the general license, it’s by assertion. You simply say as legal professionals you’re doing legal research.
- We’ve been to Cuba so much; our travel is not formal, it’s intimate.
- Although the food and medicine embargo was lifted several years ago, the regulations about payment are so tough on the Cubans. Everyone else can buy on credit. The Cubans can’t; they have to buy up front, before a ship leaves US territory with the food, with the medicine.
- I fell in love with Cuba. I arrived on July 4, 1969. I was there for six weeks. Socialism with salsa.
- On the fifth day of my first trip, Fidel Castro taught me how to cut sugar cane. I think he is the one of the smartest leaders we’ve had in this hemisphere. I think he’s been in power that long, because we have not had relations with Cuba.
Guest – Sandra Levinson, Executive Director of the Center for Cuban Studies in New York City and Director of the Center’s Cuban Art Space.