Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bob Dylan: Painter or Plagiarist?

Copyrighted photos on the left, Dylan's "original" art on the right-- you be the judge.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fukushima: 200 Days Later

What’s emerging in Japan six months since the nuclear meltdown at the Tokyo Electric Power plant is a radioactive zone bigger than that left by the 1945 atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. While nature reclaims the 12 mile no-go zone, Fukushima’s $3.2 billion-a-year farm industry is being devastated and tourists that hiked the prefecture’s mountains and surfed off its beaches have all but vanished.

The March earthquake and tsunami that caused the nuclear crisis and left almost 20,000 people dead or missing may cost 17 $223 billion, hindering recovery of the world’s third-largest economy from two decades of stagnation.

Fukushima schoolchildren are now being bullied at their new school in Chiba prefecture near Tokyo for “carrying radiation,” according to reports. Produce from Fukushima’s rich soil is also being shunned. Peaches, the prefecture’s biggest agricultural product after rice, have halved in price this year. Beef shipments from the prefecture were temporarily suspended and contamination concerns stopped the town of Minami Soma from planting rice. Land around the Fukushima reactors will lie fallow for two decades or more before radiation levels fall below Japan’s criteria for evacuation, the government recently announced.

While scientists knew back in March that radiation contamination would create an uninhabitable zone in Fukushima, information to the public has come intermittently, which created widespread distrust of politicians and scientists. This resulted in conflicting public commentary, making it harder for residents to decide whether to stay or leave.

The coastal town of Minami Soma this year canceled its annual qualifying stage for the world surfing championship, part of a waterfront that lured 84,000 beachgoers in July and August last year. The beaches, now destroyed by radiation and the tsunami, saw no visitors during the two months.

The area’s biggest festival, Soma Noma Oi, a re-enactment of samurai battles, attracted 200,000 visitors last year. This year 37,000 came. Of the 300 horses typically used in the event, 100 were drowned in the tsunami and another 100 were evacuated due to radiation.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Facebook Pissing People Off Globally

Although the soundtrack is in Korean, they pretty much capture the new Facebook changes spot-on:

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Aussies Tell It Like It Is

An amazing editorial on the Greek financial crisis from the Sydney Morning Herald:
Greece may be far away, it may be a small economy, but it is dragging down the value of your pension because its problems are a drag on the global market. The root cause of the problem is simple. The national sport of Greece is cheating. Cheating across every tier of society.

Greece needs to be thrown out of the euro zone. The crisis is coming to a head, as it must, but we will all pay. It is merely the most extreme manifestation of a failure of democracy by the European Union.  The Greeks are being forced into a humiliating and unsustainable austerity program, which is contracting their economy into a depression. Feel no sympathy for Greece. The Greek government lied its way into the Economic and Monetary Union in 2001, presenting false data, and ever since Greece has been a cancer in the euro zone.

Ostensibly, the national sport of Greece is football, but even football is compromised by the real national sport of cheating. Two years ago, the governing body of European football, UEFA, sent the Hellenic Football Federation dossiers detailing a pattern of illegal betting and match-fixing involving dozens of games. Some of the biggest clubs in Greece were involved.  The Hellenic Football Federation, like so much of the rest of Greek society, preferred the path of delusion, delay and denial. It did not respond. It did nothing. After 18 months, UEFA officials went to the Greek criminal justice system. News of the meeting broke in the media. The Greek government had to begin a criminal investigation.

It was a metaphor for the nation which Transparency International rates as the most corrupt in Europe. Greece has the highest rate of tax evasion in Europe. So pervasive is this problem that the nation is bankrupt. Confronted with a need to cut spending and raise revenue, the government has been crippled by an inability to raise taxes because the tax system is so rotten and the culture of evasion is so ingrained across everyday life.

Almost every element of society shares in this inglorious achievement. Successive governments piled up debt to pay for social services and pensions. The courts have a backlog of 300,000 tax cases. The tax-collection system is riddled with a culture of bribery.  The black economy in Greece, where tax is avoided altogether, is estimated at 27.5 per cent of GDP, about double the scale of the black economy in Australia, and does not include the underground economy of crime.

Ever since the high point for modern Greece, the 2004 Olympics in Athens, it has become increasingly clear that the country was living on borrowed time and borrowed money, a state of collective delusion. Even Greece's two biggest Olympic stars, two medal-winning sprinters, turned out to be drug cheats. They even staged a fake accident to avoid a doping test.

The whole country is heading into a crash now and it is not fake.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Forest Boy Baffles German Police

Berlin police are investigating the case of an English-speaking teenager who appeared in the German capital saying he had lived the last five years in the woods with his father.

The boy, aged about 17, appeared at Berlin's city hall and was then taken in by a youth emergency center. The boy claims that he and his father took to the woods about five years ago after his mother died and have been living in a tent and earth huts.

The boy - who says he does not remember where the family came from - claims he followed his compass north after his father recently died, reaching Berlin after walking for two weeks. The boy appears to be in good health and police have issued a Europe-wide appeal to try to determine his identity.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

German Politician Wearing Blackface To Portray Obama Sparks Outrage

A well-known German comedian named Martin Sonneborn is in hot water over a satirical political billboard of him posing in blackface makeup as President Barack Obama.

The billboard is the latest in Sonneborn’s campaign for his satirical political party Die Partei. It’s meant to make fun of the entire German political establishment and go up to the edge of propriety – another billboard is entitled “MILFS against Merkel” and the campaign has also mocked the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party.

In a recent interview, Sonneborn said his billboard wasn’t racist. Sonneborn joked that he was “Germany’s Obama” and added he was mocking the “hype” surrounding the U.S. president. Sonneborn, formerly editor-in-chief of the German satire magazine Titanic, said he wasn’t aware of the history of blackface in the U.S. and didn’t care if anyone was upset. “No, I didn’t know that,” he told reporters. “If Americans associate it with that, then I’m sorry, but I’m not going to take it down.”

But Tahir Della, a spokesman for the Initiative for Black Germans (ISD), which tries to represent the interests of the black community in Germany, called the billboard "unbelievably hurtful."

Monday, September 19, 2011

Dial M For Misguided

Nigeria's government is trying to assure its people that a phone call can't kill you.

A text message has spread across the oil-rich country, warning that people will die if they answer mobile phone calls from 09141. The widespread fear has forced the Nigerian Communications Commission to issue a public statement saying it is "unimaginable that somebody will die while receiving a call."

Commission spokesman Reuben Muoka stated, "It is only very gullible people that will believe such a rumor."

Text message panics in Nigeria have included rumors of bombings and rumors that acid rain from seasonal dust storms can burn people alive. The campaigns are aided by poor education and lack of faith in the government.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Minnesota Bigots Ignore Gay Bullying, Despite Surge In Student Suicides

Bullying of gay students is rampant in a Minnesota school district after Christian groups lobbied for a policy that allows teachers and school officials to "look the other way" when bullying takes place.

Conservative Christian groups in the Anoka school district have demanded that the schools avoid any descriptions of homosexuality or same-sex marriage as normal, warning against any surrender to what they say is the “homosexual agenda” of recruiting youngsters to an “unhealthy and abnormal lifestyle.”

Six students brought a lawsuit contending that school officials have failed to stop relentless antigay bullying and that a district policy requiring teachers to remain “neutral” on issues of sexual orientation has fostered oppressive silence and a corrosive stigma. The suit alleges that district staff members, when they witnessed or heard reports of antigay harassment, tended to “ignore, minimize, dismiss, or in some instances, to blame the victim for the other students’ abusive behavior.”

Local bigots have remained defiant in their beliefs, despite a spate of eight suicides in the school district within the past two years-- what most see as proof positive that the current approach to bullying is not working.

Gay children, and some parents and supporters, say these efforts are undercut by what they call the district’s “gag order” on discussion of sexual diversity — a policy, adopted in 2009 amid searing public debate, that “teaching about sexual orientation is not part of the district-adopted curriculum” and that staff “shall remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation.” They believe the district’s demand of neutrality on homosexuality is inherently stigmatizing, has inhibited teachers from responding aggressively to bullying and has deterred them from countering destructive stereotypes.

Colleen Cashen, a psychologist and counselor at the Northdale Middle School, said that by singling out homosexuality, the policy created “an air of shame,” and that contradictory interpretations from the administration had left teachers afraid to test the limits, seeing homosexuality and the history of gay rights as taboo subjects. “I believe that the policy is creating a toxic environment for the students,” she said.

But conservative parents have organized to lobby against change. “Saying that you should accept two moms as a normal family — that would be advocacy,” said Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council. “There should be no tolerance of bullying, but these groups are using the issue to try to press a social agenda.”

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Chinese Kidnapped From The Street And Forced Into Hard Labor

Authorities in China are struggling to identify 30 people they rescued from illegal brick kilns where they were being enslaved and abused, according to state-run media reports.

The officials are having a difficult time identifying some of the workers because at least 17 of them are disabled or have a mental illness. "Some of them can't even speak a whole sentence, and they don't act like normal people," according to Liu Weiming, deputy director of publicity in Zhumadian, where the workers were rescued. "Most are staying at a relief station because they can't remember where they are from."

The scandal was exposed by the City Report TV channel who reported that workers were "abducted from streets and railway stations and then sold to bosses at brick kilns for 300 yuan to 500 yuan ($45 to $80)."

Bai Shasha, one of the rescued victims, said he and his father got lost in March and were abducted when several people with knives approached him. He said during the time he was enslaved at the kiln he was regularly beaten with bricks or whips, China Daily reported. Bai also said he and other workers were forced to work all day long without any rest, and then they all slept in cramped confines at night. One supervisor accused of beating the workers with whips is just 14 years old.

Incidents of kidnapping and forced labor are common, with over 1,500 people rescued from illegal brick kilns since 2007.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Not Satisfied With Taking Away Your Privacy, TSA Now Wants To Take Away Freedom Of Speech

Attacking the TSA for its privacy-invasive screening procedures has become a favorite activity for many journalists. TSA horror stories are often featured prominently on The Drudge Report and he has taken to calling Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security “Big Sis.”

Napolitano has publicly said people are wrong in describing DHS programs as Orwellian and says that the DHS "wants to be conscious of civil liberties and civil rights protections—and we are.”

Syndicated columnist Amy Alkon would likely disagree with the Secretary, however. After a particularly aggressive TSA patdown earlier this year, Alkon graphically described how she sobbed out loud a TSA agent inserted her hands into her vagina through her pants four times-- each time, moving her fingers back and forth between her labia.   She screamed “You raped me” after the LAX patdown and took the agent’s name with plans to file charges of sexual assault. Those plans fell through after consulting an attorney, but Alkon did blog about it and included the agent’s name.

The TSA agent then hired a lawyer who contacted Alkon asking her to remove the post, threatening her with a defamation lawsuit, and asking for a settlement of $500,000.  Free speech lawyer Marc Randazza stepped in to assert Alkon’s right to post about her patdown experience, and to defend both her definition of the patdown as rape and, regardless of that, her right to rhetorical hyperbole.  More details are here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

China's New Millionaires Can't Wait To Dump Their Country

Chinese millionaire Su builds skyscrapers in Beijing and is one of the people powering China's economy on its path to becoming the world's biggest. He sits at the top of a country — economy booming, influence spreading, military swelling — widely expected to dominate the 21st century.

Yet the property developer shares something surprising with many newly rich in China: he's looking forward to the day he can leave. Su's reasons: He wants to protect his assets, he has to watch what he says in China and wants a second child, something against the law for many Chinese.

China's richest are increasingly investing abroad to get a foreign passport, to make international business and travel easier but also to give them a way out of China. It is a bothersome trend for China's communist leaders who've pinned the legitimacy of one-party rule on delivering rapid economic growth and a rising standard of living.

Despite more economic freedom, the communist government has kept its tight grip on many other aspects of daily life. China's leaders punish, sometimes harshly, public dissent and any perceived challenges to their power, and censor what can be read online and in print. Authoritarian rule, meanwhile, has proved ineffective in addressing long standing problems of pollution, contaminated food and a creaking health care system.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

People In Texas Still Think Al-Jazeera Was Behind 9/11

Gabriel Elizondo, correspondent for Al Jazeera, was in the middle of a road trip across the United States, talking to people about the effects of 9/11 on American life.  In Texas, Elizondo experienced part of that impact firsthand.

On a Friday night, Elizondo decided to stop at a high school football game in Booker, Texas, near the Oklahoma border. He approached Booker High School's principal, explaining who he was and saying that he was driving across the country to talk to people about the 10 year anniversary of 9/11. He asked to film parts of the football game and see if anybody wanted to talk about their views of 9/11 during halftime.

Principal Yauck bounced up from her seat, giving Elizondo a wonderful Texas hospitality smile and commenting on “what an interesting project” he was doing. “So you will need to send me the link of this when it goes on the internet or whatever,” she added.

When she couldn't find a business card, Elizondo gave her one of his. Then came this exchange (from Elizondo's blog about the incident):

“So you’re from Al Jazeera,” Mrs Yauck says in a sharp tone, still looking down at my card. Looking up at me, she adds quickly, “ So what’s your spin on this story?”

“I don’t have a spin,” I say, still smiling to try to ease any sudden tension. “What I told you is exactly what I want to do. Just talk to people, film a bit. That is it. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

“But you’re with Al Jazeera?”

“Yes,” I say proudly, still smiling.

But Mrs Yauck is again staring down at my business card.

“Our superintendent is here, let me just go talk to him and I’ll be right back.”
Needless to say, the Superintendent made it clear to Elizondo that he was not welcome to shoot any film or talk to anyone at the game. Elizondo later blogged about the incident, after which the school Superintendent wrote a self-serving response, going so far as to brag about their "Fiesta Night" in an attempt to demonstrate Booker High's spirit of culture acceptance.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Meanest Jokes From Charlie Sheen Roast

1. “You’re just like Bruce Willis — you were big in the 80s and now your old slot is being filled by Ashton Kutcher.” — Amy Schumer

2. “If you’re winning, this must not be a child custody hearing. The only time your kids get to see you is in reruns — don’t you want to live to see their first 12 steps?” — Jeffrey Ross

3. “Brooke Mueller is not very bright unless Charlie throws a lamp at her. … Mike Tyson, your opponents spent more time bleeding in the corner than Charlie’s ex wives.” — Jeffrey Ross

4. “The only reason you got on TV in the first place is because God hates Michael J. Fox.” — Anthony Jeselnik

5. “Charlie still hasn’t hit rock bottom. He’s looking forward to it though, because he thinks there’s a rock there.” — Steve-O

6. “You dropped out of school faster than Casey Anthony’s kid.” — Anthony Jeselnik

7. “It’s amazing — after abusing your lungs, liver and kidneys, the only thing you’ve had removed is your kids.” — Kate Walsh

8. “Charlie, you claim to have ‘tiger blood,’ but after all the porn stars you’ve [had sex with], it’s probably Tiger Woods’ blood.” — Seth MacFarlane

Michigan GOP Sticks It To The Poor

Michigan's first-year Republican governor Rick Snyder has signed into law a stricter, four-year lifetime limit on cash welfare benefits, prompting advocates for the poor to warn that tens of thousands of residents will find themselves without cash assistance on October 1.

The 2010 election of Snyder and the simultaneous Republican takeover of the Michigan House gave the GOP a free hand to set its own course on public assistance. The change gives Michigan the Midwest's toughest welfare time limit, according to a survey by The Detroit News. It said there are five-year limits in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. Indiana has a two-year limit for adults — but none for children.

Gilda Jacobs of the Michigan League for Human Services said she expects about 41,000 people to lose their cash assistance payments on Oct. 1 when the state's new budget year begins. That includes 29,700 children, according to the Michigan Department of Human Services. "We're very, very concerned," Jacobs said. "As the days go by, new people will be meeting the 48-month limit. ... More will be falling off that cliff."

Jacobs said it's hard to see how adults cut off from welfare will find a job when Michigan's July unemployment rate was 10.9 percent, tied with South Carolina for third-highest in the nation.

"We still have to preserve a safety net for people who, through no fault of their own, can't find a job," she said, noting that most cash assistance goes to help poor residents pay their rent. "There's obviously a lot of anxiety out there. Folks aren't sure exactly what this means to them."

Michigan ranked 38th in child poverty for 2009, defined as income below $21,756 for a family of two adults and two children. About 23 percent of Michigan's children lived in poverty in 2009, compared with 20 percent nationally. In 2000, only 14 percent of Michigan children lived in poverty. The average age of a child in a family receiving cash assistance is around 7 years old.

GOP governor Snyder has claimed that reducing the number of children living in poverty is a priority of his administration. The Michigan Catholic Conference has objected to the four-year limit. The conference said the effect will be felt for years by society and by children who lose services.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Obama Retreats On Yet Another Campaign Promise

In a dramatic reversal, President Barack Obama, who had previously pledged to make decisions based on science, scrubbed a clean-air regulation that aimed to reduce health-threatening smog, yielding to bitterly protesting businesses and congressional Republicans who complained the rule would kill jobs in America's ailing economy. The Clean Air Act bars the EPA from considering the costs of complying when setting public health standards.

The regulation would have reduced concentrations of ground-level ozone, the main ingredient in smog, a powerful lung irritant that can cause asthma and other lung ailments. Smog is created when emissions from cars, power and chemical plants, refineries and other factories mix in sunlight and heat.

Withdrawal of the proposed regulation marked the latest in a string of retreats by the president in the face of GOP opposition, and it drew quick criticism from liberals. Environmentalists, a key Obama constituency, accused him of caving to corporate polluters, and the American Lung Association threatened to restart the legal action it had begun against rules proposed by George Bush.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Mexican Gangs Now Targeting School Teachers

Terror has engulfed schools in the city of Acapulco, Mexico.

Criminal gangs in the resort city have kidnapped at least four teachers in the last two weeks. Another 500 teachers say they're being told to turn over half their salaries or they too will turn up missing. Many students are deeply worried.

In the face of such threats, teachers from at least 80 schools have decided to stop working, just as the new school year is getting underway. The problem is exacerbated by the public's mistrust in local police, so many leads are not reported. Criminal gangs are focusing their activities on the poorest neighborhoods, where the need for public education is at its highest.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Shear Agony

An Arizona man whose eye socket was impaled with a pair of pruning shears said he experienced excruciating pain during the ordeal and feels lucky to be alive.

86-year-old Leroy Luetscher said he had just finished trimming plants in his backyard when he lost his balance and fell on the pruning shears. The tool went into his right eye socket and down into his neck, resting against the carotid artery. Half the shears were left in his head pushing up against his eye, while the other half was sticking out.

Luetscher said he put his hand to his face and realized the shears had gone into his eye. "I didn't know if my eyeball was still there or what," he said. "I never had pain like that in all my life." Luetscher, whose face was gushing blood, was able to walk to the laundry room of his house and beckon his longtime live-in girlfriend, Arpy Williams, who called 911.

An ambulance rushed him to University Medical Center in Tucson, where a team of surgeons immediately took scans of his brain and came up with a plan to treat him. "You know, if it went a little bit in a different direction, it basically could have killed him or he could have had a stroke," surgeon Dr. Lynn Polonski said. "He's was very lucky that it missed all vital structures and we were basically able to put him back together."

Luetscher said he's not sure he'll be doing much more gardening in the future.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

While Perry Fiddles, Texas Burns

As Texas Governor Perry organizes prayer events and complains about the federal government's response to his state's wildfires, he and his lawmakers have been busy cutting volunteer fire departments by 75%.

As reported by the Texas Independent, Perry and Texas lawmakers have also been called to task for huge cuts to state firefighting resources passed earlier this year. The two-year budget that took effect last Thursday includes a 75 percent slash to volunteer fire departments — from $30 million to $7 million — and a one-third cut to the Texas Forest Service. State Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) said this year’s fires near the capital city underscore the need to better fund the emergency-services districts stretched thin at the outskirts of Texas’ growing cities.

Texas’ 879 volunteer departments are the first line of defense against wildfires for much of the state. The forest service, with 230 firefighters and 15 trucks, provides statewide support. After that, help comes from the federal government and other states.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Giant Croc Caught Alive In Phillipines

A giant saltwater crocodile weighing more than a ton has been captured in a remote southern Philippine village following a series of attacks on humans and animals, according to reports.

Measuring 21 feet and weighing 2,370 pounds, it is believed to be the biggest to be ever caught alive in the Philippines. Saltwater crocodiles can live for more than 100 years and grow to 23 feet.

Josefina de Leon, wildlife division chief of the environment ministry's protected areas and wildlife bureau, said it was likely to be the biggest crocodile ever captured. The captured croc will now become the main attraction at a planned nature park in the area.

The hunt for the crocodile in the village of Bunawan began in mid-August and it took dozens of local men to secure its capture. But crocodile hunter Rollie Sumiller, who led the hunt, said this reptile may not be the killer they have been looking for after at least one attack on a human was reported in the area. "We're not really sure if this is the man-eater, because there have been other sightings of other crocodiles in the area," he said.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

New Spin On Plugging The Meter

German prostitutes must carry a ticket purchased from a new parking meter-like machine while working the streets or face hefty fines from tax authorities in a new scheme launched in the city of Bonn.

Germany hookers pay income tax, but compliance is difficult to enforce with women seeking business on the street. Bonn's "sex tax meters," from which prostitutes can purchase a ticket for $8 per night, will ensure the tax system is fairly implemented, a city spokeswoman said.

"Inspectors will monitor compliance - not every evening but frequently," the spokeswoman told reporters.

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Letter From Dick Cheney

Dear Readers:

I was a huge war hawk, happily sending other people's kids to war, but I "had other priorities in the '60s than military service" and got five deferments.

Saddam Hussein was a friend before he was an enemy.

I happily did business with Iran, Libya and Iraq as CEO of Halliburton.

I held secret White House meetings with oil companies to expand their influence and profitability, and suppressed information about the health effects of global warming.

As a Congressman I opposed the Department of Education and economic sanctions against South Africa's apartheid government.

I started a trillion-dollar war based on cherry-picked intelligence and outright lies, including "There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us."

I said that "There's overwhelming evidence that there was a connection between Al Qaeda and the Iraqi government."

I insisted that the war would be over in less than six months.

I warned in late 2004 that if John Kerry won the election, "…we'll get hit again, and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating."

I supported the torture of human beings. I still do.

I stayed on vacation for days after hurricane Katrina hit.

I had no objection to tossing the writ of habeas corpus into the garbage disposal.

I couldn't find Osama bin Laden

I responded to the American people's concern about the Iraq war with: "So?"

I drank a beer and then shot a lawyer friend in the face because I wasn't following proper gun safety rules. I never apologized.

I told the FISA court to go fuck itself---we can spy on Americans without a warrant anytime we feel like it.

I left office with a 13 percent approval rating, for which you can all go fuck yourselves, too.

Now buy my book, suckers!

(Courtesy of the Daily Kos)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

New Details On CIA Kidnap-For-Torture Scheme Unveiled

A trove of new information about the international renditions business has been unveiled by legal action charity Reprieve.

Over 1500 operational and legal documents were disclosed as part of a lawsuit brought by a company called Richmor Aviation over unpaid bills by the CIA. These documents now offer the first comprehensive overview of the CIA’s unlawful program of kidnapping ('extraordinary rendition’). Reprieve’s evidence shows how:

  • A complicated billing chain obscured the ultimate end user of the flights -- the CIA.
  • The U.S. government used the same aircraft – tail number N85VM, owned by Liverpool FC owner Philip Morse -- for over 55 flights to Guantanamo Bay, Kabul, Bangkok, Dubai, Islamabad, Cairo, Baghdad, Djibouti, Rabat, Frankfurt, Ramstein, Rome, Tenerife, the Azores and Bucharest. The plane, a Gulfstream jet, frequently passed through British and Irish airports en route, including Shannon, Glasgow, Edinburgh and London Luton.
  • Richmor executives used disturbing newspeak to describe the prisoners-- calling them 'invitees'-- as they were shuttling them to torture sites across the globe.
  • All rendition flights were covered by a "letter of convenience" from the State Department.
  • Richmor frequently subcontracted for private business jets to conduct the flights. One single flight alone cost the U.S. government as much as $300,000.
  • The crew of one of the jets involved made expenses claims for items such as $20 sandwiches and $40 wine bottles.
  • The CIA continued to pay millions to cover its its tracks, well after its illegal rendition-to-torture program was made public.

The documents also add previously unseen detail to several notorious rendition cases, including that of Abu Omar (kidnapped in Milan in February 2003 and sent to be tortured in Egypt)-- a case which culminated in the 'in absentia' kidnapping conviction of 22 CIA operatives by an Italian judge.

According to Reprieve’s Legal Director Cori Crider, “These documents give us an unprecedented insight into how the government outsourced renditions, right down to the complicated paper-trail the CIA used to cover their tracks. This case proves, once and for all, that the reason the government blocked the rendition cases was not to protect sensitive material. It was to avoid embarrassment.”


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