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Awlaqi latest victim of relentless US secret war October 1, 2011

October 1, 2011

by legitgov


Awlaqi latest victim of relentless US secret war –The White House refused to confirm reports that US CIA drone aircraft and other military assets had mounted the raid, keeping a veil of secrecy over US anti-terror operations. 01 Oct 2011 US-born Al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi is the latest American enemy wiped out by a furtive yet relentless and deadly [and illegal] assault on terror suspects on foreign soil pursued by President Barack Obama. The covert warfare, using military and CIA assets, drone strikes and other means has decimated Al-Qaeda’s senior leadership and seriously degraded its capacity to mount operations against the United States, top US officials say.

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CIA Provides List of ‘Gruesome’ Osama Bin Laden Death Photos September 29, 2011

September 28, 2011

by legitgov


CIA Provides List of ‘Gruesome’ Osama Bin Laden Death Photos 28 Sep 2011 The CIA has 52 separate photos and videos of Osama bin Laden’s body, the U.S. raid that ‘killed him,’ and his burial at sea, according to a Justice Department document filed earlier this week. A top CIA official argues that the government is “wholly exempt” from releasing the images, however, because publication might inspire terror attacks on U.S. targets. The image count came in response to a lawsuit by the conservative group Judicial Watch, which filed a Freedom of Information Act request on May 4. The Department of Justice responded with a declaration from John Bennett, director of the National Clandestine Service of the CIA, arguing that disclosure of the images is a security risk.

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Pakistan: mission impossible | Editorial

Our story that Save the Children flew eight expatriate aid workers out of Pakistan in July for fear that they could have been arrested by Inter-Services Intelligence is a classic example of a term the CIA itself invented: blowback. As we reported in July, the CIA organised a fake vaccination programme in Abbottabad in an attempt to obtain DNA from Osama bin Laden’s family to prove their target was definitely there.

The Pakistani doctor they used to mount the fake programme, Shakil Afridi, participated in two health-worker training courses run by Save the Children in 2008 and 2010. Under interrogation, Afridi said he told his wife he was working for Save the Children when he was working for the CIA. The ISI then turned their attentions to a major western aid organisation which has no connection either to the doctor or to the fake vaccination programme in Abbottabad, but which helped 7 million people in Pakistan last year, half of whom were caught up in the floods. It might be argued that the means justified the end, that the CIA had to make every effort to find out whether Bin Laden was in that compound, before the US raid. But it cannot be denied that the collateral damage of using aid workers as spies is enormous. Most of Save the Children’s workers – 2,000 of them in Pakistan – are locally hired staff doing brave work in war zones such as the Swat valley.

Using aid agencies as cover for intelligence operations is not only deeply cynical. It is dangerous. It endangers the lives of thousands of aid workers who cannot escape or be flown out of the country at a moment’s notice as the eight expats were. In Pakistan’s case, the anger generated by drone attacks and the CIA’s covert operations fills the coffers of the Taliban. When Imran Khan says that his is the “only country in history which keeps on getting bombed, through drone attacks, by our ally”, and that 35,000 people have been killed in a war that has nothing to do with them, he is surely expressing the feelings of more than just his party. It is hard to find a quicker way to subvert the good that aid does than to militarise it.

Caught between the Taliban and the CIA, international aid agencies in Pakistan are being asked to do an impossible job. They are working under incredible pressure. It is, however, also incumbent on them to jealously guard their independence and their neutrality, and not to be seen as another arm of western power. This is not just a matter of where they get their funds from. The gold standard in Pakistan is set by the ICRC and MSF, who have been battling with military authorities to gain access to war zones while operations are still being conducted. Aid agencies not only have to work on their terms. They have to be seen to be doing so.

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10 myths about Afghanistan September 28, 2011

1. Afghans have always beaten foreign armies, from Alexander the Great to modern times

Afghan history is certainly littered with occasions when foreign invaders were humiliated. But there have also been many cases when foreign armies penetrated the country and inflicted major defeats. In 330BC, Alexander the Great marched through the area of central Asia that is now Afghanistan, meeting little opposition. More than a millennium later, the Mongol leader Genghis Khan also brushed resistance aside.

  1. Ghosts of Afghanistan: Hard Truths and Foreign Myths

  2. by

    Jonathan Steele

  3. Buy it from the Guardian bookshop

Since Afghanistan emerged as a modern state, there have been three wars with Britain. The British invasion of 1839 produced initial victory for the intruders followed by stunning defeat followed by a second victory. In 1878, the British invaded again. Though they suffered a major defeat at Maiwand, their main army beat the Afghans. The British then re-drew the frontier of British India up to the Khyber Pass, and Afghanistan had to cede various frontier areas. In the Third Anglo-Afghan war, the fighting was launched by the Afghans. Amanullah Khan sent troops into British India in 1919. Within a month they were forced to retreat, in part because British planes bombed Kabul in one of the first displays of airpower in central Asia. The war ended in tactical victory for the British but their troop losses were twice those of the Afghans, suggesting the war was a strategic defeat. The British abandoned control of Afghan foreign policy at last.

The results of the three Anglo-Afghan wars undermine the claim that Afghans always defeat foreigners. What is true is that foreigners have always had a hard time occupying the country for long. The British came to understand that. From bitter experience they kept their interventions short, preferring domination over foreign affairs to the option of colonisation that they adopted in India.

2. The Soviet invasion led to a civil war and western aid for the Afghan resistance

Armed opposition to the government in Kabul long pre-dated the arrival of Soviet troops in December 1979. Every one of the Pakistan-based Afghan mujahideen leaders who became famous during the 1980s as the Peshawar Seven and were helped by the United States, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and China had gone into exile and taken up arms before December 1979, many of them years earlier. As Islamists, they opposed the secular and modernising tendencies of Daoud Khan, [the Afghan PM] who toppled his cousin, King Zahir Shah, in 1973.

Western backing for these rebels had also begun before Soviet troops arrived. It served western propaganda to say the Russians had no justification for entering Afghanistan in what the west called an aggressive land grab. In fact, US officials saw an advantage in the mujahedin rebellion which grew after a pro-Moscow government toppled Daoud in April 1978. In his memoirs, Robert Gates, then a CIA official and later defence secretary under Presidents Bush and Obama, recounts a staff meeting in March 1979 where CIA officials asked whether they should keep the mujahideen going, thereby “sucking the Soviets into a Vietnamese quagmire”. The meeting agreed to fund them to buy weapons.

3. The USSR suffered a massive military defeat in Afghanistan at the hands of the mujahideen

This is one of the most persistent myths of Afghan history. It has been trumpeted by every former mujahideen leader, from Osama bin Laden and Taliban commanders to the warlords in the current Afghan government. It is also accepted unthinkingly as part of the western narrative of the war. Some western politicians go so far as to say that the alleged Soviet defeat in Afghanistan helped to cause the collapse of the Soviet Union itself. On this they agree with Bin Laden and al-Qaida’s other leaders, who claim they destroyed one superpower and are on their way to destroying another.

The reality is the Afghan mujahideen did not defeat the Soviets on the battlefield. They won some important encounters, notably in the Panjshir valley, but lost others. In sum, neither side defeated the other. The Soviets could have remained in Afghanistan for several more years but they decided to leave when Gorbachev calculated that the war had become a stalemate and was no longer worth the high price in men, money and international prestige. In private, US officials came to the same conclusion about Soviet strength, although they only admitted it publicly later. Morton Abramowitz, who directed the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the time, said in 1997: “In 1985, there was a real concern that the [mujahideen] were losing, that they were sort of being diminished, falling apart. Losses were high and their impact on the Soviets was not great.”

4. The CIA’s supply of Stinger missiles to the mujahideen forced the Soviets out of Afghanistan

This myth of the 1980s was given new life by George Crile’s 2003 book Charlie Wilson’s War and the 2007 film of the same name, starring Tom Hanks as the loud-mouthed congressman from Texas. Both book and movie claim that Wilson turned the tide of the war by persuading Ronald Reagan to supply the mujahideen with shoulder-fired missiles that could shoot down helicopters. The Stingers certainly forced a shift in Soviet tactics. Helicopter crews switched their operations to night raids since the mujahideen had no night-vision equipment. Pilots made bombing runs at greater height, thereby diminishing the accuracy of the attacks, but the rate of Soviet and Afghan aircraft losses did not change significantly from what it was in the first six years of the war.

The Soviet decision to withdraw from Afghanistan was made in October 1985, several months before Stinger missiles entered Afghanistan in significant quantities in the autumn of 1986. None of the secret Politburo discussions that have since been declassified mentioned the Stingers or any other shift in mujahideen equipment as the reason for the policy change from indefinite occupation to preparations for retreat.

5. After the Soviets withdrew, the west walked away

One of the most common promises western politicians made after they toppled the Taliban in 2001 was that “this time” the west would not walk away, “as we did after the Russians pulled out”. Afghans were surprised to hear these promises. They remembered history in rather a different way. Far from forgetting about Afghanistan in February 1989, the US showed no let-up in its close involvement with the mujahideen. Washington blocked the Soviet-installed President Mohammad Najibullah’s offers of concessions and negotiations and continued to arm the rebels and jihadis in the hope they would quickly overthrow his Moscow-backed regime.

This was one of the most damaging periods in recent Afghan history when the west and Pakistan, along with mujahideen intransigence, undermined the best chance of ending the country’s civil war. The overall effect of these policies was to prolong and deepen Afghanistan’s destruction, as Charles Cogan, CIA director of operations for the Middle East and south Asia, 1979–1984, later recognised. “I question whether we should have continued on this momentum, this inertia of aiding the mujahideen after the Soviets had left. I think that was probably, in retrospect, a mistake,” he said.

6. The mujahideen overthrew Kabul’s regime and won a major victory over Moscow

The key factor that undermined Najibullah was an announcement made in Moscow in September 1991, shortly after a coup mounted against Gorbachev by Soviet hard-liners collapsed. His longtime rival, Boris Yeltsin, who headed the Russian government, emerged in a dominant position. Yeltsin was determined to cut back on the country’s international commitments and his government announced that from 1 January 1992, no more arms would be delivered to Kabul. Supplies of petrol, food and all other aid would also cease.

The decision was catastrophic for the morale of Najibullah’s supporters. The regime had survived the departure of Soviet troops for more than two years but now would truly be alone. So, in one of the great ironies of history, it was Moscow that toppled the Afghan government that Moscow had sacrificed so many lives to keep in place.

The dramatic policy switch became evident when Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, head of one of the mujahideen groups, was invited to Moscow in November 1991. In a statement after the meeting, Boris Pankin, the Soviet foreign minister, “confirmed the necessity for a complete transfer of state power to an interim Islamic government”. In today’s context, the announcement could be compared to an invitation by Hillary Clinton to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar to come to Washington and a declaration the US wanted power transferred from Karzai to the Taliban.

The move led to a wave of defections as several of Najibullah’s army commanders and political allies switched sides and joined the mujahideen. Najibullah’s army was not defeated. It just melted away.

7. The Taliban invited Osama bin Laden to use Afghanistan as a safe haven

Osama bin Laden got to know the mujahideen leaders during the anti-Soviet jihad after traveling to Peshawar in 1980. Two years later, his construction company built tunnels in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan that the CIA helped him to finance and which he was later to use to escape US bombing after 9/11.

He returned to Saudi Arabia, disillusioned with the Saudi royal family for collaborating with the US in the Gulf war against Saddam Hussein in 1990–1991. In Afghanistan, there was cause for disappointment too. The mujahideen’s incompetence was preventing them from toppling Najibullah. Bin Laden turned his attention to jihad against the west and moved to Sudan in 1992. After Sudan came under pressure to deport him in 1996, Bin Laden had to find somewhere else to live. Najibullah had finally lost power in Afghanistan, and Bin Laden decided it might be the best place after all.

His return in May 1996 was prompted less by a revival of interest in Afghan politics than by his need for a safe haven. His return was sponsored by the mujahideen leaders with whom he had become friendly during the anti-Soviet struggle. He flew to Jalalabad on a plane chartered by Rabbani’s government that also carried scores of Arab fighters.

It was only after the Taliban captured Jalalabad from the mujahideen that he was obliged to switch his allegiance or leave Afghanistan again. He chose the first option.

8. The Taliban were by far the worst government Afghanistan has ever had

A year after the Taliban seized power, I interviewed UN staff, foreign aid workers and Afghans in Kabul. The Taliban had softened their ban on girls’ education and were turning a blind eye to the expansion of informal “home schools” in which thousands of girls were being taught in private flats. The medical faculty was about to re-open for women to teach midwives, nurses, and doctors since women patients could not be treated by men. The ban on women working outside the home was also lifted for war widows and other needy women.

Afghans recalled the first curbs on liberty were imposed by the mujahideen before the Taliban. From 1992, cinemas were closed and TV films were shortened so as to remove any scene in which women and men walked or talked together, let alone touched each other. Women announcers were banned from TV.

The burqa was not compulsory, as it was to become under the Taliban, but all women had to wear the head-scarf, or hijab, unlike in the years of Soviet occupation and the Najibullah regime that followed. The mujahideen refused to allow women to attend the UN’s fourth world conference on women in Beijing in 1995. Crime was met with the harshest punishment. A wooden gallows was erected in a park near the main bazaar in Kabul where convicts were hanged in public. Above all, Afghans liked the security provided by the Taliban in contrast to the chaos between 1992 and 1996 when mujahideen groups fought over the capital, launching shells and rockets indiscriminately. Some 50,000 Kabulis were killed.

9. The Taliban are uniquely harsh oppressors of Afghan women

Afghanistan has a long history of honour killings and honour mutilation, going back before the Taliban period and continuing until today. They occur in every part of the country and are not confined to the culture of the Pashtun, the ethnic group from which most Taliban come.

Women are brutalised by a tribal custom for settling disputes known as baad, which treats young girls as voiceless commodities. They are offered in compensation to another family, often to an elderly man, for unpaid debts or if a member of that family has been killed by a relative of the girl.

On the wider issue of gender rights, the Taliban are rightly accused of relegating Afghan women to second-class citizenship. But to single the Taliban out as uniquely oppressive is not accurate. Violence against women has a long pedigree in all communities in Afghanistan, among the Shia Hazara and the northern Tajiks, as well as the Sunni Pashtun.

Underage marriage is common across Afghanistan, and among all ethnic groups. According to Unifem (the United Nations Development Fund for Women) and the Afghan independent human rights commission, 57% of Afghan marriages are child marriages – where one partner is under the age of 16. In a study of 200 underage wives, 40% had been married between the ages of 10 and 13, 32.5% at 14, and 27.5% at 15. In many communities, women are banned from leaving the house or family compound. This leads to a host of other disabilities. Women are not allowed to take jobs. Girls are prevented from going to school. In the minds of western politicians and the media, these prohibitions are often associated exclusively with the Taliban. Yet the forced isolation of women by keeping them confined is a deep-seated part of Afghan rural culture. It is also found in poorer parts of the major cities.

10. The Taliban have little popular support

In 2009, Britain’s Department for International Development commissioned an Afghan NGO to conduct surveys on how people compared the Taliban to the Afghan government. The results suggested Nato’s campaign to demonise the Taliban was no more effective than the Soviet effort to demonise the mujahedin.

One survey reported on Helmandis’ attitudes to justice systems. More than half the male respondents called the Taliban “completely trustworthy and fair”. The Taliban took money through taxes on farm crops and road tolls but did not demand bribes. According to the survey, “Most ordinary people associate the [national] government with practices and behaviours they dislike: the inability to provide security, dependence on foreign military, eradication of a basic livelihood crop (poppy), and as having a history of partisanship (the perceived preferential treatment of Northerners).”

Does the US understand why Afghans join the Taliban? Do Afghans understand why the US is in their country? Without clear answers, no counter-insurgency strategy can succeed. A 2009 survey commissioned by DFID in three key provinces asked what led people to join the Taliban. Out of 192 who responded, only 10 supported the government. The rest saw it as corrupt and partisan. Most supported the Taliban, at least what they called the “good Taliban”, defined as those who showed religious piety, attacked foreign forces but not Afghans and delivered justice quickly and fairly. They did not like Pakistani Taliban and Taliban linked to narcotics. Afghans did not like al-Qaida, but did not equate the Taliban with this Arab-led movement.

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Afghan worker kills US citizen in attack on CIA office September 27, 2011

An Afghan employed by the US government killed one American and wounded another in an attack on a CIA office in Kabul, officials said on Monday.

The shooting on Sunday evening is the latest in a growing number of attacks by Afghans working with the country’s international allies.

Some assailants have turned out to be Taliban sleeper agents, while others have been motivated by personal grievances.

Gunfire was first heard after 8pm local time around the former Ariana hotel, a building that ex-US intelligence officials said is the CIA station in Kabul.

The spy agency occupied the heavily secured building just blocks from the Afghan presidential palace in late 2001 after the US-led invasion that toppled the Taliban.

The US embassy said an Afghan employee of the complex shot dead an American citizen and wounded another before being killed.

“The motivation for the attack is still under investigation,” the embassy said.

Embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall declined to comment on what the targeted annexe was used for, citing security reasons.

Sundwall said the Afghan employee was not authorised to carry a weapon, and it was not clear how the man was able to get a gun into the secured compound.

The embassy did not provide information on the American who was killed, and said the person wounded in the shooting was taken to a military hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening. It said the embassy had resumed business operations.

The attack came less than two weeks after militants fired rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles at the US embassy, Nato headquarters and other buildings in Kabul, killing seven Afghans. No embassy or Nato staff members were hurt in the 20-hour assault.

But it plunged US-Pakistan relations to a new low as US officials accused Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency of supporting insurgents in planning and executing the 13 September attack.

Sunday’s assault also follows closely on last week’s assassination of former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was leading a government effort to broker peace with the Taliban.

He was killed when an insurgent who had claimed to be a peace emissary exploded a bomb hidden in his turban upon meeting Rabbani.

President Hamid Karzai called Rabbani’s death a “big loss” and said greater security measures should be taken to protect top Afghan figures, including religious clerics and tribal leaders.

A government spokesman said that the man who brought the suicide bomber to Kabul had been arrested.

Nato bases and embassies have ramped up security following attacks over the past year by Afghan security forces against their counterparts.

Since March 2009, the coalition has recorded at least 20 incidents where a member of the Afghan security forces or someone wearing a uniform used by them killed coalition forces. Thirty-six coalition troops have died. It is not known how many of the 282,000 members of the Afghan security forces were killed.

In December 2009, an al-Qaida double agent blew himself up at a CIA base in eastern Khost province, killing seven CIA employees. The attacker, a Jordanian man named Humam al-Balawi, had been brought into the base because he had claimed to be able to reach high-level al-Qaida leaders.

Meanwhile, political tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan continued to mount on Monday as the Afghan foreign ministry warned Pakistan that further artillery attacks in eastern Afghanistan could harm relations between the countries.

The Afghan government has said that an unknown number of civilians have been killed by the shelling coming from Pakistani territory in recent days. The attacks have allegedly destroyed several houses and mosques and displaced hundreds of people from their homes.

The foreign ministry quoted Mohammad Sadiq, Pakistan’s ambassador in Kabul, as saying that the attacks were not intentional and that he regretted the killings and the destruction of property. The Pakistani embassy in Kabul could not confirm the statement.

The Afghan censure comes as US officials have sharpened their missives to Pakistan over the past week and half, drawing more direct lines between the government and the Haqqani network, which is affiliated with the Taliban and al-Qaida and is often blamed for attacks in Kabul.

Nato said its operations in the east in the past four months had killed more than 450 enemy fighters but that it was clear the Haqqanis, who control large areas in the east, were still operating out of Pakistan.

“We have no credible intelligence indicating that the Haqqani network has eliminated their operating safe havens in Pakistan,” said Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson, a spokesman for Nato forces in Afghanistan. “They continue to plan and execute operations from across the border.”

In the south on Monday, a Nato service member was killed in a bomb attack, making a total of 38 international troopers killed so far this month.

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Al-Qaida chief in Pakistan killed by CIA drone September 16, 2011

Al-Qaida‘s chief of operations in Pakistan, a former bodyguard of Osama bin Laden, has been killed in a CIA drone strike in the tribal belt, senior US officials have said.

If confirmed, the death of Abu Hafs al-Shahri, a 29-year-old Saudi militant, would mark a further blow to al-Qaida four months after the loss of its leader.

Earlier this week a top US defence official said that at the current rate of US operations al-Qaida’s operational capabilities could be broken within 18 months. Analysts caution that estimate could be over-optimistic.

Shahri was one of 85 “most wanted” al-Qaida militants named by the Saudi government in February 2009. The list included 11 former Guantánamo Bay detainees who had gone through Saudi Arabia’s controversial jihadi rehabilitation programme.

An Interpol “orange notice” for the 85 men identified Shahri’s full name as Osama Hamoud al-Shehri, and listed his birth date as 17 September 1981. He had not been detained in Guantanamo Bay.

Baker Atyani, a journalist based in Islamabad, said Shahri previously served as Bin Laden’s bodyguard and was recently involved in training al-Qaida militants inside Afghanistan.

That assessment was partly echoed by the US officials in Washington, who told reporters that Shahri had risen to become al-Qaida’s chief of operations in Pakistan, working closely with local Taliban militants to carry out attacks inside the country.

They said the Saudi militant died in a drone strike in the north-western tribal belt but declined to elaborate. “This is another blow at the core of al-Qaida in Pakistan,” an official told Reuters.

There have been several drone strikes in Waziristan over the past week, including one on the 10th anniversary of the 11 September attacks in America in 2001.

The controversial CIA-led assassination campaign has slowed in recent months, apparently in reaction to Pakistani anger over the US raid that killed Bin Laden, although some major figures have died, including Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, the second-in-command after Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was killed in Waziristan last month. The US officials said that Shahri was presumed to have taken up some of Rahman’s duties.

Last week, US and Pakistani spies mounted a joint operation to capture another senior al-Qaida fugitive, Younis al-Mauritani, in the western city of Quetta – a sign, US officials hope, of a fresh started in a relationship that has been marred by bitter squabbling and public accusations in recent months.

In the wake of the 9/11 anniversary, US officials are increasingly bullish about defeating al-Qaida. On Tuesday Michael Vickers, the US under-secretary of defence for intelligence, said that, at the current rate of operations, “within 18 to 24 months, core al-Qaida’s cohesion and operational capabilities could be degraded to the point that the group could fragment”.

Analysts are more cautious. “Certainly, they are on the run now and under great pressure, ” said Atyani, “but they are still a threat.”

Shahri came from a strong jihadist tradition. His first cousin, Sa’ad Shahri, who was also on the Saudi list of 85, had been fighting in the region since the 1980s when he arrived to fight occupying Soviet forces at the age of 15. He died alongside two other al-Qaida operatives in a US airstrike in the Korengal Valley in south-western Afghanistan in October 2010.

“After the Russian war in Afghanistan Sa’ad returned to Saudi Arabia, but he was showing some symptoms of mental disease,” his father, a retired Saudi military colonel, told Gulf News.

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Casey Anthony’s Defense Expected to Rest Case July 1, 2011

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The defense for Casey Anthony is expected to rest Thursday after calling its final witnesses, though it’s still not known if the central Florida mother will take the stand to answer questions about whether she killed her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.

On Wednesday, the defense may have been dealt a blow when Casey Anthony’s father broke into tears when telling jurors about his suicide attempt some six weeks after his granddaughter’s body was found. Defense attorneys contend Caylee did not die at the hands of her mother but accidentally drowned in her grandparents’ pool and that George Anthony helped cover it up.

Casey Anthony is charged with first-degree murder in Caylee’s death. The prosecution says she suffocated the child with duct tape.

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Census: Fewer Black Children in Biggest US Cities

NEW YORK (AP) — A catastrophic flood emptied New Orleans of much of its black youth. Powerful social forces may be doing a similar thing to places like Harlem and Chicago’s South Side.

Census data shows that cities from coast to coast have steadily drained of black children over the past decade.

Last year’s census found nearly a half-million fewer black kids living in the 25 largest U.S. cities than there were in 2000.

The number of black, non-Hispanic children living in New York City was down 22 percent. It dropped nearly 32 percent in Los Angeles, 27 percent in Atlanta, 31 percent in Chicago and nearly 38 percent in Detroit.

Demographics experts say several factors appeared to be at work, including a large migration by young black parents to the suburbs.

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Analysis: U.S.-India Trade Talks Focus on Trade Barriers

Although the U.S.-India economic relationship has grown significantly in recent years, economic barriers continue to prevent U.S. investment in several lucrative sectors.

U.S. Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geithner and Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee met in Washington this week to discuss trade and economic investment opportunities between the United States and India in the second meeting under the U.S.-India Economic and Financial Partnership. The Indian economy grew 8.5% in 2010 and American corporations are eager to expand their business reach to the Indian marketplace of nearly 1.2 billion people.

Geithner urged India to implement substantive economic reforms, particularly in the finance sector, to enable the United States and India to fully realize the “enormous potential” of the bilateral economic relationship. Mukherjee lauded the rapid growth of trade between Washington and New Delhi in recent years and acknowledged the need for the easing of trade barriers


Despite the robust rhetoric welcoming expanded foreign investment, significant barriers remain to additional U.S. investment in several Indian sectors including banking, education, and legal services. India’s ruling Congress Party has been beset by a wave of corruption scandals that have weakened its ability to pass much needed economic reforms to lessen trade and investment barriers.

India desperately needs foreign investment to develop and expand a national infrastructure that is woefully inadequate to support its continued economic growth. New Delhi is likely to move incrementally toward further economic reforms with an eye toward easing restrictions that will allow foreign investment for infrastructure improvements.

Carolyn Leddy held senior positions with the U.S. Department of State and the National Security Council under the George W. Bush administration. She was a 2009-2010 Council on Foreign Relations-Hitachi Ltd. International Affairs Fellow in Japan and Visiting Fellow at the National Institute for Defense Studies in Tokyo.

© Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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DREAM Act Could Stall in Maryland

A petition drive by Maryland GOP lawmakers to halt the state’s version of the DREAM Act appears to have succeeded in getting the measure on the November 2012 ballot. However, court challenges over online signature gathering methods could be on the way, The Washington Post reports.

The Maryland law granted in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants at state colleges and universities, a move that could cost the state $40,000 per student for a four-year education.

Critics of the measure plan to turn in 100,000 signatures this week.

State election officials have already certified the approximately 56,000 needed to suspend the law and put it on the ballot. The measure was to take effect Friday, according to the Post.

“People want to enforce immigration law, not skirt around it,” Republican delegate Neil Parrott said. “This was a highly divisive bill with bipartisan opposition that barely passed. It’s important to allow the residents of Maryland to have the final say.”

The law is the first to be decided by Maryland voters in 20 years. An abortion rights measure went before the voters in 1992 and was affirmed. Regardless, legal challenges are expected in the DREAM Act petition drive as organizers built and used an online tool to gather tens of thousands of signatures.

The online tool prints out a voter’s name and information exactly as it is listed in registration records and the voter then needs only to sign a print out of the petition and mail it to the campaign. State Board of Elections officials note that more than a third of the signatures already validated were generated using the online tool, the Post reported.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has already asked the elections board to look into the online tool.

In a letter sent last month, the ACLU said the method could not only “determine the fate of the DREAM Act petition effort, but could also dramatically change the petition process in Maryland going forward, opening many more state and local laws to petition challenges in the future.”

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Casey Anthony Blood Lust June 30, 2011

It’s the story that demands breaking live coverage on not one but two, three cable news networks.

­“Another day of powerful testimony in the Casey Anthony murder trial,” resounded the anchors on cable news.

“Another day of disturbing testimony in the Casey Anthony murder trial.”

Mainstream media is reporting and analyzing every gory detail.

“There were a lot of people upset in court today and that’s because we were hearing testimony about Calee’s limbs,” recounted one reporter. “Her legs being chewed on by animals her trunk torso being dragged off and chewed on.”

The American public literally clamoring to hear it all as people get in near brawls lining up for a seat in the courtroom.

Ask anyone on the street they can tell you why.

“There is something about this case that is mesmerizing and I do think it is because it is a young girl,” said a passerby in Washington DC.

“I mean you can speculate that she is a fairly attractive young mother,”
speculated another. “Why else this case? It doesn’t involve a famous person.”

“It’s like a modern day soap opera,” added one more.

And nearly everyone you ask knows who Casey Anthony is.

“Someone who murdered her kid, who allegedly murdered her kid in Florida,”
said a stranger in Washington DC.

And one part of the formula for media coverage and obession this journalism professor says can’t be ignored: Casey Anthony is white.

“If it were minorities it would have to be a foot ball player or a politician or something along those lines,” said Chris Chambers, journalism professor at Georgetown University.

 But does this one criminal trial affect the lives of Americans?

“No,” and “probably not,” according to a few people we talked to on the streets.

Nonetheless America can’t get enough.

According to pollsters at Pew research, last week Casey Anthony was one of the top five newsmakers in mainstream news, after people such as the president of the United States and Republican John Huntsman, who made it official that he’s running for president himself.

And the viewers seem to want her to be. Headline News, which has been delivering wall to wall coverage has seen a huge boost in ratings as a result. Media watchdogs report coverage has been sending prime-time ratings surging to first and second place spots on many a day over the last several weeks. 

Meanwhile, men like Michael Austin arrested in 1974 for a murder and armed robbery he didn’t commit, will never get a fraction of the attention. An injustice that most people will never have heard of.

He was exonerated after a difficult battle and serving 27 years in prison, despite plenty of evidence of innocence including an alibi (proof he was working), and a description that pegged the 6’5” black man as a light skinned man of 5’8.”

It’s just one of many cases Americans may never hear about, as they tune into “another day of disturbing testimony in the Casey Anthony murder trial,” on the airwaves.

That attention whether it matters to greater society or not.

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Obama’s counterterrorism is backfiring

President Obama has unveiled new strategies for American counterterrorism, but to some experts the commander in chief is only making matters worse.

“What I see us doing is creating more terrorism throughout policies in Libya and Yemen,” says Susan Lindauer, a former CIA asset that previously worked out of Libya. “I think our actions speak louder than words,” she says, adding that military operations by America are neither proactive nor problem solving. Rather, says Lindauer, “we are actually making the situation worse.”

According to Lindauer, the troops that President Obama is pulling out of Afghanistan are only vacating so that they can go into Libya. While the US might be doing everything but declaring war on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Lindauer says that he is not involved in terrorism and was actually the first world leader to tip off INTERPOL about Osama bin Laden.

“I was directly involved in the 1990s operation to get terrorists out of Libya, and I could assure you that all terrorists were removed from Libya by 1999,” she says.

“I’m amazed,” says Lindauer, “and so disappointed in Obama. He is actually shifting resources to finance al-Quaeda,” whom she claims are among the rebels fighting against Gaddafi’s regime with the help of American war funds.

According to Lindauer, video documentation exists that show the rebel stronghold that America is funding is ripe with graphic depictions of beheadings and castrations of fleeing refugees.

And as Obama continues to support the rebels, innocent Libyans, she said, are suffering at the hands of American-sponsored soldiers.

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American prisons are going private

Most Americans are unaware that private prisons in the country are on the rise. Is there a reason behind this trend that isn’t going reported though?

Ana Kasparian of The Young Turks says that private prisons are thriving in America right now because of the profits they are generating, which most people are unaware of. Millions of dollars are going into lobbying for the institutions, and as more and more states relinquish their duties of running prisons, the private sector is reaping the benefits and pumping the profits back to the corporate entities that are backing them.

“Whenever a prison system is privatized,” says Kasparian, “the number one thing they’ll want to do is profit.” She recalls a case of a Pennsylvania judge who replaced all county detention centers for juveniles with privatized ones, who thus paid off the judge under the table. While that was only one case that leaked to the media, this is happening elsewhere across America.

Kasparian notes that, though many lawmakers are becoming more and more opposed to the decades-long “War on Drugs,” legislation is only becoming more stricter, so that prisons will soon be brimming with remote offenders. “The War on Drugs is an absolute failure (but) why are p[politicians ignoring that?” she asks. “Because they know that private prisons are fattening up their pockets…and making huge profits.”

“Pretty soon,” she says, “we are going to spend time in prison because of minor offenses.”

“There needs to be limits,” says Kasparian. “When it comes to corporations, it is never-ending. They get what they want because they have the money.”

As lobbyists continue to push for a transition to privatization, Kasparian says a political revolution needs to happen before everyone is behind bars for ridiculous laws. Corporations are the root of every single problem in the US, she says, and as corporations begin to take foot of the prison system, the problem is only worsening.

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Pakistan orders US drones out of base

The latest blow against America’s overseas drone operations comes out of Pakistan today, where the country’s defence minister told reporters that he has ordered US forces to vacate the Shamsi air base.

“We have told them to leave,” Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar was quoted as saying by the Associated Press out of Pakistan. Tensions have been high since the US carried out a clandestine raid on the Abbottabad compound belonging to Osama bin Laden in May and drone strikes on alleged insurgents operating in Pakistan continue to take the lives of civilians.

The CIA has reportedly been using the Shamsi station as a base for its robotic drone aircrafts, but this week US officials attest that that is not the case. When quizzed by the Financial Times, the White House refused to comment, but previously would not acknowledge that it operates drone strikes in the region. Reports from CNN, however, revealed that drone operations were being based out of Shamsi, and that Pakistani civilian and militant leaders had privately given the US military consent.

To Financial Times, Mukhtar says, “No US flights are taking place from Shamsi any longer. If there have to be flights from this base, it will only be Pakistani flights.”

“We have ended all US flights from the base,” he adds.

In recent weeks Pakistan has kicked out over 100 US officials from the country, and earlier this week they expelled a team of British military trainers.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon said it was looking to double its number of drones over the next few years, hoping to go from around 340 to 650 between 2012 and 2021. That announcement came only days after a sit-in in Karachi, Pakistan was launched to protest drone attacks. A March 2011 drone strike on Islamabad, Pakistan killed 26, over a dozen of whom were innocent civilians.

A report published by the Brookings Institute in 2009 estimates that for every militant killed, around ten civilians also lose their lives thanks to drone attacks.

On Tuesday of this week, US officials voiced concern that the Taliban’s Mullah Omar was taking residency in Pakistan and asked the country’s army to help locate him. Defence Minister Mukhtar, however, doesn’t believe he is taking refuge there.

Two weeks ago the CIA announced that it will begin operating drones over Yemen in order to combat al-Qaeda.

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Los Alamos nuclear waste almost on fire

The New Mexico wildfire that has turned America’s heads towards the Los Alamos nuke plant is inching closer and closer to the laboratory, where the Associate Press says it is now a few miles from a dumpsite.

If the fire extends another 3.5 miles, it could overtake an area where 30,000 55-gallon drums of plutonium-contaminated waste are being stored above ground.

A spokesperson for Los Alamos previously denied that the drums existed, but the plant is now backtracking and admitting that the complex’s “Area G” is home to thousands of gallons of dangerous waste.

Lisa Rosendorf of the Los Alamos plant told the press that the drums contain cleanup from Cold War-era waste, but the Los Alamos Study Group is making claims that the waste is much newer than that. The plant, which is believed to have tested more nuclear weapons than any other facility in the world, is thought to be cranking out more nukes than ever, reports Washington’s Blog.

Though the lab says that the drums are on a paved area spare in greenery and certainly safe, a special team has been called in to test plutonium and uranium levels in the air as a precaution.

Watchdog group Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety said earlier this week that the drums were awaiting transport to a low-level radiation dump site elsewhere in the state, but Los Alamos County Fire Chief Douglas Tucker told Reuters on Tuesday that none of the drums would be moved.

“It is safer where it is,” he said.

By Tuesday the fire had already engulfed 61,000 acres of the Santa Fe National Forest, which surrounds the Los Alamos lab almost entirely. A day earlier the blaze began to encroach on the lab’s property, burning around an acre before fire crews extinguished the blaze in two hours’ time.

Offsite, radioactive material from nuclear tests are buried underneath canyons in rural New Mexico. Authorities say there is a chance that fire could end up engulfing that area, and New Mexico Environment Department’s Rita Bates tells the Wall Street Journal that the smoke released could potentially affect the health of the people in the region.

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Texas town pulls the plug on police department

Attention gun-toting Texas natives: if you were looking to go a’looting, your time is now!

City Council members in Alto, Texas, a town of around 1,200, have voted to abolish the city’s police department for at least six months as the community considers if they will be able to afford the force into 2012.

As of June 15, Alto is being run by the Cherokee County sheriff’s office, whose headquarters are around 12 miles north of town. With only two dozen employees on the force there, overseeing security in the city of Alto will be a burden on the 1,000-square-mile stretch of land that the department is already in charge of.

“I’m going to try, but I can’t guarantee you there will always be an officer in the town,” says Sheriff James Campbell to the Wall Street Journal.

The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department is also the sole enforcer in Wells, Texas, which has a population of around 800. Earlier this year they relieved their only police officer.

Alto Mayor Monty Collins was against the measure, and he says now that the town’s citizens are instructing others to “bolt your doors” and “buy a gun.”

City Council officials in Alto calculate a budget shortfall of around $185,000 for the fiscal year ending on September 30, but note that it costs about $230,000 to run the town’s PD.

“We had to do something drastic,” says Jerry Flowers to WSJ. Flowers is both a councilman and hay farmer in Alto. “The police department, being a non-money-making entity, was the easiest to get rid of while we catch our breath and build up some cash.”

Apparently the council was given the choice of funding the police department or repairing the city-owned natural gas distribution system. With the latter generating most of the city’s revenue, it was an easy decision for lawmakers.

Charles Barron, however, feels otherwise. As Alto police chief, Barron says that the per-capita crime rate in 2010 exceeded the statewide level. The city was subjected to 66 reported crimes that year, including two dozen burglaries and 39 larcenies.

An antiquated printing press used by an Alto newspaper has been moved to a nearby museum in the meantime to protect it from looters.

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Community kicks out paralyzed vet

The national non-profit Home for Our Troops has built houses for over 100 severely disabled veterans across America since its start-up in 2004.

Army SFC Sean Gittens won’t be one of those with a new house for his family, however, despite Home for Our Troops’ efforts to get him one. The homeowners association in his Evans, Georgia community says that the home planned to be built in his Knob Hill subdivision would lower property values and has blocked construction as a result.

The Gittens family currently rents a home in the subdivision, but after months of negotiations, the Knob Hill Property Owners Association has put their foot down against Home for Our Troops’ plans. The non-profit says it would continue towards a new design for a home for the Gittens, but the family says they no longer want to live in the community.

Sharon Gittens, the wife of Sean, told reporters this week that her family does not feel welcome in Knob Hill any longer. At a press conference on Monday, Sharon thanked the neighbors that supported her and her family, and asked them to embrace the veterans and not put all their focus on the values of their property.

Sharon spoke on behalf of her husband, who is paralyzed and unable to speak or communicate as a result of a brain injury he received in battle. He served three tours with the US Army, and following several concussions received in Iraq between 2007 and 2008, suffered a brain aneurism and a stroke.

SFC Gittens has been receiving at-home care from medical personnel, but now doctors will have to go elsewhere when the Gittens family leaves Knob Hill.

“I didn’t want to put any kind of pressure on the family to think that because we had already bought this lot, that this was the end game, that it had to be here,” says John Gonsalves, the founder of Home for Our Troops. “I couldn’t live with my own conscience if I did that … they need to feel fine with where it is that we are going to build this home.”

Gonsalves adds, “We know that this is no way is a reflection on the community of Knob Hill and the people that live in here … We do this all over the country and we know that the American people are behind it.”

Sharon, however, feels like the homeowners association was in no way in favor of the construction. The president of the Knob Hill Property Owners Association declined to attend Monday’s press conference, instead offering condolences via email.

“I think if this was important to them, at least one representative from the board would have been here today,” says Sharon.

When asked how she expects a Home for Our Troops home would improve Sean’s situation, Sharon told the organization that “the assistance of receiving a specially adapted home . . . will eliminate many of our daily challenges and give Sean the freedom to have access to his entire home [and] interact more with our family.”

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TSA scanners give cancer?

If you were opposed to TSA body scanners before, new studies show that you might have more to worry about than just employees taking a peek at what’s beneath your blouse.

After what Electronic Privacy Information Center Executive (EPIC) Director Marc Rotenberg calls a “cluster” of cases of cancer among TSA workers at Boston’s Logan airport, his agency is going against the government and their high-tech body scanners. According to Rotenberg, officials have “not been forthcoming with the public about the true extent of radiation risk” associated with the devices.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center says that the records they obtained connect TSA workers to “cancer clusters allegedly linked to radiation exposure while operating body scanners and other screening technology.” The TSA on the other hand says to 9NEWS NOW that they implement “stringent safety protocols” to make sure their scanners are safe for property, passengers and employees alike.

To the Daily Mail, Rotenberg says that the TSA has dismissed the concerns that there might be a link between cancer cases and the scanners.

“In addition to regular maintenance, each individual machine that uses X-ray technology is regularly tested to ensure the radiation emitted falls within the national safety standards,” the TSA claims. They also say they have the technology to prove that the machines are indeed nothing to worry about.

In the documents obtained by EPIC, however, the National Institute of Standards and Technology voiced concerns after they revealed that they did not test full body scanners for safety. Scientists at the University of California have written US President Barack Obama with the message that “There is still no rigorous, hard, data for the safety of X-ray airport passenger scanners.” Other findings from EPIC show that the NIST warned workers to avoid standing next to the devices, and that a study conducted by John Hopkins University shows that radiation zones in the vicinity of the scanners could exceed safety limits.

EPIC has long fought against the installment of scanners across America. The group, who bills itself as a public interest center aimed at protecting privacy, first filed a suit against the TSA in July 2009 to suspend the program.

Last month, Homeland Security Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt’s (R-AL) proposed legislation that would deny the $76 million that President Obama requested to be used toward new scanners. In March 2010, the TSA purchased and installed 450 units thanks to funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. President Obama was hoping to add an additional 300 or so scanners, as well as employ a staff of half a thousand to operate them.

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Blackwater killer gets 30 months, Newburgh 4 get 25 years

Before a federal court room this week, US Attorney Neil MacBride was rather blunt about what actions a former Blackwater security guard undertook while working in Afghanistan in 2009.

“Justin Cannon opened fire with an AK-47 at the rear of a retreating vehicle and took the life of an innocent Afghan,” is all he needed to say. For that unjust murder, however, Cannon was handed down a sentence yesterday of only 30 months in jail.

If that cold blooded killing is costing Cannon barely two years behind bars, you would think that the US court nowadays would be a bit more lenient in cases where, say, no one was harmed. On the contrary, three of the men linked to the Newburgh 4 plot to allegedly blow up a New York City synagogue were senteced to 25 years in prison today.

James Cromitie, David Williams and Onta Williams have been convicted of plotting to blow up worship houses in the Bronx and shoot down planes at Stewart Air National Guard Base. Defense attorneys, however, argued that the three men are the victims of an immense entrapment perpetrated by the FBI.

The defense claims that an FBI informant posed as a recruiter for a terrorist organization and offered the men special Stinger missiles to take down planes at Stewart. Attorneys attest that the introduction of Stingers in the case calls for a minimum sentence of 25 years, the highest minimum the three men face out of all eight of the charges brought against them.

“The government, not the defendants, chose Stewart Air Force base, and the government, not the defendants, introduced and supplied the missiles,” writes one of the attorneys for the defense.

Their legal team also attests that Shahed Hussain worked with the FBI and purposely picked the men up and drove them into Connecticut to obtain weapons to be used in the attacks. FBI Special Agent Robert Fuller has explicitly stated during the trial that they picked the Connecticut warehouse solely to get the Newburgh 4 to cross state lines.

“The entire trip to Connecticut and the missiles were introduced by the government for the singular purpose of securing a 25-year minimum sentence,” say defense attorneys.

Meanwhile, 200 miles from that New York City courtroom, Cannon’s “reckless behavior,” as US Attorney MacBride calls it, will have him back on the streets in mere months. Cannon’s killing was in cold blood. And the Newburgh 4? They are guilty of falling for a trick enacted by their own government.

Cannon had also been charged with fatally shooting an Afghan passerby while overseas while the man walked his dog. Along with another Blackwater guard, Cannon was acquitted of charges stemming from that case.

Speaking to RT hours after the sentencing of the three men today, Alicia McWilliams-McCollum, the aunt of ones of the convicted men, says it is common knowledge that the government used ex-offenders to manufacture a plot.

“Who holds the government accountable?” she asks. “We know it’s government misconduct.” The sentencing, she says, is just another example of “a miscarriage of justice.”

In the meantime, she urges people to speak out on the matter. “Nobody wants the truth,” she says, and urges that “the community needs to come out”

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Kansas Abortion Doctors Sue to Block State Rules June 29, 2011

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two doctors who perform abortions in Kansas filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday to block a new licensing law and regulations that abortion rights advocates fear will make Kansas the first state in the country without an abortion provider.

Dr. Herbert Hodes and his daughter, Dr. Traci Nauser, argue that the new licensing process for abortion providers is a “sham” and the law and accompanying regulations are designed to stop the state’s three abortion providers. One provider has already been denied a license.

Hodes and Nauser offer abortions and other services at the Center for Women’s Health in Overland Park in suburban Kansas City, and their clinic was scheduled to be inspected by health department workers Wednesday. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, said the doctors cancelled that inspection.

The law takes effect Friday. If a clinic doesn’t have a license by then, it won’t be able to perform abortions under the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s new regulations.

“At every step of the challenged process, KDHE implemented the licensing provisions … in ways that made it impossible for existing medical practices to obtain a license by the effective date,” the lawsuit said.

Supporters of the new law and regulations argue that both are aimed at protecting patients from substandard care. But abortion providers and their backers don’t trust the licensing process because Gov. Sam Brownback, an anti-abortion Republican who took office in January, and abortion opponents pushed the law through the GOP-controlled Legislature.

The law requires abortion providers to obtain annual licenses, and the health department regulations tell providers what drugs and equipment they must have available and set other standards, including the temperatures for procedure and recovery rooms.

Abortion providers contend that the health department is unfairly rushing the new regulations, giving them less than two weeks to comply with specific provisions.

In their lawsuit, Hodes and Nauser argue that the new regulations are stricter than rules for other health care providers. The suit claims the state has violated the rights of their Center for Women’s Health and its doctors to due legal process.

The lawsuit was filed against Robert Moser, the state’s secretary of health and environment; Attorney General Derek Schmidt, whose office was involved in drafting the regulations; and the local prosecutor, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe.

Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri is awaiting word on whether its clinic, also in Overland Park, will receive a license after a two-day inspection last week. The health department has denied a license for the state’s other abortion provider, the Aid for Women clinic in Kansas City, Kan., without an inspection, based on information in its application.

Planned Parenthood and Aid for Women also have been contemplating lawsuits against the licensing law and the health department’s regulations.

Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, was confident the law and the regulations would withstand judicial scrutiny. She said the regulations are similar to rules in South Carolina that the U.S. Supreme Court let stand in 2003.

“Kansas abortion clinics claim that the state’s attempt at oversight is ‘political’ because of Governor Brownback, but their hypocrisy is on full display,” she said. “Three South Carolina abortion clinics have managed to live with the same law there for over a decade.”

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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