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Wednesday, Dec 07th

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9/11 FEMA videographer at Ground Zero goes public

As official videographer for the U.S. government, Kurt Sonnenfeld was detailed to Ground Zero on September 11, 2001, where he spent one month filming 29 tapes: “What I saw at certain moments and in certain places … is very disturbing!” He never handed them over to the authorities and has been persecuted ever since. Kurt Sonnenfeld lives in exile in Argentina, where he wrote « El Perseguido » (the persecuted). His recently-published book tells the story of his unending nightmare and drives another nail into the coffin of the government’s account of the 9/11 events. Below is an exclusive interview by Voltairenet.

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Israel won't let Gaza boy see his only parent

In protest over the complaint the United States dared to lodge against Israel over the plight of Gaza Strip residents, the Defense Ministry declared there is no humanitarian crisis there, nor did one ever exist.

According to the ministry's criteria for humanitarian cases, our American friends got a little carried away. For example, is the case of a 7-year-old Gazan who lost his mother and wants to rejoin his father, who lives in Hebron, to be considered a humanitarian case by the Defense Ministry? That's not a sure thing.

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Instead of Real Financial Reform, Obama’s Plan capitulates to Wall Street

It is supposed to be the Treasury’s role to represent the public interest. Unfortunately, appointing Treasury Secretaries from the ranks of Wall Street management – or giving Wall Street veto power over the nominee – undermines this mission. Elsewhere in what is supposed to be the regulatory system of public-private checks and balances, the simple tactic of underfunding the criminal justice system, the FBI, state and local prosecutors – or actively blocking them, as George Bush did – leaves the economy without adequate protection against financial fraud and predatory credit. Putting the Congressional financial committee heads up for sale to the highest campaign contributors caps the process of transforming economic democracy into oligarchy.

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US supreme court refuses to hear appeal by former CIA operative

A lawsuit by former CIA operative Valerie Plame against former Bush administration officials will not be revived by the US supreme court.

Last year a lower court tossed out the lawsuit filed by Plame and her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, which accused Dick Cheney and former top Bush officials of leaking Plame's identity to the media in 2003. Wilson and Plame argued the move violated their constitutional rights.

The US court of appeals said the lawsuit didn't meet legal standards for constitutional claims because part of the suit is based on alleged violations of the Privacy Act, a law that does not cover the president or the vice-president's offices.

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A Perfect Storm Could Shed Light On Secretive Energy Markets

When Olav Refvik wanted to boost the price of heating oil to make a lucrative energy deal even more lucrative, the Morgan Stanley trader locked up several storage tanks the bank owned near New York Harbor to squeeze supply. Far from being illegal, the maneuver -- which earned him millions and the moniker "King of New York Harbor" -- is business as usual in the "regulated" commodities market.

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Lawmakers press Obama on 'don't ask, don't tell'

Seventy-seven House members are urging President Obama to suspend the investigation and discharge of military personnel because of their sexual orientation.

“We urge you to exercise the maximum discretion legally possible in administering don't ask, don't tell until Congress repeals the law,” the lawmakers wrote to Obama on Monday.

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Military Officials Plead Guilty to Felony Charges Over Afghanistan Defense Contracts

Two U.S. military officials pleaded guilty to various bribery, fraud and conspiracy charges relating to Department of Defense (DOD) contracts in Afghanistan. A third military official pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property, which was obtained through the bribery conspiracy. In addition, four DOD contractors and four affiliated contracting companies were indicted for their roles in paying bribes to the military officials and otherwise defrauding the United States.

Christopher P. West, a U.S. Army Major from Chicago who served in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2005, pleaded guilty to charges contained in the superseding indictment including three counts of bribery and three counts of conspiracy. West admitted to accepting $90,000 cash from contractors in exchange for awarding DOD contracts at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

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Obama Closes Doors on Openness

As a senator, Barack Obama denounced the Bush administration for holding "secret energy meetings" with oil executives at the White House. But last week public-interest groups were dismayed when his own administration rejected a Freedom of Information Act request for Secret Service logs showing the identities of coal executives who had visited the White House to discuss Obama's "clean coal" policies. One reason: the disclosure of such records might impinge on privileged "presidential communications." The refusal, approved by White House counsel Greg Craig's office, is the latest in a series of cases in which Obama officials have opted against public disclosure. Since Obama pledged on his first day in office to usher in a "new era" of openness, "nothing has changed," says David -Sobel, a lawyer who litigates FOIA cases. "For a president who said he was going to bring unprecedented transparency to government, you would certainly expect more than the recycling of old Bush secrecy policies."

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Justices Allow Dumping of Gold-Mine Waste in Lake

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld a Bush-era permit to dump millions of tons of gold-mine tailings into Alaska's Lower Slate Lake, a move that even the government admits will wipe out the lake's fish and most other aquatic life.
     On a 6-3 vote, the high court determined that the Army Corps of Engineers - and not the Environmental Protection Agency - had the authority to issue the permits. The ruling overturns the 9th Circuit's decision to vacate the permits on the grounds that they violated the Clean Water Act.

TVNL Comment: Another Bush legacy.

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