Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Killer Reporting 

Open publication - Free publishing - More politics

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Killer Reporting 

Open publication - Free publishing - More politics

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Twice Burned 

The lab involved in testing emissions at Times Beach was partly owned by the company that operated the dioxin incinerator

Throughout the 1990s, Steve Taylor, the former organizer for the Times Beach Action Group, continually referred to the EPA-approved incineration of the dioxin-contaminated dirt in Eastern Missouri as "destroying the evidence." The question of where the dioxin originated remains unresolved to this day.

Now Wildwood City Council member Tammy Shea is asking the same question about a dioxin-contaminated site in west St. Louis County. She wants accountability. Others within the suburban municipality's government would prefer to remain ignorant of who is responsible for poisoning the property decades ago.

One thing is for certain: the EPA has never diligently tried to determine who generated the toxic waste. The following story from 1996, shows just how far the agency was willing to go in turning a blind eye to potential fraud connected to one of the agency biggest Superfund clean ups.

But this story just like the dioxin is still hanging around despite the incineration of hundreds of tons of toxic dirt.

"... Since initiating operations, ... the incinerator has been plagued by a series of emergency releases that have spewed unknown quantities of untreated dioxin-contaminated particulate matter into the atmosphere. ..."

"... Despite the mirror windows at the lab and the smoke now flowing from the incinerator stacks, this much is clear: ... Quanterra ... is still partially controlled by IT -- the builder and operator of the Times Beach dioxin incinerator. ..."
Riverfront Times
Aug. 26, 1996
by C.D. Stelzer

When IT Analytical Services merged with another company and became Quanterra Environmental Services in 1994, the nascent laboratory didn't even bother to change the phone number. The newly formed company also remained at the same location, 13715 Rider Trail North, in a strip of innocuous one-story offices known as the Business Center in Earth City. The doors to the lab were locked last Saturday, and mirror windows made it impossible to see the interior.

Corporation records at the Missouri secretary of state's office in Jefferson City show that Quanterra was officially dissolved as a business in the state in late 1994. Nevertheless, the lab took part in important tests of stack emissions conducted in November 1995 at the Times Beach dioxin incinerator, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund cleanup near Eureka.

The test results assured the EPA, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the public that the incinerator would operate safely. Based on these test results and other criteria, the DNR issued a requisite permit for the incinerator to operate earlier this year.

Despite the mirror windows at the lab and the smoke now flowing from the incinerator stacks, this much is clear: IT Analytical was owned by International Technology Corp. (IT), and Quanterra, its successor, is still partially controlled by IT -- the builder and operator of the Times Beach dioxin incinerator.

IT, in turn, has a contract with Syntex, the corporation held liable for disposing of dioxin-contaminated soil at Times Beach and more than two dozen other sites in Eastern Missouri. In short, the lab involved in testing incinerator emissions is partly owned by the company that operates the incinerator.

Steve Taylor, an organizer for the Times Beach Action Group (TBAG), objected to the Quanterra-IT relationship in a meeting with high-level EPA officials last Wednesday night at the Hilton Hotel in Frontenac. Robert Martin, the ombudsman from the agency's Washington, D.C., headquarters, chaired the meeting, which was attended by 15 citizens, an aide to U.S. Rep. Jim Talent (R-2nd) and two other EPA officals.

"We have always had problems with how the trial burn was conducted. Now we have found that IT -- the owner of the incinerator -- was solely responsible for the physical custody of the stack samples," Taylor says. "There has always been a serious problem with credibility with (EPA) Region VII and the information that we've received pertaining to this incinerator. To date, this is probably the most blatant example of allowing those who have a financial interest in this cleanup to proceed without any oversight."

That a laboratory with ties to the incinerator operator would be allowed to handle test samples from a Superfund site is enough to raise concerns, but there is another nettlesome detail that casts doubt on the credibility of the lab work. In 1990, IT purchased the assets of metaTRACE, a laboratory located at the same address in Earth City and having the same phone number as the two previously cited labs.

In the year preceding the acquisition, metaTRACE came under scrutiny for conducting fraudulent tests for the EPA, including faulty soil analysis at Times Beach and other dioxin sites in Eastern Missouri. Ultimately, the EPA canceled metaTRACE's contracts and two company officials pleaded guilty to fraud charges. The rescinded contracts had a value of more than $8.7 million. Most of that money was earmarked for EPA Region VII, which includes the St. Louis area.

After purchasing metaTRACE, IT moved its own analytical operation into the defunct lab's Earth City office. MetaTRACE didn't dissolve until 1992, according to Martha Steincamp, head counsel for Region VII. So it appears IT Analytical in some manner shared the facility. IT even hired some of metaTRACE's employees, Steincamp concedes.

When the sign on the front door changed to Quanterra in 1994, IT Engineering conveniently moved in next door. Again, if this is not disturbing enough, state records show that Quanterra was dissolved in December 1994 for failure to file an annual report. Quanterra,in other words, doesn't even exist as a corporate fiction in the state.

IT created Quanterra in May 1994, when it merged IT Analytical with Enseco, an environmental test lab owned by Corning Inc. Originally, each company held a 50 percent stake in the joint subsidiary. IT's share of the lab has since decreased to 19 percent, following a $20 million buyout by Corning in January. The change in the percentage of ownership, however, did not take place until after critical stack-emissions tests were conducted in November. The results of those tests were published in January. Quanterra's name appears on the title page of that report.

Despite the lab's obvious role in the stack tests and its connections to IT, Bob Feild -- the EPA project manager at Times Beach -- denied knowledge of Quanterra's participation at last week's meeting in Frontenac. Under questioning by Mick Harrison, an attorney for the Citizens Against Dioxin Incineration (CADI), Feild stated: "I'm not aware of any involvement that they (Quanterra) had in the chain of custody."

Feild's denial contradicts documents provided to the RFT by the Region VII office last Friday. The documents show a representative of Quanterra signed over stack-emissions samples to an employee of Triangle Laboratories of Durham, N.C. Triangle was charged with analyzing the samples.Nevertheless, a lapse of seven to eight days existed between the time the samples were collected and the point when Quanterra handed them over to the other lab. Environmentalists familiar with the case say the time lapse could invalidate the tests results, if the samples were not stored and handled properly.

In a phone interview on Monday, Feild dismissed all of these issues as inconsequential. Feild argued that it is standard procedure for the incinerator operator to collect test samples. He claimed all aspects of the tests were overseen properly by the EPA and that safeguards prohibited any kind of manipulation of the findings. "We haven't done any research as to the current status of a company called Quanterra," Feild says. "It doesn't really matter if IT themselves did the work or if they paid a partially owned subsidiary to do the work. The contractual relationship between the operator and Syntex is really not pertinent here. It's not our concern, and we certainly don't have that information. We don't know who Quanterra is under direct contract with."

The RFT filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the EPA on this matter last Friday. In a letter to EPA regional administrator Dennis Grams last week, Rep. Talent, whose district includes Times Beach, requested "all chain of custody documents for all stack samples collected during the dioxin stack test, which took place in November of 1995." A spokesperson for Talent could not be reached for comment. Spokespersons for IT, Quanterra and Corning did not return calls placed to them.

An official at the EPA's Criminal Investigations Division in Kansas City would not confirm or deny whether an inquiry had been initiated into the matter.

This latest controversy follows an announcement in July that the completion date for the incineration has been pushed back to early next year because an estimated 70 tons of additional contaminated dirt will need to be burned.

Since initiating operations in March, the incinerator has been plagued by a series of emergency releases that have spewed unknown quantities of untreated dioxin-contaminated particulate matter into the atmosphere.

The EPA's own dioxin draft reassessment concludes that dioxin is a likely human carcinogen and is responsible for reproductive and immunological problems. EPA research further indicates that everyone is already overexposed to the toxin, and incineration is one of the sources of the pollution.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Unearthing a Bit of Toxic History 

The fight over the Bliss-Ellisville dioxin sites is heating back up after a long hiatus. For more dioxin-related stories check out The Times Beach Chronicle

Riverfront Times (Missouri)
EPA Administrator Bob Feild

June 23, 1999, Wednesday

Developing Controversy

Suburban builders plan to construct dozens of pricey houses on former hazardous-waste sites

by C.D. Stelzer

The rugged land has resisted development for a long time, so a rural atmosphere still clings to these verdant hills, despite the encroachment of affluent subdivisions on the remaining ridgetop farms. But it would be wrong to think that nature has only now come under attack in this part of West St. Louis County.

Just off Strecker Road, in the gully washes that feed into Caulks Creek, the first of thousands of barrels of toxic waste were discovered nearly 19 years ago. The initial unearthing of the contaminated caches led one state environmental official to say at the time, "People move out here to escape pollution. This is where you find it, though."

Eventually several hazardous-waste sites would be identified in the area by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The federal agency would refer to them collectively as the "Bliss-Ellisville" site.

The first half of the name refers to Russell M. Bliss, the waste hauler responsible for dumping the pollutants. Bliss' son still lives on a Strecker Road property once owned by his father, from which the EPA only a few years ago finally removed more than 900 truckloads of dioxin-contaminated dirt in addition to an estimated 1,500-2,000 barrels of toxic chemicals. The haul included drums laden with cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

The second half of the site's name is something of a misnomer, because the locations of the Bliss farm and the other hazardous-waste sites are all outside the Ellisville municipal limits. Nowadays, much to its chagrin, all of this tainted history falls under the jurisdiction of the city of Wildwood, which was incorporated in 1995.

Wildwood residents originally voted to approve the creation of the municipality to control development, thereby ensuring that greenspace would be preserved. Now the fledgling city faces a dilemma: Two developers are asking for zoning variances so that they can wedge dozens of high-priced houses on either side of Strecker Road -- on parcels of land that were once part of the Bliss-Ellisville hazardous-waste site. The next meeting on the issue is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 6, at Wildwood City Hall, 16962 Manchester Rd.

The requests to develop these two properties have dredged up a litany of questions that have never been adequately answered by EPA officials or by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Those same officials are now siding with the developers, claiming that the once highly contaminated land is no longer a threat to human health, that it is now safe enough for backyard swingsets and tomato patches.

If the city allows W.J. Byrne Builders Inc. to build Strecker Forest, 31 houses will be constructed on the 18.5-acre tract. As things stand, Byrne Builders holds an option to buy the land from its current owners, Gerald and Patricia Primm. The couple's property is adjacent to the Bliss farm. An early EPA investigation found portions of the Primm property and three other adjacent parcels to be contaminated.

On the other side of the road, at 210 Strecker Rd., developer Larry Wurm of James Properties Inc. is proposing to build Wildwood Ridge, an 11-home development on 7.6 acres of land now owned by Jean Callahan. Her husband, Grover Callahan, worked as a truck driver for the Bliss Waste Oil Co. in the early 1970s. Before Times Beach -- the most notorious of the sites contaminated by Bliss -- became a household word, the EPA had already rated the Callahan property one of the most contaminated hazardous-waste sites in the nation. Although the state hastened to dispose of hundreds of barrels at the Callahan site in the early 1980s, the EPA did not close its case on the property until last September.

Wildwood currently zones the Strecker Road properties as "nonurban," which requires a minimum lot size of 3 acres. When considering deviations from the existing zoning code, the city takes into account several factors, such as the availability of utility services, topography and road conditions, but nothing on the municipal books deals with building houses on top of former hazardous-waste sites.

"It's a difficult position for the city," says Joe Vujnich, Wildwood's director of parks and planning. "We do not have the expertise that the U.S. EPA and Missouri Department of Natural Resources have. Obviously I have to depend upon them to do their job and hope that we do ours."

Among those who doubt the EPA's blanket endorsement is Tammy Shea, a Wildwood resident. "If they're going to develop the Callahan property, then we need to know exactly what took place there. The version that the developer presented to Wildwood is pretty vague about what happened," Shea says. "It's very confusing, the fact that they've kind of lumped these properties together yet dealt with them differently. Why were they in such a hurry to clean up the Callahan site? They were in there in 1981, pulling out barrels and treating them differently from the rest of the waste. They didn't take the barrels from the Bliss farm until 1996, when the incinerator was here. So why were they in such a rush to get the barrels off the Callahan property?" asks Shea.

As for developer Wurm, he believes the Callahan property has been cleaned up, but he's counting on the findings of state and federal regulators to protect him against any future liability.

"It's no problem. It's clean as a whistle," says Wurm of the Callahan property. "It's clean as a whistle," he repeats. "Look at the record of decision. I've got letters from EPA and DNR also stating that everything is cool on the property." But Wurm says he doesn't want to discuss the project in detail, fearing his plans will be misrepresented. "When I talked with the (St. Louis) Post-Dispatch, I got misquoted. It was an abortion. So I'll just let the record of decision stand for itself, OK? Tom What's-his-face at the Post-Dispatch, he didn't have time. He didn't want to look at all this shit. And blah, blah, blah. You got to do your homework on these pieces, otherwise you're wasting your time.

"Nothing against journalists -- some of them are my best friends," Wurm adds.

Wurm is referring to Tom Uhlenbrock, who first reported the Wildwood development plans in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on June 11. Asked about Wurm's criticism, Uhlenbrock says the developer was "bent out of shape because he wanted the article to say that the Callahan property never had any dioxin or Russell Bliss on it." Uhlenbrock said he was unable to confirm whether dioxin had been found on the site or whether there was a Bliss connection to the property.

In 1994, the Post-Dispatch reported a dispute involving homebuyers in Turnberry Place subdivision, which abuts the Bliss farm. The buyers said they signed sales contracts without being told by their real-estate agents that their new homes were adjacent to a hazardous-waste site. Seven families sued the responsible Realtor, and they were awarded a cumulative settlement of more than $500,000. If the city approves their respective developments, Wurm and Byrne hope to avoid this legal pitfall by having buyers sign a disclosure form saying that they were told in advance of the land's history.

The full history of the Callahan site and the others in the Caulks Creek watershed remains something of an enigma. Contacted by phone last Friday at EPA headquarters in Kansas City, Martha Steincamp, regional counsel for the EPA, could not provide details on the Bliss-Ellisville cleanups and referred all questions on the matter to Bob Feild, the agency's project manager. Feild did not return phone calls.

From publicly released EPA documents, this much is known: In the winter of 1981-1982, the DNR and EPA excavated more than 1,200 barrels of toxic waste from the Callahan property. The cleanup crew immediately sent 592 drums to a landfill in Wright City, Mo., but more than 600 barrels were stored on-site, along with 500 cubic yards of soil. The EPA removed the remaining barrels in July 1983. The agency then backfilled the hole with the same soil that had been stored at the site. A Post-Dispatch story dated April 4, 1983, describes the 500 cubic yards of soil stored at the Callahan site as being "contaminated."

A later EPA inspection showed that the land had subsequently subsided and would require stabilization. Despite evidence of erosion, the EPA's investigation concluded that the "fill area of the Callahan subsite was not contaminated (and) that the original objectives of the remedial action had either been achieved through natural processes, or were no longer considered necessary due to the preference expressed by the site owner."

Aside from groundwater contamination, the most serious threat to human health posed by the contamination at the Callahan site was airborne migration, according to the EPA. It would be better to err on the side of safety, says Shea, than risk exposing people to more hazardous waste by digging foundations on the Callahan property and inadvertently excavating a heretofore undetected layer of toxic waste. "I believe that the whole area there is littered with contamination pockets," she says. "Sometimes it's just best to leave well enough alone."

Shea is being dismissed as an alarmist. Wildwood city officials have questioned her credentials, and she says a real-estate agent recently criticized the motives behind her activism. In both instances, the allegations were not based so much on environmental concerns as they were on the bottom line.

"I guess Wildwood is just going to have to look at it from a credibility standpoint," says Shea. "What I'm going to ask is that they provide the citizens with some level of accountability, because we certainly aren't getting it from the EPA and we shouldn't have to depend on the developer to provide it."

By the EPA's count, the Bliss-Ellisville site contained at least seven separate waste-disposal locations. Sewer workers discovered the first batch of barrels on the property of the Rosalie Investment Co., near the intersection of Strecker and Clayton roads, in July 1980. The Callahan dump was discovered in August of that year.

Callahan started working for Bliss in the early 1970s, which would have been around the same time Bliss started hauling hazardous waste. After the discovery of the waste a decade later, Callahan testified in St. Louis County Circuit Court that he had used a lift truck to dump drums of waste, which Bliss had picked up at local industries, on the Callahan property. DNR officials described the location of the dump as a ravine, filled 15 feet deep with rusty barrels.

Three parties -- Jean Callahan, Kisco Co. and Bliss -- refused to pay for the cleanup. By 1982, the Missouri attorney general's office had entered negotiations with two other firms, American Can and GK Technologies. Ultimately, the state accepted $94,000 in 1988 as its part of a $660,000 settlement with several companies, a fraction of the estimated overall cleanup cost.

The biggest fish appears to have either slipped off or broken the line, however. In September 1980, Gov. Joseph P. Teasdale wrote a letter to Monsanto chairman John W. Hanley, requesting that the St. Louis-based chemical company pay for the cleanup. In his bid for re-election that year, Teasdale also made a campaign stop at the Bliss-Ellisville site to again ask for Monsanto's assistance. This time Teasdale made the plea with the TV news cameras rolling. Monsanto refused to consider the governor's appeal, even though before a federal ban on the chemical the company had been the sole producer of PCBs in North America.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bush Sings, National Press Corps Yuks it Up, While the Country Goes to Hell 

Michael J. Garcia: The Bush Lackey Behind the Spitzer Sting 


It's important to understand that whoever leaked word of Spitzer's tryst to the New York Times broke the law because it's against the law to reveal information on an ongoing criminal investigation. One of the most likely sources is the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York -- Michael J. Garcia.

In March 2003 President Bush appointed Michael J. Garcia as the Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and he was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in November 2003. Assistant Secretary Garcia led the second largest investigative agency in the Federal Government with over 20,000 employees, including 6,000 investigators, and a budget of more than $4 billion. The ICE mission is to secure the homeland through enforcement of immigration and customs laws and by protecting U.S. commercial aviation and federal facilities. ...

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Meanwhile in Iraq ... 

Los Angeles Times, March 17:

BAGHDAD -- A female suicide bomber killed 36 people and a roadside bomb claimed the lives of two U.S. soldiers today as U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and Republican Sen. John McCain sought to draw attention to successes in Iraq on separate visits to the country. ...

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Spitzer Bust Tied to Bank Bailout, says Palast 

gregpalast.com, March 14:

While New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was paying an ‘escort’ $4,300 in a hotel room in Washington, just down the road, George Bush’s new Federal Reserve Board Chairman, Ben Bernanke, was secretly handing over $200 billion in a tryst with mortgage bank industry speculators.

Both acts were wanton, wicked and lewd. But there’s a BIG difference. The Governor was using his own checkbook. Bush’s man Bernanke was using ours. ...

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bicycle Hell 

To gain access to the Forest Park bicycle path at Hi-Pointe in St. Louis, cyclists must cross a exit ramp to Interstate 64/Highway 40 that has no warning signs or other saftey features to alert drivers.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dave's Old Truck 

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Through the Glass Darkly 

At right, Irving Brown, American labor leader and CIA spy.

CD Stelzer peers into the CIA’s murky operations and finds ‘Old Europe’ ain’t what it used to be

Former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld set the stage for the conflict in January 2003. Vexed by Germany and France’s opposition to United States plans to invade Iraq, Rumsfeld labeled the two nations as ‘Old Europe.’

‘Germany has been a problem and France has been a problem,’ Rumsfeld told Washington’s foreign press corps. ‘But you look at vast numbers of other countries in Europe, they’re not with France and Germany. … They’re with the US. You’re thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don’t. I think that’s old Europe.’

The comment led to a diplomatic war of words and pointed to the growing rift between America and its longstanding allies. Three years and hundreds of billions of dollars later, mounting domestic opposition to the war in Iraq forced Rumsfeld to resign under pressure. The administration of George W Bush now finds itself politically eviscerated, mired by escalating violence in Iraq and weakened diplomatically elsewhere abroad.

In ‘Old Europe,’ opposition to US foreign policy has moved from words to action.

German prosecutors in Munich issued arrest warrants in February for 13 Central Intelligence Agency agents for the alleged kidnapping of Khaled el-Masri, a Lebanese-born German citizen. Munich prosecutors are basing their case on evidence provided by authorities in Spain, Italy and the European Union. The German charges preceded by about a week those issued in Italy against more than two dozen CIA operatives for the alleged abduction of Hasan Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, from Milan in February 2003. The Italian trial is scheduled to begin in June. The kidnappings are part of a covert CIA programme of ‘extraordinary renditions’ in which terrorist suspects are illegally nabbed and flown to undisclosed locations for interrogations. In both cases crewmembers of Aero Contractors, a CIA-connected company based in North Carolina, are named as participants. According to the charges, Aero employees transported el-Masri to Egypt and Omar to Afghanistan, where they were allegedly tortured.

A report approved by the European parliament in mid-February accused the governments of Ireland, Britain, Germany, Italy, Poland and other European Union states of permitting the CIA flights to operate within their borders. Base on a 12-month investigation, the report found that Ireland allowed 147 CIA flights to use Irish airports. In addition, European investigators concluded that nine CIA kidnap victims passed through Ireland on their way to so-called ‘black sites,’ where torture was allegedly used to gain information. The report says the Government’s acceptance of US diplomatic assurances failed to protect human rights as obligated under the law. It also criticised Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern for withholding some information to the committee investigating the CIA flights.

As evidenced by the indictments and EU report, the CIA continues to operate in much of Europe. Some activities are apparently conducted in plain sight, more overt than covert. In Northern Ireland, for instance, the three-member Independent Monitoring Commission, which oversees demilitarisation of loyalist and republican factions, includes Richard J. Kerr, a retired deputy director of the CIA. Despite his espionage background, the involvement of a former top American spy doesn’t seem to raise any eyebrows in Dublin or Belfast.

Overall, however, the CIA’s current involvement in internal European affairs pales in comparison to the Cold War era.

The defeat of Nazi Germany by allied forces in 1945 set the stage for a power struggle between victors, with Britain and the US on one side and the Soviet Union on the other. In July 1947, fearing that Western European governments would fall under the influence of Soviet communism, the United States implemented a multi-billion-dollar foreign aid package – the European Recovery Plan – more commonly known as the Marshall Plan. The four-year programme, named after then-US Secretary of State George Marshall, is credited with leading the way for economic recovery in much of postwar Western Europe.

A few months later, US President Harry S Truman made another decision that would have lasting impact. He signed the National Security Act of 1947, creating the CIA.

In the autumn of 1947, the nascent intelligence agency would set a course of action that would be repeated dozens of times in years to come. To further US foreign policy objectives, the CIA would employ various proxies, including criminals, to infiltrate and ultimately subvert political parties, labor unions and other organizations. Politicians would be bought. Elections thrown. Coups engineered. Murders carried out. All in the name of democracy and freedom.

It all started in Marseilles, France.

In October 1947, the conservative mayor of Marseilles hiked public transit fares, sparking outrage among downtrodden workers. Fueled by the frustrations of postwar poverty, a Socialist-Communist coalition mounted a boycott of the city’s trams. Political tensions escalated for the next month, culminating in the events of November 12, when mass protests erupted. That afternoon Communist city councilmen were attacked at a city council meeting. In the evening, the violence spread. Gunfire wounded several demonstrators, killing one. The suspects in both the beatings and shootings were political allies of the mayor, members of the Corsican gangs that ruled the Marseilles underworld.

Brothers Antoine and Barthélemy Guerini, Marseilles leading Corsican gangsters, were arrested for the shootings, but within days charges were dropped, after police witnesses inexplicable recanted testimony. Meanwhile, Marseilles’ unions went on strike, which pushed the Confédération Génerale du Travail (CGT), France’s leftist labor affiliation, to follow suit nationwide. Millions of workers walked off the job in industries throughout France.

Marseilles’ dockworkers represented the most militant of the strikers. Their closing of the port of Marseilles threatened to derail the Marshall Plan. Moreover, in the eyes of Washington policy wonks, the French labor strife smacked of Soviet subversion. To stem the perceived red tide, the CIA called upon two leaders of the American labor movement to act in its behalf.

The CIA’s chief labor assets were Jay Lovestone of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and his top lieutenant Irving Brown. Over the next decades, the two men would use their respective positions in the international labor movement to clandestinely manipulate trade unions throughout the world.

For his part, Lovestone had perfect credentials: he helped found the Communist Party in the US. His long association with Local 22 of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union provided further cover. In 1929, Lovestone and the Lovestonites, as his minions came to be known, severed ties with Moscow following an ideological dispute the previous year. By 1944, Lovestone had shucked his communist ties altogether and moved up the bureaucratic ladder to head the AFL’s rabidly anti-communist Free Trade Union Committee (FTUC), the organization’s international arm.

Marching in lockstep with Lovestone’s political reversal, Brown moved the FTUC in the same direction in Europe. To counter the 1947 general strike in France, he devised a strategy of splitting the left by pitting the socialists and communist against each other. With the cooperation of Lovestone, Brown used money diverted from the US garment workers to set up Force Ouvrière, a non-communist union in France. After Brown installed Leon Jouhaux, a French socialist as its leader, the union broke with the communist-led CGT federation. When American union dollars dried up, Brown tapped the CIA for funding.

Losing little time, the agency funneled an estimated $1 million into the French Socialist Party, allowing it leadership to orchestrate a successful campaign against the strikers. CIA largesse bought cooperation of politicians such as Marseilles Socialist Gaston Defferre and Socialist Interior Minister Jules Moch. As a result, the latter official purged communist sympathisers from the ranks of law enforcement and then sanctioned savage police attacks on the picket lines.

More importantly, the CIA helped forge a lasting alliance between the Marseilles Socialist Party and the city’s Corsican gangsters. With money and arms supplied by CIA operatives, the Corsicans harassed communist union officials, and assaulted and murdered rank-and-file unionists. Overwhelmed by the reaction, the CGT called off the strike on Dec. 9. The CIA’s arranged marriage of Marseilles’ Socialists and the Corsican underworld endured for the next 25 years.

In 1950, the CIA sealed the bond by calling on Marseilles’ Socialists and their Corsican enforcers to once more do its bidding. In January of that year, Marseilles’ dockworkers, the vanguard of French labor, ordered a selective boycott of American military cargoes bound for the French colonial war in Indochina. The CGT endorsed the boycott a month later and the shutdown quickly spread to other sectors of French industry.

To crush the labor stoppage, the CIA channeled $2 million through the US government’s Office of Policy Coordination. Brown, the CIA’s European labor asset, used some of the money to furnish Corsican strongman Pierre Ferri-Pisani with Italian strikebreakers. By mid-April the dockworkers strike had been broken.

Due to their strong-armed support of the strikebreakers, the Guerinis’ political fortunes improved immediately. Having first aided Marseilles Socialist Gaston Defferre during the resistance movement, the two brothers had now established a secure footing in his postwar municipal government. Mayor Defferre and the local Socialist Party would employ Guerini bodyguards and campaign workers for the next 17 years.

The CIA nurtured partnership also wrought unintended financial benefits for the Marseilles underworld. With the waterfront now under its domination, the Guerinis and other Corsican outfits found themselves free to pursue their most profitable venture – heroin trafficking. Within months of breaking the dockworkers strike, the port of Marseilles began manufacturing and exporting large quantities of heroin to the United States, according to the Politics of Heroin by Alfred W. McCoy. At its zenith in 1965, the US Federal Bureau of Narcotics estimated that Corsican syndicates operated as many as 24 heroin-processing plants in or around Marseilles. French traffickers smuggled nearly five tonnes of pure heroin into America that year, according to the bureau. As a consequence, US heroin addiction skyrocketed.

The French connection relied on a steady supply of raw materials: opium from Turkey and morphine from Lebanon. Once refined, heroin shipments often traveled a circuitous sea route, entering the US either through Cuba or Canada. With their political connections at home, the Guerini brothers’ had literally found a safe harbour. But for the far-flung enterprise to succeed, it needed a well-established wholesale buyer.

The American Mafia filled that role.

Honouring a request by the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), the state of New York in 1946 granted Salvatore C. ‘Lucky’ Luciano an early parole under the condition that he be deported to Sicily. The unusual clemency was based on his supposed wartime cooperation. During his incarcertion, the ONI conducted extensive interviews with the notorious Mafia chief. With his criminal partner Meyer Lansky acting as a liaison, Luciano provided leads that, according to the Navy, helped secure New York harbor and also prepare the allies for the invasion of Sicily.

After he arrived in postwar Sicily, Luciano’s innate entrepreneurial spirit led him into the narcotics trade. He swiftly cornered the market by diverting legally produced heroin, manufactured by Shiapareilli, an Italian pharmaceutical company, to the United States. When that scheme collapsed, Luciano turned to the Corsican syndicates in Marseilles, including the Guerini brothers. Lansky again acted as the Mafia don’s emininence grise, hashing out an agreement in 1951 soon after the CIA had crowned the Guerini brothers overlords of Marseilles’ waterfront. Lansky, the American mob’s financial wizard, then went to Switzerland to set up untraceable bank accounts through which to launder the drug proceeds.

The French connection, at least the Guerinis control over it, fell apart in 1967, when a gang war claimed the life of Antoine and led to the imprisonment of Barthélemy. That same year, the United States belatedly bankrolled a crackdown on Turkish opium production.

By then, however, other Corsican traffickers had begun to shift their interests to Southeast Asia, where US troops, coincidentally, had replaced French forces. Not surprisingly, the CIA would also play a prominent part there, too. In 1973, press accounts alleged that Air America, the CIA’s proprietary airline, had participated in heroin smuggling in connection to the agency’s secret war in Laos.

In modern day Europe, 60 years after the fall of Nazi Germany, the Cold War is a fading memory, but the CIA continues its misdeeds on the continent. Only the names and faces of the enemy have changed. The communist ‘menace’ of the former Soviet Union has been replaced by the so-called ‘war on terror.’

In this new era, though, the agency no longer commands the dominant position it once did. Across the breath of Europe there has been an undeniable shift in public perception and political power. Italy, Germany and other European Union states are now demanding respect for their individual sovereignty and adherence to the rule of law. Despite this, the US is not expected to approve the extradition of the CIA agents wanted for kidnapping. The accused may, nevertheless, be tried in absentia, setting the stage for a spectacle that would further damage America’s tarnished reputation abroad.

When it comes to ‘Old Europe,’ the US may have better served its geo-political interests if it had chosen to honour its elders.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

To Be or Not to Bee 

Illinois Times, April 26:
Illinois scientists search for the reasons bees are dropping like flies

The first reported disappearances came late last year in Florida. By January, investigators had determined that millions of individuals had gone missing, leaving few if any clues as to why. The bizarre phenomenon has prompted a nationwide scientific inquiry. In late March, a congressional subcommittee held a hearing on the matter.

As the quiet debate over the issue continues in the halls of government and university laboratories, the body count has risen with each passing day. Authorities in more than two dozen states have now verified similar cases. Disappearances have also occurred recently across Canada and Europe.

If it were happening to a larger species, the plight of Apis mellifera would likely have spurred greater public outcry. Instead, the mass annihilation has stayed mostly under the radar. But the dire situation has raised concerns among some scientists who are struggling to understand it.

“We don’t actually know what the cause of the problem is in honeybees,” says May R. Berenbaum, an entomologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, “but one possibility is pesticide overload.” The scientist cautions that there are many other possible causes. ...

[read more]

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Every Picture Tells a Story: Steven Spielberg, Norman Rockwell, and the MLK Assassination 

More than 30 years after its theft, a Norman Rockwell painting stolen from a St. Louis art gallery was discovered earlier this year in the possession of Hollywood director Steven Spielberg. On its surface, it's an intriguing story. The details make it even more so. But nobody at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, made the effort to even look up the background information that 's available through the newspaper's own archives.

If anyone on the Post's staff had done so, they would have discovered that the missing Rockwell painting shared an interesting link to a couple of long unsolved local mysteries.

Instead, the newspaper chose to publish a wire service story on the recovered artwork, which was buried at the bottom of page 21A of its Saturday, March 3 edition.

That story reported Spielberg notified the FBI in California, after he recently became aware that the painting, "Russian Schoolroom," had been stolen before he purchased it. The filmmaker said he acquired the painting from a legitimate dealer in 1989. The Rockwell piece had been taken more than a decade earlier in a late-night burglary of a suburban St. Louis art gallery in late June 1973.

At the time, the painting was valued at between $20,000 to $25,000. Today, it is estimated to be worth $700,000. According to a FBI web site, the painting surfaced at an auction in New Orleans in October 1989. At that time, the FBI says that the painting was associated with Circle Galleries of Chicago and the Danenburg Gallery of New York. At the time of its theft in 1973, the painting had been purchased by St. Louisan Bert C. Elam.

The wire service story that ran in today's Post included some of this information. But old newspaper clips dating back to the 1970s, from the archives of the now-defunct St. Louis Globe-Democrat, as well as the Post-Dispatch, provide a fuller picture.

The painting was snatched late on a Sunday night or in the early morning hours of Monday June 24-25, 1973 from Arts International Ltd., 8113 Maryland Ave., Clayton, Mo. The out-of-town owner of the gallery, identified in today's wire service story as the aforementioned Circle Fine Art of Chicago, had arranged for the Rockwell painting to be exhibited here as part of a showing of other works by the same artist. The burglar or burglars smashed plate glass doors at the entrance to the gallery, grabbing only the one painting and leaving other Rockwell works of lesser value.

The Globe-Democrat quoted the late Marjorie Pond, the gallery's director, as saying: "That painting is known all over the country. There is no possible way they can unload that painting."

Despite its high-profile, however, the gallery director's prediction didn't prove true.

In 1978, Pond would be cited by the press again in another story having to do with stolen art from the same gallery. On Feb. 28 of that year, police raided the home of Russell Byers in the 9300 block of Frederic Court in Rock Hill, Mo., another St. Louis suburb. Law enforcement authorities seized suspected stolen artwork from Byers' residence -- including nine paintings by Norman Rockwell, according to a Globe-Democrat account. Months later, the Post-Dispatch reported that eight lithographs had been confiscated during the same raid. Those eight lithographs were also reported to have been stolen in 1976 from the same Clayton art gallery, Arts International Ltd.

The police had raided Byers' home because they suspected him of being the mastermind of one of two St. Louis Art Museum burglaries that occurred in early 1978. Investigators believed Byers had ordered the first burglary on Jan. 29 in which a valuable bronze by Frederick Remington and three other statuettes had been taken.

Two of the suspected burglars soon thereafter died violent deaths. A third burglary suspect refused to testify against Byers. Over the course of the next few months, the St. Louis police would recover all of the stolen art museum pieces. One suspect pleaded guilty in the case, but Byers managed to evade prosecution.

Byers, however, had also been charged with possessing the other stolen art from the 1976 Clayton art gallery heist. But those charges were dropped, too, on May 25, 1978, after Pond, the art gallery director, failed to appear in court to testify. Other witnesses who failed to appear on the same date included policemen who had searched Byers' home and found the stolen artwork.

Then Post-Dispatch reporter Sally Bixby Defty paraphrased Pond as saying that "that she did not appear because because she had been told that the case would be thrown out of court."

Just who told the art gallery director that the case would be thrown out of court is not made clear in Defty's story. This much is clear: Byers, a convicted felon and career criminal, walked. Prosecutors in St. Louis and St. Louis County gave him a free get of jail card.

Not long after all charges were dropped against Byers, he became a the star witness in the 1978 House Select Committee on Assassinations hearings into the murder of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. That summer, Byers would testify that he received a $50,000 offer to kill King from two St. Louis businessmen, alleged racists, in late 1966 or early 1967. By the time of Byers' testimony, however, the two men, John R. Kauffmann and John H. Sutherland, were already dead.

Based on Byers' testimony, the HSCA concluded that James Earl Ray, King's alleged assassin, killed the civil rights leader as part of a St. Louis-based conspiracy. The conspiracy theory had been put together by congressional investigator Conrad "Pete" Baetz, a deputy on leave from the Madison County, Ill. sheriff's department.

Byers alleged knowledge of the assassination plot came to the attention of the FBI only after he became a suspect in the art museum burglary case in the winter of 1978. By no small coincidence, on March 19, 1978, less than three weeks after local police raided Byers' house, the FBI in St. Louis claimed that they found a misfiled report. The report -- dated March 1974 -- was based on information provided to the bureau field office by informant Richard O'Hara, a criminal associate of Byers. In the report, O'Hara claimed Byers had bragged about receiving the offer to kill King.

In 1992, as a reporter for the Riverfront Times, St. Louis' alternative weekly, I asked Baetz about Byers' involvement in the St. Louis Art Museum burglaries of 1978. Baetz said he never knew that Byers had been a suspect in the case.

The former congressional investigator's expressed ignorance, can lead to only three conclusions: Baetz's memory is bad or his investigative skills are worse or he lied.

Perhaps the new Democratically-controlled Congress should consider investigating its own 1978 inquiry into the assassination of King.

But I wouldn't bet on it.

[read more]

Thursday, January 25, 2007

On the Right Track 

The Washington power shift begins to pay off for Amtrak, but the railroad still has far to go

Illinois Times, Jan. 25:

by C.D. Stelzer

Tuesday, 9:18 a.m.: The train arrives at the Alton station on time, and a mother, cradling her baby, boards. Once seated, she pounds on the window. The clamor interrupts an elderly couple’s card game and wakes the man across the aisle. On the platform below, grandma waves goodbye.

Welcome aboard the northbound Texas Eagle, one of five Amtrak passenger trains that now offer daily service between St. Louis and Chicago. Since departing St. Louis 45 minutes earlier, the Eagle has lumbered by rusty steel mills and oil refineries that parallel the Mississippi River. From here, the train gathers speed across the Illinois prairie, flashing by furrowed farm fields, grain elevators, and orchards on its way to Springfield. In an hour, it arrives in the capital city.
The sound of the baby crying is free. The cost of the trip: $12.

More than 3 million travelers bought Amtrak tickets to or from Illinois destinations last year, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. The agency estimates that monthly ridership on state-sponsored trains on the Chicago-St. Louis runs grew by nearly 50 percent between November 2005 and November 2006. That increase is due to the $24 million appropriated by the Illinois Legislature, which doubled the state’s allocation last year. The added money funded two more daily trains on the route. It also increased service on other downstate routes by adding one train between Chicago and Quincy and another between Chicago and Carbondale.

Under a bipartisan proposal put forward last week in the U.S. Senate, Illinois passenger rail service may continue to surge. ...

[read more]

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Plane Truth 

Island can be ordered from Small World Media, Knocknaquirk, Magheramore, Co Wicklow, or by emailing islandeditorial@googlemail.com or ringing Robert on 087 955 1504.
Subscriptions are €40 for 4 issues, postage and packaging inclusive.
Individual copies are €9.95 plus postage and packaging. Cheques are payable to Small World Media

Island (Ireland), Winter 2006/2007

CD Stelzer investigates the secret role of freight airlines under contract to the US military and asks why they are allowed to refuel at civilian airports all over the world

On three successive nights in early August 2006, members of the Trident Ploughshares raided Prestwick Airport in Scotland. After breaching security fences with wire cutters, the anti-war activists observed US Air Force transport planes on the tarmac and in a nearby service hangar. In two instances, they brazenly boarded military aircraft, rummaging through their interiors before being arrested.

The activists suspected the Americans of using the airport as part of an operation to resupply Israel with deadly munitions. They did not find the evidence they sought, but news of their arrests stirred a controversy in the United Kingdom. The ensuing debate over airport security among other issues overshadowed what the protesters had discovered.

At Prestwick, the ‘citizen inspectors’, as they call themselves, observed Atlas Air and Polar Air Cargo planes mixed in with the military aircraft. The same company — Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings of Purchase, New York, owns the two commercial transporters. Both are registered as private businesses, offering a wide range of services to civilian customers.

Both companies are also part of the Civilian Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) — an arm of the United States Air Force. Frequent use of Prestwick by CRAF carriers is one reason the assorted scofflaws gave for committing their acts of civil disobedience.
The activists say they knew about the suspicious activities of these particular air cargo companies because their Irish counterparts at Shannon Airport, so-called ‘plane spotters’ had long reported on them.

Despite the clamour of anti-war protesters on both sides of the Irish Sea, few details concerning these US military-sponsored flights have been released.

To date, officials in Ireland and the United Kingdom have remained mostly reticent, failing to acknowledge any impropriety with respect to the US military’s use of civilian air facilities.

When asked directly, a spokesperson for the US Air Force Air Mobility Command (AMC) at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois refused to divulge whether CRAF planes specifically carry weapons, preferring instead to generically refer to all cargoes as Defence Department ‘freight’.

The AMC spokesperson also denied that CRAF planes are engaged in any intelligence-related activities, contradicting a 1996 Defense Department regulation that allows ‘classified material up to and including Secret [to] be transmitted outside the United States’ on board CRAF aircraft.
A spokesperson for the Atlas Air Worldwide declined to comment, as well, saying only that ‘as a matter of corporate policy, we do not publicly comment on our customers, their cargo, routes or schedules’.

There is no doubt, however, that CRAF planes are hauling weapons. In a recent letter obtained by ISLAND through Senator David Norris’ office, Minister for Transport Martin Cullen cited five instances in which Polar Air Cargo flights had been granted exemptions by the Government to fly weapons or munitions through Irish air space. In September, the US Defence Department allocated another $2.3 billion to the CRAF programme for the next fiscal year. Teams of American civilian airlines bid on these lucrative military contracts.

This year, as in the past, Atlas and Polar teamed up with Federal Express, which scored a contract valued at between $185 million and $1 billion — nearly half of CRAF’s current budget. The Pentagon implemented the CRAF programme in 1991, during the first Gulf War. But doling out military air support work to the private sector goes back even further.

The US defence establishment started employing commercial airlines several decades ago, a habit that has had the side effect of blurring the line between civilian and military aviation. More important, it creates a gray area used to finance US covert operations. A close look at a company once closely affiliated with Polar Air Cargo is a good way of shedding some light on this murky netherworld....

A revised version of this story was published in Illinois Times in November.

[read more]

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

"Don't Take Me to Your Leader 

Chicago Tribune, Jan. 1:

by Jon Hilkevitch

The databases of various UFO-watching groups are full of accounts filed by pilots about sightings of unknown aircraft and anomalies that affected navigational equipment onboard planes.

Whether any of the UFO incidents are real or merely the result of individual perceptions, some experts say the events pose a potential safety risk to pilots and their passengers.

"There have been documented cases where safety appears to have been implicated, and more and more we are coming to the point of view that we are dealing with an intelligent phenomenon," said Richard Haines, science director at the National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena, a private agency.

"We must be proactive before an aircraft goes down," said Haines, a former chief of the Space Human Factors Office at NASA's Ames Research Center.

Haines is investigating the O'Hare incident. He said he has determined that no weather balloons were launched in the vicinity of O'Hare on Nov. 7.

"It's absurd that the military would be conducting aerial test flights" near the airport, Haines said.

All the witnesses to the O'Hare event, who included at least several pilots, said they are certain based on the disc's appearance and flight characteristics that it was not an airplane, helicopter, weather balloon or any other craft known to man.

United denies UFO report

They're not sure what was hanging out for several minutes in the restricted airspace, but they are upset that no one in power has taken the matter seriously.

A United spokeswoman said there is no record of the UFO report. She said United officials do not recall discussion of any such incident.

"There's nothing in the duty manager log, which is used to report unusual incidents," said United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy. "I checked around. There's no record of anything."

The pilots of the United plane being directed back from Gate C17 also were notified by United personnel of the sighting, and one of the pilots reportedly opened a windscreen in the cockpit to get a better view of the object estimated to be hovering 1,500 feet above the ground.

The object was seen to suddenly accelerate straight up through the solid overcast skies, which the FAA reported had 1,900-foot cloud ceilings at the time.

"It was like somebody punched a hole in the sky," said one United employee.

Witnesses said they had a hard time visually tracking the object as it streaked through the dense clouds.

It left behind an open hole of clear air in the cloud layer, the witnesses said, adding that the hole disappeared within a few minutes.

The United employees interviewed by the Tribune spoke on condition of anonymity.

Some said they were interviewed by United officials and instructed to write reports and draw pictures of what they observed, and that they were advised by United officials to refrain from speaking about what they saw.

Federal agency backtracks

Like United, the FAA originally told the Tribune that it had no information on the alleged UFO sighting. But the federal agency quickly reversed its position after the newspaper filed a Freedom of Information Act request.

An internal FAA review of air-traffic communications tapes, a step toward complying with the Tribune request, turned up the call by the United supervisor to an FAA manager in the airport tower, Cory said.

Cory said the weather might have factored into what the witnesses thought they saw.

"Our theory on this is that it was a weather phenomenon," she said. "That night was a perfect atmospheric condition in terms of low [cloud] ceiling and a lot of airport lights. When the lights shine up into the clouds, sometimes you can see funny things. That's our take on it."

Some joke, others research

The databases of various UFO-watching groups are full of accounts filed by pilots about sightings of unknown aircraft and anomalies that affected navigational equipment onboard planes.

Whether any of the UFO incidents are real or merely the result of individual perceptions, some experts say the events pose a potential safety risk to pilots and their passengers.

"There have been documented cases where safety appears to have been implicated, and more and more we are coming to the point of view that we are dealing with an intelligent phenomenon," said Richard Haines, science director at the National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena, a private agency.

"We must be proactive before an aircraft goes down," said Haines, a former chief of the Space Human Factors Office at NASA's Ames Research Center.

Haines is investigating the O'Hare incident. He said he has determined that no weather balloons were launched in the vicinity of O'Hare on Nov. 7.

"It's absurd that the military would be conducting aerial test flights" near the airport, Haines said.

All the witnesses to the O'Hare event, who included at least several pilots, said they are certain based on the disc's appearance and flight characteristics that it was not an airplane, helicopter, weather balloon or any other craft known to man.

United denies UFO report

They're not sure what was hanging out for several minutes in the restricted airspace, but they are upset that no one in power has taken the matter seriously.

A United spokeswoman said there is no record of the UFO report. She said United officials do not recall discussion of any such incident.

"There's nothing in the duty manager log, which is used to report unusual incidents," said United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy. "I checked around. There's no record of anything."

The pilots of the United plane being directed back from Gate C17 also were notified by United personnel of the sighting, and one of the pilots reportedly opened a windscreen in the cockpit to get a better view of the object estimated to be hovering 1,500 feet above the ground.

The object was seen to suddenly accelerate straight up through the solid overcast skies, which the FAA reported had 1,900-foot cloud ceilings at the time.

"It was like somebody punched a hole in the sky," said one United employee.

Witnesses said they had a hard time visually tracking the object as it streaked through the dense clouds.

It left behind an open hole of clear air in the cloud layer, the witnesses said, adding that the hole disappeared within a few minutes.

The United employees interviewed by the Tribune spoke on condition of anonymity.

Some said they were interviewed by United officials and instructed to write reports and draw pictures of what they observed, and that they were advised by United officials to refrain from speaking about what they saw.

Federal agency backtracks

Like United, the FAA originally told the Tribune that it had no information on the alleged UFO sighting. But the federal agency quickly reversed its position after the newspaper filed a Freedom of Information Act request.

An internal FAA review of air-traffic communications tapes, a step toward complying with the Tribune request, turned up the call by the United supervisor to an FAA manager in the airport tower, Cory said.

Cory said the weather might have factored into what the witnesses thought they saw.

"Our theory on this is that it was a weather phenomenon," she said. "That night was a perfect atmospheric condition in terms of low [cloud] ceiling and a lot of airport lights. When the lights shine up into the clouds, sometimes you can see funny things. That's our take on it."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Blue Christmas at June's Whorehouse, 1954 

St. Louis Globe-Democrat,June 20, 1955

Woman Tells of “Policemen’s Night” at Parlor Operated by Mrs. Lytz

About 20 police officers attended “Policemen’s Night” Christmas parties that Mrs. June Alma Lytz, slain disorderly house operator, staged in June’s Bath and Massage Parlor at 308A North Theresa Ave., a woman aquaintance has told authorities.

The woman, who said she did not know the sort of place Mrs. Lytz was running, has told investigators the parties were given every year for three or four years prior to 1947.

She said the officers, some in uniform and some in plainclothes, were served ham, roast beef, potato salad, and other food and also drinks.

The officers, she said, came in groups of about five at different times, staying from half an hour to an hour. While they did drink, none got intoxicated, she added.

In the meantime, the Globe-Democrat learned the Circuit Attorney’s office,which is directing a grand jury investigation of reported payoffs to police by Mrs. Lytz, is conducting a search for several thousands dollars worth of jewelry Mrs. Lytz is reported to have owned but which is mysteriously missing.

The woman who told of the parties for police officers said she used to help Mrs. Lytz prepare the buffet meals. Asked how she knew the men in plainclothes were officers, she said Mrs. Lytz described the affair as “Policemen’s Night.”

The woman said she never saw Mrs. Lytz give any of the officers any money, but that Mrs. Lytz always escorted the officers past a small sideroom where there was a heap of wrapped Christmas presents. Whether the officers were given any presents the woman did not know.

Mrs. Lytz’ former husband, Werner Lytz, has told the Globe-Democrat Mrs. Lytz used to give Christmas cards with money in them to police officers.

The woman acquaitance said that among the officers were former patrolman Elmer Dolan and former Police Lt. Lou Shoulders, now serving federal prison sentences for perjury in connection with the missing Greenlease ransom money inquiry.

Asked how she remembered Shoulders and Dolan, she said they “stayed longer than any of the other officers.”

She also said Mrs. Lytz was an expert Christmas package wrapper and told her that some policemen used to c ome to her to have Christmas packages wrapped for their wives.

She further quoted Mrs. Lytz as saying that some officers used to come to her place upstairs on the corner of Theresa and Olive street, to watch the Veiled Prophet parade, when it formerly followed Olive street.

A second woman acquaintance of Mrs. Lytz has told of seeing more than 100 wrapped Christmas packages in Mrs. Lytz’ place two days before last Christmas. These were packages which were going out.

This woman also said there was a ham which Mrs. Lytz told her was to go to the “police station.” She quoted Mrs. Lytz as saying she had already sent some hams to the station, which was not identified by district.

Both women said Mrs. Lytz, at various times, had shown them numerous pieces of jewelry. According to the second woman, this included a large diamond ringwhich Mrs. Lytz said was an engagement ring from an out-of-town business man.

There also was a matched set consisting of a watch, ring, pin and necklace made of white gold mesh and diamonds. The second woman quoted Mrs. Lytz as saying she kept here “good jewelry in a box” except for a pair of earrings which she wore occasionally.

Hiding Place Sought

Investigators have searched Mrs. Lytz’ place for a possible hiding place for the jewelry and also are trying to find out if she had a safe deposit box anywhere.

The second woman said Mrs. Lytz told here she kept a list of her jewelry, but none has been found.

The Public Administrator’s office, which is handling Mrs. Lytz’ estate, said there was an assortment of jewelry turned over to it but that much of it was costume jewelry and the entire lot has been appraised at something over $500.

Mrs. Lytz was shot to death on the street Apr. 21 by a man who wounded two other women during a shooting spree. The shootings had nothing to do with the operation of Mrs. Lytz’ place.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Poisoning the Workers' Beer 

Blue collar radiation exposure lacks cachet for Fourth Estate

The media stir caused by the recent poisoning death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London recently has focused attention on Polonium-210, the radioactive isotope thought to have killed him. The chief suspect in the case is Russian President Vladimir Putin, who Litvinenko accused of orchestrating his assassination shortly before he died.

The story of Litvinenko's mysterious death has all the ingredients of a bestselling thriller worthy of Ian Fleming or Tom Clancy. The quantity of Polonium-210 used to kill the ex-spy was the size of a grain of sand. The poisoning has made headline worldwide. But the potential radioactive contamination of large volumes of beer at the Anheuser-Busch brewery in St. Louis in 1988 received far less scrutiny.

Polonium-210 was also the subject of concern in that case. Government inspectors determined that static air eliminators used on production lines at the brewery were found to be leaking the nuclear material for an unspecified length of time. But when the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the problem it downplayed the health risks to workers and consumers and misrepresented where the contamination took place.

Radioactive leaks also occurred at other St. Louis area companies, including McDonnell Douglas Corp., which sent some of its workers home after the leaks were discovered. 3M Corp. of Minneapolis produced the faulty devices that caused the hazard.

The Post-Dispatch first broached the subject on Saturday Feb. 6, 1988. In its initial story by staffers Peter Hernon and Theresa Tighe, the newspaper reported leaks in laboratories at McDonnell-Douglas. Three days later, a page one story by Christine Bertelsen reported on the radioactive contamination at Anheuser-Busch and elsewhere. The second paragraph of that story said: "Officials at Anheuser-Busch insisted that 'absolutely no health hazard existed.'" The story goes on to quote a brewery spokesman denying any risk: "There was no effect whatsoever on product quality. ... No plants were shut down."

Indeed, work continued uninterrupted at the brewery and unlike McDonnell-Douglas no workers at Anheuser-Busch were sent home or tested.

Bertelsen's story said that "areas contaminated with low-level emissions were cleaned last week." But the story gave no indication of where the leaks occurred. After the front-page coverage on Feb. 9, 1988, the story all but died in St. Louis. Three days later, on Feb. 12, 1988, then-Post reporter Joan Bray filed a story buried on page 4-C with the obituaries that reported further recalls of faulty 3M static air eliminators. Bray inaccurately reported that "laboratories where the devices were used at Anheuser-Busch ... have been decontaminated."

The faulty static air eliminators weren't used in laboratories, however. Instead, the devices were used in the production process to dust the inside of bottle caps before they were placed on the full bottles of beer coming out of the fillers.

Obviously, radioactive isotopes leaking at a point in the assembly lines where the filled beer bottles were capped posed a greater risk to consumers and workers then if the devices had merely leaked in laboratories. Whether the ceramic coating surrounding the radioactive pellets would lessen the risk of exposure wasn't cited.

I worked as a beer bottler at the Anheuser-Busch brewery in St. Louis in 1988. When I learned that the leaks occurred on the bottling units and not in laboratories as reported by the Post-Dispatch, I called reporter Christine Bertelsen and informed her.

She didn't follow up on my tip.

More than two years later, Bertelsen did, however, report that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was seeking to fine 3M $160,000 over the defective devices. Her story wrongly identified the radioactive isotope that had leaked out of the devices as "polonium-20."

In March 1988, the NRC denied my Freedom of Information request on the radioactive leaks at Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, but the Food and Drug Administration released a partially redacted report of its limited inspection.

The inspection was categorized by FDA as "limited" because it did not independently test all of the suspected devices but relied largely on information provided by the NRC and Anheuser-Busch. Moreover, by blacking out the unit numbers in its report the FDA made it difficult, if not impossible, to determine which batches of beer may have been contaminated. Nonetheless, it is clear from the report that more than one bottle unit had operated with faulty static air eliminators that spewed Polonium-210. The copy of the report indicates that the FDA uncovered another bottle unit had been contaminated, which was overlooked by the NRC and Anheuser-Busch.

The FDA report says that Knut Heise, then-associate general counsel for Anheuser-Busch, "admitted that a mistake was made," by the company when it failed to initially identify the other faulty device that leaked Polonium-210. Led by Anheuser-Busch quality assurance employees, the FDA reported that it took samples of the various brands of Anheuser-Busch products for testing. The results of those tests are not contained in the report.

St. Louis-based FDA investigators Robert E. Davis and Robert Nesselhauf signed the report dated Feb. 12, 1988. The random samples taken would only represented a small fraction of the beer that could have potentially been contaminated.
Cleaning crews washed the contaminated surfaces down with water and the walls and columns were repainted. Work went on as usual and beer continued to be bottled, packaged and shipped 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Since then, of course, many Anheuser-Busch employees have died of cancer, and ingesting or breathing Polonium-210 can cause cancer. But no epidemiological studies have ever been conducted to determine whether a correlation exists that would link the leaks to cancer clusters in the work place.

Looking back on it, it's almost like the radioactive incident at the St. Louis brewery in 1988 never happened. Almost.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

1988 FDA Report on Polonium-210 Leak at Anheuser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis 

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Just Another Poor Boy ... 

Off to Fight a Rich Man's War ...

Incestuous Amplification ... 

or believing your own propaganda ...

The Best War Ever! 

An interview with John Stauber.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Disappeared: Where Are They? 

New Statesman, Nov. 20:

by Stephen Grey

More than 7,000 prisoners have been captured in America's war on terror. Just 700 ended up in Guantanamo Bay. Between extraordinary rendition to foreign jails and disappearance into the CIA's "black sites", what happened to the rest? ...

[read more]

Thursday, November 23, 2006

US Military to Continue "Topping" Off Fuel Tanks at Shannon 

RTE (Irish Public Broadcasting), Nov. 23

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, has told the Dáil that the Government has no plans to reconsider its decision to allow the US military to use Shannon Airport.

[read more]

George W. Bush: "If you are not with us, you are with the terrorists." 

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Late Bloomer Robert Altman Dies 

Guardian, Nov. 21:

Robert Altman, arguably the most colourful and distinctive film-maker of his generation, has died in a hospital in Los Angeles, California. He was 81 years old.

A late bloomer, Altman was a middle-aged TV director when he took over the reins of 1969's Korean war satire MASH, reportedly after 17 other directors had turned it down. The movie tapped into a groundswell of opposition to the war in Vietnam and became a mammoth hit. It also established the director's genius for loose-limbed narratives and multi-tracked sound recording; a kind of controlled chaos that caught the mood of a culture in flux.

[read more]

Talking About a Revolution 

Monday, November 20, 2006

Reichstag Fire 

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Loose Change 

[read more]

Friday, November 17, 2006

Chimes of Freedom 

by Bob Dylan

Far between sundown's finish an' midnight's broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An' for each an' ev'ry underdog soldier in the night
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

In the city's melted furnace, unexpectedly we watched
With faces hidden while the walls were tightening
As the echo of the wedding bells before the blowin' rain
Dissolved into the bells of the lightning
Tolling for the rebel, tolling for the rake
Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned an' forsaked
Tolling for the outcast, burnin' constantly at stake
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Through the mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail
The sky cracked its poems in naked wonder
That the clinging of the church bells blew far into the breeze
Leaving only bells of lightning and its thunder
Striking for the gentle, striking for the kind
Striking for the guardians and protectors of the mind
An' the unpawned painter behind beyond his rightful time
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Through the wild cathedral evening the rain unraveled tales
For the disrobed faceless forms of no position
Tolling for the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts
All down in taken-for-granted situations
Tolling for the deaf an' blind, tolling for the mute
Tolling for the mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute
For the misdemeanor outlaw, chased an' cheated by pursuit
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Even though a cloud's white curtain in a far-off corner flashed
An' the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting
Electric light still struck like arrows, fired but for the ones
Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting
Tolling for the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail
For the lonesome-hearted lovers with too personal a tale
An' for each unharmful, gentle soul misplaced inside a jail
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Starry-eyed an' laughing as I recall when we were caught
Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended
As we listened one last time an' we watched with one last look
Spellbound an' swallowed 'til the tolling ended
Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an' worse
An' for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

"You Can't Swim Up Niagara Falls." 

a page from the late Danny Casolaro's Notes (click on pix to enlarge)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Another Day at the Library 

Student tasered at UCLA library on Tuesday night. Apparently, his papers weren't in order.


Illinois Times, Nov. 16:

Illinois senators noncommittal about the tarnished replacement for Rumsfeld

by C.D. Stelzer

The times, they are a-changin’ — or so it would appear at first glance.

Within hours of the Republican Party’s rout at the polls last week, President George W. Bush announced the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. At the same press conference, the president vowed to work with the newly elected Democratic majority in Congress. Both moves were seen as positive responses to voter dissatisfaction over the war in Iraq.

The air of bipartisanship now wafting from the White House may have a fishy smell, but Democrats, basking in their victory, don’t seem to mind the odor. Bush is already urging the Senate to fast-track confirmation of former CIA director Robert Gates to replace Rumsfeld — before the Democrats take control in January.

Neither of Illinois’ Democratic senators seems to want to slow that train down. ...

[read more]

Friday, November 10, 2006

St. Louis Got the Best of Me 

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

After Thump, Rummie Dumped 

With the Republicans taking a "thumping" in the mid-term congressional elections yesterday, the president fired Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The announcement of Rumsfeld's overdue departure came at the Bush's press conference early this afternoon, which is a single that his administration is finally bending to public opposition to the Iraq war. The president used the word "thumping" to describe the Republican Party's defeat, which included more than two dozen House seats and a half dozen senatorial contests.

The president prompted dispelled, however, any idea that real change would take place in his foreign policy by nominating Robert Gates, a former CIA director and Iran-Contra figure, to head the Pentagon.

God on His Side 

In the end you could see it in his eyes, the tone of his voice and the way he held himself: Republican Senator Jim Talent didn't want to win. He had resigned himself to defeat before Tuesday's upset.

The tip off came in the incumbent's last TV ads. Gone were the attacks on his oppenent, the shrill accusations, the crude allegation tarring his opponent Missouri State Auditor Claire McCaskill and her husband and family and their dog. Those ads, paid for by the national Republican Party, were straight out of the play book of Bush's Evil Brain, Karl Rove, and Talent had tired of cutting deals with the devil to retain power.

The bells are ringing outside in the Irish-American neighborhood in which I live here in this old Midwestern city on the banks of the Mississippi, and the sky at dawn has cleared after days of gloom. With the clearing, there is a palpable sense of relief, as if a curse had finally been broken. And it was in Talent's final campaign commercial that glimmer of hope first appeared, a harbinger of a change in the current of public life in Missouri and the nation.

He stands alone among a grove silver maples, their fall colors a brilliant yellow hue. Talent looks at the camera, his head slightly downcast, hands jammed in his pockets, dressed in a casual fall wardrobe that makes him appear like he is a model posing for a JC Penney catalouge. And like a model on a photo shoot, he stands rigid. The camera stays at mid distance, tentative in its approach, seemingly afraid to move closer. As he speaks in generalities about family values and Missouri's destiny, his voice is muted. There is no fire in his oratory. And that, of course, is how the ad was made to appear. But what also inadvertently comes out in the ad is Talent's longing to done with it all. He is a beaten man. He is beaten not so much by his opponent, but by his own allies and their misguided decisions to "stay the course" in Iraq.

When the boyish Jim Talent looked in the lens of the camera, the public saw a plea for help, a begging for forgiveness, and he was granted those requests on Tuesday. Jim Talent doesn't have to hang out with the wrong crowd anymore. He can take his ball and go home. He will no longer have to associate himself with the ilk who have lied to the American people repeatedly and brought shame on the country. The men and women who he has sent to Iraq to kill or be killed have not been given such an easy reprieve. They remain there today carrying out their duties as they did yesterday, and the day before, and last year and the year before that. Some of them returning to battle more than once, separated from their friends, families and loved ones.

Jim Talent has gone home. When will they?

McCaskill Invokes Truman in Victory Speech 

With a 85 percent of the Missouri precincts reporting and holding only a one percentage point lead, Missouri State Auditor Claire McCaskill, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, l declared victory at 1:00 a.m. Wednesday Nov. 8. Speaking before a partisan crowd in downtown St. Louis at the Renaissance Hotel, McCaskill, 53, invoked the memory of Missourian Harry S Truman, saying that the late president and senator would be proud of that the Democratic Party had reclaimede the senate seat he once held. Incumbent Republican Senator Jim Talent conceded minutes later.

The McCaskill victory in Missouri may swing the balance of power in both chambers of the Congress to the Democratic Party, after wins earlier Tuesday placed the Democrats in control of the House of Representatives.

The Democratic sweep is widely seen as a referendum against President George W. Bush and his policies, including the war in Iraq.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

911 Mysteries: Part I 

Monday, October 23, 2006

An American in Dublin 

Island magazine (Ireland), June 2006:

An expatriate speaks out against the war

Senator David Norris and Caitlin O'Rudhain on O'Connell Street in Dublin, Feburary 2006

When American Caitlin O’Rudhain arrived in Ireland three years ago, she longed for a respite from the militaristic atmosphere that grips the United States. Instead of a peaceful sanctuary, however, she touched down in what appeared to be a United States airbase.

‘I just wanted to kiss the earth and smoke a cigarette,’ says O’Rudhain, recounting her landing at Shannon Airport at 4:30 a.m. on 4 February 2003. ‘Then I went into the airport (terminal) and I was greeted by 1,500 US Marines. I mean you could have knocked me over with a feather. I was flabbergasted.

‘I thought I would be coming to a neutral country,’ she says. ‘I believed I was going to experience the ultimate getaway from it all. I had a lot of romantic notions about Ireland, neutrality being one of those romantic notions.’

O’Rudhain recalls being vaguely aware that Ireland provided support to the Bush administration’s so-called war on terror, but until that moment she hadn’t realized the extent of the cooperation.

Standing in a queue at the airport coffee stand that morning, she remembers striking up a conversation with a young female recruit who expressed doubts about the morality of her pending combat duty. The brief encounter left a lasting impression on O’Rudhain. Foremost, she realized that Ireland was not a haven from the global effects of US foreign policy -- it was a staging ground.

The US had already invaded Afghanistan by the time she arrived in Ireland and was set to do the same in Iraq. She has watched with alarm as the troop numbers passing through Shannon have more than doubled in the intervening years. By 2005, the annual total had leaped to more than 300,000. Moreover, Shannon is now known to be a refueling stop for covert US Central Intelligence Agency flights, which are now under investigation by various European nations and the Council of Europe. The so-called ‘extraordinary rendition’ missions reportedly involve the illegal abductions of terror suspects in Europe. The kidnapped suspects are then reputedly flown to countries often located in the Middle East that permit torture as part of the interrogation process.

Since moving to Ireland to join her husband Eamonn Ruane, an Irish citizen, O’Rudhain, a former Texan, has adopted a Gaelic name as a gesture of respect for Irish culture. But she exhibits little or no deference towards what she sees as the Government’s complicity in aiding US war crimes.

Within a month of her arrival, in March 2003, O’Rudhain says she began to take an active interest in the Irish anti-war movement. She attended protests in Dublin in advance of the American invasion of Iraq. Initially, however, the bulk of her involvement was limited to Internet exchanges, sharing information and commiserating with war opponents online. But last year, she came to the conclusion that wasn’t enough.

Her change in attitude started with a bit of innocent reconnaissance in her own backyard. She began observing the passing aircraft from the vantage point of her garden in County Wexford, wondering whether any of them might be American warplanes. If they were US military planes, O’Rudhain wondered whether they carried weapons of mass destruction or corpses of American soldiers. The thoughts disturbed her. She felt compelled to act.

‘I really decided that this just this wasn’t going to happen unless I did something. I really had to get up off derriere and into the streets. I really had to do it. I had spent almost two years sending photographs and information, posting on Indie Media wires, different forums, and still nothing was happening.

‘You expect someone else to do something with this information and make something happen,’ O’Rudhain says. ‘Finally you realize that that someone is me. If I don’t do it, nobody else is going to.’

Her epiphany came around the time that Ciaron O’Reilly, one of the Shannon Five, gave a talk in nearby Enniscorthy. The Catholic Worker and other members of the Pit Stop Ploughshares were charged in early 2003 with damaging a US Navy aeroplane at Shannon. O’Reilly’s words of resistance had the transformative impact of attending a religious revival or camp meeting, as it is known in the American South, says O’Rudhain. She had been inspired by the willingness of O’Reilly and other Irish activists to put their lives at risk for the cause.

As she speaks, O’Rudhain absent-mindedly touches the peace sign necklace that she wears, as if it is her rosary or worry beads. Seated in the small kitchen of her rented sexton’s cottage in rural County Wexford, she pauses to a sip Diet Coke from a glass on the table beside her, after folding a batch of pink bandanas.

The bandanas are O’Rudhain’s contribution to the improvised uniform of the Irish chapter of Code Pink, the group that sprang up to aid American anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey passed through Shannon shortly before his death in Iraq in April 2004. The name of the group is a satiric jab at the US Department of Homeland Security’s color-coded terror alarm system.

Last December, O’Rudhain arranged for Sheehan to meet with Senator David Norris, an outspoken Irish critic of US foreign policy.

O’Rudhain and Norris crossed paths while attending Irish anti-war rallies. An affinity developed between the two. Both share a devotion to Irish literature: Norris being a renowned James Joyce scholar and O’Rudhain a student of poet and playwright William Butler Yeats. They share something else in common, too: a desire for peace. O’Rudhain describes Norris as “one of the most passionate, eloquent spokespersons in the Irish Government against the use of Shannon or any Irish airport for the war on terror.’

Bringing Norris and Sheehan together seemed a natural fit to O’Rudhain. ‘Cindy came to prominence because (US President) George W. Bush would not meet with her,’ says O’Rudhain. ‘I thought here’s someone in the Irish Government who will meet with her. At that point, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the foreign minister had refused to meet with Cindy.’

Being an American protesting her own government’s foreign policies abroad has put O’Rudhain in a rather peculiar circumstance. The reaction she has received in Ireland to her anti-war activism has been at times both a blessing and a curse.

‘It really depends on the politics of the person you’re talking to, and also how the media is spinning it (the war) at the time. Sometimes it is very enthusiastic, and then there’s the negative (reactions), where they’re very suspicious of you,’ says O’Rudhain, who laughs off occasional accusations of being an American spy. ‘People think I’m CIA. That is so funny. I wonder who started that rumour?’ On a more serious note, she says: ‘It’s a difficult position to be an American in Ireland and be opposed to US foreign policy. You have to prove yourself.’

O’Rudhain is often asked quite bluntly why the American people have gone along with Bush’s policies and why he hasn’t been drummed out of from yet. ‘Then you find yourself in a position of trying to explain US constitutional law,’ she says.

On the other side of the argument, there are many Irish people who hold an allegiance to United States because of the two nations’ close historical ties. ‘This is the most pro-American country in Europe,’ O’Rudhain says. ‘The Irish seem to feel that they owe something to America. Americans sent a lot of money to Ireland after the famine. But it wasn’t the American government who was supporting them – it was Irish Americans.’

The rationale by Irish officials for supporting the US war in Iraq is equally dubious, according to O’Rudhain. ‘They’re afraid that if they oppose US foreign policy that the United States will pull its business from Ireland. But American businesses go where they’re going to make a profit. They don’t care about patriotism. During all of the French bashing, the United States corporations increased investments in France by 40 percent. They go where the money is. That’s what businesses do.’

Indeed, one of those opportunistic American businesses -- with current contractual ties to the Irish Department of Transportation -- is Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, the corporation formerly headed by US Vice President Dick Cheney. Texas-based KBR, the largest beneficiary of no-bid US military contracts in Iraq, has also been awarded multiple highway construction contracts in Ireland, including the controversial Dublin Port Tunnel project.

After driving by the tunnel construction site a few years ago and seeing evidence of KBR’s involvement in the project, O’Rudhain became further dismayed. ‘I thought why did I leave America? Why did I leave? I didn’t leave’. They say Israel is the 51st state. This must be the 52nd.’

O’Rudhain, who calls Bertie Ahern the ‘Teflon taoiseach,’ begrudgingly credits the Irish leader for his ability to sidestep issues, including the use of Shannon by the US military. But she still can’t fathom why the Irish electorate so readily accepts transparent manipulations of public opinion such as Ahern’s annual pilgrimage to the White House on St. Patrick’s Day.

‘Why does the prime minister of Ireland have to go pay tribute to the president of the United States? What if George Bush came over to Ireland on 4th of July,’ she asks, referring the American national holiday. ‘The Irish are being brainwashed. They think they’re being honored. It’s just awful.’

Despite her criticisms, O’Rudhain remains confident that the Irish people will recognise the errors of its Government and ultimately hold those responsible accountable. ‘If you speak to the average Irish person,’ she says, ‘they’re not in favor of torture, they’re not in favor of killing people.’

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