Monday, February 21 Nine Circles of Hell!


The Nine Circles of Hell! – all the news that gives you fits in print – for Monday, February 21, 2011, including two bonus stories on the Wisconsin protests, five extra links on the Libyan uprising, and two additional stories on the CIA operative who murdered two Pakistanis, are:

Govt. employees earn less, more educated than private workers

BP oil still stuck on the bottom of the Gulf

Libyan pilots won’t bomb protesters, instead fly to Malta

Shots fired at Yemeni protesters as death toll reaches 12

Shootings, death mar Iraqi anti-government rallies

Pakistan wants to know where its $40 billion in aid to Iraq is

US drones killed 581 Pakistanis, only two most-wanted terrorists

CIA chief in-country killed two Pakistanis, shot one in back

Taliban takes responsibility for Afghan attack, killing 30 civilians

Govt. employees earn less, more educated than private workers
Wisconsin State Journal

Report: Public employees make less, including benefits, than private workers

The study looks at total compensation — pay and benefits together — and found that public workers earn 4.8 percent less than private sector employees with the same qualifications and traits doing similar jobs.

Average compensation for public workers is higher because the jobs they do — such as teaching — require a relatively high level of education, and a higher education is one of the main factors that drives wages up, said Ethan Pollack, a senior policy analyst at the Economic Policy Institute.

Yet the typical Wisconsin public sector employee with a bachelor’s degree makes less than $62,000, compared to more than $82,000 in the private sector, Pollack said.

Public employee groups such as teachers have made concessions on wages in order to keep solid benefits, said Andrew Reschovsky, UW-Madison professor of public affairs and applied economics. Now politicians are focusing on those benefits as they look for spending cuts …

The study concludes that another important factor is missing from Walker’s public-private comparison, said the report’s author, Jeffrey Keefe, an associate professor in Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations. While public workers receive more in paid benefits, their wages are a smaller slice of their total compensation than in the private sector because for decades public unions have negotiated packages favored by their more experienced members, Keefe said.

“Older more experienced workers, they want health benefits for their families and retirement benefits,” Keefe said. “Younger workers or low income workers, they want cash.

  • Sure, it’s old news, but it’s fun to point out just which state worker pay raises Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker does approve, in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel September 24, 2008 story, “Walker issues hefty raises to top Milwaukee County aides”:
    Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker wants a 26% pay raise for his chief of staff, former Ald. Tom Nardelli, while bypassing traditional County Board approval in quietly issuing large pay raises over the summer to several other top aides.
    Nardelli would get the biggest pay increase of top-tier county officials, a nearly $20,000 raise to $95,000 a year. Seven county administrators also scored increases of up to 12.5%.
    Some supervisors are upset about being left out of the decision-making process for many of the raises and say Walker’s timing couldn’t be worse. Heavily rewarding a few top managers while Walker puts final touches on a 2009 budget that’s expected to call for scores of layoffs of union workers sends a message of callous disregard, critics of the raises say.
    Among the other big winners among Walker’s top aides was Mitchell International Airport Director Barry Bateman. His pay rises $13,595, or 11%, to $136,299 a year. Facilities Management Director Jack Takerian got an $11,771 (12.5%) raise, to nearly $106,000.
  • While analysts guess which Arab nation fall be the next ‘Egypt’, now that The Detroit News is reporting, “Michigan orders DPS to make huge cuts,” we can start guessing which American state will be the next ‘Wisconsin’:
    Swift and severe changes are coming to Detroit Public Schools.
    State education officials have ordered Robert Bobb to immediately implement a financial restructuring plan that balances the district’s books by closing half of its schools, swelling high school class sizes to 60 students and consolidating operations.

BP oil still stuck on the bottom of the Gulf
The Associated Press

Scientist finds Gulf bottom still oily, dead

Oil from the BP spill remains stuck on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, according to a top scientist’s video and slides that she says demonstrate the oil isn’t degrading as hoped and has decimated life on parts of the sea floor.

That report is at odds with a recent report by the BP spill compensation czar that said nearly all will be well by 2012.

At a science conference in Washington Saturday, marine scientist Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia aired early results of her December submarine dives around the BP spill site. She went to places she had visited in the summer and expected the oil and residue from oil-munching microbes would be gone by then. It wasn’t.

“There’s some sort of a bottleneck we have yet to identify for why this stuff doesn’t seem to be degrading,” Joye told the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference in Washington. Her research and those of her colleagues contrasts with other studies that show a more optimistic outlook about the health of the gulf, saying microbes did great work munching the oil.

“Magic microbes consumed maybe 10 percent of the total discharge, the rest of it we don’t know,” Joye said, later adding: “there’s a lot of it out there” …

“This is Macondo oil on the bottom,” Joye said as she showed slides. “This is dead organisms because of oil being deposited on their heads” …

“I’ve been to the bottom. I’ve seen what it looks like with my own eyes. It’s not going to be fine by 2012,” Joye told The Associated Press. “You see what the bottom looks like, you have a different opinion.”

Libyan pilots won’t bomb protesters, instead fly to Malta

Two Libyan fighter pilots defect, fly to Malta

Two Libyan Air Force fighter pilots defected on Monday and flew their jets to Malta where they told authorities they had been ordered to bomb protesters, Maltese government officials said.

They said the two pilots, both colonels, took off from a base near Tripoli. One of them has requested political asylum.

The pilots are being questioned by the Maltese police.

The two said they decided to fly to Malta after being ordered to bomb anti-government protesters in Libya’s second largest city of Benghazi, the sources said.

  • Because of these military defections, and others, Iran’s PressTv reports, “Libyan army chief under house arrest “:
    The Libyan government has put the country’s army chief under house arrest after several military units defected and joined anti-Gaddafi protesters in various cities.
    This comes after hundreds of soldiers stopped short of firing live rounds at pro-democracy protesters on Monday.
    Libya’s permanent representative to the Arab League Abdel Moneim al-Honi confirmed the detention, claiming that “I have confirmed information saying Libyan army chief General Abu-Bakr Yunis Jabil is now under house arrest.”
    Al-Honi recently resigned over the heavy-handed security crackdown on protesters.
  • It’s not just soldiers ‘defecting’ from Qaddafi, according to The New York Times story, “Qaddafi’s Grip on Power Appears to Weaken.” Reports that his diplomats are leaving him, too:
    Members of Libya’s mission to the United Nations renounced Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi on Monday, calling him a genocidal war criminal responsible for mass shootings of demonstrators protesting against his four decades in power. They called upon him to resign.
    The repudiation, led by Libya’s deputy permanent representative at a news conference at the mission’s headquarters in New York, amounted to the most high-profile defection of Libyan diplomats in the anti-Qaddafi uprising that has convulsed Libya over the past week.
  • Al Jazeera shows who is on Gaddafi’s side in, “Europe’s interests in Libya”:
    The European Union has condemned Libya for its crackdown on opposition protesters, but for many nations in the bloc, straining ties with Tripoli presents an awkward situation.
    Western nations forged close trade ties with the north African nation after Muammar Gaddafi agreed in 2003 to end the production of weapons of mass destruction, ending nearly two decades of sanctions.
    European energy firms were quick to invest in the holder of Africa’s largest proven oil reserves, the eighth-largest in the world, while many others signed lucrative arms and construction deals.
    Tony Blair, Britain’s former prime minister, signed a so-called “Deal in the Desert” in March 2004, which paved the way for oil contracts worth billions, leading to a close relationship that has come under increasing criticism.
  • The Guardian story, “WikiLeaks cables: A guide to Gaddafi’s ‘famously fractious’ family,” reveals inside fighting that could cause chaos as Gaddafi and his family struggles for power:
    The leader of the Libyan revolution presides over a “famously fractious” family that is powerful, wealthy, dysfunctional and marked by internecine struggles, according to US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks. The documents shed light on how his eight children – among whom rivalries have sharpened in recent years – his wife and Gaddafi himself lead their lives.

Shots fired at Yemeni protesters as death toll reaches 12
Al Jazeera

Shots fired at Yemen demonstration

A teenager was killed and four people were wounded in a clash with soldiers in Yemen’s southern port of Aden, witnesses said.

They said soldiers opened fire at the youths who were throwing stones at their military patrol in the city’s Khormaksar district on Monday.

The death brings to 12 the number of people killed in unrest in Yemen since Thursday. Protesters, seemingly inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, have called for the end of president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s rule.

Saleh, in power since 1978, said on Monday that only defeat at the ballot box will make him quit …

The EU delegation to Yemen issued a statement strongly condemning the use of violence against peaceful protesters and urging Saleh to respond to “the legitimate aspirations of the Yemeni people”.

“The EU calls for the Yemeni authorities to immediately halt attacks by security forces and armed pro-government groups on peaceful protesters and journalists and avoid any escalation.

“The EU deeply deplores the loss of lives and calls on all to exercise restraint and calm in order to avoid further casualties and violence,” the statement read.

Saleh, a US ally battling a resurgent al-Qaeda wing based in Yemen, faces soaring unemployment, dwindling oil and water reserves, and chronic unrest in northern and southern provinces.

Shots were also fired at the demonstration in Sanaa, as the anti-government protests entered their 11th consecutive day. Thousands of people also staged sit-ins in the cities of Ibb and Taiz on Sunday.

Amid the ongoing turmoil, authorities have detained a leader of the separatist Southern Movement in Aden.

Shootings, death mar Iraqi anti-government rallies
The Associated Press

1 dead, 57 injured in northern Iraq protests

Police and hospital officials in the northern Iraqi city of Sulaimaniyah said Monday that one person has been killed and 47 wounded during overnight protests.

A Sulaimaniyah police official said that around 2,000 people took part in scattered demonstrations around the city, 160 miles (260 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad, late Sunday. Many Kurds are frustrated with the tight grip with which the two ruling parties control the Kurdish autonomous region.

The official said Kurdish security forces opened fire in the air to disperse the crowd.

Hospital officials said around 20 people were shot, including a 17-year-old who later died of his wounds. The others were hit by flying stones.

Pakistan wants to know where its $40 billion in aid to Iraq is
Agence France Presse

$40bn ‘missing’ from Iraq post-Gulf War fund accounts

Around $40 billion are ‘missing’ from a post-Gulf War fund that Iraq maintains to protect the money from foreign claims, its parliamentary speaker said on Monday.

“There is missing money, we do not know where it has gone,” Osama al-Nujaifi said at a news conference in Baghdad. “The money is around $40 billion in total.”

“It may have been spent somewhere, but it does not appear in our accounts, so parliament will investigate where this money has gone.”

Nujaifi did not say when or how the discovery had been made regarding the missing money. He said two investigative committees had been formed to track down the cash.

The Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), which was set up after the 2003 war to handle oil and other revenues, has been protected against claims by a UN resolution that expires on June 30.

US drones killed 581 Pakistanis, only two most-wanted terrorists
The Washington Post

Increased U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan killing few high-value militants

CIA drone attacks in Pakistan killed at least 581 militants last year, according to independent estimates. The number of those militants noteworthy enough to appear on a U.S. list of most-wanted terrorists: two.

Despite a major escalation in the number of unmanned Predator strikes being carried out under the Obama administration, data from government and independent sources indicate that the number of high-ranking militants being killed as a result has either slipped or barely increased.

Even more generous counts – which indicate that the CIA killed as many as 13 “high-value targets” – suggest that the drone program is hitting senior operatives only a fraction of the time.

After a year in which the CIA carried out a record 118 drone strikes, costing more than $1 million apiece, the results have raised questions about the purpose and parameters of the campaign.

Senior Pakistani officials recently asked the Obama administration to put new restraints on a targeted-killing program that the government in Islamabad has secretly authorized for years.

The CIA is increasingly killing “mere foot soldiers,” a senior Pakistani official said, adding that the issue has come up in discussions in Washington involving President Asif Ali Zardari. The official said Pakistan has pressed the Americans “to find better targets, do it more sparingly and be a little less gung-ho.”

CIA chief in-country killed two Pakistanis, shot one in back
The Nation (Pakistan)

Davis CIA’s acting chief in Pakistan

Raymond Allen Davis, who killed two Pakistanis last month in the provincial capital, is second-in-command to Jonathan Banks, the former station chief of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Islamabad, The Nation has learnt.

Well-placed sources said that the highly-trained operative of the CIA was the second important man of the CIA in Pakistan after ex-station chief Jonathan Banks who left Pakistan after his cover was blown.

Banks left Islamabad when Karim Khan, a resident of North Waziristan, submitted an application at the Secretariat Police Station, Islamabad for a FIR against the CIA station chief for the killing of Karim’s brother and son in one of the drone attacks directed by the CIA boss in Pakistan.

The sources said that Davis could be called the deputy station chief of the CIA in Pakistan, or the acting station chief.

They said that after Banks left the federal capital, Davis assumed the charge of his office by carrying out all the tasks previously under the domain of his boss, including gathering information for drone attacks. The sources said that one of the main tasks of Davis was to keep CIA network intact in the tribal agencies as well as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

  • Meanwhile, The New York Times knew about this for some time, according to the story, “American Held in Pakistan Shootings Worked With C.I.A.” However, the Times had agreed to keep this secret from the American public, by their own admission:
    Mr. Davis has worked for years as a C.I.A. contractor, including time at Blackwater Worldwide, the private security firm (now called Xe) that Pakistanis have long viewed as symbolizing a culture of American gun-slinging overseas.
    Even before his arrest, Mr. Davis’s C.I.A. affiliation was known to Pakistani authorities, who keep close tabs on the movements of Americans. His visa, presented to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in late 2009, describes his job as a “regional affairs officer,” a common job description for officials working with the agency.
    According to that application, Mr. Davis carried an American diplomatic passport and was listed as “administrative and technical staff,” a category that typically grants diplomatic immunity to its holder.
    American officials said that with Pakistan’s government trying to clamp down on the increasing flow of Central Intelligence Agency officers and contractors trying to gain entry to Pakistan, more of these operatives have been granted “cover” as embassy employees and given diplomatic passports.
    As Mr. Davis is held in a jail cell in Lahore — the subject of an international dispute at the highest levels — new details are emerging of what happened in a dramatic daytime scene on the streets of central Lahore, a sprawling city, on Jan. 27.
  • The Guardian article, “American who sparked diplomatic crisis over Lahore shooting was CIA spy,” gives Pakistan’s take on the shooting:
    Many Pakistanis are outraged at the idea of an armed American rampaging through their second-largest city. Analysts have warned of Egyptian-style protests if Davis is released. The government, fearful of a backlash, says it needs until 14 March to decide whether Davis enjoys immunity.
    A third man was crushed by an American vehicle as it rushed to Davis’s aid. Pakistani officials believe its occupants were CIA because they came from the house where Davis lived and were armed.
    The US refused Pakistani demands to interrogate the two men and on Sunday a senior Pakistani intelligence official said they had left the country. “They have flown the coop, they are already in America,” he said.

Taliban takes responsibility for Afghan attack, killing 30 civilians
BBC News

Afghan suicide bomber in Kunduz ‘kills dozens’

At least 30 people have died after a suicide bomber targeted a government building in northern Afghanistan.

The attacker struck as people lined up to collect identity cards in the Imam Saheb district of Kunduz province, a local official said.

The Taliban said they carried out the attack, but claimed to have targeted an army recruitment centre.

Violence has been on the increase in Afghanistan where tens of thousands of foreign troops are based.

The attack comes one day after the Taliban attacked a branch of Kabul Bank in the eastern city of Jalalabad, targeting police and intelligence officers who were collecting their salaries.

The BBC’s Sambuddha Mitra Mustafi in Kabul says that although the Taliban are saying the target in Imam Saheb was an army recruitment centre, eyewitnesses and local officials say it was a government census office.

The Taliban would not want to be seen to be deliberately targeting civilians, our correspondent says.