Biotech Snake Oil: A Quack Cure for Hunger
Nuclear's Power Play: Give Us Subsidies or Give Us Death
Conservation Corp.: Enviros Ally with Big Grain Traders
The Concession Trap: Auto Worker Givebacks and Labor's Future
The Commercial Games: Selling Off the Olympic Ideal
Bad Samaritans: How Rich Country "Help" Hurts the Developing World
Unhealthy Solutions: Private Insurance, High Costs and the Denial of Care
Arts, Inc.: The Corporate Control of Culture
Names in the News
Murray Pays, A Bit
The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) in July fined the operator of the Crandall Canyon Mine in Emery County, Utah, $1,340,000 for violations that directly contributed to the deaths of six miners last year.
Crandall Canyon Mine is operated by Genwal Resources, whose parent company is Murray Energy.
The six miners were killed on August 6, 2007, when roof-supporting coal pillars collapsed in a catastrophic coal outburst that violently ejected coal over a half-mile area in the underground mine tunnels.
Ten days later, two mine employees and an MSHA inspector died in another coal outburst that occurred during rescue efforts.
“MSHA’s investigation found that Genwal Resources recklessly failed to immediately report three previous coal outbursts that had occurred, two in March 2007 and one just three days before the August 6th accident,” says Richard Stickler, acting assistant secretary of labor for MSHA. “MSHA also found that the operator was taking more coal than allowed from the barrier pillars and the floor. This dangerously weakened the strength of the roof support.”
“It is now abundantly clear that the mine operator had reason to know it was likely that a mine ‘bump’ [coal outburst] would occur in the area where it did occur on August 6, 2007,” says United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts. “Yet that did not stop senior company management from pressing ahead, even after the company had seriously — and illegally — weakened the structural integrity of the mine by mining coal from the barrier pillars and the mine floor.
“We think these were criminal acts,” says Roberts. “In our opinion, the fine levied by MSHA for these actions is not penalty enough.”
Contracting for Torture
Four former Abu Ghraib detainees who were wrongly imprisoned, tortured and later released without charge are suing two U.S. military contractor corporations and three individual contractors.
The former detainees filed four separate lawsuits in June against CACI International, L-3 Services Inc. and three individual contractors.
The lawsuits allege that the defendants committed multiple violations of U.S. law, including torture, war crimes and civil conspiracy. CACI, which provided interrogators at Abu Ghraib, and L-3, which provided translators at the prison, were linked to abuses there in military court martial proceedings that resulted in convictions for U.S. military personnel but no civil or criminal penalties for contractors implicated in abuses. The individual defendants are former CACI and L-3 employees alleged to have perpetrated abuses against the detainees.
The Iraqi civilians filing the suits were subjected to horrendous abuses. For example, Wissam Abdullateef Sa’eed Al-Quraishi, a 37-year-old married father of three, was hung on a pole for seven days at the infamous Abu Ghraib “hard site” and subjected to beatings, forced nudity, electrical shocks, humiliating treatment, mock executions and other forms of torture during his incarceration at the prison.
“This litigation will contribute to the true history of Abu Ghraib,” says attorney Susan Burke. “These innocent men were senselessly tortured by U.S. companies that profited from their misery.”
In a statement, CACI said “it is responding vigorously to the malicious and unfounded lawsuits filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights. CACI totally rejects and denies all of the allegations and claims in these new legal filings. These latest lawsuits only repeat baseless allegations about CACI that appeared more than four years ago.”
BAE’s Free Pass
The House of Lords, the UK’s highest court, in July okayed the termination of a corruption investigation into BAE Systems’ arms deals with Saudi Arabia.
The House of Lords’ decision overturned the High Court’s April 2008 ruling that the Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) acted unlawfully when, acting on government advice, he terminated a corruption investigation into BAE after lobbying by BAE and a threat from Saudi Arabia to withdraw diplomatic and intelligence co-operation.
The High Court judgment came in response to a judicial review brought by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and The Corner House.
The law lords described the threat made by Saudi Arabia as “ugly and obviously unwelcome.”
Baroness Hale said that she would have liked to have been able to say that it was wrong to stop the investigation, but that she felt she had to agree that the SFO director’s decision was lawful because of the breadth of the director’s discretion.
“Now we know where we are,” says Nicholas Hildyard of The Corner House, a public interest group based in London. “The unscrupulous who have friends in high places overseas willing to make such threats now have a Get Out of Jail Free card — and there is nothing the public can do to hold the government to account if it abuses its national security powers. Parliament needs urgently to plug this gaping hole in the law and in the constitutional checks and balances dealing with national security.”
— Russell Mokhiber