Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Media commentators have been generally skeptical of Blackwater's dispatch of its 183-foot ship, the McArthur, to the Gulf of Aden to provide security for private ships that the United Nations and the world's navies are leaving vulnerable to Islamist criminal gangs.
However, a US Navy spokesman has praised the move and encourages more private security companies to follow Blackwater's example. British security companies are already active in protecting ships, but Blackwater plans to provide McArthur, which can carry two special operations helicopters complete with doorgunners, to escort civilian ships that the UN and government navies can't or won't protect.
"This is a great trend," a spokesman for the US Navy's 5th Fleet tells the Associated Press. "We would encourage shipping companies to take proactive measures to help ensure their own safety."
Insurance companies also like the idea. "Pirate attacks have driven up insurance premiums tenfold for ships plying the Gulf of Aden, increasing the cost of cargos that include a fifth of the world's oil. But some insurers will slash charges by up to 40 percent if boats hire their own security," according to AP.
A senior official of Somalia, off whose coast much of the piracy is taking place, says private security companies are welcome in Somali waters. Somalia's 1,800-mile coastline is difficult to avoid for ships traversing the Suez Canal.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, which serves the area near Blackwater Worldwide's headquarters, has the story. The 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond dismissed the petition filed by trial lawyer Daniel Callahan on behalf of shell companies that another trial lawyer set up in the names of the estates of the deceased.
Callahan planned to make millions of dollars profiting from the insurgents who murdered the four American military veterans, mutilated their bodies, and hung two of the bodies from a bridge in Fallujah, Iraq, in March, 2004.
Blackwater spokesman Anne Tyrrell says that the federal appeals court has vindicated the company, and upheld the firm's contracts. "The federal courts have now honored those written agreements," Tyrrell says in the article.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Of course, this blogger's opinion that Dan Callahan is a sleaze is, indeed, an opinion, and is therefore protected speech. I'll be sure to post links to legal documents and news reports as soon as they're online.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Megastar country singer Toby Keith, famous for his "American Soldier" song (among other huge hits), toured Iraq a while ago with the United Services Organization (USO) to entertain the troops. In a Memorial Day, 2006 performance in Fallujah with the Marines, the country superstar wore a Blackwater shirt.
I just discovered these videos on YouTube. Toby Keith does troop tours every Memorial Day. In the clip above, he is in Fallujah singing the "Taliban Song." Below are three more clips. The first is the "Camp Fallujah 2-Minute Report," produced by the Marines for the deployed military. Keith is shown with General Michael Hagee, Commandant of the Marine Corps, and with ordinary Marines during his performance.
"The Camp Fallujah 2-Minute Report," March 29, 2006.
In the next video, Keith appears in the same Fallujah performance singing "American Soldier" (this is a really great video, with all the troops singing along). The bottom clip is from a sing-along with the troops in Baghdad.
Don't be disappointed by the homemade quality of most of the videos. Keith and his crew visited the troops with the barest amount of gear, and the videos were made by American soldiers with their own cameras and laptops. Nevertheless, the performances are inspiring.
Above: Singing "American Soldier" in Fallujah. Great performance!
Sing-along in Baghdad.
Friday, October 17, 2008
"Shipping insurance rates have risen tenfold this year alone. With the added danger pay offered to crews willing to make the journey, pirate ransom demands that reach into the millions, and lengthy negotiations for hijacked ships, if left unaddressed the cost of the piracy boom to the shipping industry - and consumers buying their goods - will only increase."
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
When a Camden County, NC, deputy found a 45 year-old man bleeding from a gunshot wound, he called authorities in two other jurisdictions for assistance. Then the sheriff's office called Blackwater, whose training headquarters is nearby, and asked for the company to fly in a helicopter.
If things went according to how I understand the company, Blackwater probably flew the mission as a public service, at its own expense, and under the guidance of the local authorities.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
According to a release distributed by the Earth Times, Blackwater says, "The initiative, under development for several months, includes the creation of an independent committee of experienced outside experts to oversee export compliance and the addition of a Vice President of Export Compliance.
"These efforts are supported by a global training initiative, proposed enhanced business controls and an increased compliance staff.
"'US export controls are a key part of our country's national securityand foreign policy. Blackwater, a partner with the US Government in many important programs, has an obligation to also be a partner in compliance,' said Erik Prince, Blackwater Founder and CEO. 'Our company has experienced remarkable growth in the last few years. This growth, our work for the US Government around the world, and the nature of the services we offer have created compliance challenges. The comprehensive initiative announced today is our direct response to those challenges and our recognition of the importance of these controls.'"
The independent panel, called the Export Compliance Committee, represents a cross section of talent and expertise. Committee members, who have full and independent authority of Blackwater's export control matters, are:
- Robert C. Bonner. Former US Attorney, US District Court Judge, Commissioner of US Customs, the first Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection, and Administrator of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA);
- Asa Hutchinson (pictured). Former US Attorney, Administrator of the DEA, US Congressman from Arkansas; and the first Under Secretary of Homeland Security;
- Carol R. Marshall. Former Vice President of Ethics and Business Conduct at Lockheed Martin, Senior Vice President for Ethics and Business Conduct at MCI, Chair of the Ethics Resource Center Fellows Program, and Chair and Working Group Liaison to the Defense Industry Initiative on Business Ethics.
Blackwater's new Vice President of Export Compliance is Karen Jones, most recently the Director of Import-Export Operations for Raytheon Missile Systems Division. "Ms. Jones is an accomplished trade compliance professional with a deep resume. She is an expert in integrating export licensing, compliance and a culture oftransparency into complex global operations. We look forward to hercontribution in making Blackwater's compliance system the standard of the industry," said Prince.
The company has also strengthened and expanded its existing compliance programs and developed an online compliance training program for employees and independent contractors.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Though editors and reporters will seldom admit it, public comments - responsibly written, with solid facts and thoughtful analysis - often provide accountability and provoke biased or careless journalists to think twice.
So keep up the good work! Here's the direct link to the Ross report and the comments, so you can add more thoughts: http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/comments?type=story&id=5931528.
No wonder Ross likes to pose so often for pictures with his arms crossed defensively over his chest. His body language shows that, deep inside, he knows he's not the great journalist he pretends to be. See post below.
"By folding one or both arms across the chest, a barrier is formed that is an unconscious attempt to block out what we perceive as a threat or undesirable circumstances. . . . when a person has a nervous, negative, or defensive attitude, it's very likely he will fold his arms firmly on his chest, showing that he feels threatened. . . .
"When you fold your arms your credibility dramatically reduces."
"Crossed-Arms-on-Chest is universal and is decoded with the same defensive or negative meaning almost everywhere. It is comonly seen . . . anywhere that people feel uncertain or insecure." (pp. 90-93)
Thursday, October 2, 2008
The incident reportedly occurred in 2006.