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ATF Mexico gun scandal far from over
by Staff Writers
Washington (UPI) Sep 9, 2011

Russian court jails whistleblowing major for 4 years
Moscow (AFP) Sept 9, 2011 - A military court in far eastern Russia on Friday slapped a four-year sentence for abuse of power on a whistleblowing officer who had accused his regiment of feeding soldiers dog food.

In May, reserve major Igor Matveyev posted a series of videos online in which he showed a storeroom full of cans of dog food that had ordinary canned meat labels posted over them.

He alleged his superiors had fed the dog food to soldiers.

Military officials denied Matveyev's claims and claimed the major posted the videos as leverage in an attempt to be reinstated to active duty after systematic disciplinary offences.

On Friday, a Vladivostok military tribunal found Matveyev guilty of overstepping his authority after a separate incident in February when he hit two lower-ranking officers, one of whom had been caught selling drugs.

Matveyev hit one soldier "several times in the face" and "used violence" against the other, the Russian investigative committee's military department said in a statement.

"Vladivostok garrison military tribunal has sentenced Matveyev to four years," it said. Matveyev was also stripped of his rank and ordered to pay a total of 25,000 rubles ($840) to the two victims. He pleaded not guilty.

The lengthy jail sentence appeared to be an unusually harsh punishment for violence towards soldiers, which is notoriously common in the Russian army.

Matveyev's defence slammed the court proceedings as unfair Friday and said they planned to appeal.

"The court based its decision on witnesses called by the prosecution, and viewed the defence witnesses critically," Matveyev's lawyer Margarita Lyudenko said in televised comments.

Several officers in the army and the interior ministry have posted whistleblowing videos about corruption in the ranks in recent years.

The first to do so, police major Alexei Dymovsky from the southern Russian city of Novorossiisk, has also been fired from his job after he posted a video in 2009 alleging rampant corruption in his force.

A smoldering scandal is stalking the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama despite it being temporary obscured by budget battles and unemployment figures.

It's called Operation Fast and Furious, a botched gun-running sting along the Mexican border by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives that went decidedly wrong.

Wrong, as in a federal agent being killed by a weapon ATF allowed to be purchased by a gunrunner; wrong, as in dozens of crimes being committed with the trafficked firearms; wrong, as in what appears to be a botched attempt at coverup.

"The Justice Department has been less than forthcoming since Day One, so the revisions here are hardly surprising and the numbers will likely rise until the more than 1,000 guns that were allowed to fall into the hands of bad guys are recovered -- most likely years down the road," U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said after learning that 21 crimes in Mexico were apparently committed with the ATF trafficked weapons, not the 11 crimes the ATF previously conceded.

"What we're still waiting for are the answers to the other questions the attorney general failed to answer per our agreement. The cooperation of the attorney general and his staff is needed if we're ever going to get to the bottom of this disastrous policy and help the ATF and the department move forward."

Grassley, working with U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has been holding the ATF and U.S. Justice Department to account with investigations and hearing, which have so far showed rank-and-file ATF agents opposed the program but were pressured by superiors to toe the line.

Operation Fast and Furious began in late 2009. The concept of the operation was to allow legal gun dealers near Arizona's border with Mexico sell firearms to suspected straw buyers, who could be traced to Mexican drug cartels so as to build large criminal cases against Mexican crime organizations.

Those crime organizations have launched a bloody battle for territory among themselves and against the Mexican government.

The ATF, which is under the control of the Justice Department, lost track of the weapons and traffickers. The situation then went from bad to worse. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed last December while trying to apprehend armed suspects. Attackers' guns found on the scene turned out to be among weapons the ATF allowed smugglers to purchase.

News reports later said it was learned that federal agents trying to apprehend gunrunners along the border had been told let them pass.

"I cannot begin to think of how the risk of letting guns fall into the hands of known criminals could possibly advance any legitimate law enforcement interest," an ATF agent said at a congressional hearing in June.

Amid the spotlight of congressional investigation, two top officials tied to Fast and Furious -- Dennis K. Burke, the U.S. attorney in Phoenix; and the ATF's acting chief Kenneth E. Melson -- resigned their positions.

The White House said it had no knowledge of the botched operation but e-mail messages obtained by news organizations last month indicated that three members of Obama's staff had received back-channel information on ATF anti-gun trafficking efforts.

The briefings were apparently given in July 2010 in e-mail to Kevin O'Reilly, director of North American Affairs at the National Security Council; Dan Restrepo, senior Latin American adviser and national security official Greg Gatjanis by ATF's Bill Newell, who at the time was the ATF special agent in charge of its Phoenix office, which ran Operation Fast and Furious.

To what extent the officials were eventually briefed specifically on Fast and Furious is unknown but disclosure of the e-mail messages is sure to fire suspicions on Capitol Hill that both the White House and the Justice Department knew more than they are disclosing.

Issa said his committee investigations on the program will continue to "ensure that blame isn't offloaded on just a few individuals for a matter than involved much higher levels of the Justice Department."

"We know we are being gamed and we think the time for the game should be up," he said.

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Chinese army general under fire for son's violence
Beijing (AFP) Sept 9, 2011 - A Chinese army general has apologised for his son's brutal beating of a couple and offered compensation, state media said Friday, in the latest scandal involving the so-called "rich second generation".

The case, which has sparked widespread outrage, is reminiscent of a high-profile scandal last year, when the son of a top police officer tried to use his father's status to escape a deadly car accident he had caused.

According to the official Global Times paper, police detained Li Tianyi, 15, Tuesday in Beijing after witnesses said he and a friend leapt from their sports cars and beat a man and woman for three minutes while their son looked on.

Li reportedly has no driving licence and his car, a customised BMW coupe, had no licence plate. But a lawyer told the English-language daily that he would not be charged because he was not yet 16 years old.

The woman who was beaten up by Li and the other boy, surnamed Su, told the newspaper that her husband had to have nine stitches to his forehead and two to the back of his head, and that he suffered wounds to his nose and right eye.

General Li Shuangjiang, 72, a famous singer and music department dean at the Beijing-based PLA Academy of Arts, apologised for his son's actions.

"As the father, I bear the responsibility for my son's behaviour. I'm so sorry that I'd rather now be beaten by you," he was quoted as saying.

"I will not condone my son's faults, and there will be a settlement."

Police in Beijing's Haidian district, where the incident occurred, were not immediately available for comment.

Witnesses said that Li and Su beat up the couple in what appeared to be an act of road rage.

"Who will dare call the police?" they shouted to stunned onlookers before trying to flee the scene. They were stopped by local residents, the report said.

The incident has sparked lightning-fast online calls to punish Li, amid disgust over what some see as the brazen high-handedness of top officials and their families.

One user of Sina Weibo, China's most popular Twitter-like microblog -- which had more than 150,000 messages about the incident -- hit out at the general.

"What kind of a person is Li Shuangjiang? His son is only 15 but drives a BMW with a gun. What is wrong with China?" the online user said, referring to a toy gun reportedly found with the young Li when he was detained.

"Great," said another netizen. "It's because China has people like these that it's corrupt."

In last year's scandal, the 22-year-old police officer's son ran over a student in the northern province of Hebei and infamously shouted: "Sue me if you dare. My father is Li Gang!" He was later sentenced to six years in prison.

In June this year, China executed a music student who stabbed a woman to death after he hit her with his car because he feared the "peasant woman would be hard to deal with" over the accident.

The victim only suffered minor injuries in the accident but Yao Jiaxin, a student at the Xian Conservatory of Music, stabbed her eight times with a knife as she eyed his car number plate.

The cases have turned an increasingly bright spotlight on the dubious reputation of China's "rich second generation" -- a term applied to the spoiled offspring of powerful beneficiaries of China's 30-year economic boom.

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Chinese army general under fire for son's violence
Beijing (AFP) Sept 9, 2011
A Chinese army general has apologised for his son's brutal beating of a couple and offered compensation, state media said Friday, in the latest scandal involving the so-called "rich second generation". The case, which has sparked widespread outrage, is reminiscent of a high-profile scandal last year, when the son of a top police officer tried to use his father's status to escape a deadly car ... read more

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