Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What’s the next step in our confrontation with Iran?

By Andisheh Nouraee
I enjoy writing columns, but am nevertheless occasionally frustrated by the inherent limitations of written words.
Every couple of months, I think an audio recording of someone sighing in frustration, a video of someone pounding his head against a desk, or a photo of someone with her face buried in her hands would be just as fully explain a foreign affairs conundrum as, say, actual words.
That’s how I feel this week about the ongoing political confrontation between Iran and the United States – same crap, different month.
Sure, the details change, but we’ve essentially been at this same point in a frightening, confusing standoff since 2003. That’s the year the International Atomic Energy Agency castigated Iran for failing to disclose all of its nuclear activities and materials, as Iran is required to do under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Ever since then, we’ve been stuck at the same point asking the same questions? Is Iran actually developing a nuclear weapon? If yes, when will it be armed and ready? Can the U.S. convince the European Union, China, Russia and United Nations to put the squeeze on Iran until it gives up its nuclear fuel enrichment program? Will the U.S. attack Iran to slow Iran’s nuclear progress? Will Israel attack Iran to slow Iran’s nuclear progress?
If you give me a second, I’d like to pound my fists on the keyboard for a second.
That felt good. Now, where was I? Oh, yeah. Same crap for seven years. With the U.S. about to convince the U.N. Security Council to impose a fourth set of sanctions on Iran, Iran suddenly agreed to a deal, brokered by Brazil and Turkey, to ship most of its enriched uranium outside the country, where it would be processed into un-weaponizable fuel rods before being returned to Iran. Is Iran blinking under pressure, or stalling for time? My semi-educated guess is the latter.
Those of you with excellent memories may recall the U.S. pushed for an almost identical deal last fall. At the time, Iran refused. This time, it’s the U.S. refusing. Without saying the words, the Obama Administration’s response has been that Iran is offering too little, too late. The window for that particular deal closed clearly closed a few months ago.
Right now, what we’re seeing is a slight shift in Obama’s carrot and stick approach to Iran. At the same time Obama has been making diplomatic overtures to Iran, Obama was also uniting U.S. friends and frenemies against Iran just in case diplomacy didn’t work. Obama foreign policy to Iran seems to be this: We’ll try to be nicer to you than Bush was, but only if you reciprocate. If you ignore our overtures, we’ll actually be meaner to you than Bush was. We’re actually far more capable of uniting the world against you than Bush was, in part because the world just saw you rebuff our overtures.
So look for another round of U.N. sanctions against Iran in coming weeks. Will sanctions convince Iran to give up its nuclear fuel enrichment program? Don’t be silly. Of course it won’t. Sanctions schmanctions. Iran has been living with economic sanctions for three decades. They haven’t worked yet, have they? Sure, they make life difficult for regular Iranians, but clearly nothing we have done has helped loosen the Mullahs’ grip on Iran’s metaphorical levers of power.
The world is addicted to fossil fuels. Iran has lots of them. Developed nations will never stop buying it. We can talk tough all day long and try to disrupt their trade and with sanctions, but we’re supporting them by being addicted to oil. Sanctions against Iran are as futile as a drug war.
Nevertheless, the sanctions are probably necessary if we’re going to reach a diplomatic settlement. The carrot and stick approach only works if the stick can inflict damage. Iran jerked us around a bit, so we have to sharpen the stick. That’s just the way it is. After the new sanctions take hold, we’ll probably then pursue yet another diplomatic overture. And I’ll write another column about the same crap.


By Evelyn Morales

Losing the mentally ill within the S.C. Dept. of Corrections

People with mental illness can be found almost anywhere. Unfortunately, as long-term treatment and adequate community mental health resources wane due to continued budget cuts, many of them are slipping through the cracks and ending up behind bars.
Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc., (P&A) a non-profit organization in Columbia, determined that about 10 percent of the inmate population in South Carolina suffers from varying forms of mental illness.  However, treatment is often inconsistent –if it is given at all—and guards, who are not always trained to detect symptoms, often misunderstand or mishandle mentally ill inmates. To say nothing of the physical and psychological abuse they sometimes suffer at the hands of fellow inmates.
Currently, the formulary of medicines at the South Carolina Department of Corrections often does not include the prescribed drugs that inmates with mental illness need to treat their condition.  To add insult to injury, even if inmates could afford to pay for their medication from an outside pharmacy (with the inmate’s physician’s approval) access is commonly denied by the SCDC.  A fact sheet available on the P&A web site, gives the following example of a mentally ill inmate lacking medication within the Department of Corrections:
“A paranoid schizophrenic who drinks his own urine. He suffers from hallucinations and delusions and believes that while he’s sleeping doctors come into his cell and perform surgery on him. For most of the past 14 years, he has been isolated in a small cell 23-24 hours a day. He is scheduled to receive injections of antipsychotic medication every three to four weeks, but these are often late, on one occasion by nine weeks.”
On June 20, 2005, P&A filed a class action lawsuit against the SCDC and the State of South Carolina on behalf of inmates with mental illness. So far, there have been three amendments to the suit, the most recent being in 2007, which expanded the suit to include, as a defendant, SCDC Director, Jon Ozmint.  Due to the sensitivity of the lawsuit, representatives of P&A were advised by attorney, Dan Westbrook, of Nelson Mullins Law Firm, not to comment on the case until it goes to trial.
The suit alleges that the defendants are in violation of the state constitution by not providing for the “maintenance, health, welfare...” of the inmates and by allegedly violating an Article stipulating that “...cruel, not corporal, nor unusual punishment be inflicted.”
The lawsuit’s description of conditions and treatment of inmates with mental illness at state correctional institutions stirs images of medieval asylums where patients were often tortured under the guise of treatment.  Presently, the suit claims, this treatment consists largely of lock up units where mentally ill patients are placed. The Plaintiffs give the following examples:
-“ Inmates in lock up units who exhibit suicidal or self destructive behavior are not always given immediate clinical attention, as required by SCDC policy, but instead may be beaten, gassed, and placed in restraint chairs for extended periods of time.”
- “At times the stench of urine and feces is pervasive (in lock-up units).”
-“Some inmates have reported to a lock up cell to find it covered with the blood, urine or feces of its previous inhabitant.”
James L. Head, Jr., Senior Vice President of the South Carolina Hospital Association, says he is concerned that too many people are in jail or prison because they need treatment for a real medical problem and there was no place else for them to go.
“I suspect our jails and prisons are full of people who could be leading productive, happy lives if they could just get the treatment they need,” Head says. “People do recover from mental illness, but they don’t recover in jail. Yet our society seems willing to build new jails and prisons instead of putting more resources into mental health treatment.”
According to Tony Gordon, Director of Recovery Ministries at Oliver Gospel Mission, 30 percent of the homeless people that they serve have a mental illness.
The question of how people with mental illness end up in jail can be a complicated one.  Sometimes, they are homeless and arrested for trespassing. Some become victims of their own psychotic episodes, not realizing what they are doing, while others may not be able to find work and turn to stealing.  Without adequate care for inmates with mental health issues, they are eventually released back into society, but likely in worse condition than when they went in.
Shelly Silva, mother of an SCDC inmate with a mental illness, knows this all too well… and so do I.  Mrs. Silva is my mother and her son, who I will refer to as Anthony, is my brother.
Anthony entered the corrections system a long time ago – as a juvenile.  Even at that time, he was physically abused as an inmate and won a lawsuit against the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice when he was just 16 years old. This year Anthony will be 30 and he is currently incarcerated.  He has been in and out of the state’s correctional system several times.
When he was 17, my mother learned that Anthony was diagnosed with dual diagnoses of schizo-affective disorder with borderline features and substance abuse. Breaking and entering to steal and support his marijuana use at age 18 was his introduction to SCDC.  Since entering the SCDC, she says Anthony’s mental health issues have not been appropriately considered or addressed, treatment has been inconsistent, and didn’t get his medication.
Anthony is one of the few mental health patients included in the law suit against SCDC. My mother believes that the way he was treated within the system ultimately lead to additional charges against him, making it hard for him to ever be released and receive the treatment he and so many others need outside the SCDC.
“My concern about Anthony is that there is no interest and no adequate educational or safety measures provided for mental health inmates,” she says. “Because of this, they are more subject to physical and sexual abuse by other inmates and correctional officers due to blatant disregard and ignorance of mental health issues.”
But, she said, doesn’t condone the criminal activities that put Anthony behind bars; she just believes that proper treatment from the outset could go along way to prevent his recidivism.
“I am Anthony’s mother and I will always love and support him but do not condone or justify any negative behaviors as a result of his mental health illness,” she says. “I just advocate for the importance of mental health treatment for all inmates in SCDC with mental health issues.”
When Anthony was previously released in 2007 from an SCDC institution, no one in our family was alerted. He was released in a psychotic state, put on a two-hour bus ride with the general public and arrived in his hometown completely disoriented and distraught. Shortly after, he assaulted someone with a knife and ended up in Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center for over a year awaiting his sentencing for which he is currently serving time. At the sentencing he had a black eye.

The S.C. Dept. of Mental Health: Shrinking and Underfunded
The SCDC isn’t the only government department that is culpable for the well being of the mentally ill.  The South Carolina Department of Mental Health provides treatment and services for the mentally ill, as well, though the department concedes that they currently aren’t provided the complete resources they need to meet demand.
“At a time when there is more knowledge than ever before on effective treatments for mental illnesses... the available resources for public mental health services are in sharp decline,” says Mark Binkley, General Counsel for the SCDMH. “While the Department of Mental Health is still providing timely and effective treatment services to thousands of South Carolinians, staff is reminded frequently that the agency currently doesn’t have sufficient resources to meet the ever-growing need for such services.”
With mental health services sharply in decline in our communities, it makes sense that a portion of the mentally ill population ends up in jails and prisons.  Prior to the mid-1980s, these people would commonly be admitted to a different type of institution – a psychiatric one, if needed.  However, this is no longer common practice.
The South Carolina Department of Mental Health embraced the trend toward community-based treatment for people with mental illness in the mid 1980’s, and has consistently closed in-patient facilities in the state since that time.  The number of people with mental illness being treated in the community, as opposed to in in-patient psychiatric facilities, has also increased.  Even though Mr. Binkley stated that the department doesn’t have sufficient resources, the SCDMH stands behind community-based treatment.
“People who have a serious mental illness do better clinically when treated in the community rather than living in state mental hospitals,” Binkley says. “They get better faster and stay better longer when they receive services in their community, if these programs meet their needs and are well organized and easily available. The closeness of family, friends, and community support aids in their recovery process.”
According to the March 4 meeting minutes of the South Carolina Mental Health Commission, the SCDMH is planning an additional $14 million dollar reduction in in-patient services to include reduction of 101 beds among their facilities.  According to the minutes, staff, too, will be reduced and wait times in the emergency room for mental health services will increase.  The department is also planning a $14.1 million reduction in their community mental health centers, as well, noting that since 2005, the community mental health centers have lost a total of 450 positions and that reduction of staff would mean “65,965 fewer clinical services delivered in the community.”
According to P&A’s suit against the SCDC, in 2003, the SCDMH conducted a study of the mental health system in place within the SCDC.  Some of the discoveries made include that the only psychiatric facility within the SCDC for the entire state, Gilliam Psychiatric Hospital in Columbia, does not have programming that meets the needs of mentally ill inmates.
SCDC Health Services Director, John Solomon, stated that the percentage of inmates with mental illness is between 11 and 12 percent, or 2,760 inmates out of the 23,000 inmates the SCDC has within their institutions. SCDC Director of Communications, Josh Gelinas, clarified that the responses to the questions asked by Columbia City Paper for purposes of this article, “are responses specifically to your questions, not any pending litigation.”
Gilliam Psychiatric Hospital has only 88 beds to serve these 2,760 inmates and according to Solomon, “the equivalent of four full-time employees” on their psychiatric staff.  When asked if he felt that Gilliam is sufficient to treat inmates with mental illness state-wide, Solomon says, “Yes.”  However, when asked what he would like to see improved regarding inmates with mental illness, he did not address any desire to change current procedures within the department; instead he put the matter squarely on the community’s shoulders.
“I’d like to see inmates get greater access and involvement with community services when they are released from prison,” he said.
Another avenue (or at least a supplemental one) could be that the SCDC and SCDMH improve and expand the services they provide for the mentally ill.  Perhaps then, less people with mental illness would end up behind bars and if they do, they would be provided the services and medications needed to assist in their recovery and rehabilitation.

Savage Love

One of my best friends at college is gay. I’m a straight female with my own boyfriend. We’re going to be sophomores in the fall, and I feel like this is about the age where coming out to one’s parents is in order. However, my friend’s parents are conservative. His older brother is also gay—and when he came out, his parents cut off all funding for college and excommunicated him from the family, so my friend is understandably terrified.
When his parents come to visit, I tag along on “dates” with him to “meet the parents.” It’s a free meal, but it feels a little dirty to lie to his mom and dad about how “in love” we are. Moreover, my friend is coming to my house in California this summer. I had said I would love for him to come visit—as a friend. But his parents think he’s going to be staying with his girlfriend, and they’re thinking of tagging along so they can finally meet their future in-laws, i.e., MY PARENTS. I feel like this is getting way out of hand. How far should we take this act?

I Should Win An Oscar

When you feel bad about lying, ISWAO, remind yourself that you’re doing a good deed—you’re doing God’s work—every time you pass yourself off as this boy’s girlfriend. Yes, you’re lying to his mean-spirited, emotionally abusive parents, two complete shits who deserve so much worse than simply being misled. And he only lies to them because—for the time being—he must.
You should ask him to do three things to secure your continued cooperation in this deception. First, he has to make a solemn promise that he will come out to his parents the day after he graduates. Second, he has to reach out to his excommunicated brother and, if his brother can be trusted to keep his secret, he has to come out to his brother. Third, he has to break up with you at the end of the school year.
The course of true love never did run smooth, as someone or other once said, so a painfully messy June breakup with his college girlfriend—right before summer break!—not only makes your friend’s Potemkin heterosexuality that much more credible, it also gets you off the hook for this ill-advised summer visit. Then when September rolls around, ISWAO, you two crazy kids get back together. Repeat as necessary, i.e., be “on again” when his parents are in town, be “off again” when your parents are in town, over summer breaks, holidays, etc.
And help him look around for his next girlfriend—perhaps a lesbian student with similarly batshit parents—because he can’t expect you to be his beard for your entire college career.

I am a gay male teenager. I have not yet come out to my parents (I plan to soon), but my friends know. I’m curious why I relate more easily to my straight friends and am increasingly uncomfortable with my gay friends. Specifically, I have a lesbian friend who often makes jokes about “how gay I am.” In your opinion, are statements like that offensive (even considering the source)? Or am I still uncomfortable with myself? Your opinion on this matter would mean a lot to me.
Lost And Disillusioned

It’s good to have a sense of humor about yourself, LAD, whether you’re gay or straight or bi or whatever. Shrug off your lesbian friend’s comments if they’re not funny, laugh along with her if they are.

As for your preference for your straight friends: Right now there are a lot more openly straight kids in your life than there are openly gay kids. That means you’re drawing your straight friends from a much larger pool, and you’re able to be more selective about the straight people you hang out with. You can’t afford to be as selective when it comes to gay friends because (1) most gay kids your age aren’t out and (2) gays and lesbians are a tiny percentage of the population and you won’t meet lots of us until you get to one of those places where gays and lesbians clump up, i.e., large universities and big cities. Then you’ll be able to forge friendships with gays and lesbians whom you have something in common with besides your sexuality.
In the meantime, LAD, don’t write off all gays and lesbians everywhere as potential friends just because the few you had to choose from as a teenager weren’t among your best friends.

I need your help. I have entered into a period of my life where I am devoting all my mental resources toward my academics—grad school—and am not interested in dating. Thus, I bought a Real Doll so that I may enjoy fantastic masturbation during this loveless period. Unfortunately, while my parents were visiting, my mom discovered it and she reacted very, very badly.
You see, my dear mother is a feminist.
She is very upset by the doll and believes that it is an indication that I have lost all respect for women. I do not feel this is true. I view myself as a feminist, and I realize this society sexually objectifies women. But I also believe that I can masturbate with a rubber woman and have wild fantasies and then come back to reality and respect everyone—men, women, others. My mother, however, is extremely upset, and we haven’t been able to have a civil conversation since. I am hoping you can possibly give me some perspective.
Dolled Up

My perspective: Your masturbatory routines—including your masturbatory aids/aides—are none of your mother’s fucking business. And if your mother wants to be shocked by something, DU, it ought to be that her son-the-grad- student had $5K to plunk down on a sex toy.
Your options at this stage are pretty limited. You can apologize to your mother and tell her what she wants to hear (“You’re right, Mom, I’m making an appointment with a therapist and donating my Real Doll to sex-starved grad students in Africa...”). Or you can tell your mother to fuck off and butt out (“It’s my dick, Mom, and I’ll stick it in whatever I want. You remember that ‘my body, my choice’ stuff, right?”).
That said, DU, your claim that you bought a Real Doll so you could “enjoy fantastic masturbation during this loveless period” doesn’t quite pass the smell-of-day-old-spunk-moldering-in-the-lifeless-orifice-of-a-silicone-dummy test. Most guys manage to tough out their loveless periods with the help of the porn industry and their own right hands. And most guys who opt for insanely expensive, life-size, hard-to-hide sex dolls do have issues with women—most are plagued by feelings of inadequacy, not superiority—so you may want to entertain the possibility that your mother might be right.
But even if you do have issues with women—still an if—they’re still none of your mother’s fucking business.

Letters to the reader

Dear panhandler on the golf course,
Man, if you go through the trouble to sneak onto the course and run down my cart, at least have a dynamic sales pitch. Don’t open with wanting a cigarette. You should lead with some dramatic story about what caused you to wander out of the woods near the cart path. I’m assuming that fish you’re holding came from the water hazard on hole 7, but you might want to explain that, too.
Columbia City Paper

Dear National Republican Congressional Committee,
Want to take cheap shots at John Spratt, eh? Kick a man with Parkinson’s while he’s down? But, Spratt wasn’t shaken, for lack of a better term. No! He stood straight and true and shook his gnarled fist in defiance. For shame, GOP! The party that hung its hat on a doddering Ronald Reagan has the brass balls to question a congressman’s mental acuity. Have you people already forgotten Ol’ Strom? He was like an animated corpse toward the end. To say nothing of Dan Quayle, even in his best years! The letter “W” ring any bells? Does Spratt read notes written on his palm? “No siree, you betcha!”
The Dems may be many things, but so far you folks have cornered the market on stunted brain function.
Columbia City Paper

Dear Ronnie James Dio,
Oh, great warrior prophet, we mourn your crossing to Valhalla and bury you with this leather cape, studded codpiece, and broadsword, so they may serve you in your exploits in the underworld. ...Sorry, we couldn’t part with the dragon saddle.
Columbia City Paper

Dear General Assembly,
You people are an open book. Granted, our state and country both need to do something to stem the tide of illegal immigration. But, hassling Hispanic people during traffic stops is just a drop in the bucket on a practical level and damned offensive when you consider the potential for racial profiling. That’s why once debate over the Arizona immigration bill reached a fever pitch, it was inevitable you guys would throw South Carolina in the mix and announce a similar bill. We’re surprised it took this long. Couldn’t let another legislative body soak up all that national revulsion alone; that’s our state’s gig!
Columbia City Paper

Soundboard Live Music Dates

Thursday 05/27/10

Cafe Strudel
Ancient Sunken Navies

New Brookland Tavern
Dr. DP
The Chiltons
Dem F.M. Boys

Open Mic w The Dubber

Friday 05/28/10

Cafe Strudel
Bryan Anderson

Hard Knox Grill
Rebel Son with
The DB Bryant Band

New Brookland Tavern
Graves Of Valor
Invoking The Abstract

Frank Smoak, Jack Sligh
& Jack McGregor

The White Mule
Chatham County Line

Sat 05/29/10

The Art Bar
The Blind Cobras, Obraskai, Full Color Footage, 5 Steps

Cafe Strudel

Hard Knox Grill
Casual Kings with
One Way Out

New Brookland Tavern
Rian Adkinson
The Dubber

The Funky Junk Band

White Mule
Ryan Bonner And The Dearly Beloved
Sam Quinn

Sun 5/30/10

The Art Bar
Atlanta Pop Festival Tribute Show

New Brookland Tavern

Mon 5/31/10

New Brookland Tavern
5pm Jamie's Elsewhere
Memphis May Fire
I Am Abomination
Mercy Mercy Me

Tuesday 6/01.10

New Brookland Tavern
Acoustic Open Mic Night w/ Brightford

Wed 06/02/10

New Brookland Tavern
Divided By Friday
Sweet Vans
Set To Explode
Do Your Worst

Thurs 06/03/10
New Brookland Tavern
The Private Life Of David Reed
The Fire Tonight
Tyler Boone

Friday 06/04/10

New Brookland Tavern
The Patient
Young Alumni
Valey Maker (Austin Crane)

Sat 06/05/10

The Art Bar
American Gun

New Brookland Tavern
Terrible Things
Versus The Robot

Sun 06/06/10
New Brookland Tavern
Live entertainment *Gino Bananas*
Freestyle Battle w/
Planet marz Working music

Thu 06/10/10

Township Auditorium
Tony Bennett

The White Mule
Andrew Belle

Fri 6/11/10

New Brookland Tavern
Toro Y Moi

The White Mule
Richard Shindell

Sat 6/12/10

Cafe Strudel
Rosanna Mae

Conservation Hotlist

With less than two weeks left in the session, our elected officials in the General Assembly are at risk of leaving South Carolina “high and dry” on water legislation and a host of vital conservation issues. We are still waiting on the Senate Finance Committee to schedule a subcommittee hearing on a bill (H.4269)that would extend the life of the Conservation Bank to 2023. Several Senators have held up a bill (H.3603) that would require DHEC to notify the public after a major spill in our waters. And a bill (H.3924) that provides greater protections for landowners who conduct prescribed fires has also stalled on the Senate calendar.
Read on for updates on other key bills.

In the Senate

Conservation Bank (H.4269, Rep. Bill Herbkersman/ S.903, Sen. Glenn McConnell) 2010 PRIORITY
Last year, the Conservation Bank received the largest reduction of funding of any state agency because it is subject to a “death clause” that zeroes its budget when there are across-the-board cuts to state agencies. If the Bank were treated on par with other agencies, deed stamp revenues could generate as much as $9 million next year so that even if the Bank’s funding was cut in half, funding would exceed $4.5 million. In April, the House Ways and Means Committee deleted the language that would have eliminated the “death clause” but retained the extension of the Sunset Provision to 2023. (The Bank is currently set to expire in 2013.) The last week of April, the House voted in favor of H.4269 in a 93-8 vote. Referred to the! Senate Finance Committee, H.4269 has yet to be scheduled for a Subcommittee hearing.

Emergency Notification (H.3603, Rep. Mike Pitts) SUPPORT
This bill, which passed the House in 2009, requires DHEC to create a standard procedure for public notification in the event of a major spill in public waters. The Senate Medical Affairs Committee gave this bill a favorable report last week, and H.3603 now resides on the Senate calendar with several Senator’s names attached in objection. We urge Senators to support this important legislation.

Prescribed Fire (H.3924, Rep. Jim Harrison) SUPPORT
H.3924 provides greater protections for landowners who choose to conduct prescribed burns on their property, and promotes the most efficient and cost effective forest management tool within South Carolina. This bill has passed the House and now has an objection attached, so it remains stalled on the Senate calendar.

E-Waste Recycling (H.4093, Rep. Dwight Loftis) SUPPORT
This bill requires manufacturers who sell most TVs, computers and printers in South Carolina to establish recovery programs at no cost to the consumer. H.4093 is supported by industry and the conservation community, and will help improve water quality by keeping toxic heavy metals out of our landfills and waterways. It passed the House in March, passed the Senate in April and was signed into law by the Governor last week.

In the House

Water Withdrawal Permitting (S.452, Sen. Paul Campbell) 2010 PRIORITY
After nearly four years of negotiations, most conservation organizations, DHEC, manufacturers, utilities, farmers and water suppliers have finally agreed to support a compromise water withdrawal permitting bill. On March 11th the Senate voted unanimously in favor of a permitting bill that requires new users to maintain natural seasonal flows in our rivers, protecting wildlife, recreational uses and downstream users. This is an important first step to fully protecting our state’s rivers and negotiating with other states over shared water resources. The House will continue its debate on this bill this week.  Email your Representative and urge him or her to support this ma! jor 2010 priority.

Natural Resource Agency Funding- 2010 PRIORITY
The conservation community is concerned about the human and natural resource fallout from the severe budget cuts already instituted at DNR, Forestry, PRT, and Agriculture. The House and Senate budgets both currently include operational funding for the Bank in the amount of $207,000 which will allow the Bank to keep its doors open another fiscal year.  We’d like to thank the Senate for identifying $1.5 million in March to meet some of the Bank’s current obligations and we urge the House and Senate to ensure that this funding stays in the final budget. We also encourage House and Senate members to shore up DNR funding either through appropriations or fees. DNR has already cut 198 positions. Of these, 88 are within the Law Enforcement Division, leaving three counties with only one resident officer and one county with no officer. The Senate has approved a small administrative fee on all hunting and fishing licenses and! watercraft titling and registrations to help maintain DNR law enforcement and other vital agency services. We urge both chambers to approve DNR funding and help save over 70-120 positions at the Department.

Community Economic Development Act Reauthorization (S.915, Sen. John Land) SUPPORT
These bills would amend state law to allow funding to be appropriated for community development corporations (CDCs) and community development financial institutions (CDFIs) for five additional years, to 2015. Thus far, $2.4 million of the $5 million authorized has been appropriated and awarded to certified CDCs through a competitive process. The Act also allowed up to $5 million in state tax credits for private investments in CDCs or CDFIs. The conservation community and CDC leaders have begun to collaborate about ways to connect rural land conservation with sustainable development of housing, farming and energy initiatives. We support the reauthorization of the Community Economic Development Act to encourage the continued leveraging of public and private funding to benefit low income communities and neighborhoods. S.915 passed the Senate in February ! and received second and third reading last week in the House. It has now been sent back to the Senate for concurrence.

Those Randy Libertarians

By Baynard Woods
Rand Paul, son of Texas Representative Ron Paul, won the Kentucky primary last week and then immediately found himself in trouble when he claimed that he was opposed to the Civil Rights Act. That is, his libertarianism extended so far that he did not believe that the Federal Government had the right to prohibit businesses from discriminating on the basis of race. He did stress that he was not racist and that he hoped the market would punish such businesses.
Jim DeMint endorsed Rand Paul before the election. Both men have claimed the Kentucky primary as a “tea party” victory. Since Paul’s views on Civil Rights have become clear, DeMint has been asked if he agreed with Paul.
He said that he did not agree with Paul and that he supported the Civil Rights Act. Which means that Jim DeMint supports the Federal Government’s intervention in the affairs of private businesses. Which means, that for all his claims to purity -he is the only Senator to get a 100 percent ranking on his own “Senate Conservatives” website—he is not consistent or pure.
I believe that DeMint probably does agree with Paul—but as an ad man is too savvy to say so. Ever since Truman first introduced Civil Rights in the Forties, the rhetoric that opposed it has always been based around an intrusive Federal Government.
When the Committee for Civil Rights report came out, in 1948, Strom Thurmond became a leading segregationist. Jack Bass and Marjorie Thompson’s book “Strom” details his arguments. Strom said: “Don’t forget that the so-called Civil Rights program would bring about the end of segregation in the South, forcing mixing of the races in our hotels, in our restaurants, in our schools, in our swimming pools and in our public places. This change in our customs is not desired by either the white or colored race.”
No modern politician will talk in those terms. But Thurmond went on in a vein that could easily be found on FOX News tonight:  “To bring this about, the federal government would set up a super police force with power to rove throughout the states and keep our people in constant fear of being sent to a federal jail unless we accept the decrees turned out by a bunch of anti-southern bureaucrats in Washington.”
This could be DeMint. The Senator is in a tough position. He doesn’t yet know how the Tea Party is responding to Rand Paul’s remarks. The movement’s most ardent supporters are used to accepting ridiculous nonsense from people named Rand. If DeMint comes out in support of Civil Rights—he might be seen as a Big Government man. If he comes out against it—he’ll come across as a radical racist. He’s up for reelection this year and he can’t afford to alienate either racists or antiracists.
True conservatives need to support the Federal Government as the greatest guarantee of individual liberty against the tyranny of the majority and get off of this idea that everything would be fine if there were no government.
It is so weird. The whole thing goes back to Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. To vastly oversimplify things, Rousseau believed that human beings were “naturally” good, or Noble Savages, and that civilization and government corrupted us. Hobbes believed that without society human life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” (No, that is not a description of Joe Wilson—he’s rich). Only government could save us. Rousseau has been traditionally aligned with liberals and hippies and the like and Hobbes with conservatives and law-and-order types. Now, these new Randy Libertarians are embracing Rousseau and moving from Libertarianism to anarchism. The far left and the far right, together again. They come together in the dream that we can live free from constraint. Of course, this is one of the most appealing ideas in history… until somebody else harms you. In the current right wing rhetoric, only the government, terrorists and city slickers hurt you. This latter locution is useful because “urban” acts as code for ‘black’ and ‘elite’ at once.
In reality, the Massey coal mine and BP oil slick make it clear that the Federal Government ought to be a Hobbesian overawing power when it comes to behemoth corporate interests. To keep a business from discriminating against individuals does not take freedom from the individual—it places the citizen before to the merchant, the individual above the business.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Paul Blake: Letting The Chips Fall

Since I founded Columbia City Paper five years ago with just a stick and some clay, I've made my fair share of powerful enemies in this state. (Lindsey Graham's boyfriend comes to mind...) But, I don't want to make this post about me, Paul Blake, or how I started Columbia's only locally-owned alternative newsweekly on a rainy August day in 2005 in a struggling market, during a time that is tough for old-fashioned journalism. There's no shortage of opinions about me,, or the impact it's having on South Carolina politics. I like to think that the stories I write, the debates I drive, and the opinions I help shape all speak to the Viagra-solid potency of the brand I've created.

Over the past several weeks, political operatives have been working to destroy this newspaper and my credibility. I suspect this network of operatives is made up of DMV employees, the liberal/communist media and possibly former WACH Fox 57 news anchor, Mike Woolfolk. Yet, Columbia City Paper continues to strive for truth and justice. I can't speak for the accuracy of FITSNews (honestly, we didn't know that rag was still online), nor can I confirm his reported affair with Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley. But, I do think it is time I aired my own personal indiscretions that make it so difficult for me to cover this story impartially.

Will Folks, Paul Blake
My biggest fear is that one of those conveniently anonymous sources who always seem to be speaking to FITSNews and other political blogger types will come forward before I have a chance to share my own youthful indiscretions. For you see, I, too, have had an inappropriate physical relationship with Will Folks. That's it. I won't provide any more information or details about it. While I may request facts from public figures, I will not sit here and provide them to you.

Although I am indeed better than you, I am not perfect. Sure, I am a miracle worker running Columbia City Paper in a conservative market, but I too can have a fall from grace.

I do owe my current girlfriend, Sugar from Platinum Plus, an apology for failing to disclose certain things that took place prior to our lap dance Saturday. I know that's not the technical definition of infidelity, but it is a form of unfaithfulness that has broken the trust between us – a trust which must now be rebuilt.

Aside from Will Folk's wife, I feel no need to apologize or explain myself to anyone. We all make mistakes. I once bought the Best Buy extended warranty on an electronic device that was already covered by the manufacturers warranty. I am human. And I will survive this.

When I look in the mirror every day, I am able to say, "Damn, I am such a good-looking publisher that even the straightest right winger might think twice about reserving the right of marriage to remain between a man and a woman." My heart may be broken but my will is strong. (Ah, I said "will" didn't I?) My thoughts inevitably drift back to my William... my Willie. God, I can't quit you! Such are the ideals and passions that I promote in City Paper; the freedom to be with someone like Will Folks, if he is ever willing to open his arms to me again and hold me in his pale, hairy embrace.

Whatever happens, I am not here to capitalize on it and promote my website. I repeat, I am not here to capitalize and shamelessly self-promote myself, my newspaper or crappy blog as a result of one musky night of passion between two vulnerable men. The paper comes out this Thursday, so be sure to try to follow the other details I won't be sharing as they come to light. Take care, cheers and God Bless America.

[caption id="attachment_1669" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Will Folks, "][/caption]

Related links Link: Will Folks: Letting the Chips Fall

Friday, May 21, 2010

Regional News Briefs


Society of knights, medieval festival taking shape in countryside
An Aiken County couple who have built and live in a three story structure resembling a castle tower have announced plans to hold a medieval festival on their property and open their land to the formation of a medieval style village.
Sherman and Donna Gills, who go by the titles King Keliance and Queen Mysteria respectively, say they plan to build another tower, a dining area and a grand hall onto the existing structure. According to the Aiken Standard, they are also assembling an order of knights made up of other area medieval enthusiasts. The group, consisting of around 23 members, uses the castle, which the Gills have named EastWind, as their meeting place. Members of the group may also begin to build medieval structures on the property, such as cottages, smithies and an armory.
The group recently held the first annual Medieval Games and Renaissance Fair for the community, featuring ax and dagger throwing, a maypole dance, and catapults. The Standard’s account of the festival featured a photo of King Keliance standing in front of EastWind in medieval garb holding what appears to be a corndog.


Jilted john claims prostitute stole DVDs
A North Charleston man called authorities after a prostitute he hired allegedly stole a jar of quarters and some DVDs from his home.
According to a police report, the man, 58, called police around 7:30 a.m. claiming he had paid a woman named Rose to have sex with him the night before, then awoke to find $5 worth of quarters and a few movies missing.
So far, no arrests have been made.

Man claims he only broke into county office to watch online movie trailers

A Charleston man arrested for breaking and entering claims his motives were simple: to grab a bite to eat and stream a few movie trailers online.
Officers responding to an alarm being activated at the Charleston County Human Services building found the man hiding under a desk, according to the Charleston Post and Courier.
Police charged Stanley Fields, 49, with burglary, second offense. An office employee later said the computer had not been used and nothing appeared to have been stolen.


Cat stuck in tree for six weeks finally rescued
A Hartsville area cat is recovering at home after an arborist freed it from the top of a pine tree. The cat, named Lucky, had reportedly been stuck in the tree, nearly 90 feet above the ground, since last month.
Lucky’s owner, Richard Nall, told the Florence Morning News that he’d sought out help from a number of tree trimming services, the fire department, and a utility company but that none of them could get the cat down. Finally, he said, an area arborist was able to climb the tree and send Lucky down in a bucket.
The cat was returned home after being treated for severe dehydration, starvation and fever. Nall says he won’t keep the cat indoors an inside-only pet, because Lucky enjoys the outdoors.


Beef jerky brings shoplifter’s spree to an end... for now
Rock Hill police are looking for a Lancaster man accused of shoplifting over 100 items from Family Dollar, Big Lots, CVS, Wal-Mart and Lowe’s.
According to the Rock Hill Herald, authorities were tipped off about the suspect after a Family Dollar employee witnessed him stuff beef jerky down his pants. The clerk noted the make and model of the man’s car, took down his license plate number, and reported him.
Police found the car a few hours later at a BP gas station, but the suspect fled the scene. Officers found a woman asleep in the back of the car. The woman said the suspect had picked her up from Piedmont Medical Center and drove around while she slept.
A search of the car uncovered stolen tools, flashlights, razors, and medications. The beef jerky was also recovered. The suspect remains at large.


Drunk man “sucked under” train while texting and walking tracks
A Summerville says he has found God after being run over by a train while intoxicated.
Christopher Coleman, 26, was texting his wife while walking along the railroad tracks near Icehouse Bar when the incident occurred, according to the Charleston Post and Courier. Coleman, who was reportedly slurring his speech and smelled of alcohol, told police he saw a light approaching before he was “sucked under” an oncoming train.
The train engineer told police he witnessed Coleman laying on the tracks.
“I remember laying between the rails,” Coleman told police. “I remember seeing the train pass over me, and I could feel the rails moving. I put my head against one rail, and my feet against the other.”
Police took Coleman to the hospital for treatment of minor cuts and bruises before transporting him to the Dorchester County Detention Center on a charge of disorderly conduct.
“I didn’t really believe in God until tonight,” Coleman said.

Taiwanese art in Cayce

By Judit Trunkos

Art + Cayce’s new exhibition features a dual show “Kidult – Being.” Two Taiwanese art students are visiting from the Tainan National University of the Arts. Chen Chih-Yu presents her show, “Kidult” and Lin Lung Chieh shows his ceramics as part of the “Being” installation. Both shows can be seen through May 27 at 1329 State Street in Cayce.
The dual exhibition demonstrates a unique and outstanding depiction of children by Chih-yu and a basic existential being by Lung Chieh. The ceramic sculptures are non-functional pieces, most of them installed on the wall or simply hanging on a wire to achieve the needed visual effects. Walking into the gallery, some viewers will undoubtedly be stunned by a tortured rabbit, whose body was torn into two pieces.  Going deeper in the rabbit hole, there is much more to discover.
Chih-Yu is inspired by more feminine objects and creatures such as cats, babies and children. In her work “Pillow Box,” she created an open ceramic box which is hanging on a wire, and painted many intertwining children’s faces and other imaginary objects resembling body parts, flowers and sea creatures. The fantastic drawings and paintings are reminiscent of the colors and styles of Japanese prints. The ceramic pieces lead viewers into a fantasyland, seemingly into the mind of the artist itself.
Lung-Chieh’s” Being” features more masculine pieces and darker colors. His works depict complex and complicated individual beings that are often not titled. The untitled works represent the essence of all, not just human beings, creating long and curvy horn-like creatures. The extent of Lung-Chieh’s fantasy and imagination almost crosses into a dream-like surrealist collection of work, in which the viewers will spend time trying to understand the intention of the artist.
The artists synchronized their work to the extent that both Chih-Yu and Lung-Chieh added mysterious black cutouts to their sculptures. The black shadow-like additions sometimes serve as an extension to the ceramics and sometimes as some sort of connection between pieces. While it is up to the viewers to figure out the role of the shadows, the experience provides a great intellectual game for art lovers.

Spy or Say Goodbye

After Imam Foad Farahi refused to become a federal informant, the government tried to destroy him.

By Trevor Aaronson

[caption id="attachment_873" align="alignright" width="380" caption="Foad Farahi"][/caption]

Bush-Cheney and Kerry-Edwards signs littered the lawns as Imam Foad Farahi walked from a mosque to his North Miami Beach, Fla., apartment a few blocks away. It was November 1, 2004, the day before George W. Bush would win a second term in office. But Farahi, an influential South Florida Muslim holy man, had been too busy fasting and praying to pay much attention to the presidential election.
For Farahi, an Iranian citizen who had lived in the United States for more than a decade, it was simply another month of Ramadan in Florida. Then, around 5 p.m., as he neared his apartment, he saw two men standing outside. They were waiting for him.

“We’re from the FBI,” one of the men said.

“OK,” he responded.

They wanted to know about José Padilla and Adnan El Shukrijumah, two South Florida men linked to the al Qaeda terrorist network. Padilla, the so-called “Dirty Bomber,” was arrested in May 2002 and initially given enemy combatant status. He eventually stood trial in Miami and was convicted on terrorism charges and sentenced to 17 years in prison. Shukrijumah is a Saudi Arabian and an alleged al Qaeda member whose last known address was in Miramar. The FBI is offering up to $5 million for information leading directly to his capture.

“I know José Padilla, but I don’t know Adnan,” Farahi told the agents.

As imam of the Shamsuddin Islamic Center in North Miami Beach, Farahi was in a unique position to know about local Muslims. He had once met Shukrijumah, the son of a local Islamic religious leader, but had no contact with him after that. Padilla had prayed at Farahi’s mosque and was once among his Arabic students.

“I have had no contact with Padilla since 1998, when he left the country,” Farahi told the government agents. As for Shukrijumah, Farahi told the agents:

“I don’t know anything about his activities.”

“We want you to work with us,” Farahi remembers an agent telling him.

And this is when the imam’s five-year battle with the federal government began.

“I have no problem working with you guys or helping you out,” Farahi recalls telling them. He could keep them informed about the local Muslim community or translate Arabic. But the relationship, he insisted, would need to be public; others would have to know he was helping the government.

But that wasn’t what the FBI had in mind, Farahi says. The agents wanted him to become a secret informant who would investigate specific people. And they knew Farahi was in a vulnerable position. His student visa had expired, and he had asked the government for a renewal. He had also applied for political asylum, hoping one of those legal tracks would offer a way for him to stay in the United States indefinitely.

“We’ll give you residency,” the agents promised. “We’ll give you money to go to school.”

Farahi considered the offer for a moment and then shook his head.

“I can’t,” he told them.

The slender, bearded Farahi frowns as he recalls all of this while sitting on a white folding chair in the Shamsuddin Islamic Center on a recent afternoon. “People trust you as a religious figure, and you’re trying to kind of deceive them,” he says, remembering the choice he faced. “That’s where the problem is.”

Farahi soon discovered that the FBI’s offer wasn’t optional. The federal government used strong-arm tactics — including trying to have him deported and falsely claiming it had information linking him to terrorism — in an effort to force him to become an informant, he says.

The imam has resisted the government and took his political asylum case to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

“As long as you’re not a citizen, there are lots of things [the government] can do,” says Ira Kurzban, Farahi’s attorney. “They can allege you’re a terrorist and try to bring terrorist charges against you, or they can get you deported.”

[caption id="attachment_874" align="alignleft" width="380" caption="Ira Kurzban, Farahi’s attorney"][/caption]

Terrorism, he explains, can even be defined as giving “money to a hospital in the West Bank that turns out to be run by Hamas.”

Farahi asserts unequivocally he is innocent of any terrorism charges the government could bring against him. In fact, he says, he would report anyone in the Muslim community who was supporting terrorism. “From the Islamic perspective, it’s your duty to respect the law, and if there’s anything going on, any crime about to be committed, or any kind of harm to be caused to people or property, it should be reported to the police.”

The FBI’s intense efforts to pressure Farahi into becoming an informant reveal the government’s desperation to infiltrate local Muslim communities. The hard-line tactics have become so widespread that the San Francisco-based civil rights group Muslim Advocates distributes a video advising how to respond if FBI agents approach.

In fact, relations between the FBI and U.S. Islamic communities are so strained that a coalition of Muslim-American groups in March accused the government of using “McCarthy-era tactics” and threatened to sever communication with the FBI unless it “reassessed its use of agent provocateurs in Muslim communities.”

Despite this public conflict, few specific cases of Muslims being recruited as informants have become public. Farahi’s battle with the government is not only daring but also unusual.

“People have two choices,” Farahi says. “Either they end up working with the FBI or they leave the country on their own.

It’s just sometimes when you’re in that situation, not many people are strong enough to stand up and resist and fight — to reject their offers.”
* * *

By law, Foad Farahi is an Iranian, but in his 34 years, he has never set foot in the country. He was born in Kuwait, but under Middle Eastern law, he is an Iranian because his father was from there.

Farahi grew up in Kuwait, where his father operated a currency exchange business in Kuwait City. His mother, a Syrian, raised him and his younger sister to speak Arabic and worship as Sunnis, an Islamic sect that is persecuted in Iran. But he knew his future would never be secure in Kuwait. “Even if I married a Kuwaiti woman, I wouldn’t become a citizen,” he says. “Kuwait could deport me to Iran at any time for any reason.”

At age 19, he applied for and received a student visa from the United States. He chose to come to South Florida, where his family once vacationed when he was a teenager. He enrolled at Miami Dade College. He received an associate’s degree there and transferred to Barry University, a private Catholic school in Miami Shores, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.

While at Barry, he served on the university’s interfaith committee, several faculty members recall. This continued even after he graduated. He helped put together interfaith dinners and talked about Islam. In addition, he participated as a teacher in a Barry University peace forum attended by Jewish, Christian and Muslim children. “He has had a positive influence at this university,” says Edward R. Sunshine, a theology professor at Barry. No one who knows Farahi, Sunshine says, would suspect he is radical or militant.

Farahi went on to obtain a master’s degree in public health from Florida International University. He also began an intensive, three-year imam’s training course administered by the director of Islamic studies at a mosque in Miramar. In 2000, the Shamsuddin Islamic Center opened near his home in North Miami Beach. Six months later, its imam returned home to Egypt, and Farahi was a logical successor.

It was through this position that he met several South Floridians who have been linked to terrorism. In addition to Padilla and Shukrijumah, he encountered Imran Mandhai, a 19-year-old Pakistani man living in Hollywood, Fla., who was arrested in 2002 for an alleged plot to bomb power plants.

“Imran came here once years ago during Ramadan,” Farahi recalls as he sits in a corner of the mosque. “It was a big event for him at the time. He memorized and recited the Qur’an.”

When Farahi met with the FBI agents on Nov. 1, 2004, he said he couldn’t spy on members of his mosque in good conscience. Two days later, FBI agents phoned him. They requested he come to their office to take a polygraph. “I had nothing to hide,” Farahi recalls. “They asked the same questions over and over, to see if my answer would change, and it didn’t.”

The agents were still focused on Shukrijumah.

“What is your relationship with him?”

“When was the last time you were in contact with him?”

“Where is he now?”

For two and a half years after the polygraph, Farahi didn’t hear from the FBI. Then, in summer 2007, he received another call. An agent asked to meet with him immediately. In Cooper City, two FBI agents — a man and a woman — again asked Farahi if he would work with the government. He again declined, and the meeting ended amicably.

Farahi didn’t know the pushback would come later.
* * *

On a November day in 2007, Farahi arrived at Miami Immigration Court for what he thought would be a routine hearing on his political asylum case. The imam had requested asylum because he is a Sunni, a persecuted religious minority in Iran. Fear of religious persecution is one of the internationally recognized grounds the United States considers in granting asylum from Iran.

As Farahi entered the courthouse, he saw four men from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They wore body armor and had guns holstered at their sides. All followed Farahi from the security checkpoint on the ground level to the third-floor courtroom of U.S. Immigration Judge Carey Holliday.

Farahi’s attorney at the time, Mildred Morgado, spoke with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and then asked to talk to Farahi in private. “They have a file with evidence that you’re supporting or are involved in terrorist groups,” Farahi recalls Morgado telling him. (Morgado did not return repeated calls seeking comment.)

Farahi says the ICE agents gave him an ultimatum: Drop the asylum case and leave the United States voluntarily or be charged as a terrorist.

Indeed, luck wasn’t on Farahi’s side when drawing a judge for his asylum claim. Appointed to the immigration court in October 2006 by then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Holliday was a Louisiana Republican who had quickly earned a reputation for being tough on immigrants in Florida. In one case, he declined to hear arguments from an Ecuadorian couple who alleged they were targeted for deportation because their daughter, Miami Dade College student Gabby Pacheco, was a well-known activist for immigration reform. “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones,” Holliday wrote. (The judge resigned in January after the Department of Justice found that Bush administration officials had illegally selected immigration judges based on their political affiliation.)

After ICE agents threatened Farahi with terrorism charges, he told Holliday he would voluntarily leave the country within 30 days. Although his Iranian passport was expired — a bureaucratic problem that should have given him more time to consider the government’s threat — Holliday granted the order of voluntary departure.

The agents let Farahi go free after he promised to leave the country. But Farahi decided instead to appeal the government’s action, which is called an “order of voluntary departure.”

Farahi believes that the government’s claim that it would prosecute him as a terrorist was a bluff — nothing more than leverage to coerce him into becoming an informant. To this day, the government has not shared with Farahi or his attorney any information about this professed evidence, and he has not been charged with a crime.

“If they have something on Foad, they should make it public. They haven’t done that,” says Sunshine, the Barry University theology professor. “They are intimidating and bullying, and I resent that type of behavior being paid for by my tax dollars.”

Farahi’s assertion that the government is trying to coerce him to become an informant cannot be verified independently because the FBI won’t comment on his case, says Miami FBI Special Agent Judy Orihuela. “It is a matter of policy that we do not confirm or deny who we have asked to be a source,” Orihuela says.

But similar claims from other would-be informants seem to support Farahi’s assertion. In November 2005, for example, immigration officials questioned Yassine Ouassif, a 24-year-old Moroccan with a green card, as he crossed into New York from Canada. The officials confiscated his green card and instructed him to meet an FBI agent in Oakland, Calif. The bureau’s offer: Become an informant or be deported. Ouassif refused to spy and won his deportation case with the help of the National Legal Sanctuary for Community Advancement, a nonprofit that advocates for civil rights on behalf of Muslims and immigrants from the Middle East and South Asia.

The government employed a similarly tough tactic against Tarek Mehanna, a 26-year-old U.S. citizen living in Sudbury, Mass. After FBI agents failed to persuade Mehanna to spy, the government charged him with making a false statement. Prosecutors allege Mehanna told FBI agents a suspect was in Egypt when he knew that person was in Somalia. Mehanna is awaiting trial, and his attorney has alleged the prosecution is a form of revenge for Mehanna’s unwillingness to be an informant.

Among more recent cases is that of Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan. Charged with making a false statement to obtain citizenship, he alleged in a February detention hearing in Orange County, Calif., that he was arrested and indicted for refusing to be an informant.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) suspects there are hundreds of similar cases in which the government has used deportation or criminal charges to force cooperation from informants. Most of these cases will never be made public. What’s more, the FBI is now working under guidelines, approved in December 2008 by then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey, that allow agents to consider religion and ethnic background when launching undercover investigations. Today, many Muslims in the United States simply assume informants are working inside mosques.

“This is becoming increasingly common,” says Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s national communications director. “Law enforcement authorities seek to use some vulnerability of the individual, whether it be business, immigration, or personal, to try to gain some sort of informant status.

“The issue is law enforcement’s basic understanding of the community. Is it one that law enforcement needs to have blanket suspicion toward, or is it well integrated into our multifaith nation and wants to preserve public safety as well as civil liberties?”
* * *

Ira Kurzban’s law office is a mile from the alfresco restaurants of Miami’s Coconut Grove. On a hot day in late August, Kurzban wears a white guayabera and shows no concern for the disheveled gray hairs on the sides of his balding head.

He leans forward at his desk, having been asked a question about Farahi. “He’s an imam in his mosque,” Kurzban says as he throws his hands in the air in a sort of protest. “He’s basically, you know, the rabbi.”

Kurzban has become a well-known advocate for immigrants’ rights, having argued more immigration-related cases before the U.S. Supreme Court than any of his peers. He is also on the board of directors of Immigrants’ List, the first political action committee in Washington, D.C., established to support candidates who endorse immigration reform.

Farahi, desperate not to leave the country but frightened after government agents threatened to charge him as a terrorist, hired Kurzban to take his case on appeal.

In November 2007, Kurzban asked the Board of Immigration Appeals to throw out Farahi’s voluntary departure order and reopen his political asylum case, arguing that the imam was illegally intimidated. The board denied the request, so Kurzban petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Farahi’s order of voluntary departure has been stayed as the appeals court considers his request.

For now, the legal battle makes Farahi a kind of no land’s man. He no longer has an official immigration status in the United States, and in asking for political asylum, he has rejected his Iranian citizenship. As he was in Kuwait, Farahi is home in a land that could expel him at any time.

“I think the real issue is, does the government have the right to pressure people... to make them informants?” Kurzban says. “It’s clearly modus operandi of the FBI to (a) recruit people who are going to be informants and (b) to use whatever leverage they can.”

In late September, the end of Ramadan signaled the five-year anniversary since the FBI first approached Farahi. “I’m not bitter about what has happened,” the imam insists.

Dressed in khaki pants and a white buttoned-down shirt, he walks barefoot through the mosque as members begin to arrange food on folding banquet tables. After sundown, everyone will eat and drink together to break the fast. Farahi is distracted as he waves at attendees and hugs others entering the mosque.

“I’m not bitter,” he repeats after a few moments. “I wouldn’t say I’m bitter at all. But I’m tired. I want to live my life in this country. I want to stay here. That’s all.”

Farahi stops and waves to another man. The imam shakes his head quickly. “I wish the case would be over,” he says. “I just wish I could stay here.”

Trevor Aaronson is an investigative journalist who lives in Florida. For more information about his work, visit

DON'T PANIC: Who should have nuclear weapons?

The U.S. and Russia possess more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons between them. Sounds fair.

By Andisheh Nouraee
Every decade has its defining question.
In the ‘70s, it was, “Who wears short shorts?” In the ‘80s, the nation wondered, “Where’s the beef?” In the ‘90s, we struggled to answer one simple question: “Can’t we all just get along?” And during the ‘00s, with two disastrous wars and the looming threat of terrorism, Americans demanded to know, “Whatcha gonna do with all that ass/All that ass inside them jeans?”
Barely four and a half months into the ‘10s, it’s perhaps too early to say for sure what this decade’s defining question will be. If I had to guess, though, I think it’ll end up being something like: “Who should have nuclear weapons?”
Throughout May, world leaders are meeting in New York to help answer that question. The meeting is a conference to discuss the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Active since 1970, the NPT allows five of its 189 signatory nations to have nukes. The U.S., Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom are allowed to have nukes. In exchange for the privilege, the five nations agree to refrain from using a nuke against a non-nuclear state and work toward the eventual elimination of their arsenals. Additionally, all signatories are recognized to have an inalienable right to peaceful nuclear energy production.
The U.S. and Russia possess more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons between them.
The U.S. has 5,113 nuclear weapons, roughly 2,200 of which are so-called strategic warheads, the kind that can be lobbed at other cities from a long distance. The rest are so-called tactical nukes, the kind we’d use on a battlefield – or maybe for Fourth of July celebrations during a Palin Administration.
The Ruskies are believed to have about 2,800 strategic warheads. Russia feels like it needs more nukes that the U.S. because its conventional military is crap these days.
Guess who the third nukiest nuclear power is? Believe it or not, it’s France, which is thought to have about 300 strategic warheads – at least one of which is rumored to be aimed at the Fox News headquarters because of all that “freedom fries” nonsense. And by rumored, I mean I just started that rumor.
Numbers four and five on the nuclear Who’s Who are China and the U.K. The Chinese have about 180 strategic warheads. I’m sure they’ll get more once the U.S. moves all its weapons factories to China to save money.
The Brits have about 160 strategic nukes. Each is equipped with a loudspeaker that apologizes profusely for any inconvenience its use may cause.
Three nations that never signed the NPT also have nukes. Israel developed its nuclear program in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, an era when the large armies of neighboring Arab nations threatened to overrun Israel. Though the conventional strategic threat to Israel has waned, Israel continued to hone its nuclear program. It’s now believed to have missiles, aircraft and submarines capable of delivering nuclear payloads.
India and Pakistan declined to sign the NPT because, at the time the NPT was drafted, they were warring enemy nations racing one another to develop nukes first. Points for honesty, I suppose.
Not that anyone asked me, but I think the NPT is the most successful arms control treaty since Philip II’s No More Impaling People on Sharp Pikes Dipped In Feces Accord of 340 B.C. In 40 years, only one country that signed the NPT, North Korea, has dropped out and developed a nuclear weapon.
Despite that success, the NPT is teetering on the edge of obsolescence. Non-nuclear nations increasingly view the NPT as a tool to keep non-nuclear nations weak enough to be bombed by the West. Remember that the War On Terror™ targeted non-nuclear nations (Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia) while sparing nuclear nations that behaved just as terror-ifically (Pakistan and North Korea). With the NPT’s Big Five squeezing Iran about its nuclear fuel enrichment program, while ignoring Israel’s actual arsenal, more world leaders are calling B.S. on the NPT.
Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe we’ll be forced to modify the treaty in a way that makes it more meaningful for modern times.
Or maybe it’ll just crumble and regional powers like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Brazil will join the arms race.

Hip Hop Review

Peace and blessings to all of you out there reading this. Summer is underway and moving fast, make sure you stay on point, stay cool, and remained focused.  Hope you having fun with the Playoffs, the ‘still not solved’ car crash of Mayor-Elect Steve Benjamin, and the constant disorganization of our State Assembly; Summer 2010 promises to be filled with more jewels and junk.  Let’s get to it.

Since the passing of Keith Elam aka Guru this past April, all I have been listening to is Gang Starr (from ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’, ‘Step In The Arena’, to ‘Hard To Earn’, ‘Moment of Truth’, and ‘Full Clip’).  It’s crazy how music affects the rhythm in all of us.  I did have a few opportunities though to put some new joints in the deck.

Here a quick list of some new albums that you need to put in your collection….
B.O.B. aka Bobby Ray- The Adventures of Bobby Ray (Grand Hustle/Rebel Rock)…An extremely eclectic gumbo of Hip Hop, Funk, Soul, and space travel.  Fresh off the heels of the #1 single ‘Nothing On You’, go grab yourself a copy of this young upstart’s debut.
8 Ball & MJG- Ten Toes Down (Grand Hustle/E1)….Southern royalty has no rivals.  One of the greatest groups of all time have not slowed down a bit from their ‘Space Age Pimpin’; GO SUPPORT REAL MUSIC
Kidz In The Hall- Land Of Make Believe (Duck Down Inc.)
Corinne Bailey Rae- The Sea (EMI Records)…As a dedication to her late husband, Corinne is at her finest on this record.  Enjoy!!!
Method Man (Meth), Ghostface Killah (Ghost), and Raekwon (Rae)- WU- MASSACRE (Def Jam)….Some of the sharpest lyricists from the Wu-Tang Clan have combined to make one of the dopest records in a while.  Flavor Filled!!!!
Bebe & Cece Winans- Still ( B& C Records)
Sade- Soldier Of Love (EPIC)…No words necessary!!!
Little Brother- Left Back (Hall Of Justice)…The final chapter of a very talented, yet turmoil filled crew.  Shouts to Phonte, Big Pooh, & 9th Wonder.  Much success to y’all brothers.
Snoop Dogg- More Malice (Doggy Style Records/Priority)
Raheem Devaughn- Love & War Masterpiece (Jive Records)…Easily one of 2010’s best R&B albums.
Erykah Badu- New Amerykah Part 2 (Motown)….Vintage sound from a vintage soul.
Ludacris- Battle Of The Sexes (Disturbing Tha Peace/ Def Jam)
Usher- Raymond Vs. Raymond ( Laface/Jive)
Jaheim-Another Round (Atlantic)
Shouting Down The Aisles (Various Artists)…..Gospel’s greats singing the gospel
Monica- Still Standing (J Records)….Veteran singer who’s definitely had her ups and downs.  This record is on the ‘Up & Up’.  One of her greatest collections of music.  From ‘Stay or Go’, ‘Love All Over Me’, to ‘Everything To Me’, and the 80’s style of ‘If You Were My Man’, this is an album not to be bypassed.  GO SUPPORT REAL MUSIC!!!!

Much Love and Lessons to you and yours this year. Ever need a DJ, Sound, Mixtapes, Hosting, Drops, whatever, make sure you hit me up at 803.546.2319,

Civil Twilight


Civil Twilight seems to be reaching that perfect apex point for bands (and fans); they’re in top form, have a solid new album to tour, are just on the cusp of breaking into stardom, yet they are still playing packed, intimate club shows.
If you haven’t heard of Civil Twilight, chances are you’ve heard their music on TV without knowing it. Their song “Letters From the Sky,” a song they recently performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live was featured in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and on Harper’s Island. “Quiet in My Head” was played on an episode of One Tree Hill and “Human” was featured on an episode of House and also on Without a Trace.
Originally hailing from South Africa, the trio has been compared to Muse and Coldplay and seem to bring the total package: equally gifted musicians, a large sound, stirring lyrics and spot on live shows. They have a history of good shows in South Carolina and this one will probably be another to add to the list.
Doors are at 8:30. Get there early!

-Norbet Sykes
Fri 05/21/10

New Brookland Tavern
5:30 doors: Come Get Some
Bracing For Impact
The Chiltons
Ait Fetterolf
9pm doors: Digital Rapport Dance Party w/:
GuyL, Will Wilds, Dylan Deekay
The Danger Team w/: Rich and ReRun

Newberry Opera House
Tommy Emmanuel

J'ouvert Steel Drum

Sat 05/22/10
Cafe Strudel
Early Show @ NOON !!!! Nashville Recording Artist                                           Branan Logan

Hard Knox Grill
Isabella's Gift

New Brookland Tavern
Civil Twilight

Traye Horne Band

The White Mule
Doug Walters

Newberry Opera House
Tommy Emmanuel
Sun 05/23/10
Hard Knox Grill
D.B. Bryant

Tuesday 05/25/10
Hard Knox Grill
Singer Song Writer Night

New Brookland Tavern
Acoustic Open Mic Night w/ Brightford

Wednesday 05/26/10

Hard Knox Grill
Jeremy Roberson

New Brookland Tavern
The Lovecrafts
Normal Bias

Thursday 05/27/10

Cafe Strudel
Ancient Sunken Navies

New Brookland Tavern
Dr. DP
The Chiltons
Dem F.M. Boys
Friday 05/28/10

Cafe Strudel
Bryan Anderson
Hard Knox Grill
Rebel Son with
The DB Bryant Band

New Brookland Tavern
Graves Of Valor
Invoking The Abstract

Sat 05/29/10

Hard Knox Grill
Casual Kings with
One Way Out

New Brookland Tavern
Rian Adkinson
The Dubber

White Mule
Ryan Bonner And The Dearly Beloved
Sam Quinn

Thu 06/10/10
Township Auditorium
Tony Bennett

Oops, We Accidentally Destroyed Space

By Baynard Woods

I was in the seventh grade. I was staying home with strep throat. I was rewinding the Skate Visions video on the VCR. The Challenger exploded.
Bad analogies are dangerous—not as dangerous as space shuttles and underwater oil wells, maybe, but close.  Here I am writing my second column as the oil continues to flow from BP’s drilling disaster in the gulf.  And yet Lindsey Graham told the Greenville News last week that “backing away from offshore drilling because of the spill would be like halting space exploration because of the Challenger accident.”
The Challenger was certainly a disaster. The entire crew died. But it is absurd to compare it to this disaster. There was little damage beyond the loss of the crew and the shuttle itself. In the case of the BP oil spill, the entire ecology of the gulf is being destroyed. Unless by “The Gulf” we simply mean the location—not the contents, the being of that location—then BP is destroying the gulf itself.
So in order for the analogy to hold up, the Challenger would’ve destroyed space itself—or a very significant portion of it.
For the record, Sanford is an opponent of offshore drilling. DeMint probably likes it precisely for its destructive value. I can imagine him sitting at home at night getting romantic to pictures of oil stained birds. But who knows, maybe he’s not as weird as he looks. But Graham, what is he up to?
John Kerry and Joe Lieberman finally introduced the Climate Bill that Graham had once helped them craft. Graham drafted the language regarding offshore drilling, which has been amended since the gulf disaster. The president has vowed to end the “cozy” relationship between regulators and oil companies. Forecasts now imagine the disaster to be ten times worse than originally thought.
But Lindsey told the Times, “The problems created by the historic oil spill in the gulf, along with the uncertainty of immigration politics, have made it extremely difficult for transformational legislation in the area of energy and climate to garner bipartisan support at this time.”
God forbid we do anything extremely difficult—or even to try it. I mean, we’re only the United States of America, after all. No need for the Senate to try to do anything difficult. To paraphrase Lindsey, “The obvious urgency of this issue and a completely unrelated thing make it impossible to act on the urgent issue.” You are facing the issue of a lifetime, Senator Graham, and you are acting like a goddamned baby about it. Man up and do the right thing and try to enact transformative legislation. It will not be enough—but it will be a start.
It is almost as if Graham is simply admitting that he and his colleagues are too petty to do anything significant. He wants to be able to push his drill-bit after the disaster, so he is going to sit on his hands.
He and his party argued that the world would end if health care was passed. They continue to argue that government action is the devil. And yet, for many fishermen, the world is ending not because of what the government did, but because of what it didn’t do.
This is another bit of the bitter fruit that the seeds of deregulation have sown. Economic meltdown, environmental catastrophe. And now, they want to blame Obama for not acting quicker. Damn right, everybody should be doing more. But the people who say that the government shouldn’t do anything don’t get to make that call. Sorry guys, you can’t have it both ways.  According to you, BP and Halliburton should be one hundred percent responsible for this clean up. Big government has no role.
Lindsey, Jim, Joe and the rest of you idiots that make our state look bad: please just resign. Or, since you’ve done such a good job clogging up our government with your bullshit, maybe you can volunteer it to BP and they can use it to clog up the leak.  It might be the first useful action any of you have ever taken.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Letters to the reader

Dear municipal theocracy,
Since Columbia City Council has been opening each meeting here at City Hall with an invocation, we ask that council please join us in a brief prayer before we make our presentation:
“We call unto thee, Accuser of the Brethren, The Old Serpent, Beelzebub, Prince of Darkness, who hath assembled these self-serving council members in this hall. Oh, Prince of the Power and of the Air, may you not burn these politicians in your kingdom of darkness for the way they shamelessly parade religion around for votes here in the Deep South. Yea, Prince of Tyrus, Son of Perdition, may you have a matching program for HUD loans for council members, who shall sitteth at the left hand of Abaddon in your fiery affordable housing kingdom of death.  Lucifer, please remember that while council prays publicly, behind closed doors they sit in executive session promoting thy will, oh Father of Lies. In Satan we Trust, Hail Satan. Amen.”
Ookay, moving right along, the corner of Quitman and Covenant Street could use a stop sign...
Columbia City Paper

Dear self-tanning cream bargain shopper,
Your cheap tube of cream has indeed produced a color that looks all natural. Like a natural case of jaundice. You could’ve just drank heavily for a few weeks, had way more fun, and gotten the same effect. Plus, that effect wouldn’t rub off on my upholstery.
Columbia City Paper

Dear social networking enthusiasts,
People talking about Facebook in public is scary enough, but now your networking group has taken it a step further by calling meetings specifically to talk about how to use things like Farmville. You fools! Don’t you realize the implications?! A virtual waste of time has now spilled forth into our realm and manifested itself as an actual, three-dimensional waste of time! Heed our warning! If someone figures out a way to Tweet via Farmville avatars –a scenario in which a person could begin Tweeting with oneself—the whole fabric of waste-time could fold in on itself. We’ll have to revert back to traditional chat rooms and online Sudoku!
Please, folks, just waste your time in the privacy of your own homes.
Columbia City Paper

Dear city police,
The recent firing of Chief Carter has left us perplexed. We’re sure the officers investigating Mayor Elect Benjamin’s car crash are great at what they do, but why not comply with city council and turn over the case to another law enforcement agency to ease public concern over a potential conflict of interest? Hell, if this city government –which has proudly, brazenly taken conflicts of interest to bold new heights—is worried about public perception, it must be a major concern.
Hey, and while you’re turning over documents, can you guys get Brick Lewis in the city PR department to respond to our FOIA requests for records

Columbia City Paper

Dear Executive Director Merritt Mchaffie at the Five Point Association,

While we are at it, we noticed that you are awfully chatty with some other media in town and wonder if you charge them hundreds of dollars to photocopy financials that are open to public inspection. If we sold you an advertisement could we sit down and look at those documents we requested in March?
Columbia City Paper

Dear media law attorney,
Please advise on the above Freedom of Information Act issues. (But, if you round up for a full hour, we can only pay in restaurant coupons.) Thanks!
Columbia City Paper

This is not a test!

By Todd Morehead
While officials in Washington continue to pass the political hot potato of nuclear waste production and disposal, the Palmetto State has been left holding the bag. The issues on the ground surrounding the nuclear industry in South Carolina are as perplexing as the national policies at the heart of the debate. On one hand, the Savannah River Site and the two new slated nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville and Cherokee County provide jobs and utilities; on the other hand we face the necessary evil of nuclear waste production and storage, a prospect made grimmer after the federal government recently backpedaled on plans to open the Yucca Mountain Repository in Nevada.
The good news: the four new nuclear reactors slated to be built in our state will be constructed using a state of the art, efficient design, but the bad news: a recent (still disputed) study found a potential flaw in the design that could spew radioactive particles to the four winds. Good news: the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) has rescinded an order to triple waste canister density at SRS, but the bad news: the waste that was supposed to be temporary is still there indefinitely... sort of a black mushroom cloud with a silver lining.
For the first time in decades, utility companies are gearing up to build 21 new nuclear power plants nationwide. South Carolina is currently slated for four: VC Summer 2 and 3 (SCE&G) in Jenkinsville and Lee 1 and 2 (Duke Energy) in Cherokee County. The projects still face a number of regulatory and financial hurdles, but perhaps the biggest hurdle of all is how the region and country can handle a new generation of nuclear waste.
In the waning days of the Bush Administration, the DOE signed contracts to accept irradiated nuclear fuel from the proposed new commercial reactors, including VC Summer and William States Lee. At the time, taxpayers and the federal government had already paid around $565 million in breach of contract charges to other utilities for failure to dispose of the existing inventory of irradiated fuel from present nuclear power utilities.
Starting in 1983, the DOE signed radioactive waste disposal contracts with around 100 commercial nuclear power plants. The contracts gave the government a 1998 deadline to have waste removed and safely stored at a site like the underground Yucca Mountain Repository in the Nevada desert. Utility companies paid a percentage of their revenue into the national Nuclear Waste Fund to cover costs for shipment and storage. Currently, the fund has a balance of around $33 billion.
When the DOE missed the 1998 storage deadline, lawsuits for breach of contract started to flow in, currently 71 in total, according to the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. The federal government has paid around $565 million in damages, so far, and the payments will likely come from the U.S. Treasury if courts rule that the Nuclear Waste Fund shouldn’t be used to pay out on breaches of utility waste contracts. In addition to damages, the Department of Justice is expending tax dollars trying to defend the DOE in litigation against the damage awards.
The IEER estimates that taxpayers will be liable for $12.3 billion in fines by 2020, or a little over $1 billion a year for the next decade. And those estimates don’t include the 21 new nuclear plants –and their future waste—that were commissioned in 2008.
The 2008 contract between the DOE and SCE&G (V.C. Summer), for example, outlines Nuclear Waste Fund fees, puts the responsibility of disposal squarely on the federal government, and sets the amount of breach of contract charges at $5 million per year.
Diane Curran is a national nuclear safety law expert who represents citizens groups and local governments in cases before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and federal appeals courts. Curran believes adding new reactors to the national nuclear waste burden may not have been in the country’s best interest.
“There was no apparent justification for the Bush Administration’s rush to sign these spent nuclear fuel disposal contracts for new reactors,” Curran says. “These [utility] corporations have already reaped tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded contract damages, and stand to get hundreds of millions more. The funds for the damages are coming from the taxpayer-funded Department of Treasury’s Judgment Fund.”
A number of utility companies have joined forces with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners and the Nuclear Energy Institute and are asking the U.S Court of Appeals to challenge a 2009 decision that requires utility companies to continue paying their fees into the Nuclear Waste Fund, when the DOE has not yet met its obligations.

Expert alleges fatal flaw in new S.C. reactor design
Two of the new reactors slated for construction, V.C. Summer 1 & 2 in Jenkinsville, are on the short list for receiving a loan guarantee from the DOE to offset the cost of the build. Westinghouse and The Shaw Group have been commissioned to construct two AP1000 reactors at the site. The two reactors proposed for the William States Lee III nuclear plant in Cherokee County will also be AP1000 models. Yet, a recent –and disputed—study alleges that the AP1000 has potentially fatal design flaws. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not yet fully approved the reactor for use.
The AP1000 is intended to be safer than existing designs by using gravity and natural heat flow, rather than pumps and valves, as a cooling mechanism. The design features an all-steel, freestanding containment unit, like a large pressurized kettle, with a pocket of air between it and a concrete encasement. The pocket of air between the steel and concrete is intended to promote cooling airflow from the outside and direct the heated air off the metal, then upward and out through a chimney-like opening.
The NRC has raised concerns that the containment structure’s concrete shield building couldn’t withstand an earthquake. Westinghouse plans to submit a second detailed report this month to demonstrate the building’s safety.
However, Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer commissioned by Friends of the Earth, the South Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club, and other environmental groups, says another potential flaw with the AP1000 could be even more worrisome. According to Gundersen’s report, the cooling design could lead to a containment leak if rust accumulates on the steel.
Gundersen, who acted as an expert witness in analyzing the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, worries that if the steel liner is flawed or rusts through, radioactive particles –at 10 times the dose allowed by the NRC—would leak straight out into the cooling pocket and be pushed up into the atmosphere with the heated air like chimney smoke.
“This gap between the concrete ‘shield building’ and the AP1000 steel containment allows for numerous locations where rust can develop on the steel containment,” the report states. “Moisture and corrosive agents can flourish in this gap outside the containment. Inspection of these inaccessible locations in the AP1000 is extraordinarily hard to detect until the rust creates a hole completely through the steel.”
Westinghouse maintains that the steel structure has been designed to avoid corrosion and that the steel used will be 1.75 inches thick, whereas steel liners in traditional, sealed reactors are only around half an inch thick.
“In the unlikely event that there would be some corrosion,” Vaughn Gilbert, a spokesman for Westinghouse recently told the New York Times, “it would be readily determined in inspections, and remedied.’’
All burned up and nowhere to go
When the new reactors go online and begin to produce, the issue of nuclear waste storage will undoubtedly seep back to the surface. The Savannah River Site in South Carolina is at the center of that issue, as well, but for a different type of radioactive waste.
Last month, the federal Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, a consortium of nuclear experts, held its first meeting in an effort to analyze existing and potential policy options for managing nuclear waste. The meeting came just one month after the federal government announced the cancellation of the Yucca Mountain Repository in Nevada that would store spent nuclear fuel deep in a mountain in the desert.
South Carolina and Washington State filed suit last month in effort to keep the Yucca Mountain site on the table. A number of utility companies have filed separate suits against the DOE because the department never met its various deadlines to remove the waste and they are having to continue to store spent nuclear fuel on site.
Even Aiken County jumped into the mix and filed a suit to keep Yucca Mountain open and accept waste from the Savannah River Site –which had been the plan for the last few decades. A group of Aiken community leaders made a trip to Washington earlier this month to urge their elected officials to keep the project moving forward.
SRS currently stores around 35 million gallons of weapons grade nuclear waste.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing board denied the DOE’s withdrawal of Yucca Mountain license, pending the outcomes of the suits and a June 30 hearing on the administration’s plan.
Many politicos believe the Obama Administration’s backpedaling on Yucca Mountain is fueled more by politics than science, as Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, (D-Nev.) is facing re-election and has been an outspoken opponent of the project.
Considering the Yucca Mountain plan was conceived prior to the 21 new reactor projects, the federal government will need to draw up a proposal for not one but two new disposal sites. According to the IEER, the government has agreed to store enough spent fuel to fill two Yucca Mountain-sized depositories.
“Yucca Mountain was known to be a poor repository site when it was chosen,” says Dr. Arjun Makhijani, president of the IEER. “Now, after 10 billion dollars of ratepayer money has been wasted and Yucca has rightly been abandoned, even the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not expressed confidence that a repository will open within ten years of the expiration of the first new reactor.”
“The bottom line here is that we have an industry and a White House proposing to race ahead with new reactors when we haven’t figured out how to clean up the mess created by the first wave of reactors,” says Kevin Kamps, spokesperson for environmental group, Beyond Nuclear.“Instead, 28 years after passage of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, 35 years after the repository search began, 53 years into commercial nuclear power, and 68 years after Fermi first split the atom during the Manhattan Project, the U.S. still has no safe, sound, permanent storage plan for high-level radioactive waste.”

In the meantime, the Savannah River Site recently caught one lucky break. The DOE recently rescinded an order that would have required the Defense Waste Processing Facility at SRS to triple the amount of liquid radioactive plutonium it coverts to glass for long-term storage. Currently, plutonium levels are at 897 grams per cubic meter; the new order would have increased the level to 2,500 grams per cubic meter.
Tom Clements, a campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth, believes the DOE put the new order on hold due to uncertainty of what the future holds for waste storage at SRS.
“Right now, where it will eventually go is uncertain,” he recently told the Augusta Chronicle. “So how do they know they will meet the waste acceptance criteria for any repository, wherever it might be? The answer is, they don’t.”