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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Free Internet Press Newsletter - Tuesday June 3 2008 - (813)

Tuesday June 3 2008 edition
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Investigation: NASA's Climate Findings Were Distorted
2008-06-03 03:12:33

An investigation by the NASA inspector general found that political appointees in the space agency's public affairs office worked to control and distort public accounts of its researchers' findings about climate change for at least two years, the inspector general's office said Monday.

The probe came at the request of 14 senators after the Washington Post and other news outlets reported in 2006 that Bush administration officials had monitored and impeded communications between NASA climate scientists and reporters.

James E. Hansen, who directs NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and has campaigned publicly for more stringent limits on greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, told the Washington Post and the New York Times in September 2006 that he had been censored by NASA press officers, and several other agency climate scientists reported similar experiences. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are two of the government's lead agencies on climate change issues.

From the fall of 2004 through 2006, the report said, NASA's public affairs office "managed the topic of climate change in a manner that reduced, marginalized, or mischaracterized climate change science made available to the general public." It noted elsewhere that "news releases in the areas of climate change suffered from inaccuracy, factual insufficiency, and scientific dilution."

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Water Is The New Battleground For Spain
2008-06-03 03:12:01
Lush fields of lettuce and hothouses of tomatoes line the roads. Verdant new developments of plush pastel vacation homes beckon buyers from Britain and Germany. Golf courses - dozens of them, all recently built - give way to the beach. At last, this hardscrabble corner of southeast Spain is thriving.

There is only one problem with the picture of bounty: this province, Murcia, is running out of water. Swaths of southeast Spain are steadily turning into desert, a process spurred on by global warming and poorly planned development.

Murcia, traditionally a poor farming region, has undergone a resort-building boom in recent years, even as many of its farmers have switched to more thirsty crops, encouraged by water transfer plans, which have become increasingly untenable. The combination has put new pressures on the land and its dwindling supply of water.

This year, farmers are fighting developers over water rights. They are fighting one another over who gets to water their crops. In a sign of their mounting desperation, they are buying and selling water like gold on a rapidly growing black market, mostly from illegal wells.

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Commentary: 'War Criminals Must Fear Punishment. That's Why I Went For John Bolton'
2008-06-03 03:11:25
Intellpuke: This commentary was written by Prof. George Monbiot and appeared in the Guardian edition for Tuesday, June 3, 2008. Prof. Monbiot is visiting professor of planning at Oxford Brookes University. He has held visiting fellowships or professorships at the universities of Oxford (environmental policy), Bristol (philosophy), Keele (politics) and East London (environmental science). His commentary follows:

I realize now that I didn't have a hope. I had almost reached the stage when two of the biggest gorillas I have ever seen swept me up and carried me out of the tent. It was humiliating, but it could have been worse. The guard on the other side of the stage, half hidden in the curtains, had spent the lecture touching something under his left armpit. Perhaps he had bubos.

I had no intention of arresting John Bolton, the former under-secretary of state at the U.S. State Department, when I arrived at the Hay festival. But during a panel discussion about the Iraq war, I remarked that the greatest crime of the 21st century had become so normalized that one of its authors was due to visit the festival to promote his book. I proposed that someone should attempt a citizens' arrest, in the hope of instilling a fear of punishment among those who plan illegal wars. After the session I realized that I couldn't call on other people to do something I wasn't prepared to do myself.

I knew that I was more likely to be arrested and charged than Mr. Bolton. I had no intention of harming him, or of acting in any way that could be interpreted as aggressive, but had I sought only to steer him gently towards the police I might have faced a range of exotic charges, from false imprisonment to aggravated assault. I was prepared to take this risk. It is not enough to demand that other people act, knowing that they will not. If the police, the courts and the state fail to prosecute what the Nuremberg tribunal described as "the supreme international crime", I believe we have a duty to seek to advance the process.

The Nuremberg principles, which arose from the prosecution of Nazi war criminals, define as an international crime the "planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances". Bolton appears to have "participated in a common plan" to prepare for the war (also defined by the principles as a crime) by inserting the false claim that Iraq was seeking to procure uranium from Niger into a state department fact sheet. He also organized the sacking of Jose Bustani, the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, accusing him of bad management. Bustani had tried to broker a peaceful resolution of the dispute over Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction.

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Former Republican Staff Member Pleads Guilty To Fraud Charge
2008-06-03 03:10:40

The chief of staff to a former senior member of the House Appropriations Committee pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to commit fraud, becoming the latest casualty of the scandal centered on disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

John C. Albaugh admitted to accepting gifts - including tickets to sporting events, concerts by groups such as the Wiggles and a Disney on Ice show - in exchange for helping lobbyists and their clients, according to prosecutors.

Albaugh is scheduled to be sentenced in September. He faces as much as two years in prison and has agreed to become a cooperating witness under an agreement with the Justice Department.

He is the latest former official caught in the investigation of Abramoff and his illicit dealings with some members of Congress and Bush administration officials. Fourteen lobbyists and public officials have either pleaded guilty to, or been convicted of, charges as a result of the investigation into Abramoff's activities, the Justice Department said Monday.

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Complaint Over British Role In Extraordinary Renditions
2008-06-03 03:09:11

A complaint was made Monday to Britain's information commissioner about the government's behavior over the use of the British island of Diego Garcia for the rendition of U.S. prisoners.

Andrew Tyrie, the Conservative Party member of Parliament who chairs the all-party group on extraordinary rendition - the secret inter-state transfer of prisoners - said he had made the complaint to discover whether the U.K. was in breach of its obligations under the United Nations convention against torture.

The moves come after the Guardian Monday highlighted human rights lawyers' claims that the United States is operating prison ships to house those arrested in its "war on terror".

"The foreign secretary has been forced to admit that two rendition planes refueled at Diego Garcia, despite explicit U.S. assurances to the U.K. government that no such flights had taken place," said Tyrie. "Clearly people will conclude that these assurances are worthless ... But in response to requests by me the government has twice refused to release the terms of these assurances. Their disclosure will allow for a legal assessment of whether or not the U.K.  has breached its obligations under the convention against torture, both with respect to Diego Garcia and to rendition generally."

He added: "It is important to be confident that U.K. officials do not find themselves complicit in kidnap and torture. That is why I have complained to the information commissioner about the government's refusal to release this information."

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Economic Slowdown Changing Restaurant Business
2008-06-02 15:48:32

The most popular item these days at the Casablanca Seafood Bar & Grill is the $25.95 grilled seafood platter loaded with fish, shrimp, clams, oysters and more.

Bargain-hunting customers love it because the platter is big enough for two or even three people to share. But it's not helping the bottom line at Maribel Sanchez's restaurant on the Miami River.

Restaurants like Casablanca are battered on one side by skyrocketing costs of food and the fuel to transport it, while business is declining as cash-strapped customers increasingly view dining out as a luxury they can't afford.

To compensate, restaurateurs are getting creative. Some are simply raising prices or switching to lower-priced ingredients. Others are reducing portions, introducing menu items that cost less to make, and cutting staff members or hours. Some are offering discounts or extras like free wine or dessert.

Business has fallen off all over. During the week, Casablanca's dinner business has been cut in half compared to last year, estimates Sanchez. Lunch traffic is down about a third, as more downtown Miami, Florida, workers opt for a brown bag except on Fridays.

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Doctor: Kennedy's Brain Surgery Successful
2008-06-02 15:48:04
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) had surgery Monday at Duke University to remove a highly lethal tumor that doctors discovered in his brain last month.

In a statement released by his office, the 76-year-old Democratic icon said he would fight the grim prognosis he was given in May through a combination of surgery, followed by radiation and chemotherapy. The operation was being performed by neurosurgeon Allan H. Friedman of Duke University Medical Center, who issued a statement saying the the 3 1/2 surgery "was successful and accomplished our goals."

Friedman said Kennedy was awake during the procedure and should not experience any permanent neurological effects from the surgery.

A spokeswoman for Kennedy said the senator spoke with his wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, right after surgery, the Associated Press reported. He told her: "I feel like a million bucks. I think I'll do that again tomorrow."

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Democrats Say Sen. Ted Stevens Is Exploiting Donation Loophole
2008-06-02 15:47:23
Democrats have made ethics the focus of their efforts to oust Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, and this week zeroed in on a charitable foundation run by former staffers who raise money in the senator's name.

The Alaska Democratic Party called on Stevens to disclose donations and expenditures to the foundation, charging that it exploits "an ethics loophole allowing those who donate to seek favors from Congress."

"You just don't know who's giving how much," said Bethany Lesser, a spokeswoman for the Alaska Democrats.

The tax-exempt nonprofit was founded in 2000 as the Ted Stevens Foundation. It is now known as the North to the Future Foundation and is headed up by former Stevens staffer Tim McKeever, a Seattle attorney who also serves as the senator's campaign treasurer and spokesman.

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Bo Diddley Dies At 79
2008-06-02 15:46:26
Primal rock and blues musician Bo Diddley, who helped cast the sonic template of rock more than 50 years ago with a signature syncopated rhythm that became universally recognized as "the Bo Diddley beat," died Monday. He was 79.

Diddley died of heart failure at his home in Archer, Florida, spokeswoman Susan Clary told the Associated Press.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer-songwriter, who often referred to himself as "the Originator" to emphasize his contribution to rock music, had long battled hypertension and diabetes, among other health problems, and was hospitalized for 11 days after suffering a stroke onstage in Iowa in May 2007. Last August, he complained of dizziness and nausea during a routine medical checkup with his physician and was hospitalized with a heart attack.

Alongside Chuck Berry, Diddley is recognized as one of rock's most influential guitarists, expanding the instrument's vocabulary with a crunching, tremolo-laden sound. He played a rectangular "cigar box" guitar of his own design, an instantly recognizable visual counterpart to the distinctive chank-a-chank, a-chank, a-chank-chank rhythm that bore his name and provided the backbeat for his own songs including "Bo Diddley," "Mona" and "Who Do You Love."

That beat, fusing blues, R&B, Latin and African rhythms, resurfaced over the decades in countless other rock and R&B songs, among them Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away," Johnny Otis' "Willie and the Hand Jive," Bruce Springsteen's "She's the One," David Bowie's "Panic in Detroit," U2's "Desire" and George Michael's "Faith."
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U.N. Secretary General To Prod Nations On Food Crisis
2008-06-02 02:51:59
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will issue an urgent plea to world leaders at a food summit in Rome, Italy, on Tuesday to immediately suspend trade restrictions, agricultural taxes and other price controls that have helped fuel the highest food prices in 30 years, according to U.N. officials.

Ban is seeking to prod more than two dozen nations that have imposed such measures in the current crisis to reverse course, saying their actions have driven prices higher. The United Nations will also urge the United States and other nations to consider phasing out subsidies for food-based biofuels - such as ethanol - and to hammer out a pact with poor countries that would reduce agricultural tariffs and subsidies that have harmed poor farmers.

The immediate goal of the June 3-5 summit will be to secure a massive flow of assistance to the world's hungriest people and to ensure that subsistence farmers across the globe will have the seeds and fertilizers they need to plant their crops this season. World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick on Thursday announced the lending agency would issue $1.2 billion in financing for agricultural support, including $200 million in grants to help the world's poorest countries, starting with Djibouti, Haiti and Liberia.

The meeting - which is expected to draw more than 40 heads of state - is aimed at forging a common international response to the food crisis. While there is agreement on the need to increase food production, negotiations over a summit statement explaining how to do so have triggered debate over the role of genetically modified crops, biofuels, subsidies, trade policy and financing.

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U.S. Treasury Secretary: No 'Quick Fix' On Oil
2008-06-02 02:51:11
U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said Sunday that there was no quick fix to high oil prices, which he called an issue of supply and demand.

Paulson said inflation in the Gulf is "significant" but suggested that Gulf countries pegging their currencies to the weak dollar was not the only reason for it. He said it was a "sovereign decision" by each country whether it wants to de-peg its currency from the dollar.

Speaking to reporters in the tiny Gulf nation of Qatar, Paulson also acknowledged the U.S. economy was experiencing a "downturn" and reiterated that a strong dollar was in the U.S. interest.

The Treasury chief was in the Mideast to deliver a message to officials of Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing nations that soaring oil prices are putting a burden on the global economy. He is urging the countries to open up their oil markets to investment that can boost yields, exploration and production.

With oil at record-high prices, Paulson said there is "no quick fix" because it is an issue of supply and demand. Global demand remains strong while "production capacity has not seen new development," Paulson said.

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Taliban Leader Flaunts Power Inside Pakistan
2008-06-02 02:50:35
With great fanfare, the Pakistani Army flew journalists to a rugged corner of the nation’s lawless tribal areas in May to show how decisively it had destroyed the lairs of the Taliban, including a school for suicide bombers, in fighting early this year.

Then, just days later, the usually reclusive leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, held a news conference of his own, in the same region, to show just who was in charge.

He rolled up in an expensive-looking Toyota pickup packed with heavily armed Taliban fighters, according to the Pakistani journalists invited to attend. Squatting on the floor of a government school, Mehsud, clasping a new Kalashnikov, announced he would press his fight against the American military across the border in Afghanistan.

“Islam does not recognize boundaries,” he told the journalists, in accounts published in Pakistani newspapers and reported by the BBC. “There can be no deal with the United States."

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Obama Poised For Victory On Eve Of Last Primaries
2008-06-03 03:12:18
On the eve of the final two primaries of a five-month marathon, Sen. Barack Obama stood poised to wrap up the Democratic presidential nomination, while Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton weighed whether to stay in the race in hopes of delaying what appears to be an inevitable outcome.

Obama is optimistic that he will be able to claim victory Tuesday evening at a gathering in St. Paul, Minnesota, with superdelegates preparing to rally to his candidacy on the eve of the day's contests in South Dakota and Montana and push him past the threshold of 2,118 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

Clinton sent mixed signals about her plans throughout the day Monday. As her campaign recalled field staffers to New York, one adviser indicated that she would suspend, but not end, her campaign within days. The candidate said she will continue to argue to the group of party insiders who will hold sway over the final outcome that her strong showing in recent contests demonstrates that she would be the more electable candidate in November.

"Tomorrow is the last day of the primaries and the beginning of a new phase in the campaign," Clinton said in Yankton, South Dakota, before she prepared to depart for a Tuesday-night rally in New York. "After South Dakota and Montana vote, I will lead in the popular vote and Senator Obama will lead in the delegate count. The voters will have voted, and so the decision will fall to the delegates empowered to vote at the Democratic convention. I will be spending the coming days making my case to those delegates."

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Study: 3rd Largest Tropical Forest Could Be Halved By 2021
2008-06-03 03:11:48

The forests of Papua New Guinea are being chopped down so quickly that more than half its trees could be lost by 2021, according to a new satellite study of the region.

Papua New Guinea has the world's third largest tropical forest, but it was being cleared or degraded at a rate of 362,000 hectares (895,000 acres) a year in 2001, said the report.

Phil Shearman, lead author of the study by the University of Papua New Guinea and the Australian National University, said: "Forests are being logged repeatedly and wastefully with little regard for the environmental consequences, and with at least the passive complicity of government authorities."

The researchers compared satellite images taken over three decades from the early 1970s. In 1972 the country had 38 million hectares (94 million acres), of rainforest covering 82% of the country. About 15% of that was cleared by 2002.

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'This Is Like Inviting Pol Pot To A Human Rights Conference'
2008-06-03 03:11:06

Robert Mugabe made a surprise appearance Monday at a world food summit in Rome, Italy, drawing fierce criticism from the British government, which accused him of causing Zimbabwe's food crisis.

In his first official trip abroad since coming second in presidential elections in March, Mugabe attended the summit organized by the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to address the global crisis caused by dramatic increases in the prices of staple foods over the past year.

"This is like Pol Pot going to a human rights conference," Mark Malloch Brown, Britain's Foreign Office minister for Africa, Asia and the U.N., told the Guardian newspaper. "Zimbabwe is one of the few countries whose food crisis is not due to climate change or global prices, but due to the disastrous policies pursued by Mugabe."

Australia Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said Mugabe's attendance was obscene. "This is a person who has presided over the starvation of his people."

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Putin Opponents Are Made To Vanish From TV
2008-06-03 03:10:15
On a talk show last fall, a prominent political analyst named Mikhail G. Delyagin had some tart words about Vladimir V. Putin. When the program was later televised, Delyagin was not.

Not only were his remarks cut - he was also digitally erased from the show, like a disgraced comrade airbrushed from an old Soviet photo. (The technicians may have worked a bit hastily, leaving his disembodied legs in one shot.)

Delyagin, it turned out, has for some time resided on the so-called "stop list", a roster of political opponents and other critics of the government who have been barred from TV news and political talk shows by the Kremlin.

The stop list is, as Delyagin put it, “an excellent way to stifle dissent.”

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Mafia 'Super-Witness' Gunned Down In Italy
2008-06-03 03:08:46

A "super-witness" who was due to testify on the links between politicians and mafia mobsters in Naples was gunned down in the street Monday - the fourth victim in a month of shootings directed against witnesses who turn state's evidence.

The killing of Michele Orsi, the 47-year-old boss of a waste disposal firm, highlighted the Italian state's inability to protect people prepared to give evidence against organized crime.

As security officials Monday held crisis talks, Orsi's murder gave a new and sinister twist to the Naples garbage crisis, where rubbish is still piled high on streets and roads in Campania, the region that includes the city. Since the emergency began last December one of the worst-affected provinces has been Caserta, where Orsi was shot dead in a bar in the town of Casal di Principe Monday afternoon.

The Carabinieri, the military police, said Monday the killing was impossible to reconstruct because no one would admit to having seen it. However, after a search for bullets and casings, they concluded that at least 18 shots were fired from two 9mm-caliber automatics. Orsi was hit twice in the chest and once in the head, suggesting that, in classic mafia style, he was given a "coup de grace" by one of the killers as he lay dying.

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Former Bush Donors Now Giving To Obama's Campaign
2008-06-02 15:48:18
Beverly Fanning is among the campaign donors who'll be joining President Bush at a gala at Washington's Ford's Theater Sunday night, but she says that won't dissuade her from her current passion: volunteering for Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

She isn't the only convert. A McClatchy computer analysis, incomplete due to the difficulty matching data from various campaign finance reports, found that hundreds of people who gave at least $200 to Bush's 2004 campaign have donated to Obama.

Among them are Julie Nixon Eisenhower, the daughter of the late Republican President Richard Nixon and wife of late Republican President Dwight Eisenhower's grandson; Connie Ballmer, the wife of Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer; Ritchie Scaife, the estranged wife of conservative tycoon Richard Mellon Scaife and boxing promoter Don King.

Many of the donors are likely "moderate Republicans or independents who are dissatisfied with the direction of the country now and are looking for change," said Anthony Corrado, a government professor at Colby College in Maine who specializes in campaign finance.

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Ammo Prices Surge
2008-06-02 15:47:51
In Bethel, Alaska, they buy bullets by the box now, not the case.

In Nome, ammo buyers are shell shocked: "They use a lot of expletives," says a local store manager.

In Anchorage, lead shot for shotgun shells used to cost $18 a bag. Now it's more than $50, if you can find it.

Across Alaska, and across the country, ammunition prices have spiked over the past two years. In some cases, the costs have more than doubled, and shooters, shops and ammo-makers mostly blame the soaring cost of metal.

In a state where politicians argue over who loves guns the most, the price of a round has far-flung impact.

Just ask members of the Alaska Machine Gun Association, who practically breathe bullets.

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Texas Judge Orders Return Of Polygamist Sect Children To Their Parents
2008-06-02 15:46:49
A Texas judge on Monday ordered the return of more than 400 children taken from their parents at a polygamist group's ranch because of suspected abuse, bringing an abrupt end to one of the largest custody cases in U.S. history.

The order signed by Texas District Judge Barbara Walther, responding to a state Supreme Court ruling last week, allowed parents in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to pick up their children from foster care facilities around the state almost immediately.

In exchange for regaining custody, the parents are not allowed to leave Texas without court permission and must participate in parenting classes. They were also ordered not to interfere with any child abuse investigation and to allow the children to undergo psychiatric or medical exams if required.

However, it does not put restrictions on the children's fathers, or require parents to renounce polygamy or live away from the sect's Yearning For Zion Ranch in West Texas.
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At Least 4 Killed In Car Bomb Blast Near Danish Embassy In Pakistan
2008-06-02 06:15:40
A car bomb exploded Monday outside the Danish Embassy in an upscale area of the Pakistani capital and killed at least four people, according to Pakistani police.

Hospital officials said 14 people had been injured.

The bomb was the second effort to target foreigners in Islamabad in the last few months and came as the civilian government has signed a series of peace deals with Islamic militants in the nation’s tribal areas.

The blast heard around the city at about 1 p.m. local time left a deep crater outside the embassy and badly damaged the exterior of the building in an area that has many diplomatic residences, schools and a nearby shopping center. The bomb left a trail of wrecked cars parked in the neighborhood and smashed the facades of nearby houses.

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Australia Ends Combat Operations In Iraq
2008-06-02 02:51:44
Australia, a staunch U.S. ally and one of the first countries to commit troops to the war in Iraq five years ago, ended combat operations there Sunday.

Soldiers lowered the Australian flag that had flown over Camp Terendak in the southern Iraqi city of Talil. The combat troops were expected to return to Australia over the next few weeks, with the first of them arriving home Sunday.

The move fulfills a campaign promise by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who was swept into office in November largely on the promise that he would bring home the country's 550 combat troops by the middle of 2008. Rudd has said the Iraq deployment made Australia more of a target for terrorism.

Rudd's predecessor, former Prime Minister John Howard, said he was "baffled" by the decision to withdraw the troops.

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New Contracts Reflect Continued U.S. Presence In Iraq
2008-06-02 02:50:55

The depth of U.S. involvement in Iraq and the difficulty the next president will face in pulling personnel out of the country are illustrated by a handful of new contract proposals made public in May.

The contracts call for new spending, from supplying mentors to officials with Iraq's Defense and Interior ministries to establishing a U.S.-marshal-type system to protect Iraqi courts. Contractors would provide more than 100 linguists with secret clearances and deliver food to Iraqi detainees at a new, U.S.-run prison.

The proposals reflect multiyear commitments. The mentor contract notes that the U.S. military "desires for both Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense to become mostly self-sufficient within two years," a time outside some proposals for U.S. combat troop withdrawal. The mentors sought would "advise, train [and] assist ... particular Iraqi officials" who work in the Ministry of Defense, which runs the Iraqi army, or the Ministry of Interior, which runs the police and other security units.

The mentors will assist an U.S. military group that previously began to implement what are described as "core processes and systems," such as procurement, contracting, force development, management and budgeting, and public affairs.

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