July 2007


 

Islamabad: Federal Minister for Parliamentary affairs Sher Afgan Niazi yesterday indicated that President Pervez Musharraf could relinquish his military uniform any time and nominate another army general as Chief of the Army Staff.

In an exclusive interview to a private television news channel, Niazi said that the political deal reached between President Musharraf and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto would have long-term effects on national politics.

"The constitutional ban on Benazir Bhutto from being elected prime minister a third time can be removed within minutes on directions from President Musharraf because the PML(Q) and the PPP will jointly have a majority in both the Houses. If the clause against a prime minister seeking a third term is not removed, Benazir cannot contest elections because she had been declared ineligible under Section 63 of the constitution and the Supreme Court too had rejected her plea in this regard. Therefore, the understanding can help sort out her ineligibility," he said in response to a question.

Accent on moderates

In reply to another query, Niazi contended that the president’s election could not be challenged in any forum or court and reiterated that the head of state would be reelected by the current assemblies.

He insisted that the President could be elected even in the event of the opposition resigning en-masse or the provincial assemblies being dissolved.

"The understanding between the PPP and President Musharraf was facilitated by the US and the UK which wanted moderate forces in power in Pakistan," he added.

Confirming the deal, he said it had come about after 12 different interactions between the two parties. "The president had taken Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain into confidence before he left for the UAE for the meeting with Benazir."

Niazi said that the president himself would have no say in the constitution of the cabinet.

"No decision has been taken to remove Shaukat Aziz and make Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain the prime minister, but Hamid Nasir Chatta would be a better candidate for the post in an interim set-up," he said.

He also called on the Federal Minister for Law, the Attorney General and the Law Secretary to resign taking responsibility for the failed reference against the Chief Justice.

Source

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — A man who posed as a decorated Marine Corps captain for two years will tend graves at a military cemetery as part his sentence to serve 500 hours of community service, a federal judge ruled.

Reggie L. Buddle, 59, of Puyallup pleaded guilty in April to unlawful wearing of U.S. military medals and decorations. He told U.S. Magistrate Judge Kelly J. Arnold at his sentencing Monday that he was ashamed of his conduct.

Buddle never served in the Marines. He bought the uniform at a military surplus store, and the medals belonged to his brother, a Marine who died in Vietnam.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Friedman told the court in his sentencing memo that the publicity had been punishment. "Mr. Buddle has been appropriately made to answer before a great many people, and he has been shunned by a great many others," Friedman wrote.

Buddle posed as a Marine Corps captain in 2005 and 2006, wearing a uniform with medals intended as awards for extraordinary contribution to national defense and heroism in combat. He even gave the opening prayer for the Washington state Senate in 2006 and posed as a chaplain and reverend, including officiating at weddings and funerals of servicemen.

Buddle wasn’t ordained, however Friedman has said the marriages he presided over would still be lawfully recognized.

The judge said Monday that Buddle would serve his community service tending graves at the Tahoma Military Cemetery in Kent.

Source

Two 17-year-olds from Juárez were caught Sunday afternoon trying to enter the United States at the Paso del Norte Bridge with 50 pounds of cocaine in their car, Customs and Border Protection officials said.

CBP officers found 17 cocaine-filled bundles inside the 1990 BMW 325i driven by a 17-year-old boy. The boy and his 17-year-old female passenger were arrested. In other incidents, CBP officers seized 1,979 pounds of marijuana in 16 incidents between Friday and Sunday in the El Paso area.

Source

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U.S. Customs bridge inspector Mexican Margarita Crispin wore a protective vest Monday as she was escorted into federal court from the El Paso County Jail in Downtown El Paso. (Rudy Gutierrez / El Paso Times)

Mexican Customs officer doesn’t enter plea

The Customs and Border Protection officer arrested Friday morning on drug conspiracy charges had her initial appearance in U.S. District Court Monday afternoon.

Margarita Crispin, 32, was charged with conspiracy to import a controlled substance for allegedly allowing loads of marijuana to pass through her bridge lanes unchecked for the past four years.

If convicted, she faces between 10 years and life in prison.

According to the indictment, Crispin conspired with others to import more than 2,200 pounds of marijuana into the United States starting in 2003, shortly after she was hired as a bridge inspector.

Crispin was put on paid administrative leave by CBP while the case is pending.

Monday morning, she was taken from the El Paso County Jail to federal court where she was read the charges against her by U.S. District Judge Richard P. Mesa. She is scheduled to have a bond hearing Thursday, officials said. Crispin did not enter a plea on Monday but will during another court procedure.

The last El Paso bridge inspector to be indicted for turning a blind eye to drug shipments was Mexican Gerardo Diaz, a CBP officer who let a shipment of cocaine through the Zaragoza Bridge in 2004. He was sentenced to more than eight years in prison.

 Source

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LONDON (AP) – The man imprisoned for trying to blow up an American passenger jet with explosives hidden in his shoes says he has no regrets and trusts that God will set him free, according to a British newspaper.

"I had a couple of good dreams about my situation changing for the better …" Richard Reid reportedly wrote from prison, the Daily Mirror said Monday.

Reid is serving a life sentence at a maximum-security federal prison in Florence, Colo. after a 2001 attempt to blow up a Paris-Miami flight. He was subdued by passengers and crew as he attempted to ignite his sneakers.

The Mirror did not say when the letters were written or to whom they were sent, although Reid addresses his father, Robin, in some passages.

He asks his father whether he has been praying five times a day, and says his aunt could not have reached heaven if she died while believing in Christianity.

"What you wrote about Aunt Lynn being in a better place, you should know that while Allah is merciful and forgiving, this applies only to those who upheld His rights, at least at a basic level," the newspaper quotes him as writing.

The Mirror did not disclose how it obtained the letters, which came with an undated photograph of Reid sitting on a cot in a white prison uniform.

Source

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Mumbai: An Indian court jailed Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt for six years on Tuesday for acquiring illegal weapons from gangsters involved in India’s worst bombings that killed 257 people in 1993.

Dutt, 48, was cleared of conspiracy charges in the serial blasts in India’s financial capital of Mumbai, but was found guilty of unauthorised possession of an automatic rifle and a pistol.

"It was an eminently dangerous act," judge Pramod Kode said. "With the punishment of a minimum of five years and maximum of 10 years it can in no way be a minor offence or of a less grave nature."

Dutt’s trial has transfixed India and fans of Bollywood, the world’s largest film industry by ticket sales. He has millions of dollars riding on him in films under production.

The actor is the most high-profile among 100 people, mostly Muslims, found guilty in the bombings trial, one of the world’s longest-running court cases.

The 1993 Mumbai attacks were ordered by India’s most wanted man, Dawood Ibrahim, a Muslim, to avenge the razing of a 16th-century mosque by Hindu zealots in 1992 and subsequent Hindu-Muslim riots in India, police say.

Ibrahim and his top associates have not faced trial as they fled the country soon after the blasts, police say. Ibrahim is believed to be hiding in Pakistan, but the government in Islamabad denies this.

Dutt’s lawyers had urged that the actor, who found fame playing gangsters and anti-heroes, be set free for his good behaviour during his bail.

But the court rejected the argument.

Son of legendary film couple Sunil Dutt and Nargis, the heavy-set actor has been on bail since 1995 after more than a year in prison during initial investigations into the blasts.

He is expected to appeal.

Source

But please, call her Judith.

Via mediabistro:

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The September issue of Vanity Fair has an extensive takedown piece on Judith Giuliani authored by Judy Bachrach. Page Six said it described Giuliani as an "opportunistic, puppy-killing homewrecker who has a full-time hairstylist and needs an extra seat on plans for "Baby Louis," her Luis Vuitton handbag." Pretty brutal, but the article is even worse. Much worse than the relatively sympathetic profile of her in New York magazine. Highlights/lowlights after the jump:

  • From the first anniversary commemorations of 9/11: "Senator Hillary Clinton stood in the aisle—until she was unceremoniously pushed by a phalanx of four burly cops entering the tent, these guarding Judith Nathan, Giuliani’s girlfriend. No apologies were offered, one observer noted… "The nerve of that woman!" Hillary exploded, recalling that her own daughter’s Secret Service detail evaporated soon after Bill Clinton left office. Why should an ex-mayor’s girlfriend get such royal treatment? "Who does she think she is?" Hillary said to an observer, who later recounted the story."
  • Nursing school grad? Not really: "It seemed that she had gone to Pennsylvania State nursing school, as The New York Times once reported, but she had not. She completed two years of nursing school, but left hospital work before a year was up. Nonetheless, Giuliani has publicly referred to her "expertise" in "biological and chemical" disasters, and believes she would be a help in the event of an anthrax attack."
  • Cigar bar owner Elliot Cuker was asked to lie about how Judi met Giuliani: "Around a year ago, Cuker has told friends, he was pressed to back up a version worthy of a potential president and First Lady. Specifically, Cuker has confided, he was told to say it was he who formally introduced the couple at his restaurant. He pointedly refused. "It pissed Elliot off that he was asked to lie for them," says a friend, who adds that Giuliani and Cuker are no longer close."
  • At her first job, as a salesperson for U.S. Surgical, Judi Guiliani was trained to use dogs in medical demonstrations: "Every salesperson at U.S. Surgical was trained for six weeks with dogs at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, and that was really brutal," explains a former employee. "They spent days and days with dogs, taking out the spleen or stomach or the lobe of a lung. Then if the dog started moaning or fidgeted, whoever was closest would push more sedative into him from the syringe. It was horrible. Then the dog would be killed with potassium chloride.""
  • First husband Bruce Nathan claimed in divorce proceedings that she’s a bit of an anti-semite: "Pretty soon these friends heard the same stories that would eventually find their way into court papers: Bruce would claim that his wife called him "’a kike,’ when I couldn’t afford something; ‘a rich little kike,’ … ‘Jew boy.’" Certainly he felt they had entirely different ambitions. "Unlike my wife, I was not a social climber," he would later observe. "My wife’s ‘main goal’ in life was being involved with whatever was ‘the in-thing’ at the moment … the ‘right church’ … the ‘right people’; adopting a child for status purposes."
  • Diva-ish behavior? Totally: "An organizer of a recent fashion shoot received a call from one of Rudy’s business associates warning her to address his wife as Judith. According to this source, Judith became so smitten with the dress she was modeling "that she simply didn’t want to take it off. She didn’t offer to pay. She made it very clear she wanted it for free. You know how it is when someone stalls." Instead, says this source, Judith kept repeating a kind of mantra: "I’m a sample size, I’m a sample size."
  • She once endangered Rudy’s life: "In a massive Baden-Baden hotel suite five years ago, an observer tells me, a loud quarrel erupted when Judith pointedly denied one of her husband’s requests. She refused to remove her toiletries case from a bedroom reserved for a policeman, claiming it would be bothersome, since the case was already unpacked. In Mexico, I am told, at a time when security was very tight and armored S.U.V.’s were deemed necessary, she asked her husband to leave the car to retrieve a bag of health bars she had mislaid."
  • And, yes, there’s the handbag: "Around the office of Giuliani Partners, it is said, Sunny Mindel, Giuliani’s communications director, spoke of the need for providing an entire plane seat for Judith’s "Baby Louis"—a reference to her Louis Vuitton handbag, which sits in solitary splendor on her travels."
  • Iran on Monday expressed bewilderment at comments made by the French foreign minister over Tehran’s role in Lebanon, saying it feared the remarks showed a lack of understanding.
        French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner had said on Sunday that pressure had to be exerted on Iran and its main regional ally Syria to avoid a "war" breaking out in Lebanon.
        "We hope that his comments were not correctly translated. Because otherwise doubt would be cast over his realistic understanding of Lebanese affairs," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said.
        "Mr. Kouchner surely is aware that it is the Americans and some of their approaches that have become an obstacle in finding a solution and not any other sides," he said, according to the IRNA agency.
        Kouchner met the representatives of Lebanon’s feuding factions around the same table but made little apparent headway in resolving the deepening political crisis in the country.
        The resignation last November of six pro-Syrian ministers, five of them Shiite, sparked the current political standoff, the country’s worst since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.
        France has taken the lead in trying to resolve the crisis, gathering all the parties for a conference near Paris earlier this month and sending a top envoy to the region for consultations with all the key players.
        The Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria, leads the opposition to the Western-backed government in Beirut. Last summer, it fought a devastating 34-day war with Israel.
        Earlier this month, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Syria where he met with its chief Hassan Nasrallah. Ahmadinejad mocked Israel and called for Lebanese unity.
        Though the West accuses Iran of delivering arms to Hezbollah, Tehran maintains it merely offers moral support and aid for reconstruction efforts in southern Lebanon.
    Source

    In the continuing saga of the fight for First Amendment rights in the publicly-owned but privately-managed downtown Silver Spring, Montgomery County’s chief lawyer today released a strongly worded opinion making it clear that the new downtown development is public space and must be open to public expression, whether political, religious or the simple act of taking photographs.

    The opinion is clear from its first words: "Ellsworth Drive constitutes a public forum."

    In an elegantly reasoned and clear opinion, Assistnt County Attorney Nowelle Ghahhari reminds the Peterson Companies, the developers of the highly successful downtown project, that the land upon which their development sits is public and that the developer has the right only to close Ellsworth Drive to vehicular traffic from time to time, not pedestrian traffic. Citing court cases in which judges have defined public fora as “those places which ‘by long tradition or by government fiat have been devoted to assembly and debate’,” the opinion says that streets and sidewalks are clearly such public places.

    While it’s true that the land in Silver Spring is leased to a private entity, the sidewalks and street are clearly public, just as the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the sidewalks in front of its own buildings are obviously a public forum.

    In a Salt Lake City case in which the city sold to the Mormon church a portion of a downtown Main Street, which was then closed to vehicles and turned into a pedestrian plaza–a pretty good analogy to the Silver Spring situation–a federal appeals court ruled that the street nonetheless remained a public forum because “it forms part of the downtown pedestrian transportation grid, and it is open to the public” and therefore “shares many of the most important features of sidewalks that are traditional public fora.” That’s very much the case in Silver Spring.

    In the Silver Spring case, the county attorney writes, the streets, sidewalks and walkways "are not in anyway distinguishable from other, publicly owned streets, sidewalks or walkways; they form a part of both the vehicular and pedestrian transportation grids of downtown Silver Spring, and are not marked ‘private.’"

    And the county makes clear that it considers photography every bit as much a protected form of speech as political or religious speech.

    "The Developer must comport with the First Amendment in exercising its right to implement reasonable rules and regulations to maintain order and promote the safety, security and economic success of the property," the opinion concludes.

    No word yet from Peterson Companies as to whether they will drop their insistence on the right to decide which speech is ok in Silver Spring’s lively new center.

    Source

    Via the treasonous NYT:

    ELOY, Ariz. — For Bob Weier, a Hawaiian convicted of armed robbery, incarceration at the Red Rock Correctional Center on the outskirts of this dusty town is the latest stop in a far-flung and nomadic exile.

    Daniel Snyder for The New York Times

    States handle overcrowding by sending inmates to private prisons like Red Rock Correctional Facility.

    Since his imprisonment 12 years ago on Maui, Mr. Weier, 53, has served his sentence in prisons in Minnesota, Oklahoma and Arizona. He last saw his daughter 11 years ago and has five grandchildren he has never met.

    “To them, I’m just a voice who talks to them on the phone for a while,” said Mr. Weier, a heavyset man who expects to be released next year.

    Chronic prison overcrowding has corrections officials in Hawaii and at least seven other states looking increasingly across state lines for scarce prison beds, usually in prisons run by private companies. Facing a court mandate, California last week transferred 40 inmates to Mississippi and has plans for at least 8,000 to be sent out of state.

    The long-distance arrangements account for a small fraction of the country’s total prison population — about 10,000 inmates, federal officials estimate — but corrections officials in states with the most crowded prisons say the numbers are growing.

    One private prison company that houses inmates both in-state and out of state, the Corrections Corporation of America, announced last year that it would spend $213 million on construction and renovation projects for 5,000 prisoners by next year.

    “They find that their prison populations are at or beyond capacity and they have to relieve that capacity,” Tony Grande, the company’s president for state relations, said of states turning to private prisons. “They quickly turn to us and we have open prison capacity where we can accommodate growth.”

    About one-third of Hawaii’s 6,000 state inmates are held in private in Arizona, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Kentucky. Alabama has 1,300 prisoners in Louisiana. About 360 inmates from California, which has one of the nation’s most crowded prison systems, are in Arizona and Tennessee.

    But while the out-of-state transfers are helping states that have been unwilling, or too slow, to build enough prisons of their own, they have also raised concerns among some corrections officials about excessive prisoner churn, consistency among the private vendors and safety in some prisons.

    Moving inmates from prison to prison disrupts training and rehabilitation programs and puts stress on tenuous family bonds, corrections officials say, making it more difficult to break the cycle of inmates committing new crimes after their release.

    Several recidivism studies have found that convicts who keep in touch with family members through visits and phone privileges are less likely to violate their parole or commit new offenses. There have been no studies that focused specifically on out-of-state placements.

    Paige M. Harrison, a researcher for the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, said the out-of-state inmates faced problems familiar to the large number of in-state prisoners incarcerated hundreds of miles from their homes. A study in 1997 found that more than 60 percent of state inmates were held more than 100 miles from their last place of residence.

    “If you’re being held on the other side of Texas or California, you better believe that for many inmates, they’re beyond visitation,” Ms. Harrison said.

    The frequent moves can also have a disruptive effect on prisons, whether the transfers occur within a state or not, corrections officials said. In California, a federal court official overseeing a revamping of the prison medical system reported more than 170,000 prisoner moves within the state in the first three months of this year. The moves were found to be inhibiting the ability of inmates to receive health care and draining resources.

    In Arizona, where more than 2,000 inmates have been exported to prisons in Oklahoma and Indiana, corrections officials are struggling to provide consistent and effective programming for them, said Dora B. Schriro, the director of the Arizona Department of Corrections.

    “Having a long-term impact on public safety and recidivism is that much more challenging,” Ms. Schriro said of the arrangements.

    The number of inmates shipped out of Arizona would be even larger, but plans for additional transfers to Indiana had to be called off in April after 500 inmates from Arizona rioted at a privately run prison in New Castle, Ind., in part because of complaints about the long distance. Two correctional officers and five inmates were injured in the two-hour incident. Officials there assigned blame to poorly trained guards, many of whom were hired just days before the transfers.

    Skip to next paragraph

    David Sanders for The New York Times

    Dora B. Schriro, the state director of prisons, said sending inmates out of state, away from their families, made it harder to rehabilitate them.

    Ms. Schriro said the riot showed how desperate the situation had become. The state’s overcrowding worsened, she said, after two private prisons in Texas now run by the GEO Group, canceled Arizona’s contract and instead signed more lucrative deals with federal corrections agencies.

    “We started to add provisional beds in-state through double-bunking, converting several kitchens to bed space and making preparations to bring additional tents online,” Ms. Schriro said.

    Eli Coates, a 26-year-old inmate from Arizona serving 10 years for armed robbery, did time at six Arizona prisons and one in Oklahoma before arriving at the New Castle prison early this year. New Castle is managed by the GEO Group.

    Mr. Coates said his frequent moves had made it hard to complete educational programs that he hoped would help him get a steady job upon release.

    “I was on my way to being able to finish a college program and vocational programs to get a trade,” Mr. Coates said. “But they snatched me up from those opportunities, and here I have to start all over again.”

    Mr. Weier, the Hawaiian prisoner here in Arizona, said that each time he moved, he had to reapply for phone privileges, a process that can take six months. Even when he was allowed to call home, he said, he could not always afford the long-distance bills.

    “You lose your family identity,” said Mr. Weier. “And that’s not good, because when we go back into society — and more than 95 percent of us will — the only ones who are going to take care of you are your family.”

    Without big construction plans or radical sentencing reforms in the offing, Arizona will continue to rely on out-of-state alternatives. The state has some of the toughest sentencing laws in the country and an inmate population exceeding 37,000, or 127 percent of the state’s official prison capacity. Several public prisons are already surrounded by tent cities to accommodate the overflow.

    Adam Ramirez, 35, an inmate from Tucson serving six years for a parole violation, sat sweating recently in a 16-man tent at the 100-year-old Florence State Prison, about 15 miles northeast of Eloy in Florence, Ariz.

    “It’s always crowded in here,” said Mr. Ramirez, pointing to an empty bed next to his. “They sent that guy out to Oklahoma today and there will be somebody else here today or tomorrow.”

    Overcrowding has been a problem in prisons for decades, and the country’s prison and jail population has never been higher, rising 2.8 percent from July 2005 to July 2006 to reach 2,245,189, according to the most recent Bureau of Justice Statistics bulletin. A report by the Pew Charitable Trusts estimates that the prison population will grow by another 192,000 in the next five years.

    State corrections officials and prison industry executives say that prison companies are an attractive alternative when cash-strapped state governments need additional prison space faster than they can build it. Private prisons can also provide political cover to elected officials seeking to avoid charges of coddling criminals and spending large sums on prison construction.

    Alabama officials turned to the Corrections Corporation of American for space after a judge threatened to hold the overloaded state corrections department in contempt for failing to pick up inmates from county jails, said Mr. Grande, the company official. The company found out-of-state space for 1,500 inmates within 30 days. When hurricanes beset Florida in 2003, Mr. Grande said, the company found alternative prison space within 72 hours.

    But state governments often pay a premium for those spaces. The riot in Indiana in April came after Ms. Schriro, the Arizona corrections director, agreed to pay about $14 million a year to house 610 prisoners there. That is about $3 million more than the state would have paid for inmates at in-state public prisons, said a spokeswoman for Arizona corrections, Robin Wilkins.

    Ms. Schriro is moving forward with plans to expand prison space for Arizona prisoners locally and in private prisons in Oklahoma. But she expects the state prison population to exceed capacity by the time those expansion projects are complete.

     

    Los Angeles: Animal welfare officials are demanding that cats that have roamed Ernest Hemingway’s Florida home for decades be subject to laws that would require them to be locked up at night.

    Nearly 50 "free range" felines, some descendants of the author’s pet cat Snowball, have had the run of the Hemingway House and Museum in Key West for generations.

    The animals are fed organic cat food and visited regularly by a vet. The cats have long been part of the museum and petted by the 300,000 tourists who visit each year.

    Performance clause

    But now the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) wants to classify the cats as performers, akin to animals in a zoo or circus, and require the museum to obtain an animal exhibition licence.

    This would require staff to "protect" the cats from contact with visitors and lock them in cages after their daily "performance" ended when the house closed at 5pm, the Los Angeles Times reported.

    "Our cats do not do tricks. They don’t do flips and jump through hoops. They’re our pets," Jacque Sands, the manager of the museum, told the newspaper. "They own us. We don’t own them."

    Complaint

    The dispute originated with a complaint from two former members of the Florida Keys Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals who said the cat population of the house was excessive.

    They reported the museum to the USDA and a four-year legal battle ensued, pitting the museum against enforcers of the 1966 Animal Welfare Act.

    Michael Morawski, the museum’s chief executive, said he had been ordered to get a costly licence for the cats or face fines and also instructed to install an electric fence with a 15-foot mesh to stop the cats from getting out.

    "It’s absolutely ludicrous," he said. "Why does our 6-foot wall not count as containment?"

    Source

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