Tales from the Trail

Yes, there really is a market for bear gallbladders

Who knew that there was a black market for bear gallbladders?  Turns out actually a fair number of people.

KASHMIR-WILDLIFE/A North Carolina man, Clement Calhoun, on Tuesday pleaded guilty to illegally selling 51 bear gallbladders from the Cherokee Nation trust lands over nine months in 2005, the Justice Department said.

Cherokee code bars tribal members from selling parts of big animals to anyone beyond the Cherokee Indian trust lands and to anyone who wants to remove the parts from the trust lands, the agency said.

The trade of bear parts is apparently prolific enough that the Humane Society of the United States has issued a Q&A about it, found here. An average-sized gallbladder can sell for $3,400 in Asia, the group said.

In some quarters, the bear gallbladders are used to treat numerous illnesses, including liver disease, fever, diabetes, and convulsions, according to the Humane Society.

Scientist spy case flushes out hiding place for cash

Oh the hiding places people find for cash.

As the Justice Department argued that former U.S. government scientist Stewart Nozette should remain in jail while he awaits trial on espionage charges, juicy new details emerged about the sting operation leading to his arrest for passing top secret information to an individual he thought was an Israeli intelligence officer but really was the FBI.

Nozette was arrested at the famous Mayflower Hotel in Washington on Oct. 19 but before FBI agents put the cuffs on him, the Justice Department said that he went to the bathroom in the suite and stashed $10,000 in the toilet’s upper tank. (The money was later recovered so don’t bother booking the room.)

The money was meant as a down payment on some $2 million Nozette demanded for handing over details about a classified program that the United States had spent $1 billion to develop and deploy, according to the Justice Department.

FBI translation troubles appear in Danish terrorism case

It was just yesterday that the Justice Department’s Inspector General Glenn Fine issued a scathing report about how the Federal Bureau of Investigation was behind in its efforts to translate foreign language documents and audio recordings in terrorism and criminal investigations.

DENMARKAnd now a day later, it became public that an ongoing investigation apparently has been impacted by those troubles — a plot by two men to attack a newspaper in Denmark over its publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed including one in which he is wearing a turban with a bomb in it.

U.S. authorities arrested the two Chicago area men earlier this month and unsealed the complaints against them on Tuesday that detailed how they communicated over email and by telephone to develop the plot.

The First Draft: no rest for the weary?

The Obamas may be on vacation this week, but the news hasn’t taken a break. OBAMA/

The Justice Department is expected to release a report Monday disclosing details of prisoner abuse that were gathered in 2004 by the CIA’s inspector general but never before made public. According to published reports, the department has recommended re-opening nearly a dozen prisoner-abuse cases.

A review of the cases threatens to weigh down the Obama administration, which is already involved in deeply partisan battles over healthcare and climate change legislation.

The First Draft: From Gitmo to paradise

AUSTRALIABarack Obama and Joe Biden head to the Midwest today.

The Chinese Gitmo detainees are heading to paradise.

No, they’re not winging to heaven to enjoy the company of 72 virgins. The Uighurs, as they’re known, are being resettled in various beachy, tropical locales as the Obama administration seeks to empty the controversial Guantanamo Bay prison.

The United States has struggled for months to find a home for the Chinese Muslims, who were scooped up in 2001 during the invasion of Afghanistan. The Uighurs had no beef with the U.S., their lawyers say, but were instead part of an independence movement in China’s far west.

China wanted them to face the music back home, but it sounds like they’ll be facing the music of Jimmy Buffett instead. The Pacific Island nation of Palau agreed to take on all 17 detainees yesterday; today the Justice Department said four have already been resettled in Bermuda.

Bush’s laws will be scrutinized if I become president, Obama says

rtx69fr.jpgDENVER – Maybe it’s his background teaching constitutional law.

If elected president, Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama said one of the first things he wants to do is ensure the constitutionality of all the laws and executive orders passed while Republican President George W. Bush has been in office.

Those that don’t pass muster will be overturned, he said.

During a fund-raiser in Denver, Obama — a former constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago Law School — was asked what he hoped to accomplish during his first 100 days in office.

“I would call my attorney general in and review every single executive order issued by George Bush and overturn those laws or executive decisions that I feel violate the constitution,” said Obama

Feds to keep an eye on Pennsylvania primary

WASHINGTON – As Democrats go to the polls on Tuesday to pick between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as their presidential nominee, the Bush administration said on Monday they will be keeping a close eye on the voting.
 
rtr1zn5o.jpgCiting previous allegations that the city of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, had violated voting rights laws, the Bush administration’s Justice Department announced it would monitor the primary contest.

A year ago, the city settled with the government over the allegations, agreeing to provide additional Spanish-speaking poll officials, to give additional training for election workers, and to ensure better access for disabled voters, among other things.
 
“Philadelphia has an obligation to provide all election information, ballots and voting assistance information in Spanish pursuant to Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act,” the department said. “The monitors will gather information concerning compliance with this requirement and other federal voting rights statutes.”
 
The Justice Department said it had almost 1,600 monitors watching 119 elections in 24 states during the 2006 election year.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

- Photo credit: Reuters/Bradley Bower (Obama at a rally outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia)