What alternative sites were explored?

The Chicago Children’s Museum claim they looked into 37 alternative sites, even though the firm doing the searching wasn’t hired until April. Something fishy: corporations like Jones Lang LaSalle don’t usually work pro bono.

Opponents of Mayor Richard Daley’s plan to build a $100 million Chicago Children’s Museum in Grant Park demanded Tuesday that the museum release three years of records to prove it seriously considered more than three dozen alternative sites.

Last week, the Children’s Museum released a list of 20 existing buildings and 17 new construction sites it says it considered for the museum’s new home in a three-year search before zeroing in on Daley’s controversial favorite.

Residents of high-rises surrounding the Daley Bicentennial Plaza site and their alderman, Brendan Reilly (42nd), responded by questioning the veracity of the list.

On Tuesday, with a city council committee vote just two days away, they turned up the heat and demanded that the museum release the records of its board meetings and meetings with the real estate consulting firm that released the list of alternative sites.

The museum’s zoning application shows that the firm, Jones Lang LaSalle, did not begin its work for the Children’s Museum until April, so it could not possibly have conducted the search for alternatives, critics say.

Opponents of the Grant Park move also said museum officials spent the past year insisting that the “only location seriously considered” was Grant Park.

“Somebody’s not telling the truth here,” said Peggy Figiel, co-founder of Save Grant Park.

[From Museum foes demand proof of alternative sites :: The SouthtownStar ]

Tons of back story on this if you are interested.

Did the CIA give Iran the bomb

“State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration” (James Risen)

Bush’s team should be impeached for incompetence on top of all their other crimes.

She had probably done this a dozen times before. Modern digital technology had made clandestine communications with overseas agents seem routine. Back in the cold war, contacting a secret agent in Moscow or Beijing was a dangerous, labour-intensive process that could take days or even weeks. But by 2004, it was possible to send high-speed, encrypted messages directly and instantaneously from CIA headquarters to agents in the field who were equipped with small, covert personal communications devices. So the officer at CIA headquarters assigned to handle communications with the agency’s spies in Iran probably didn’t think twice when she began her latest download. With a few simple commands, she sent a secret data flow to one of the Iranian agents in the CIA’s spy network. Just as she had done so many times before.

But this time, the ease and speed of the technology betrayed her. The CIA officer had made a disastrous mistake. She had sent information to one Iranian agent that exposed an entire spy network; the data could be used to identify virtually every spy the CIA had inside Iran.

Mistake piled on mistake. As the CIA later learned, the Iranian who received the download was a double agent. The agent quickly turned the data over to Iranian security officials, and it enabled them to “roll up” the CIA’s network throughout Iran. CIA sources say that several of the Iranian agents were arrested and jailed, while the fates of some of the others is still unknown.

This espionage disaster, of course, was not reported. It left the CIA virtually blind in Iran, unable to provide any significant intelligence on one of the most critical issues facing the US – whether Tehran was about to go nuclear.

In fact, just as President Bush and his aides were making the case in 2004 and 2005 that Iran was moving rapidly to develop nuclear weapons, the American intelligence community found itself unable to provide the evidence to back up the administration’s public arguments. On the heels of the CIA’s failure to provide accurate pre-war intelligence on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, the agency was once again clueless in the Middle East. In the spring of 2005, in the wake of the CIA’s Iranian disaster, Porter Goss, its new director, told President Bush in a White House briefing that the CIA really didn’t know how close Iran was to becoming a nuclear power.

But it’s worse than that. Deep in the bowels of the CIA, someone must be nervously, but very privately, wondering: “Whatever happened to those nuclear blueprints we gave to the Iranians?”

[Click to read a large excerpt Did the CIA give Iran the bomb? Extracts from New York Times reporter James Risen’s new book | Environment | The Guardian]

When do we get to do pointed sticks?

Apparently, these revelations came out in 2006, but this is the first I’d heard of them. Book is now available in paperback, I’m going to look for it. The plan, called Operation Merlin, was to sell slightly flawed nuclear plans to Iranian agents in the hopes that they wouldn’t realize part of the data was flawed. The agent who sold the plans pointed out the flaw, and thus helped accelerate (allegedly) Iran’s nuclear program. Yikes.

Continue reading “Did the CIA give Iran the bomb”

Operation Crooked Code

EveryBlock is making a very cool news-related mapping project:

In May 2008, 15 people — including developers, contractors and city inspectors — were arrested on bribery charges as part of a federal probe called “Operation Crooked Code.” These people were involved with exchanging cash and other benefits in return for various Chicago permits and city services, acccording to U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald.

Following our philosophy of identifying news near your block, we at EveryBlock have identified the specific addresses mentioned in Fitzgerald’s complaints and mapped them here, for your exploration. Included are the locations of the buildings in question and where alleged bribes occurred.

[From Special report: Operation Crooked Code | EveryBlock Chicago]

Side note: I strongly suspect our building also involved crooked City of Chicago Building Inspectors – too many non-compliant code items have been discovered (electrical conduit wrong size, unmarked electric boxes, non-compliant plumbing, air-conditioning not installed, roof installed sans insulation, yadda yadda) – unfortunately, our building was rehabbed in 1996, and I don’t know how to track down those kinds of historic city records.

Individual entries read like a bad movie

On the morning of June 6, 2007, CW1 met with agents at the briefing location. Agents gave $500 cash to CW1 to pay a bribe to VALENTINO for the Garfield project.5 The money was photocopied and placed in an envelope in the presence of agents. An audio recording device was placed on CW1. At approximately 9:30 am, CW1 was driven by agents to the Dunkin Donuts located at Washington and Wells to meet with VALENTINO. At approximately 9:35 am, surveillance agents videotaped VALENTINO entering the Dunkin Donuts. Due to the location of VALENTINO and CW1 inside of the store, surveillance agents were unable to observe CW1 and VALENTINO during the meeting. Surveillance agents were not able to videotape VALENTINO leaving the Dunkin Donuts following the meeting due to their position but did videotape VALENTINO walking down the street away from the Dunkin Donuts a short time after the meeting. At the conclusion of the meeting, CW1 was picked up by agents and taken to the briefing location. CW1 informed agents at the debriefing that CW1 had delivered the envelope containing $500 cash to VALENTINO for the favorable zoning inspection for the Garfield property. The meeting was audiorecorded, and I have reviewed the recording. The conversation was brief and primarily personal in nature.

Disney Borders on the Insane


Disney’s lackeys in the Congress are trying to build a different kind of wall: a wall that doesn’t allow copyrighted material to permeate. Good luck with that, or should I say more precisely, bad luck with that, hope you fail thoroughly and completely.

Living close to the Canada/US border used to be a lot less stressful. You could head across to either side for a simple lunch date and head back with little more ceremony than a few questions to ensure you didn’t fit some dubious profile. New international copyright regulation could make that border trip with your iPod, cell phone or laptop a hazardous exercise in your right to private property.

Secretive meetings are taking place now between the governments of the US, Canada and the EU that could clamp down on you if you cross the border with any data-storage device. Journalists in Canada have received leaked notes about the secret international negotiations for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

If passed, border guards who you’d think have enough to worry about, would become copyright police for the RIAA and Hollywood studios. They’d be granted sweeping powers to conduct searches of any storage device you try to take across the border. They’d have the authority to act against infringers, meaning you could be subject to fines, seizure or even destruction of your equipment.

The agreement will essentially assume that anyone in possession of copyrighted material is guilty of infringement unless they can prove otherwise. It will be necessary to prove that you own the CD or DVDs you have backed up on your laptop or MP3 player. Unless you still have receipts for all that ripped media you could be in for a long future border crossing.

The draconian policies proposed by ACTA require Americans to toss away their constitution and its guarantee of private property and mandate for the burden of proof upon an accuser. Existing copyright laws in Canada and the US require rights holders to present evidence of infringement. Much to the pleasure of groups like the RIAA and MPAA the policy on fair use would be another casualty as a result of ACTA. Mandated by the 1984 Supreme Court’s Sony vs. Universal, it was established that it’s fair use for an owner to duplicate copyrighted materials for personal use. This has protected VCR, PVR and MP3 player owners ever since.

[From Check That MP3 Player at the Border: ACTA Could Bring Tough New Copyright Laws]

Craziness. When will it end? WHen you have to pay a fee to listen to your neighbor’s stereo?

The Magic Kingdom of Disney
(click to embiggen Paul Krasner’s satiric take on the Disney World you might not know)

Drugs Dollars and Doctors

Got to pay for that house in Aspen somehow….


Suit Details How J&J Pushed Sales of Procrit – WSJ.com

Documents in a lawsuit filed against Johnson & Johnson by two former salesmen show how the pharmaceutical giant sought to boost sales of its blockbuster anti-anemia drug Procrit by offering contracts that fattened doctors’ profits and urging its salespeople to push higher-than-approved doses.

Some of Mr. [Dean] McClellan’s documents [a drug salesman for 12 years] reviewed by The Wall Street Journal indicate that Ortho Biotech created complex purchasing programs offering doctors discounts and cash rebates on Procrit, which would increase the doctors’ profits.

Procrit is an infused drug, which is administered by a doctor. Unlike pills sold by pharmacies, infused drugs offer profit opportunities for doctors, who can buy the drugs, administer the infusions in their offices, and collect the payments from insurers or the government. Drug companies can fatten the doctor’s margin using discounts and rebates to lower the price.

How are these doctors any different than a street corner drug dealer? Why doesn’t the DEA spend some time investigating these pushers too? Reminds me of Glenn Greenwald’s question as to why doctors can over-rule patients.

Mr. McClellan’s documents on the marketing of Procrit show that in 2004 — after Amgen Inc.’s competing drug Aranesp came on the market — J&J made offers that would allow buyers of Procrit to receive discounts off an already-reduced price as well as rebates. For example, an internal company memo calculates that a physician who bought nearly $1 million of Procrit over 15 months would get a check for $237,885 back, or 24%.

Another J&J program offered hospitals an incentive to buy Procrit and shun Aranesp: discounts on purchases from across Johnson & Johnson’s product line — including some huge-selling drugs and medical devices sold by different subsidiaries — if the hospital used Procrit at least 75% of the time when prescribing anti-anemia drugs.

In addition, J&J created a “Right of First Refusal” contract for doctors, requiring them to allow Ortho Biotech to make a counteroffer if Amgen’s Aranesp price undercut Procrit.

Mr. McClellan also alleges the company pushed doctors to prescribe a higher dose years before it was approved as safe and effective by the FDA. For years, the company focused on educating health care providers on Procrit’s medical benefits, he says. But in the mid-1990s at a national sales force meeting, an Ortho executive announced that the division was moving to promote what it called “QW dosing,” switching patients from three, 10,000-unit doses a week to a single, 40,000-unit dose in cancer patients, Mr. McClellan says.

Food, Fuel, Famine


Tax dollars for Monsanto, GMO food for you, courtesy of the Bush-ites.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer, who travels to a world food security conference in Rome next week, laid out the Bush administration’s strategy today for meeting the current worldwide crisis of rising food costs and shortages.


Some aid groups have argued that, worldwide, the increased production of biofuels has contributed to increasing crop demand and food prices.

Higher food prices have made it difficult for those living on the edge of poverty to afford food. The UN estimates that more than 850 million people worldwide face daily food emergencies.

The Bush administration has tailored its food aid to include the use of genetically modified organisms, or GMO, crops, which are made by a number of U.S. companies. The White House argues that development aid that emphasizes GMO crops will help countries feed their own populations. It contends that those crops are more resistant to drought and pests, and will work well in countries where farming is difficult.

The organic farming community opposes the use of such crops, which they argue require sophisticated and expensive fertilizers and other pesticides.


The use of GMO crops, though, will probably meet with opposition from European countries at the conference. Many won’t allow GMO seed, or the import of foods made from GMO crops. They argue that the health effects of such crops are not clear.

That ban even caused several African nations in 2002 to consider forgoing U.S. aid that included GMO crops because they feared important European export markets would be lost. Eventually the U.S. grain aid was crushed into flour to prevent its use as seed.

[From The Swamp: Food, Fuel, Famine]

Once Monsanto and ADM control the patents on all seeds, the Rapture will soon follow (or so Bush seems to believe).

Conflict of Interest Kurtz

News You Can't Use
[News You Can’t Use – click to embiggen]

Funny if this minor interview would be the event that finally brings attention to the walking conflict of interest that is also known as Howard Kurtz. Dr. Eric Alterman has been pointing out this contradiction for what seems like forever. If Alterman gets around to mentioning this event in his column, I’ll append an excerpt.

When Howard Kurtz invited Kimberly Dozier, the CBS journalist wounded in Iraq, onto his program, “Reliable Sources,” on CNN on Sunday, he was not a disinterested interviewer. Mr. Kurtz’s wife, Sheri Annis, had been paid to serve as a publicist for Ms. Dozier’s memoir, “Breathing the Fire,” which Ms. Dozier had come on the program to discuss.

After the interview, in which he also read aloud from the book, Mr. Kurtz told his viewers that he considered Ms. Dozier “a remarkable woman.” He then added, “I should mention that my wife has done some promotion work for Kim Dozier’s book.”

The interview represented another complicated tangle in the complex world of Mr. Kurtz. He is paid by two of the nation’s largest media entities — The Washington Post Company, which employs him as a media reporter, and Time Warner, which owns CNN — to cover the doings at their news organizations, and those at their competitors’. But several media ethicists interviewed in recent days said that, given the financial arrangement between Ms. Dozier’s publisher, Meredith Books, and Ms. Annis, Mr. Kurtz should not have done this particular interview at all. (Ms. Annis said she was actually paid by a subcontractor hired by Meredith.)

“CNN has a lot of great journalists there,” said Thomas Huang, an ethics and diversity fellow at the Poynter Institute, a journalism training center, who is on leave as an assistant managing editor at The Dallas Morning News. “Why have Howard Kurtz do it, given his indirect relationship with Kim Dozier through his wife?”

Roy Peter Clark, a senior scholar at Poynter, said, “The interview would have had more credibility if somebody else had done it.”

[From CNN Reporter’s Interview Raises Ethical Questions – NYTimes.com]

Update: Dr. Alterman didn’t have much to add, other than a bemused chuckle of a paragraph

Yet another conflict of interest for Howard Kurtz? I didn’t realize such a thing was mathematically possible. Kurtz’s tenure at the Post is one of the blackest spots on the legacy of Len Downie as he goes off into the night. No way Ben Bradlee would have stood for it.

Grapes of greed

Save Ten Percent with Pippin

The corrupt Illinois legislature is back in the news, with the out-of-state wine ban we’ve mentioned before about to take effect.

For some reason, the state legislature decided that Illinoisans should not be allowed to have wine shipped to them from Internet wine shops and out-of-state wine stores. On June 1, the law will strip Illinois wine lovers of the right to buy wine from out-of-state wine stores; that’s a right they’ve had for 15 years.

Why do such a silly thing? How about $6.3 million. This is how much Illinois liquor distributors have paid in campaign contributions to Illinois politicians since 2000. You see, liquor distributors don’t like it when they don’t get a cut of the sale. When you buy that special bottle of wine from an Internet retailer, the distributors don’t bring it into the state, so they don’t get a cut of the sale. So the liquor distributors wrote a law, found a few friends in the legislature to introduce it and voila . . . you lost your rights.

It turns out that in the course of losing your right to access the wines you want so distributors can have their profits protected, Illinois has given up millions of dollars in tax revenue that would have come from taxing Internet sales of wine. Hey, who needs a few roads fixed any way? And who needs more funding for schools? Priorities, you know?

[From Mmm, grapes of greed — — chicagotribune.com]

Here are the main villains in this tale:

According to FollowTheMoney.Org, a Web site that tracks state campaign contributions, this law’s lead sponsor, Rep. Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago), has received $32,000 from alcohol wholesalers since 2000, including $10,000 since the legislation was introduced last year. Senate sponsor James Clayborne Jr. (D-Belleville) has received $85,000 from alcohol wholesaler interests since 2000, including $15,000 since the legislation was introduced. Since 2002, Gov. Rod Blagojevich has received more than $500,000—just from alcohol wholesalers in Illinois, $50,000 of which was given to him since he signed the bill into law.

More on this topic here, and here (and my own pages, more, more, and probably elsewhere. )

Lieberman and Graham, Conflicted

Random Colored Lights and Moon
[click to embiggen]

McCain supporters feign surprise that they are expected to follow the candidate’s public policy announcements. They thought they’d be able to continue being as corrupt as before, and nobody would pay attention. Notice – neither paragon of virtue, Lieberman nor Graham, decided to step down until after reporters asked uncomfortable questions.

Senators Joseph I. Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, prominent surrogates for Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign, stepped down Wednesday from their positions with an independent group that released a pair of Internet advertisements attacking Senator Barack Obama on Iraq.

Mr. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, and Mr. Graham, Republican of South Carolina, were both on the policy advisory board to the organization, Vets for Freedom, which on Wednesday released its second Web advertisement in less than a week attacking Mr. Obama.

The senators’ positions with the group, which describes itself as a grass-roots advocacy organization pushing for victory in Iraq and Afghanistan, seemed to place them in contravention of new conflict-of-interest rules released by Mr. McCain’s campaign that specifically prohibit anyone “with a McCain campaign title or position” from participating in a “527 or other independent entity that makes public communications that support or oppose any presidential candidate.”

After inquiries from reporters, the senators released a joint letter to Vets for Freedom on Wednesday saying they had requested a leave from their positions to come into compliance with the new policy.

[From Lieberman and Graham, Senators for McCain, Leave Group After Ads Attacking Obama – NYTimes.com]

Remind me again why Holy Joe Lieberman is a Democratic Superdelegate? Didn’t the DNC strip Zell Miller of his status after Senator Miller fulminated in support of Bush? Shouldn’t Lieberman lose his chairmanships too? He obviously has little in common with the Democrats anymore. I wonder what Connecticut voters think of him now?

Ooops, my mistake, Lieberman has been stripped of his super delegate status.

Thanks to Zell Miller, there is a rule to deal with Joe Lieberman.

Lieberman’s endorsement of Republican John McCain disqualifies him as a super-delegate to the Democratic National Convention under what is informally known as the Zell Miller rule, according to Democratic State Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo.

Miller, then a Democratic senator from Georgia, not only endorsed Republican George Bush four years ago, but he delivered a vitriolic attack on Democrat John Kerry at the Republican National Convention.

The Democrats responded with a rule disqualifying any Democrat who crosses the aisle from being a super delegate. Lieberman will not be replaced, DiNardo said.

Continued Decline of Reliability at Airports

How about re-regulating the airlines altogether?

Air-traffic controllers are leaving their jobs at the fastest rate since President Reagan fired more than 12,000 striking controllers 27 years ago, spurring a rancorous debate over the safety of commercial aviation. But for fliers, the turnover is more likely to affect when their flight arrives than whether it gets there safely.

[From At Airports, Fewer Eyes on the Skies – WSJ.com]

Oh really? Says who?

In recent months, fully certified controllers have been retiring in droves. Some of this was expected since many controllers hired after the 1981 air-traffic controller strike are becoming eligible to retire. But the retirement surge has accelerated beyond the Federal Aviation Administration’s projections because of a bitter labor feud that has dragged on since 2006.

In January, there were roughly 11,000 fully certified controllers, marking the lowest level in more than a decade. In September 2002, the FAA employed 12,801 fully certified controllers.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, which represents the FAA’s work force of roughly 15,000 fully and partially certified controllers, has declared staffing emergencies at high-intensity facilities in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, New York and Southern California. It calls the loss of so many veteran controllers a “growing crisis” amid surging traffic volumes and a big, hidden factor behind the persistent delays plaguing air travel.

The FAA acknowledges that shortages in the control tower can cause delays

Pilots resigning/retiring, not enough mechanics to service the planes, and now, not enough air traffic controllers? What is going to take to restore trust in airlines/airports? Is there going to be a huge catastrophe before any politician decides to take action?

Union officials also contend the shortage of fully trained controllers — those who have been trained to perform all the major control functions — is increasing the odds that a fatigued controller working overtime will make a catastrophic mistake.

“It’s amazing that it hasn’t happened so far,” Mr. Ramsden said. “The staffing issue has a direct impact on the safety of the public. It has to.”

WaMu and Bankruptcy Reform

Reserved Light

Atrios linked to this news tidbit about how Blowback’s a bitch

Washington Mutual Inc. got what it wanted in 2005: A revised bankruptcy code that no longer lets people walk away from credit card bills.

The largest U.S. savings and loan didn’t count on a housing recession. The new bankruptcy laws are helping drive foreclosures to a record as homeowners default on mortgages and struggle to pay credit card debts that might have been wiped out under the old code, said Jay Westbrook, a professor of business law at the University of Texas Law School in Austin and a former adviser to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

“Be careful what you wish for,” Westbrook said. “They wanted to make sure that people kept paying their credit cards, and what they’re getting is more foreclosures.”

Washington Mutual, Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. spent $25 million in 2004 and 2005 lobbying for a legislative agenda that included changes in bankruptcy laws to protect credit card profits, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan Washington group that tracks political donations.

The banks are still paying for that decision. The surge in foreclosures has cut the value of securities backed by mortgages and led to more than $40 billion of writedowns for U.S. financial institutions. It also reached to the top echelons of the financial services industry.
[From Bloomberg.com: Exclusive]

Prior to the 2005 reforms, if one had to choose between defaulting on a credit card and defaulting on a mortgage, the choice was pretty obvious. Not so much anymore. I wonder which of the 75 Senators who voted Yea would change their vote now? (Hillary Clinton abstained for some reason)

FAA Official to Lead Industry Group

No possibility of conflict of interest here. Ahem.

I think government officials should be barred from employment in the sector they regulate for ten years, or even forever. The so-called revolving door has been standard for years, and it stinks like crony capitalism by a different name to me.

Navy Plane

F.A.A. Chief to Lead Industry Group:
Marion C. Blakey, the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, will become the new head of the Aerospace Industries Association, a trade group representing civilian and military aerospace companies, in November, the association said. Ms. Blakey, who led the National Transportation Safety Board before joining the F.A.A., was appointed by President Bush to a five-year term. Her term expires Sept. 13. The term of a successor would fall mostly in the next presidential administration. The White House has not announced an intention to nominate a successor.