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OPB – Think Out Loud on KBR and Qarmat Ali

Posted July 15, 2010 By Ms Sparky

Think Out Loud on Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) aired a great show today on the lawsuit surrounding the Oregon National Guard victims of the Qarmat Ali chemical exposure. It also covered this newly revealed indemnity clause in KBR’s Restore Iraqi Oil (RIO) contract. That’s right, KBR claims the DoD has absolved them of all financial responsibility if they were to kill or injure a soldier or civilian on the RIO project. If KBR loses the suit, the taxpayers foot the bill!!!

The show is hosted by Emily Harris and Dave Miller. Today’s guests were:

Larry Roberta – Oregon National Guard Veteran and Qarmat Ali victim (prerecorded conversation)

Julie Sullivan – Oregonian reporter who has been the lead journalist covering the Oregon National Guard trial.

Mike Doyle – Houston attorney representing all the National Guard Troops in the Qarmat Ali suits against KBR

Alan Chvotkin – Executive Vice President & Counsel for Professional Services Counsel – a trade organization of which KBR is a member.

Debbie Crawford aka Ms Sparky

The show is very informative and gave different points of view of the Qarmat Ali and contractor issues. I know you may find it hard to believe but Ms Sparky is not the ONLY one with an opinion on this!! The show is about an hour long and you can listen to it from the Think Out Loud page. Just click the arrow under “POSTED BY: ALLISON FROST”. (I am just trying to convince  myself I was not the only one who couldn’t find the play button!) You can also download it from their site and listen to it later or if you can’t get to their site for some reason you can listen to it HERE . I use Real Player.

My personal thanks to Allison and Rebecca for making this relatively painless!

Ms Sparky

Debbie Crawford manages the mssparky.com website from her Washington home while grandson Keelen Goldsworth studies nearby. The journeyman electrician spent two years working for war contractor KBR in Iraq.

Julie Sullivan, The Oregonian -  Sunday, July 11, 2010 – Debbie Crawford was playing with her grandson at her Battle Ground home two years ago when she heard a news report on a Green Beret who died in Baghdad. The water pump in his Army shower was not properly grounded, and when he turned the faucet, a jolt of electricity killed him.

Crawford cried, her worst professional fear realized. She went to her laptop and began to type:

“As a licensed electrician who worked for KBR in Iraq for two years, I find this UNACCEPTABLE!!!! How did this happen? Let me give you my opinion from first-hand experience….”

Five weeks later, after a Senate staffer saw her post, Crawford testified before Congress to poor management and poor workmanship by Kellogg, Brown & Root in Iraq, including subcontracting electrical work to locals not skilled to U.S. standards and failing to check electricians’ credentials.

Two years later, the blog she started that 2008 day –mssparky.com – is the largest online catalog of news articles, opinion, leaks and lawsuits regarding war contractors. The site has drawn more than 10.8 million page hits since Jan. 1.

(Click HERE for the rest of the article)

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I just finished my segment on Stand Up! with Pete Dominick which is a political talk show broadcast from 3-6pm EST on the POTUS satellite radio channel – Sirius 110 / XM 130 and boasts 18.5 million listeners.

This was a lot more relaxed than live TV. I was sitting at my desk drinking coffee and talking on the phone. That is what I do best!! And I should be good at it….I do it for at least 12 hours a day!  I fielded a few friendly calls and Pete asked some great questions about KBR and the electrocution issues in Iraq. I talked about tools and material issues. Third country national workers and KBR and DCMA accountability. I could have talked for hours.

Although this interview was serious, Pete Dominick is also an very gifted comedian and warms up for Comedy Centrals The Cobert Report and The Daily Show. (LOVE THEM!!) And is one of the most booked comics on the NYC club scene where he regularly works all of the top clubs including The Comedy Cellar , Gotham , The Comic Strip , Caroline’s, Comix, Stand Up NY, Dangerfield’s and The Laugh Factory.

Click HERE to here to listen the interview. The photo is from the Senate DPC hearings. Some photos just never go away! I hope they link the audio to the page.

My thanks again to Pete Dominick and the staff at Stand Up! with Pete Dominick.

Ms Sparky

Edited 3/24/2009

IBEW Members Help Improve Safety in Mideast

Posted March 13, 2009 By Ms Sparky

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After Base Electrocutions, IBEW Members Help Improve Safety in Mideast

by The Electrical Worker, Fri Mar 13, 2009 at 03:15:36 PM EST

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Boston Local 103 journeyman wireman Kevin Brashears was fearful of becoming another statistic: one more hardworking family man victimized by the economic free fall. But after experiencing unemployment like many workers across the country – and facing foreclosure on his mortgage – Brashears hit pay dirt in an unlikely place.

In March, Brashears shipped out to Iraq to work for military contractor KBR. He stands to make more than $120,000 for his 12-month commitment. At the same time, he looks forward to the chance to improve safety for the troops stationed at KBR-run facilities, which have been plagued by shoddy electrical wiring, leading to many troop deaths.

“I’m trying to do right by my family and at the same time help serve my country,” Brashears said.

Mired in scandal and facing critical heat from U.S. investigators, KBR – the notorious anti-union company that won Iraq contracts in a no-bid process under the Bush administration – is now attempting an about-face. Greater government scrutiny and heightened exposure are forcing the contractor to recruit a skilled work force, as opposed to outsourcing work to Iraqi locals or unskilled third-country nationals. The result: KBR representatives are signing up licensed electricians in the U.S. at a rapid clip, many of whom are out-of-work IBEW members.

“For some members who are unemployed right now, working for KBR in Iraq looks like a pretty good deal,” said Boston Local 103 Business Manager Mike Monahan. He cited the high pay and numerous stalled construction projects due to the credit crunch and economy as reasons more than 25 of the local’s members are slated to head out to Iraq. “So far, the relationship between KBR and our local has been good, and those members who signed up are happy to have the work.”

But even as IBEW members travel to Iraq to fix the problems, the company continues to pay the price for its past failures.

Following 18 troop deaths at U.S. bases – many of which are run by KBR – Army investigators in January recommended the manner of death for Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth be changed from “accidental” to “negligent homicide.” Maseth was electrocuted in January 2008 while taking a shower at his Baghdad base.

The Defense Contract Management Agency has documented 231 shock incidents from September 2006 through July of last year – seven months after Maseth’s death. The agency said in its 45-page report that KBR “failed to meet the basic requirements to identify life-threatening conditions on tanks, water pumps, electrical outlets and electrical panels.”

The Army is considering charging two unnamed KBR supervisors and the company at large with criminal liability. No charges have been filed yet.

IBEW members who have worked for the contractor in Iraq have helped shine a light on the myriad problems at KBR-run facilities. Portland, Ore., Local 48 member Debbie Crawford worked in Baghdad’s Green Zone from 2004 to 2006. She testified before a Senate Democratic Policy Committee hearing last year about the poor management and shoddy quality of work she saw being performed by unlicensed, barely-trained employees working alongside licensed IBEW electricians. Maseth’s mother, Cheryl Harris, also testified (see “IBEW Urges Electrical Safety at U.S. Bases,” October 2008, The Electrical Worker).

“Some of us who went to Iraq were so stunned that we couldn’t in good conscience move forward without trying to right some wrongs we saw on the worksites,” Crawford said. “I feel strongly that it was our testimonies that got the ball rolling on investigating KBR’s actions abroad.”

Since then, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) have pressed the Pentagon and the Army to conduct assessments of KBR-run facilities. “We must not only ensure that full accountability is served in this case, but that the Pentagon is also doing all that it can to prevent the future electrocutions of American personnel in both Iraq and Afghanistan,” Casey said.

Crawford warned members considering whether to sign up. “People need to go over there fully informed, and know what to expect – that they’re frequently on their own,” Crawford said. Appearing on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show March 9, Crawford told 2 million viewers about water systems yielding high voltage rates that shocked many troops and civilians and how her foreman was not even an electrician.

“Things may not be perfect, but they are turning around,” says Savannah, Ga., Local 508 journeyman wireman Henry Blount. He worked for KBR in the Green Zone from 2004 to 2006 then served as an electrical auditor for Versar International Assistance Projects – a Colorado-based company – in Iraq. His recent duties included eliminating hazards in base infrastructures.

Blount was reassigned to Afghanistan last month. He says that while challenges are considerable, he appreciates the opportunity to help instruct Iraqi and Afghan electricians as they strive to make a better life for themselves.

“The IBEW brothers and sisters over here all support the troops, and we all support a safe work environment,” Blount said. “I feel confident I’m helping make the situation better each time I step on the job site.”

For Brashears, going to Iraq allows him to put the IBEW’s high standards to work in a changing and challenging environment.

“The fact that KBR turned to the IBEW when they needed more licensed electricians shows what a safety-conscious, efficient and professional work force our union has,” Brashears said. “I’m deeply saddened by the troop deaths and accidents, and I hope some military families will rest easier knowing that their loved ones are in the very capable hands of the IBEW.” (click HERE to read original article)

Ms Spartky

Ms Sparky on The Rachel Maddow Show 03-09-2009

Posted March 10, 2009 By Ms Sparky

I am having problems getting this video to embed. If you are having problems watching the video on Ms Sparky click HERE.

Wasn’t that interesting. On a personal note….I was very very nervous. I had to go home and watch it to know what I had said. It was live from a studio in Portland, Oregon. I couldn’t see Rachel so I was taking to “air” and I could hear the weather being broadcast in another studio which was very distracting. My segment was only about 5 minutes. It was over before I even got warmed up! It was so funny, she was thanking me for being on her show and I am thinking “oh no… we’re not done yet…I have more to say!” Oh yeah…the camera does add….50 lbs! LOL

Thank you Rachel Maddow for keeping this issue in the news.

Ms Sparky

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