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Unearthed: News of the Week the Mainstream Media Forgot to Report

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Bush Administration Has Secret Plan to Keep Iraq Under U.S. Control
Reporter Patrick Cockburn with The Independent (U.K.) revealed the Bush administration's "secret plan" to keep the U.S. military in Iraq "indefinitely" after the U.N. security mandate authorizing the U.S. military presence in Iraq expires in December.

According to Cockburn, the U.S. is "holding hostage some $50 billion of Iraq's money in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to pressure the Iraqi government into signing" the plan, under which U.S. troops "would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law" for years to come.

The Washington Post reported that the Iraqi government may request an extension on the U.N. security mandate in order to delay action until the next U.S. president takes office. The Post reports that "Iraqis across the political spectrum have objected to Bush administration proposals for unilateral authority over U.S. military operations in Iraq and the detention of Iraqi citizens, immunity for civilian security contractors, and continuing control over Iraqi borders and airspace."

Bush Met with Jack Abramoff At Least Six Times, Contrary to White House Claims
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee disclosed in a report this week that President Bush met with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff on at least six occasions. The White House previously stated that Bush only met Abramoff twice, at White House Hanukkah receptions. But documents and photos obtained by the committee prove that Bush and Abramoff had stronger ties than previously known, although the extent of Abramoff's reach within the Administration still remains a mystery. The committee's investigation met resistance from at least three former Administration officials who invoked the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to avoid answering some or all of the investigators' questions. The same committee reported in September 2006 that Abramoff and his associates had billed clients for 485 contacts with the White House, although investigators could not corroborate roughly 400 of the 485 contacts reported in Abramoff's billing records. But the new investigation uncovered 70 additional contacts between Abramoff's associates and White House officials, none of which was previously disclosed.

Federal Court Upholds EPA's Refusal to Protect Americans from Toxic Chemical Plant Emissions
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2006 EPA determination that current emission controls on synthetic organic chemical manufacturing plants are adequate to protect the public, despite deficiencies in the standards identified in prior court rulings. Last year, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Louisiana Environmental Action Network challenged the EPA's decision not to require any reductions in toxic air pollution from the synthetic chemical plants, which are among the nation's leading sources of toxic cancer-causing pollution. Studies suggest that 100 out of 1 million people living near these facilities could develop cancer during their lifetimes. The Circuit Court called the agency's actions a "rather unusual bit of rulemaking," but sided with the Bush administration anyway.

NRDC noted that the EPA's legal maneuvering to avoid updating the regulations was "not compelled by law, but rather the result of a policy choice by the Bush administration to side with the interests of the chemical industry and other big polluters." NRDC now plans to launch a campaign to force EPA to strengthen all toxic air pollution regulations that violate the Clean Air Act and are currently inadequate to protect public health.

CO2 Emissions Set to Double by 2050 Unless Governments Act
The International Energy Agency released a report this week predicting that carbon dioxide emissions could double by 2050 unless governments around the world engage in a "global energy technology revolution" to curb global warming emissions. The IEA called for a massive investment of up to $45 trillion - equal to 1.1 percent of average annual global gross domestic product - to spark research and development efforts in order to halve emissions by 2050. The report called on the Group of Eight and emerging countries such as China and India to quickly agree on a plan to meet the emissions target.

Southern Baptists launch skeptic campaign to derail climate legislation
Right-wing evangelicals launched a new campaign to attack urgently needed legislation to tackle climate change, calling for "a more biblical, fact-based approach" and urging lawmakers to remain "cautious of claims that our planet is in peril from speculative dangers like man-made global warming." The campaign, spearheaded by the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation and endorsed by Focus on the Family's James Dobson and Republican Senators Tom Coburn and James Inhofe, is another attempt to sully the legitimate concern among signatories of the Evangelical Climate Initiative, which calls for urgent federal action on climate change.

Senate Intelligence Committee Report Failed to Look at "White House Iraq Group"
A Senate Intelligence Committee report released last week corroborates assertions that the Bush Administration exaggerated pre-war intelligence and ignored dissenting views among spy agencies over Iraq's weapons programs and Saddam Hussein's links to Al Qaeda.

But the committee admits that it failed to review "less formal communications between intelligence agencies and other parts of the Executive Branch." In doing so, the committee failed to investigate the role of the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), a group established in August 2002 by then-White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card. The group included Karl Rove, Condoleezza Rice, Scooter Libby, Karen Hughes and others who attended the group's weekly meetings in the White House Situation Room. According to former White House press secretary Scott McLellan, the group's mission was "to coordinate the marketing of the war to the public," and "campaign to convince Americans that war with Iraq was inevitable and necessary."

Pentagon Instructed Guantanamo Interrogators to Destroy Evidence
A military defense lawyer says the Pentagon distributed a manual urging interrogators at Guantanamo Bay to destroy handwritten notes in case they were called to testify. According to the attorney, the manual emphasized the importance of "keeping the number of documents with interrogation information to a minimum" in order to "minimize certain legal issues" in the event that interrogators were called to testify in trials regarding the treatment of Gitmo detainees.

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Guantanamo detainees have rights under the U.S. Constitution to challenge their detention in U.S. courts. The justices ruled 5-4 that the government is violating the rights of prisoners by holding them indefinitely and without charges, some for more than six years. The four dissenting justices were Chief Justice John Roberts (who wrote that the Bush administration's handling of Guantanamo detainees represented "the most generous set of procedural protections ever afforded aliens detained by this country as enemy combatants"); Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia (who wrote that the court's decision would "almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.")

Human Rights Watch Reports that Guantanamo Inmates Suffer Mental Damage
Human Rights Watch reported this week that over two-thirds of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay suffer from or at risk of mental problems due to their confinement and lack of light and fresh air. Many suffer from anxiety, depression, and delusion. The group says 185 of the 270 detainees at Guantanamo are housed in facilities similar to "supermax" prisons in the U.S. Many of the detainees have never been charged with crimes and some have already been cleared for release or transfer, but they spend 22 hours alone in cramped cells, have very limited contact with other human beings and are given little more than the Koran to occupy themselves, said the report, which is based on interviews with government officials and attorneys.

Human Rights Group Claims U.S. Holding Terror Suspects on Prison Ships
Human rights group Reprieve claims that the U.S. military is operating "floating prisons" in an attempt to hide the numbers and location of detainees arrested in the war on terror. Reprieve also claims to have documented more than 200 new cases of rendition since 2006, contradicting President Bush's statement that the practice was discontinued following news reports that detainees were allegedly tortured in secret prisons in countries such as Syria, Jordan, Morocco and Egypt.

"They choose ships to try to keep their misconduct as far as possible from the prying eyes of the media and lawyers," according to Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve's legal director, who added "By its own admission, the US government is currently detaining at least 26,000 people without trial in secret prisons."

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