Second vote on new Chelmsford fire station defeated


A local resident casts her vote. SUN/David H. Brow image.

As written today by Rita Savard of the Lowell Sun:

CHELMSFORD — In the town’s only contested race, voters said a controversial building project led the charge for a shake-up on the Planning Board.

Attorney Richard McClure, who is suing the town over an alleged preservation restriction violation at 9 North Road, topped the three-way race for two open seats, pushing out Chairwoman Ann McGuigan.

McClure earned 2,392 votes, followed by Michael Raisbeck with 2,180 votes. McGuigan trailed with 1,883 votes.

“I believe the election results were clearly a referendum on the 9 North Road project, given the ouster of the chair of the Planning Board,” McClure said in an email last night. “I am very thankful for the voters and I hope to do my best in representing their interests.”

The results took some by surprise last night, including members of the Planning Board, who have been sued by McClure.

“I will still go about doing the business of Chelmsford as always,” board member George Zaharoolis said. “The Planning Board has a responsibility to uphold the bylaws. That’s what I’ll continue to do, and I hope the new members do the same.”

The 9 North Road parcel, next to the Center Fire Station, ignited the feuds that led to several ongoing legal battles.

Michael Eliopoulos, father of former longtime Selectman Philip Eliopoulos, purchased the privately owned land from Eastern Bank for $400,000 in 2009. McClure has sued the town over an alleged violation of a 1978 preservation restriction, which he said was created to retain the two-acre parcel as open space.

McClure also alleges that the land sold for such a low price because it has always been marked as “unbuildable.”

Former Selectmen John Carson, Paul Hart and Joe Shanahan, who helped author the preservation restriction more than 30 years ago, spoke before town officials last year to confirm the intent of the bylaw was to keep the land as open space.

But other town officials argue that the bylaw was not written specifically to prevent building on the parcel. An attempt to halt construction last year was rejected by a state Land Court judge.

Accusations that the land was acquired through backroom deals have spurred several lawsuits. McClure is also the attorney representing Chelmsford businessman Roland Van Liew in his suits against various town officials.

McGuigan was unable to be reached for comment.

Raisbeck, who was a Planning Board alternate, said he might have done well with voters because he positioned himself “somewhat in between the other two.”

“I was a fan of Ann’s,” he said. “I don’t really know Dick McClure that well, but I’m looking forward to getting to know him and having a productive term on the board.”

The amount of blank ballots for the race, 2,726, topped all candidates’ votes.

Looking at the results last night, Town Meeting representative Brian Latina said it is clear that “this election was about 9 North Road.”

“People were sending a message,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Read more: http://www.lowellsun.com/rss/ci_17782655?source=rss#ixzz1Il9eggfP

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Financial Entitlement in the US


Robert Lenzner, Forbes —

Don’t blame David Sokol’s  craving to make a fortune  and become a philanthropist on Warren Buffett’s understandable confidence  that  his leading heir-apparent would do nothing to embarass him and Berkshire Hathaway.

It was  David Sokol’s personal responsibility to tell Buffett on January 25th latest  that he  owned 96,000 shares of Lubrizol worth $10 million that, excuse me , he had  purchased  the first week of January, 2011, ahem, just 18 days before the Jan. 25th  decision to go ahead and  negotiate for Lubrizol.

Then, Buffett would have realized he had to reveal this stock activity in the merger materials, which was going to be an embarassment– even if he had ordered  Sokol to sell the shares before ANY negotiations.

This  is not an issue of corporate governance, that mushy concept that obfuscates what you should be born with– an ingrained sense of what is right and what is wrong.  Unfortunately, our celebrity culture has placed a priority on public excess, the insatiable need to be richer than the next guy,  keep up with the private equity billionaires, the hip-hop entrepreneurs with diamonds in their ear lobes, the Donald Trumps of the world.

Read today about the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac execs who were paid multiple  millions personally and presided over public  losses of billions. It’s  time to pull “The Rich And The Super Rich, A Study of  Money & Power And Who Really Owns America” out of the bookcase and  remind  myself of  the prevailing culture.

The Oscar-winning  documentary “Inside Job,” is deep-down a narrative of the insidious culture of financial entitlement, an invisible virus  at work  in the culture.  Cut the school budget, layoff policemen, cannibalize  training programs for the unemployed, don’t make GE pay any taxes etc. is  the dark side of the  culture of  financial entitlement.

Here  are some of the many examples of the virus at work in our recent history. The leading investment banker who  is also chairman of the investment bank’s regulator who buys shares of the investment bank at a  depressed price during the financial crisis  with full insight as to public  policy support for the  institution, and never has his wrist slapped.  Supported by his former  partner, who once held a high cabinet post, who assured me there  w as nothing wrong in taking advantage of inside knowledge to make an extra buck or two.

The  leading executive of a  public-private housing finance institution who brags to me that she got out just in time without being stained by the  crisis, her extraordinary small fortune  intact.

The phenomenon of a leading  bank, JP Morgan Chase allowing  $100 billion to be transferred back and forth between  the crook of the century, Bernie Madoff and another major client of the bank.  Or my alma mater, Goldman Sachs letting a  hedge fund  maven client pick out the lousy mortgages to go short  in a public offering.  Or Credit Suisse having to pay a fine of $535 million to  the government for violating the  sanctions against  doing business with knave nations  like Iran and the Sudan.

Just have a look at hedge fund biggie Raj Rajaratnam, blithley protesting  his innocence  of criminality  in the  biggest inside information trial ever, despite 19 guilty pleas  by others caught in his dishonest web.  Absurd.

The disappearing American middle class


BREAKING NEWS — “Too few American families are living in economically secure households, with most workers unable to stretch their incomes over basic expenses and savings,” said Joan Kuriansky, Wider Opportunities for Women’s Executive Director.  “The American Dream of working hard to support your family is being re-written by the growth of low-paying industries and rising expenses.”

According to the BEST report released by the Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) organization, “…jobs created in the coming years will not provide economic security wages to the majority of workers who do not have 4-year college degrees.  Fewer than 13% of jobs the US Department of Labor expects to be created by 2018 are likely to provide economic security to a single parent raising two or more children.  A small majority of new jobs are expected to pay economic security wages for single workers without children, and approximately 43% of the new jobs will pay economic security wages for two workers raising two young children.”

As Congress debates how to make ends meet, the following cuts are on the chopping block:

  • Cuts to virtually all funding for Department of Labor job training programs this year, from the Workforce Investment Act to on-the job training for older workers.
  • Cuts to the Community Services Block Grant, which provides access to employment, nutrition and other vital services that help low-income people find jobs and move into the middle class.
  • Cuts to Medicaid, which covers health care for low-income families across the generations and is the major source of funding for long-term care. If turned into a block grant, as has been suggested by some, such cuts could result in loss of health care jobs as well as services for patients of all ages.

At the same time, Brian Williams from NBC Nightly News stated that the pay raises of some top CEOs received last year were nearly identical to the pay raises they received BEFORE the recession.  Ouch.

Soldiers responsibile for slaughter get court martialed


According to the Globe & Mail’s website:

A 22-year-old soldier accused of taking a lead role in a brutal plot to murder Afghan civilians faces a military trial Wednesday in a case that involves some of the most serious criminal allegations to arise from the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

Spc. Jeremy Morlock, of Wasilla, Alaska, has agreed to plead guilty to three counts of murder, one count of conspiracy to commit assault and battery, and one count of illegal drug use in exchange for a maximum sentence of 24 years, said Geoffrey Nathan, one of his lawyers.

His client is one of five soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 5th Stryker Brigade charged in the killings of three unarmed Afghan men in Kandahar province in January, February and May 2010. Mr. Morlock is the first of the five men to face a trial, known in the military as a court-martial — which Mr. Nathan characterized as an advantage.

“The first up gets the best deal,” he said by phone Tuesday, noting that even under the maximum sentence, Mr. Morlock would serve no more than eight years before becoming eligible for parole.

According to a copy of the plea agreement, Mr. Morlock has agreed to testify against his co-defendants. In his plea deal, Mr. Morlock said he and others slaughtered the three civilians knowing that they were unarmed and posed no legitimate threat.

He also described lobbing a grenade at the civilian in the January incident while another soldier shot at him, and then lying about it to his squad leader.

The court-martial comes days after a German news organization, Der Spiegel, published three graphic photos showing Mr. Morlock and other soldiers posing with dead Afghans. One image features Mr. Morlock grinning as he lifts the head of a corpse by its hair.

Army officials had sought to strictly limit access to the photographs due to their sensitive nature. A spokesman for the magazine declined to say how it had obtained the pictures, citing the need to protect its sources.

Mr. Morlock told investigators the murder plot was led by Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, of Billings, Montana, who is also charged in the case. Mr. Gibbs maintains the reasons behind the killings were legitimate.

Mr. Nathan said Mr. Morlock’s mother and hockey coach are among the witnesses who might testify on his behalf in court. He indicated the defence would argue that a lack of leadership in the unit contributed to the killings.

“He’s really a good kid. This is just a bad war at a bad time in our country’s history,” Mr. Nathan said. “There was a lack of supervision, a lack of command control, the environment was terrible. In his mind, he had no choice.”

After the January killing, platoon member Spc. Adam Winfield, of Cape Coral, Florida, sent Facebook messages to his parents saying that his fellow soldiers had murdered a civilian and were planning to kill more. Mr. Winfield said his colleagues warned him not to tell anyone.

Mr. Winfield’s father alerted a staff sergeant at Lewis-McChord, which is south of Seattle, but no action was taken until May, when a witness in a drug investigation in the unit also reported the deaths.

Mr. Winfield is accused of participating in the final murder. He admitted in a videotaped interview that he took part and said he feared the others might kill him if he didn’t.

Also charged in the murders are Pvt. 1st Class Andrew Holmes of Boise, Idaho, and Spc. Michael Wagnon II of Las Vegas.

Seven other soldiers in the platoon are charged with lesser crimes, including assaulting the witness in the drug investigation, drug use, firing on unarmed farmers and stabbing a corpse.

Afghan civilians slaughtered for sport


 

 

US Soldiers pose with their victims’ bodies

As reported by the U.K. Guardian’s Jon Boone:

The face of Jeremy Morlock, a young US soldier, grins at the camera, his hand holding up the head of the dead and bloodied youth he and his colleagues have just killed in an act military prosecutors say was premeditated murder.

Moments before the picture was taken in January last year, the unsuspecting victim had been waved over by a group of US soldiers who had driven to his village in Kandahar province in one of their armoured Stryker tanks.

According to testimony collected by Der Spiegel magazine the boy had, as a matter of routine, lifted up his shirt to reveal that he was not hiding a suicide bomb vest.

That was the moment Morlock, according to a pre-arranged plan, threw a grenade at the boy that exploded while other members of the rogue group who called themselves the “kill team” opened fire.

They would later tell military investigators that the boy, a farmer’s son, had threatened them with the grenade.

The pictures include a similar photograph of a different soldier posing with the same victim and a photograph of two other civilians killed by the unit.

There was no sign on Monday of the anticipated public outrage. But withAfghanistan on holiday for the Persian new year celebrations, and media outlets initially unable to get hold of the images, anger may yet build.

The US ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, recently confided to officials that he feared it might trigger the same kind of scandal as that at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, where images of prisoners being abused by US soldiers sparked anti-American protests.

For weeks the US government has been working to pre-empt any outrage, with top officials, including the US vice president Joe Biden, in talks with Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president.

Despite being a setback in the propaganda war between the western coalition and its insurgent enemies, Nato will be relieved that for the time being only a tiny sample of a total collection of roughly 4,000 images and video clips have found their way into the public domain.

The publication of the photos will also mark the ultimate disgrace of the group of young US soldiers, who are currently facing military justice for killing innocent civilians for sport and mutilating their bodies by cutting off fingers and ripping out teeth to keep as trophies.

Morlock has turned on his former colleagues, agreeing to testify against them in return for a reduced jail sentence. Some of the activities of the group are already public, with 12 men currently on trial in Seattle for their role in the killing of three civilians. Morlock has told investigators that Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs was the ringleader. In videotaped evidence, he has said Gibbs would pick out a possible target with a comment such as: “You guys wanna wax this guy or what?”

Gibbs, if found guilty, could receive a life sentence.

Hans-Ulrich Stoldt, a spokesman for Der Spiegel, said the magazine had other, more graphic photos.

“We published three but not others, and we even pixilated those we did print so that the victims could not be identified,” Stoldt said. “We needed to document [the accusations] in some form, and were as restrained as possible.”

Warning offered post-Mubarak’s abrupt departure


El Tahrir Square 1

A demonstrator painting a milestone in Egyptian history. Photo credit: Mohamed Abd El-Salam

An important reminder was offered today in light of the rapid changes taking place in Egypt. While the protesters celebrate their success at ousting Mubarak, the Associated Press (AP) suggest caution now that Egyptian military have dissolved the Parliament and suspended the constitution.

According to the AP article, the director of the non-governmental organization Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights Hossam Bahgat states that the country has entered uncharted legal ground. Bahgat stated that, “’In the absence of a constitution, we have entered a sort of ‘twilight zone’ in terms of rules, so we are concerned,” he said. “We are clearly monitoring the situation and will attempt to influence the transitional phase so as to respect human rights.’”

With the Parliament gone and no constitution in place, as asked for by the demonstrators, the military potentially has more power then when Mubarak was in office. Under Mubarak, the country was under a perpetual state of emergency which helped him monopolize his power. Now that there is no constitution, Egypt is under martial law which means that the military can create any law and enforce them in military tribunals.

While the military has so far responded to the desires of the people and the situation seems optimistic, there is cause for concern. The demonstrators have also asked that the emergency laws that have been in place for the past 30 years be repealed. On this particular issue, the military is utterly silent and has failed to take any action.

The military’s failure to address this issue is confirmed by Al Jazeera. James Bays, a correspondent for the paper, says that, “‘one thing that wasn’t in that communique that protesters have asked for, was the repeal of emergency laws.’”   In addition he says that the military council has, “’taken on the role of the presidency and the prime minister and the other ministers carry out their orders.’”

Some protestors appear to share Bahgat’s concerns because they promised to remain in Tahrir Square until all of their requests have been met. Safwat Hegazi, who helped to organize the demonstrations, asserts that, “’If the army does not fulfil our demands, our uprising and its measures will return stronger.’”

Hegazi’s statement is a testament to the Egyptian people’s dedication and commitment to a more open government. With this in mind, there remains the strong potential that more mass demonstrations are in Egypt’s future.

Race for 1st Middlesex district turns bitter


With just 13 days left before the state’s primary, the candidates for the 1st Middlesex district state senate seat are lobbing bigger accusations against each other. On Monday, the Doherty campaign released a statement against Donoghue stating that she is a hypocrite when it comes to illegal immigration.

According to the flier, Donoghue willingly accepted a case against an individual, Lilliana Rivera, who was supposedly indicted for conspiracy to create and sell alien registration receipts and social security cards. The document goes on farther to state Donoghue was fundamental to Rivera receiving a substantially reduced sentence. The effect is that Donoghue is portrayed not only as soft on illegal immigration, but someone who misleads the public.

On its face, the Doherty campaign’s assertions are alarming to say the least. Factually, the campaign’s claims against Donoghue are half-truths.

The first claim: The flier seemed to indicate that Rivera was a key player in creating the forged alien registration receipts and social security cards.

One of the statements made was that Rivera was indicted for the federal charges of conspiracy to produce and sell false alien registration receipts and social security cards. To support this claim, the flier included a copy of a federal court’s filing for the case. The filing describes, in detail, the role of each person involved in the operation. It even lays out the offenses the individuals were charged with, of which Rivera was one out of two people indicted.

The document, which the Donoghue campaign says isn’t accurate, details the specific charges that Rivera faced. Though Rivera was found to be a part of the operation, she was found to play a minimal role. Namely, Rivera’s role was to transport the fake ids from the people who created them to the people who would buy them. In regards to specific offenses, she was charged with possession and transportation of falsified documents.

This information was verified by Conor Yunits, spokesman for the Donoghue campaign. According to Yunits, Rivera was forced to transport the ids because one of the people involved abused her. “Rivera got involved because one of the people who created the ids was her boyfriend. She was in an abusive relationship with him and he forced her to transport the ids. Rivera eventually sought a restraining order against her boyfriend.”

The second claim: that Donoghue willingly accepted the case when she could have refused.

Looking at the court document alone, it makes mention that the lead attorney was Donoghue and that she was retained. In legal speak, a retained lawyer is an attorney that been paid to take a case.

Yunits explained that wasn’t true. “Eileen speaks Spanish and was often assigned to cases to where one of the parties involved didn’t speak English. Rivera didn’t know a lot of English, so Eileen was appointed to the case. She only represented Rivera and not the individuals who actually forged the documents.”

What seems particularly odd is that the listed firm Donoghue was supposed to have been working for at the time, Gallagher & Cavanaugh, didn’t exist when the case was being processed.

The third claim: that Donoghue was responsible for Rivera’s reduced sentence.

The court document shows that Rivera was charged with possession and transportation, which are outlined in 18 U.S.C. 1546 (a) and 1028 (a) (2). In reading the text of 18 U.S.C. 1546 (a), a person who knowingly possesses false alien registration receipt cards or other documents can be fined, imprisoned or both.  According to the same section, a person can’t be imprisoned for more than 10 years for this violation if the offense wasn’t committed to facilitate international terrorism or drug trafficking. A person charged with transporting such documents can’t be imprisoned for more than 15 years, according to the terms of 18 U.S.C. 1028 (b).  It is also possible to be fined under this statute. Under both sections, no one can receive a higher sentence unless the offense was completed in order to commit international terrorism or drug trafficking.

The attached document included with the flier makes no mention of either terrorism or drug trafficking in list of charges against Rivera.

Notice that both of these sections of the United States Code establish maximum sentencing limits for these offenses. With that in mind, it’s possible that Rivera was given a lesser sentence because she wasn’t a major player. Or maybe her lesser sentence has something to do with the fact that the U.S. Attorney General, as evidenced by the included court document, dropped one of the charges against Rivera.

Why Rivera got a lesser sentence is murky at best given the court document is possibly inaccurate and nearly 20 years old at this point.

“This is another attempt by the Chris Doherty campaign to smear Eileen Donoghue’s name and reputation. Eileen worked hard to ensure 6th Amendment rights for everyone when she was an attorney,” remarked Yunits.