Friday, December 03, 2004

Jobless Claims Rise Sharper Than Expected

The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits jumped an unexpectedly large 25,000 last week, a government report showed on Thursday, while the number of longer-term unemployed fell to the lowest since April 2001.

Initial claims for state unemployment insurance aid rose to 349,000 in the Thanksgiving Day shortened week ended Nov. 27, from a revised 324,000 in the previous week, the Labor Department said.

Wall Street analysts had forecast a rise to 330,000 from the originally reported 323,000 in the week ended Nov. 20.

A Labor Department spokesman said no specific factors came into play to push the weekly claims higher, but noted it is not unusual for weekly numbers to experience some volatility during the holiday season beginning with Thanksgiving.

The closely watched four-week moving average, which smoothes weekly fluctuations to provided a clearer picture of underlying trends, also rose, climbing to 336,500 from a four-year low of 332,250 in the previous week.

The total number of people who remain on the benefit rolls after claiming an initial week of aid fell 20,000 to 2.72 million in the week ended Nov. 20, the latest week for which data are available, and to its lowest since April 2001.


"In times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act."
-- George Orwell, 1984

In a recent press conference, George Bush was asked if he had made any mistakes during his presidency. He couldn't come up with any off the top of his head. So here's a reminder

Thursday, December 02, 2004

CIA Was Wary of U.S. Interrogation Methods in Iraq

Report warning of possible abuses was sent to officials before Abu Ghraib photos surfaced.
CIA officers in Iraq were ordered to stay away from a U.S. military interrogation facility last year because agency officials questioned the way detainees were being interrogated, according to a December 2003 report on a secret special operations unit.
The report warning of possible abuses of Iraqi detainees in U.S. custody was sent to commanders in Iraq a month before the now infamous photographs of the Abu Ghraib prison emerged early this year, the Pentagon said Wednesday in confirming some of the findings.
The report by retired Army Col. Stuart A. Herrington - who visited Iraq in 2003 to assess U.S. intelligence gathering operations against Iraqi insurgents - warned that U.S. special operations troops and CIA operatives might be abusing Iraqi prisoners.
Herrington's report went up the chain of command to Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. commander in Iraq at the time, who ordered that the possible abuses be investigated, Pentagon officials said.
Pentagon officials could not say Wednesday what became of that investigation. The Herrington report was included as a classified attachment to a report released this summer by Maj. Gen. George R. Fay and Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Jones, who investigated the role of U.S. intelligence officials in Iraqi prisoner abuse. The contents of the attachment were first reported Wednesday by the Washington Post.
Herrington included a warning in the year-old report that Task Force 121- a secret unit made up of special operations troops and CIA paramilitary operatives - needed to be "reined in with respect to its treatment of detainees," according to a source familiar with the report.
The source said Herrington reported that the CIA had ordered its officers to steer clear of a detention facility being run by the military because of the way prisoners were being handled there.
Herrington wrote that one CIA official told him that the agency "had been directed not to have any contact" with the interrogation facility run by Task Force 121 "because practices there were in contravention" to agency rules on questioning detainees.
The source did not say whether the report detailed the practices.
Herrington's report also warned about the perils of a system in which the CIA was keeping detainees off prison records, largely so that they could be questioned before their detention was revealed publicly. The Fay-Jones report confirmed dozens of cases of so-called ghost detainees, whose detentions were kept secret.
The CIA inspector general's office is still investigating allegations of detainee abuses, a U.S. intelligence official said. Several cases involving the agency have been referred to the Justice Department, and one CIA operative has been charged in connection with the death of a prisoner held in CIA custody in Afghanistan.
The official said that "the CIA has worked closely with the Department of Defense to investigate possible cases of abuse whenever there are allegations."

Monday, November 29, 2004

Chapter 14,351 in the Chronicle of Bush's Failures: Pakistani soldiers abandon search for bin Laden

Pakistan will withdraw soldiers from tribal region considered hiding place for Al Qaeda leadership

The Pakistan army said today it will withdraw hundreds of troops from a tense tribal region near Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden and his top deputy were believed to be hiding.
The withdrawals from the South Waziristan area come after several military operations by thousands of troops against remnants of bin Laden's Al Qaeda organization and its supporters in recent months.

Although the tribal region is considered a possible hiding place for bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, a senior Pakistan general said earlier this month that no sign of bin Laden has been found.

Bin Laden, architect of the Sept. 11 attacks against the United States, has been on the run since U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, routing the Taliban rulers, who harbored Al Qaeda militants.

The army will remove checkpoints in Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, Lt. Gen. Safdar Hussain, the top general in northwestern Pakistan, said after meeting with tribal elders Friday.

He said the moves are "in return for the support of tribesmen in operations against foreign miscreants." Some troops will remain in the area, he said.

"We have been assured by tribal elders that they will not allow miscreants to hide in areas under their control," Hussain said.

Between 7,000 and 8,000 Pakistani forces were deployed in a three-pronged offensive in the eastern reaches of the rugged region this month. U.S. military forces remain largely on the Afghanistan side in hopes of capturing or killing any Al Qaeda operatives crossing the border.

Earlier this month, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Lance Smith, deputy commander of Central Command, said it was "essential that Pakistan military continue their operations" in the area, adding that Pakistan has made "very, very positive moves" against Al Qaeda and its supporters in the past six months.

Smith said Pakistan's military was so effective in pressuring Al Qaeda leaders hiding in the tribal region of western Pakistan that bin Laden and his top deputies no longer were able to direct terrorist operations.

At a news conference Friday, Hussain presented three captured Central Asians, including two teenage boys, alleged to be Islamic militants. He said the militants were using the youths to target military forces.

Pakistani officials have said hundreds of Arab and Central Asian militants suspected of links with Al Qaeda were hiding in South Waziristan, supported by sympathetic tribesmen.

Earlier, provincial Gov. Syed Iftikhar Hussain Shah said all "innocent people" rounded up from the tribal regions during the recent military operations will be released.

He asked tribesmen to give all possible help to the government in seizing foreign militants and tried to ease concerns that the government had been targeting any tribe.

"The misunderstanding between you and the government appeared when you gave refuge to some foreign elements, who were neither your friends nor well-wishers nor of the government," he said.