The month is not officially over yet, but the Pentagon is already calling July 2010 the deadliest month in the nine-year war in Afghanistan. At least 63 American troops were killed in hostile action. Another 7,149 were wounded.
Prior to the new milestone, June had been the deadliest month for U.S. forces, at the cost of 60 lives. To date, more than 1,100 members of the U.S. military have died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan since 2001.
As of Friday, the Iraq war has claimed more than 4,400 lives since March 2002. In less than two months, 2,700 members of the Idaho-based 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team will begin a one-year deployment to Iraq. They're scheduled to ship out to Camp Shelby, Miss. for two months of preparation before spending 10 months "in theater" in Iraq.
It's estimated that at least 20 percent of Idaho women are uninsured. They, and approximately 30 million of their sisterhood are expected to benefit from the new health-care reform law over the next decade, according to a new report Friday, July 30 from The Commonwealth Fund.
In the first analysis of its kind, authors report the law will stabilize or reverse the growing exposure to health costs for up to 15 million currently uninsured women, and strengthen coverage for 14.5 million women who are considered underinsured. Although women are just as likely to be uninsured as men, their health-care needs leave them vulnerable to high health costs. According to the report, because insurance carriers consider women, particularly those of reproductive age, higher risk than men, many are charged much higher premiums for the same benefits than men of the same age. Further, most individual policies do not cover pregnancy.
Check out the report, Realizing Health Reform's Potential: Women and the Affordable Care Act of 2010.
Following hundreds of comments filed with the Idaho Department of Transportation, reams of documentation filed by Exxon/Mobil, and untold expenses from the oil superpower, it turns out that the first significant roadblock to its plan to truck massive shipments across U.S. Highway 12 lies on a six-mile stretch of road on national forest land.
In anticipation of the transit, Exxon has been paying several Montana electrical companies to take down over-head power lines and bury them along shoulders of the highway. No such issue exists on the Idaho stretch of Highway 12. But for the giant loads of drilling equipment to make the journey from the Port of Lewiston to the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, they must also travel through Montana. Citing the power-line question, the Lolo National Forest rescinded an order allowing power lines to be buried on Forest Service land pending further review.
It turns out Highway 12 runs adjacent or directly on the Nez Perce National Historic Trail, and the Nez Perce are on record opposing the project.
“The Tribe was not given an opportunity to consult on the project, “ said Mike Lopez, tribal staff attorney.
In response, Exxon/Mobil has submitted a new application for authorization to bury the power lines. In effect, the Forest Service, the Nez Perce Tribe and Montana electric companies will re-examine the proposal.
How to describe the MDL panel hearing?
At times it was not unlike choosing sides on a playground. More than a hundred egos being whittled down to a precious few to represent one "team." And at times it was not unlike trying to lure an Olympics to your home city.
Yes, it was a bit surreal. As one attorney told me: "Anytime you hear a seven-figure lawyer say they're arriving an hour early, you know something big is up."
Boise was chosen just by pure luck. On occasion, Multidistrict Litigation Panels are selected to consider consolidating major lawsuits in high-profile federal cases. The MDL's rotate from city to city, and Boise was up. Thus began the "why Boise conversation?"
By now, you may have heard of last weekend's blog on the Wall Street Journal website, which questioned if Boise even had a five-star hotel. The Chairman of the MDL, Justice John Heyburn II addressed the question as the proceedings got underway.
"Just because they don't charge $350 a night, doesn't mean it's not a five star hotel." Heyburn also got in another zinger later into the hearing. "You can't get a good $100 meal here, but you can get a good $35 meal here."
But the somber reason for the proceedings was never lost.
Steven Larson, a Florida attorney said, "The whole world is watching."
Before arguments got underway, a major issue had to be settled: How are all sides represented in a very short time-frame? The MDL Panel made it quite clear that they would not spend much more than an hour on the case. That's right, an hour.
So, attorneys had do something they're not accustom to: get along with one another. Attorneys began huddling in groups of three, or six, or ten, or more. They were attempting to find "common ground." Lawyers were instructed to consolidate shared viewpoints, especially if they agreed what city the trial (or trials) should be held in. And then an administrator for the court started handing out very short time allotments.
"You have three minutes. You have two minutes. You have one minute," he said.
Within a few minutes, the seven justices entered the courtroom and sat at a two-tier bench; four on top, three below.
And then it began, with the majority of the attorneys arguing why a trial should be held in Houston, or Miami, or New Orleans, or Mobile. They boasted about their airports, and their fine federal judges. But even when they were given very short time-frames, some attorneys made impassioned pleas:
"Our culture rises as a gumbo of Cajuns, Creole, French, German and Spanish," said Louisiana attorney Russ Herman. "We rise out of our myth and mystery ... which is now threatened. This disaster threatens our hope and faith, and that's why New Orleans is the best avenue for justice."
"Mobile is the correct choice," said attorney Robert Cunningham of Alabama. "Mobile is the dead center of the impact of the oil center."
"Florida represents 90 percent of the losses," said Rudy Moscowitz of, you guessed it, Florida.
"Lafayette is the compromise location between New Orleans and Houston," said Pat Morrow of the western district of Louisiana.
And the defendants were in the room as well. As in BP. As in Haliburton. Andrew Langan of the high-profile firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP of Chicago is one of BP's top lawyers.
"All the defendants (BP, Haliburton, etc.) have headquarters in Houston. That's why Houston would be ideal."
In a little more than an hour and a half it was over. We witnessed possibly the most expensive hour and a half in modern legal history.
We'll have much more on the proceedings in next week's BW,
Between 100 and 150 firefighters remain at the site the Highway 16 fire north of Eagle sparked on Wednesday.
The crews—made up of both wildland and structural firefighters—are currently monitoring the 5,000 acre property and making sure there are no hotspots remaining.
Firefighters will reevaluate the situation at the end of the day today, according to Bureau of Land Management spokesperson Mallory Eils. A few crews will most likely be released while other firefighters will be left on-duty to patrol.
The F-35 is off Idaho's radar. It's grounded. Idaho ran out of runway. We could go on with the cliche's but the bottom line is: Neither Gowen Field nor Mountain Home Air Force Base have made it to the short list to house the F-35, plus its military personnel and ground crew.
The Department of the Air Force said Thursday, July 29, that Luke Air Force Base in Arizona is the preferred base for training, and Hill Air Force Base in Utah and the Burlington Air Guard Station in Vermont are preferred for operations.
"We're disappointed, but by no means are we defeated," said Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter. "We'll have more opportunities to get (future) squadrons, in years to come."
There was some good news for Idaho from the Pentagon on Thursday. The Air Force announced that Gowen Field is one of two candidate operations bases for the C-27J aircraft, a twin turboprop engine which serves as a medium-sized transport plane.
“Spill baby spill.” “BP lies, the gulf dies.” “Don’t let BP buy a judge.”
These statements, painted onto brightly colored picket signs, were carried by a group of six activists this morning traveling from the Greenbelt to the James A. McClure Federal Building. The Anti-BP Mob, composed of Idaho Falls and Boise residents, marched through downtown to speak out against BP’s efforts to get a single judge with ties to the oil industry to preside over lawsuits against BP. A panel of federal judges is meeting today in Boise to discuss the lawsuits.
Dan Casper of Idaho Falls came to Boise to show support for the families. He believes having a meeting of judges away from the Gulf “distracts from the fact that those families still need to be compensated for what has happened to them.
“People will begin to feel the full impact of this and I want to make sure people understand that we are out here to show support for those families. Any kind of help we can give, we will,” Casper said. “Everyone in our country is going to suffer from this because it is ruining an amazing natural resource. There’s not anyone that can escape from some of the things that are going to come out of this.”
Boise resident Travis Gosselin emphasized the group’s goal of making sure the victims get a fair say.
“If you’re dealing with people that are in Houston that are hurt by this, they’re not going to want their court system to be loyal to BP when making a judgment on this,” Gosselin said. “They want someone that is loyal to the people and loyal to the constitution, as opposed to their corporate partners or whoever they might have loyalty with.”
Gosselin said they received generally positive support from passersby as they marched through the city.
“People get what its about from following it everyday,” Gosselin said. “It’s important to them.”
Elena Soto of Idaho Falls said she was hoping for more people, but still felt optimistic.
“Even if it’s just 10 people strong, we’re out here doing this for them [the victims] and people can see us with our very straightforward signs,” Soto said.
All funds the group raises through their website will be donated to the Gulf Restoration Network. Stay up to date at what’s going on at the courthouse by checking out CityDesk’s live blogging on the panel.
The protesters marched to the James A. McClure Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse and arrived at approximately 9 a.m.
Keep checking back at CityDesk for continued updates about the protest at the courthouse and what the protesters had to say.
Citydesk is in three places at once this morning.
Rachel Krause is at Ann Morrison Park reporting on the protest to the Multi-District Litigation hearing, which includes hundreds of lawsuits against BP.
George Prentice is at the actual hearing in Federal Court this morning and will be live blogging it all day. Catch the speed lawyering here.
And Tara Morgan is en route to Rep. Phil Hart's ethics hearing.
Check Citydesk for updates all day.
Thursday, July 29 promises to be a pretty big news day. You may want to check in regularly with boiseweekly.com and Citydesk.
Over at the Capitol, Rep. Phil Hart is expected to testify before a special Ethics Committee of his peers. Hart is accused of abusing legislative privilege and possible conflict of interest due to his personal tax problems. Hart is a member of the House Revenue and Tax Committee, while reportedly owing nearly $70,000 in federal and state taxes. Citydesk will be there.
In Ann Morrison Park, a group of protesters is expected to rally in anticipation of the Multidistrict Litigation Panel, slated to examine the hundreds of lawsuits lodged against BP over the Gulf oil disaster. Citydesk will be there.
And the history-making MDL panel gets underway about 9 a.m. at the U.S. Courthouse, where victims of the Gulf spill go to court for the first time. Citydesk will be there.
Join us through the day for updates.