Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for July 3rd, 2008

Internet Public Library

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Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2008 at 8:27 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

Brown-sugar pork ribs

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A recipe by David Latt:

Brown Sugar Pork Ribs

Yield 4 servings   Time At least 12 hours

  • 1 rack of pork ribs
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 pound brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 small yellow onion (peeled, finely chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (peeled, finely chopped)
  • Olive oil

1. Trim excess fat, the membrane, and flap from the ribs. Reserve the flap, trimmed of its membrane, to grill for tacos. Spread a piece of plastic wrap on the counter 5” longer than the rack. Dust the meat side of the ribs with the cayenne.

2. Mix together the brown sugar and kosher salt. Spread half the dry mix on the plastic wrap. Lay the ribs on top, then cover with the rest of the dry mix. Cover with a second piece of plastic wrap, seal, fold in half and place into a Ziploc or plastic bag. Refrigerate in a pan overnight.

3. In the morning remove the ribs. The dry mix will have transformed into a slurry. In a sauce pan sauté the onions and garlic with olive oil until lightly browned; season with pepper. Remove the ribs from the plastic bag. Use a rubber spatula to remove most of the liquid from the ribs and plastic bag and transfer to the sauce pan. On a low flame simmer the sauce for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the flavor if necessary.

4. Line a large baking tray with tin foil. Place a wire rack on top of the baking tray, then put the ribs on the rack. The ribs can either be cooked in a 350 degree oven or on the “cold” side of a covered grill with the heat on high. Cook the ribs 30 minutes on each side, then baste the ribs with the sauce another 30 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from the oven, cut apart the individual ribs, and serve.

The recipe doesn’t use the 6 oz can of tomato paste, but it almost surely goes into the sauce along with the liquid from the ribs. I also added a good dash of liquid smoke and the juice of a lemon. (All that sweetness seemed to require a little cutting.)

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2008 at 2:06 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

More on the Keystone Kops GOP DoJ

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Matthew Blake has the story, which begins:

A new investigation of the Justice Dept. is now gaining traction. The scandal stems from the department’s decision to distribute millions of dollars in federal grants to questionable youth and crime-fighting programs, despite advice from agency staff members not do so.

Two separate reports released last month, one by Congress and one from a nonprofit group document the controversy. The reports assert that a $1.1-million grant to prevent teenage delinquency was given to an abstinence-only sex education program run by Elayne Bennett, wife of the prominent Republican William Bennett. Career Justice staffers had said the education program “made no sense,” but a department administrator overruled them. The staff had also rejected a $500,000 grant for a youth golfing program, but that was awarded as well.

These accusations of dubious grant-making are the latest wrinkle in the widening investigation of the Bush administration’s political patronage involving the Justice Dept.

When organizations cannot be assured that the playing field was level,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said in a statement, “we are left with the impression that political favoritism, maybe even total randomness, won out over good government.”

McCaskill is specifically investigating local law enforcement grants disctributed by the Justice Dept.’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. A report by the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight revealed that some of these grants had been, without explanation, made exempt from the peer review process — where Justice Dept. staff and law-enforcement experts evaluate the grants.

The House oversight committee is additionally investigating grants by a second Justice Dept. office — the Office of Juvenile Justice and Crime Prevention.

According to a House report, a peer review team of Justice Dept. officials analyzed 104 applications and judged 18 worthy of the $8.6 million in available grants. But in a break from the standard practice, J. Robert Flores, the administrator of the juvenile justice office, who is a political appointee, bestowed five grants not named on the list of recommended programs. A total of ten grants were allotted.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2008 at 1:59 pm

Keats

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From Adam Kirsch’s review of a new biography of Keats:

… Of all the piteous elements in Keats’s story, none is more distressing than the idea that he went to his grave convinced of his failure. For Keats’s last book, in addition to the three masterpieces named in its title, included a series of odes—“Ode to a Nightingale,” “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “Ode to Psyche,” “Ode on Melancholy,” and “To Autumn”—that are now universally regarded as among the greatest poems in the English language. If any single book ever earned its author immortality, it was this one. And, as Stanley Plumly points out in Posthumous Keats (Norton; $27.95), his moving new study of the poet’s work and legend, “one could form a considerable collection from what was left out of this last book.” Some of Keats’s best poems, including “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” were never collected in his lifetime…

Read the entire review.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2008 at 1:50 pm

Posted in Books

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Kafka Comes to America

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A brief review in the current issue of the New Yorker:

Kafka Comes to America
by Steven T. Wax (Other Press; $25.95)

Wax, the head of the Oregon Federal Public Defenders’ office, writes that when he volunteered to represent inmates at Guantánamo Bay he didn’t know if his clients “would be terrorists or innocents.” At least one, Adel Hamad, a Sudanese aid worker, seems patently innocent, and Wax also represented Brandon Mayfield, a lawyer whose story—he was falsely linked to a bombing through shoddy fingerprint evidence—illustrates the short path from depriving terrorists of their rights to depriving everyone else. In an enthralling, enraging narrative, Wax captures the damage that Guantánamo has done to America’s reputation abroad, and shows how the legal fights on behalf of detainees might restore it. When Hamad, who helped run a hospital for refugees and was known for his Ping-Pong skills, disappeared, his wife was left destitute, and their infant daughter died from a lack of medical care. Hamad spent nearly five years at Guantánamo.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2008 at 1:44 pm

A Danish community’s energy victory

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A fascinating article by Elizabeth Kolbert on how a small community in Denmark moved, over a few years, into total energy independence, and about the 2000-Watt Society of Switzerland. From the article:

… The residents of Samsø that I spoke to were clearly proud of their accomplishment. All the same, they insisted on their ordinariness. They were, they noted, not wealthy, nor were they especially well educated or idealistic. They weren’t even terribly adventuresome. “We are a conservative farming community” is how one Samsinger put it. “We are only normal people,” Tranberg told me. “We are not some special people.”

This year, the world is expected to burn through some thirty-one billion barrels of oil, six billion tons of coal, and a hundred trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The combustion of these fossil fuels will produce, in aggregate, some four hundred quadrillion B.T.U.s of energy. It will also yield around thirty billion tons of carbon dioxide. Next year, global consumption of fossil fuels is expected to grow by about two per cent, meaning that emissions will rise by more than half a billion tons, and the following year consumption is expected to grow by yet another two per cent.

When carbon dioxide is released into the air, about a third ends up, in relatively short order, in the oceans. (CO2 dissolves in water to form a weak acid; this is the cause of the phenomenon known as “ocean acidification.”) A quarter is absorbed by terrestrial ecosystems—no one is quite sure exactly how or where—and the rest remains in the atmosphere. If current trends in emissions continue, then sometime within the next four or five decades the chemistry of the oceans will have been altered to such a degree that many marine organisms—including reef-building corals—will be pushed toward extinction. Meanwhile, atmospheric CO2 levels are projected to reach five hundred and fifty parts per million—twice pre-industrial levels—virtually guaranteeing an eventual global temperature increase of three or more degrees. The consequences of this warming are difficult to predict in detail, but even broad, conservative estimates are terrifying: at least fifteen and possibly as many as thirty per cent of the planet’s plant and animal species will be threatened; sea levels will rise by several feet; yields of crops like wheat and corn will decline significantly in a number of areas where they are now grown as staples; regions that depend on glacial runoff or seasonal snowmelt—currently home to more than a billion people—will face severe water shortages; and what now counts as a hundred-year drought will occur in some parts of the world as frequently as once a decade.

Today, with CO2 levels at three hundred and eighty-five parts per million, the disruptive impacts of climate change are already apparent. The Arctic ice cap, which has shrunk by half since the nineteen-fifties, is melting at an annual rate of twenty-four thousand square miles, meaning that an expanse of ice the size of West Virginia is disappearing each year. Over the past ten years, forests covering a hundred and fifty million acres in the United States and Canada have died from warming-related beetle infestations. It is believed that rising temperatures are contributing to the growing number of international refugees—“Climate change is today one of the main drivers of forced displacement,” the United Nations’ high commissioner for refugees, António Guterres, said recently—and to armed conflict: some experts see a link between the fighting in Darfur, which has claimed as many as three hundred thousand lives, and changes in rainfall patterns in equatorial Africa.

“If we keep going down this path, the Darfur crisis will be only one crisis among dozens of others,” President Nicolas Sarkozy, of France, told a meeting of world leaders in April. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, has called climate change “the defining challenge of our age.” …

Read the whole thing. It shows what can be done and why it should be done.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2008 at 1:38 pm

It’s a theory, so it gets tested

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That’s the nature of science: holding a theory, yet continuing to test it to see if it will stand up. The theory of gravitation is a good example:

Taking advantage of a unique cosmic configuration, astronomers have measured an effect predicted by Albert Einstein’s theory of General Relativity in the extremely strong gravity of a pair of superdense neutron stars. Essentially, the famed physicist’s 93-year-old theory passed yet another test. Scientists at McGill University used the National Science Foundation’s Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) to do a four-year study of a double-star system unlike any other known in the Universe. The system is a pair of neutron stars, both of which are seen as pulsars that emit lighthouse-like beams of radio waves.

“Of about 1700 known pulsars, this is the only case in which two pulsars orbit around each other,” said Rene Breton, a graduate student at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. In addition, the stars’ orbital plane is aligned nearly perfectly with their line of sight to the Earth. This causes the signal of one to be blocked, or eclipsed, as it circles the other.

“Those eclipses are the key to making a measurement that could never be done before,” Breton said.

Einstein’s 1915 theory predicted that in a close system of two very massive objects, such as neutron stars, one object’s gravitational tug, along with an effect of its spinning around its axis, should cause the spin axis of the other to wobble, or precess.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2008 at 1:29 pm

Posted in Science

A more benign view of Obama’s FISA position

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Mark Kleiman believes that Obama’s FISA position and likely vote are quite defensible. Read here.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2008 at 1:25 pm

The Bush DoJ: incompetent

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The rule of incompetence continues. The GOP simply isn’t very good at governing, is it? From Linda Greenhouse at the NY Times:

In a highly unusual admission of error, the Justice Department acknowledged on Wednesday that government lawyers should have known that Congress had recently made the rape of a child a capital offense in the military and should have informed the Supreme Court of that fact while the justices were considering whether death was a constitutional punishment for the crime.

“It’s true that the parties to the case missed it, but it’s our responsibility,” the department’s public affairs office said in a statement.

“We regret,” the statement said, “that the department didn’t catch the 2006 law when the case of Kennedy v. Louisiana was briefed.”

In that case, decided June 25 by a vote of 5 to 4, the court ruled that the Constitution prohibits the death penalty for the rape of a child. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s majority opinion was based in part on the conclusion that because child rape was a capital offense in only six states, and not under federal law, the death penalty for the crime did not meet the “evolving standards of decency” by which the court judges capital punishment.

Justice Kennedy’s conclusion about the absence of federal law was mistaken. Not only did Congress add child rape to the military death penalty in 2006, but President Bush, in an executive order last September, added the new provision to the current version of the Manual for Courts-Martial.

More at the link, including this: “The Justice Department statement was carefully worded to avoid conceding that under the reasoning of the Supreme Court decision, the military death penalty provision for child rape is now unconstitutional.”

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2008 at 1:21 pm

Consumer safety unimportant

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Or so it seems from recent actions, as explained by Suemedha Sood in her article in the Washington Independent, which begins:

News that shower curtains might make people sick is alerting consumers to the problem of toxins in plastics. A recent report by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice found that some curtains –- sold at major chain stores like Bed Bath & Beyond, K-mart, Sears, Target and Wal-Mart -– contain high concentrations of toxic chemicals like phthalates. These have been linked to reproductive defects and developmental problems in infants.

Parents pay attention when it comes to toxic substances and child safety. They were caught unawares by last year’s toxic toys incident — which led Mattel to recall millions of children’s products made in China. But this summer, concerned parents might hear some good news, because Congress is working to reauthorize and reform the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission was set up in 1973 to “protect the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death” from more than 15,000 varieties of consumer products. The agency is charged with enforcing mandatory standards for products, banning and recalling products, researching potential hazards and developing voluntary standards for industry.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2008 at 1:17 pm

Serotonin clue to Sudden Infant Death syndrome

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Interesting, and hopefully leading to prophylactic measures. Daniel DeNoon reports for WebMD:

A new clue to the cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) comes from baby mice that suddenly die when their brain serotonin levels go haywire.

Serotonin is a signaling chemical that has far-reaching effects in the brain and other organs. But while too much or too little serotonin can cause many kinds of problems, death wasn’t supposed to be one of them. Until now.

Cornelius Gross, PhD, and colleagues at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory near Rome genetically engineered mice to have abnormally low levels of serotonin. They didn’t think this would kill the mice. After all, genetically engineered mice with no serotonin at all manage to survive.

But Gross’ team was amazed to see that many of their mice did indeed die — at an early age roughly equivalent to the age range at which human infants succumb to SIDS — 1 month to 1 year old.

“The similarity to SIDS is there is sudden death during a restricted period of early life — and it is caused by a change in the serotonin system,” Gross tells WebMD.

During early life, Gross’ mice appeared to be normal. Then they underwent a series of “crises” during which their heart rate and body temperature unpredictably dropped. More than half of their mice died during one of these crises.

What triggered the crises? Gross doesn’t know, but he suspects that the crises were most likely to occur during the transition from sleep to wakefulness.

Gross is quick to point out that what’s wrong with his genetically engineered mice isn’t the same thing that happens when kids die of SIDS. The mice carry an overactive gene that signals the body to make less serotonin. SIDS kids have no such overactive gene.

Even so, the finding suggests that researchers who have previously linked serotonin to SIDS are on the right track.

“Maybe there is some kind of signature we could find in these mice before they have a crisis, some way they respond when they wake up from sleep,” Gross says. “That might help us identify those kids most at risk of SIDS and provide parents with some kind of monitoring to catch them before a crisis occurs.”

Gross and colleagues report their findings in the July 4 issue of the journal Science.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2008 at 1:08 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

Extremely cool kinetic sculpture skyscraper

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And it’s build with pre-fab modules. Take a look. Note that it generates its own power.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2008 at 1:04 pm

Posted in Art, Business, Daily life, Technology

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US Poet Laureats

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Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2008 at 1:03 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

Tagged with ,

A tangled web woven by Barack Obama

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A good summary of Obama’s various positions on the FISA bill and telecom immunity for crimes committed.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2008 at 12:17 pm

Canadian environmentalism

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Canada has a poor track record on caring for the environment, unfortunately. Here’s a telling example from Treehugger (and more at the link):

The Alberta Tar Sands are called by some the most destructive project on earth, and their toxic tailing ponds kill birds and are poisoning downstream native communities. It has the worst air quality in the country, and companies regularly run afoul of exceedance limits, but in 2006 all of the oil companies were fined only $ 249,000. Library patrons in Calgary and Edmonton, on the other hand, were fined $4 million for overdue books.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2008 at 12:15 pm

Lustray aftershave

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I have a couple of Lustray aftershaves, which are made by Pinaud: Bay Rum and Spice. I became obsessed with getting Lustray Coachman (which Fendrihan describes like this: “Wonderful lavender notes which blend into amber musk, white oak moss and the warm woody scent of white wood. A barbershop classic.”). Unfortunately, the shipping charges to the US from Canada (where Fendrihan is located) were prohibitive.

So, after a little Googling, I found Ry’s Barber Supplies, which has quite a few barbershop classic aftershaves. UPDATE: A commenter emailed me that he experienced many problem with his Ry’s order and will not order from them again.

Barber supply companies are worth checking for bargains like this. Appleton Barber Supply, listed in the Appendix of the book, has even more aftershaves, all at reasonable prices. And if you find that Astra Superior Platinum blades (made in Russia) are your best blade, Barber Depot sells 1100 of them for $100: 9¢ a blade.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2008 at 11:36 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

The Aptera

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I’m still with child to have one. From the FAQs:

How much will the Aptera cost?

The approximate price for the all electric version is $27,000 and the plug-in hybrid $30,000 [hybrid gets approx 300 mpg – LG]. These prices are subject to change any time before we begin production.

Why are you selling the Aptera only in California?

There are many reasons, including our dedication to seamless customer service. We will not have maintenance centers set up in other states until the expansion of our distribution as well state regulatory issues worked out. We are working hard to make the Aptera available to everyone, but in order for that to happen we need to solve any future contingencies on a regional level.

When are you starting production?

Our goal is to begin production of the all-electric in late 2008 and the hybrid in late 2009.

Can I charge my cell phone?

We will have a standard 12v outlet but are also considering a USB 2.0 jack for the production model, which can be used to charge your cell phone as well.

Are there cup holders?

Yes, there are.

Will opening windows be available?

Yes, the windows will open.

Is there a stereo system?

Yes, there may be several options for infotainment in the production model.

Where will the license plates go?

The rear center is designed for a back license plate. Since the Aptera is classified as an enclosed motorcycle a front plate is not required.

Can we come and take a tour of the facility?

We are in the process of setting up our production facility.  Once operations are in place, the public will be able to tour the facility.  Unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate this request at this time.  Keep checking the web site and newsletter for updates on tours.

Can I take the Aptera for a test drive?

Production of the Aptera is slated for late 2008.  Once we have begun production, test driving the Aptera will be possible. 

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2008 at 10:47 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

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Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)

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I’ve ocasionally mentioned LEAP, an organization of police officers who strongly support drug legalization. Looking back at alcohol Prohibition, they see the same pattern: prohibition builds criminal empires. Drug addiction is a medical problem, not a legal problem, and legalizing drugs with reasonable restrictions (cf. alcohol and tobacco) would enable the problems associated with drugs to be addressed more effectively. Prison is a blunt weapon, and after 30 years, it is clear that the War on Drugs approach has failed miserably. (The US has the highest rate of drug use of any country in the world. See this post.)

I got an email from LEAP this morning, and I thought I’d just blog it so you can see what they are doing.

The LEAP Report

LEAP into Action

Issue II, Volume II

Criminal Justice Professionals Speaking Out Against the “War on Drugs”

July 2008

This issue…

  • Make the LEAP
  • Volunteer of the Month
  • Did you Know?
  • LEAP on Capitol Hill
  • State by State
  • Campus Communities/ What People are Saying About LEAP
  • Making Media
  • International Overtures

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2008 at 10:29 am

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws

White House suppression of global warming document

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Center for American Progress, in an email:

A ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that details both the threat of global warming and our ability to address the problem has been suppressed by the White House since December. This document, produced in response to a “monumental” Supreme Court mandate, includes a “multimillion-dollar study conducted over two years” that finds “the net benefit to society could be in excess of $2 trillion” if strong carbon dioxide emissions standards for the automotive industry are issued. The proposal to increase today’s fuel economy standards by 50 percent from 25 miles per gallon to 38.3 mpg by 2020 is stronger than those included in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, which called for a 40 percent increase. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson used the signing of the act as the public excuse to reject the findings of his staff and block California’s proposal to regulate greenhouse tailpipe emissions. In fact, congressional investigations have revealed that officials in the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) refused to open the email containing the EPA plan and that Johnson has been stonewalling to prevent disclosure of President Bush’s role.

$2 TRILLION BENEFIT

As first revealed by the Detroit News, an advanced model used by the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) foundthat iincreasing fuel economy standards by 4 percent a year would have a net benefit to society of $1.4 to two trillion dollars by 2040. The benefit is strongly tied to the price of gasoline. Using the latest estimates from the Energy Information Administration, the EPA study assumed that gasoline prices would get no higher than $3.50 a gallon. Those figures are already outdated, as gasoline prices have reached an average of $4.09 a gallon, and oil prices are nearing $146 a barrel. With higher gasoline prices, the benefits of high carbon dioxide standards would be even greater. Consumers are responding already to the spiking price by moving away from gas guzzlers. Detroit automakers have suffered hard sales declines: “Ford Motor was down 28 percent in June, General Motors was off 18 percent, and Chrysler dropped 36 percent.” Toyota likewise fell 21 percent. Only Honda Motor, with its fleet of fuel-efficient vehicles, saw any sales gains.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2008 at 10:21 am

Uh-oh: war contractors may have to obey the law

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This must be worrisome for companies such as Blackwater, KBR, Halliburton, and the like. Matthew Blake reports in the Washington Independent:

The New York Times reports that in the midst of negotiating their continued presence in Iraq, the U.S. has made a potentially huge concession– U.S. government contractors would no longer have immunity from Iraq law. The Iraqi Foreign Minister said such an agreement was made yesterday, reversing an immunity provision drawn up in 2003 by Paul Bremer, then head of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Spencer has been blogging about these negotiations, and how they might lead to permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq. But regardless of the negotiation’s final outcome, the stripping of immunity could be bad news for notorious contractors. These include Blackwater, whose private security guards opened fire on a public square killing 17, and KBR, whose faulty wiring of a military compound resulted in a soldier getting fatally electrocuted while showering.

There probably won’t be retroactive prosecution of these cases. But the next front-page contractor scandal could prompt the Iraqi government to use its new legal power.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2008 at 10:11 am

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