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Fifth Circuit Overturns Paul Minor Bribery Conviction

Mark Crispin Miller wrote:

Here, for once, is some great news--and a reminder that justice can be done, eventually; although no stroke of justice can make up for this man's horrible ordeal. Just to remind you, Paul Minor was forbidden to spend his wife's last days with her, when she lay dying of brain
cancer in a hospital; and then the DoJ--that is, Obama's DoJ--would not allow him out of prison to attend her funeral.

And for what? Why? As the Fifth Court of Appeals has now made crystal clear, this man did not engage in any bribery. (Note, incidentally, that the decision does not overturn Minor's conviction under the "Honest Services" statute--which SCOTUS will soon nullify, thereby
wiping out the other "crime" for which they locked him up.)

For this good outcome, we need to thank all those who worked so hard to shine a light on this appalling case: Scott Horton at Harper's, Larisa Alexandrovna at Raw Story, and Velvet Revolution. Because of them (and that includes, of course, Brad Friedman), a gross injustice has been righted at long last.

And now we need to focus on those many other cases that Karl Rove engineered for BushCo's sake. We cannot rest until they have him, and all his cohorts, in a federal cell, which will be a punishment long overdue, and, unlike all those others, well-deserved.

MCM

Fifth Circuit Overturns Paul Minor Bribery Conviction
By Adam Lynch | Jackson Free Press | December 11, 2009

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has partially overturned the convictions of Mississippi attorney Paul Minor and former judges John Whitfield and Walter "Wes" Teel. A federal jury convicted Minor, Teel and Whitfield in 2007 for federal bribery and honest services fraud, but they appealed, arguing that prosecutors changed jury instructions to muddy the definition of an exchange of services for corruption, among other arguments.

Attorneys representing the three argue that Judge Henry Wingate agreed to loosen the jury instructions so that jurors could decide to convict, even if there was no clear exchange of services, or quid pro quo, between the judges or Minor. All three had successfully fought back allegations of corruption in an earlier trial in which the jury instructions were more clearly defined.

Today the appeals court tossed the federal bribery charges connected to the 2007 trial, leaving intact only the charges of honest services fraud. Read more.

Blackwater Guards Tied to Secret Raids by the C.I.A.

Blackwater Guards Tied to Secret Raids by the C.I.A.
By James Risen and Mark Mazzetti | NY Times

Private security guards from Blackwater Worldwide participated in some of the C.I.A.’s most sensitive activities — clandestine raids with agency officers against people suspected of being insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and the transporting of detainees, according to former company employees and intelligence officials.

The raids against suspects occurred on an almost nightly basis during the height of the Iraqi insurgency from 2004 to 2006, with Blackwater personnel playing central roles in what company insiders called “snatch and grab” operations, the former employees and current and former intelligence officers said.

Several former Blackwater guards said that their involvement in the operations became so routine that the lines supposedly dividing the Central Intelligence Agency, the military and Blackwater became blurred. Instead of simply providing security for C.I.A. officers, they say, Blackwater personnel at times became partners in missions to capture or kill militants in Iraq and Afghanistan, a practice that raises questions about the use of guns for hire on the battlefield.

Separately, former Blackwater employees said they helped provide security on some C.I.A. flights transporting detainees in the years after the 2001 terror attacks in the United States.

The secret missions illuminate a far deeper relationship between the spy agency and the private security company than government officials had acknowledged. Blackwater’s partnership with the C.I.A. has been enormously profitable for the North Carolina-based company, and became even closer after several top agency officials joined Blackwater. Read more.

Shadow Army: ABC Discloses Use of Blackwater Contractors as Possible Mercenaries

Shadow Army: ABC Discloses Use of Blackwater Contractors as Possible Mercenaries | Jonathan Turley

Brian Ross at ABC has aired the results of his investigation into the use of alleged mercenaries by the United States. I was interviewed on the story, though I was obviously not at liberty to discuss it before it aired yesterday. Ross found evidence that private contractors were being used in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq for combat missions — a role that raises very disturbing legal and policy questions.

The ABC storyis based on four current and former U.S. military and intelligence officers. The New York Times has also reported that raids against Iraqi insurgents were conducted “almost nightly” between 2004 and 2006, and “the operations became so routine that the lines supposedly dividing the Central Intelligence Agency, the military and Blackwater became blurred.”

Congress has historically moved against the use of private contractors for such purposes. The Defense Department bars the use of private security contractors (PSCs) for combat operations. In the FY2008 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Congress required full reporting on the use and weaponry of PSCs. Such contractors have been involved in controversial shootings such as the shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians at a Baghdad traffic circle in Nisoor Square by Blackwater employees.

The debate over PSCs has been over their use in combat areas, not just their use in combat — a role restricted for our regular forces. However, even their use in combat areas is viewed as inimical by military professionals. The executive summary for the U.S. Naval Academy’s 9th Annual McCain Conference on Ethics and Military Leadership stated this position recently:

We therefore conclude that contractors should not be deployed as security guards, sentries, or even prison guards within combat areas. APSCs should be restricted to appropriate support functions and those geographic areas where the rule of law prevails. In irregular warfare (IW) environments, where civilian cooperation is crucial, this restriction is both ethically and strategically necessary. Read more.

Mercenaries? CIA Says Expanded Role for Contractors Legitimate

Mercenaries? CIA Says Expanded Role for Contractors Legitimate
Blackwater, Other Firms Said to Be "Hired Guns" in Iraq, Afghanistan -- Combat Role Would Be Against U.S. Law
By Matthew Cole, Richard Esposito and Brian Ross | ABC News

The CIA and the military special forces have quietly expanded the role of private contractors, including Blackwater, to include their involvement in raids and secret paramilitary operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, four current and former U.S. military and intelligence officers tell ABC News.

American law specifically prohibits the use of private soldiers or mercenaries in combat, according to Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University.

"The United States Congress has never approved the use of private contractors for combat operations," Turley told ABC News in an interview...Read more.

Watch Brian Ross report on Blackwater

"What Ya Got?" Seeking Tips On Chamber of Commerce's Tim Donohue: Possible Reward Could Be $200K!

Yeah, we know the old poster said $100,000, but it just doubled! Doubled to $200,000!

or

Click here.

Why Welfare Reform Fails Its Recession Test

Why welfare reform fails its recession test
By Peter Edelman and Barbara Ehrenreich | Washington Post

We all like to imagine that there'll be something to stop our fall if we hit hard times. Mulugeta Yimer, for example, is a 56-year-old Alexandria cabdriver who escaped poverty and persecution in Ethiopia 20 years ago only to be clobbered by the recession. Business is way down, and he's facing possible foreclosure on his home. He says he is averse to government handouts, but when he contemplates what might be in store for his wife, who works part-time at a convenience store, and their two young children, he muses wistfully, "There's always welfare, isn't there?"

Actually, no. When President Bill Clinton signed welfare reform into law, he didn't just end welfare as we knew it. For all practical purposes, it turned out, he brought an end to cash help of any kind for families with children in much of the country. While welfare reform was long ago declared a success in some quarters, it was deeply flawed from the beginning. The recession has shown how seriously unprepared it left us for hard times.

Conservatives had been attacking the old welfare system for decades, claiming that it fostered dependency. Many liberals found it unsatisfactory as well. Welfare checks weren't big enough to lift families out of poverty, and the system did little to help recipients get or keep jobs. When Republicans gained control of Congress and welfare rolls swelled in the early 1990s, these attacks gained momentum, and in 1996, Clinton ended the legal right to cash assistance and imposed a five-year limit on federally financed help to any given family.

Welfare reform also provided the states with nearly complete discretion over how to administer benefits. Most states responded with gusto, reducing welfare rolls nationally by two-thirds in just a few years.
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So when the Great Recession came along, the government safety net for families with children was in tatters. Read more.

Neocons Get Warm and Fuzzy Over ‘War President’

Neocons Get Warm and Fuzzy Over ‘War President’
By Eli Clifton | Anti War.com

U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan for a 30,000-troop surge and a troop withdrawal timeline beginning in 18 months has caught criticism from both Democrat and Republican lawmakers.

But a small group of hawkish foreign policy experts – who have lobbied the White House since August to escalate U.S. involvement in Afghanistan – are christening Obama the new "War President."

The response to Obama’s Tuesday night speech at West Point has largely been less than enthusiastic, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle finding plenty in the administration’s Afghanistan plan that fails to live up to their expectations. Republicans have hammered the White House on Obama’s decision to begin a drawdown of U.S. forces in 18 months, while Democrats largely expressed ambivalence or dismay over the administration’s willingness to commit 30,000 more soldiers to a war seen by many as unwinnable and costly at a time when the U.S. economy is barely in recovery from the global financial crisis.

The White House’s rollout of the 30,000 troop surge did little to convince an already skeptical Congress, but foreign policy hawks who have accused the president of "dithering" in making a decision on Afghanistan are praising the administration’s willingness to make the "tough" commitment to escalate the U.S. commitment in the war in Afghanistan.

Indeed, their approval of the White House’s decision to commit 30,000 troops is the culmination of a campaign led by the newly formed Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI).

FPI held its first event in March, titled "Afghanistan: Planning for Success," and a second event in September – "Advancing and Defending Democracy" – which focused on counterinsurgency in combating the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

The newly formed group is headed up by the Weekly Standard’s editor Bill Kristol; foreign policy adviser to the McCain presidential campaign Robert Kagan; and former policy adviser in the George W. Bush administration Dan Senor. Read more.

The Campaign Cash Behind the Afghanistan Escalation

The Campaign Cash Behind the Afghanistan Escalation
by Sue Sturgis | Common Dreams

...a recent Gallup poll found that 60% of Democrats want the president to begin reducing troop levels in Afghanistan.

But while the president may be showing disloyalty to his political base, he's remaining faithful to the defense industry interests that so generously funded his campaign.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets.org database, the top recipient of defense industry money in the 2008 election cycle was Barack Obama, whose haul of $1,029,997 far surpassed Republican contender Sen. John McCain's $696,948.

During the 2008 cycle, the industry contributed a total of $23.7 million to federal candidates -- far more than the $17.4 million it invested during the 2006 cycle or the $18.1 million in the 2004 cycle.

The top five defense industry contributors during the 2008 elections were Lockheed Martin at $2.5 million, Boeing at $2.1 million, Northrop Grumman at $1.8 million, and Raytheon and General Dynamics at $1.7 million each.

And it appears their investment may be paying off: The Associated Press reports that analyst Howard A. Rubel of the global investment bank Jefferies & Co. sent out a client note today stating that the fiscal 2010 Defense Department Budget will likely boost demand for precision munitions, communications gear, helicopters, armor and surveillance systems.

Among the companies whose stock Rubel rated as "Buy"? General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman. Read more.

Sources: Blackwater's Running A Secret War in Pakistan - So Classified, Even Administration Doesn't Know

Sources: Blackwater's Running A Secret War in Pakistan - So Classified, Even Administration Doesn't Know
By Susie Madrak | Crooks & Liars

There was a definite method to BushCo's madness: Namely, hire subcontractors to evade the laws that prevent the DoD and the CIA from taking part in torture and assassination. From The Nation:

At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, "snatch and grabs" of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help run a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.

The source, who has worked on covert US military programs for years, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has direct knowledge of Blackwater's involvement. He spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. The source said that the program is so "compartmentalized" that senior figures within the Obama administration and the US military chain of command may not be aware of its existence.

Sure sounds like Cheney's still got his moles deep inside, doesn't it? Read more.

Blackwater's Secret War in Pakistan Revealed

Blackwater's Secret War in Pakistan Revealed
An elite division of Blackwater plans targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan. And everyone's denying it.
By Jeremy Scahill | The Nation

At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, "snatch and grabs" of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help run a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.

The source, who has worked on covert US military programs for years, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has direct knowledge of Blackwater's involvement. He spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. The source said that the program is so "compartmentalized" that senior figures within the Obama administration and the US military chain of command may not be aware of its existence.

The White House did not return calls or email messages seeking comment for this story. Capt. John Kirby, the spokesperson for Adm. Michael Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Nation, "We do not discuss current operations one way or the other, regardless of their nature." A defense official, on background, specifically denied that Blackwater performs work on drone strikes or intelligence for JSOC in Pakistan. "We don't have any contracts to do that work for us. We don't contract that kind of work out, period," the official said. "There has not been, and is not now, contracts between JSOC and that organization for these types of services." The previously unreported program, the military intelligence source said, is distinct from the CIA assassination program that the agency's director, Leon Panetta, announced he had canceled in June 2009. "This is a parallel operation to the CIA," said the source. "They are two separate beasts." The program puts Blackwater at the epicenter of a US military operation within the borders of a nation against which the United States has not declared war--knowledge that could further strain the already tense relations between the United States and Pakistan. Read more.

Teflon Dick: How Cheney Uses Media For Protection

By Linda Milazzo

On January 29, 2001, just nine days after taking office, Dick Cheney created The National Energy Policy Development Group, commonly known as the Cheney Energy Task Force. The task force was charged with the critically important task of designing America's national energy policy. Although the group's efforts would directly impact the entire nation, the new Vice President refused to divulge the names of its members or their specific activities, claiming the Executive Branch's right to confidentiality.

The Truth of UK's Guilt Over Iraq

The truth of UK's guilt over Iraq
Until Chilcot hears UN weapons inspectors' testimony, the fiction of Britain honestly seeking a WMD smoking gun prevails
By Scott Ritter | Guardian.co.UK

But having decided on war using WMD as the justification, both the US and Great Britain began the process of fabricating a case after the fact. Lacking new intelligence data on Iraqi WMD, both nations resorted to either recycling old charges that had been disproved by UN inspectors in the past, or fabricating new charges that would not withstand even the most cursory of investigations.

With its troops no longer engaged in military operations inside Iraq, Great Britain has been liberated politically to conduct a postmortem of that conflict, including the sensitive issue of the primary justification used by then Prime Minister Tony Blair for going to war, namely Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, or WMD.

The failure to find any WMD in Iraq following the March 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of that country by US and British troops continues to haunt those who were involved in making the decision for war. The issue of Iraqi WMD, and the role it played in influencing the decision for war, is at the centre of the ongoing Iraq war inquiry being conducted by Sir John Chilcot.

Among the more compelling testimonies provided to date has been that of Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British ambassador to the US, who served in that capacity during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. Meyer convincingly portrayed an environment where the decision by the US to invade Iraq, backed by Blair, precluded any process (such as viable UN weapons inspections) that sought to compel Iraq to prove it had no WMD. Rather, Great Britain and the US were left "scrambling" to find evidence of a "smoking gun" to prove Iraq indeed possessed the WMD it was accused of having.

In short, Saddam had been found guilty of possessing WMD, and his sentence had been passed down by Washington and London void of any hard evidence that such weapons, or even related programmes, even existed. The sentence meted out – regime termination – mandated such a massive deployment of troops and material that all but the wilfully blind or intentionally ignorant had to know by the early autumn of 2002 that war with Iraq was inevitable. One simply does not initiate the movement of hundreds of thousands of troops, thousands of armoured vehicles and aircraft, and dozens of ships on a whim or to reinforce an idle threat. Read more.

The Five Stages of Collapse

THE 5 STAGES OF COLLAPSE
By Dmitry Orlov | Carolyn Baker

With comment regarding Orlov's article from Mike Ruppert:

One of the best things I ever did at FTW (From The Wilderness) was to bring up good writers and thinkers. FTW was the first to publish Dmitry Orlov who has done so much to prepare us. He desribes what we can expect.

The Five Stages of Collapse

1. Stage one: Financial Collapse
2. Commercial Collapse
3. Political Collapse
4. Social Collapse
5. Cultural Collapse

I think everybody needs to break out their Dmitry Orlove reader right about now. We are just entering the second stage. We can expect to be able to function as something resembling normal until the end of Stage Three. That means there will be warning signs and time to prepare. We will not get caught flat-footed. How could we? We're the ones who made the map. Trust this. As to how long each stage lasts... that's anybody's guess right now.

Another rule of thumb is that with each new stage, things get less and less predictable/reliable.

1. Hello, everyone! The talk you are about to hear is the result of a lengthy process on my part. My specialty is in thinking about and, unfortunately, predicting collapse. My method is based on comparison: I watched the Soviet Union collapse, and, since I am also familiar with the details of the situation in the United States, I can make comparisons between these two failed superpowers.

I was born and grew up in Russia, and I traveled back to Russia repeatedly between the late 80s and mid-90s. This allowed me to gain a solid understanding of the dynamics of the collapse process as it unfolded there. By the mid-90s it was quite clear to me that the US was headed in the same general direction. But I couldn't yet tell how long the process would take, so I sat back and watched.

I am an engineer, and so I naturally tended to look for physical explanations for this process, as opposed to economic, political, or cultural ones. It turns out that one could come up with a very good explanation for the Soviet collapse by following energy flows. Read more.

Jeremy Scahill Reveals Private Military Firm Operating in Pakistan Under Covert Assassination & Kidnapping Program

Blackwater’s Secret War in Pakistan: Jeremy Scahill Reveals Private Military Firm Operating in Pakistan Under Covert Assassination and Kidnapping Program

In an explosive new article in The Nation magazine, investigative journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill reveals the private military firm Blackwater is part of a covert program in Pakistan that includes planning the assassination and kidnapping of Taliban and Al-Qaeda suspects. Blackwater is also said to be involved in a previously undisclosed U.S. military drone campaign that has killed scores of people inside Pakistan. The article says the program has become so secretive that top Obama administration and military officials have likely been unaware of its existence. In a Democracy Now! exclusive, Scahill joins us for his first interview since the story broke. Read more.

Lehman, Bear Officials Made $2.5 Billion, Study Says (Update1)

Lehman, Bear Officials Made $2.5 Billion, Study Says (Update1)
By By Matt Townsend | Bloomberg

-- Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Bear Stearns Cos. executives made $2.5 billion from 2000 to 2008, a sign pay policies may have encouraged risk- taking that doomed the companies, a Harvard University study said.

The top five officials at Lehman, which filed for bankruptcy in September 2008, received $1.03 billion in cash bonuses and proceeds from equity sales during the period, according to the report, “The Wages of Failure,” released today by Harvard Law School’s Program on Corporate Governance. Bear Stearns’s top executives made $1.46 billion in the years before JPMorgan Chase & Co. agreed to buy the firm in 2008.

Losses the executives suffered when the firms failed were outweighed by payoffs in the preceding eight years, the study said, concluding that the “standard narrative” that the meltdown of Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns wiped out top executive’s wealth was incorrect and should be viewed skeptically in the debate over pay regulation.

“Excessive incentives to take risks might have been generated by executives’ ability to cash out compensation based on the firms’ short-term results,” said the report, written by Harvard professors Lucian Bebchuk, Alma Cohen and Holger Spamann. “To the extent that executives did cash out large amounts of such compensation, their decisions might have been distorted by an excessive focus on short-term results.”

New Pay Rules Read more.

Blackwater's Secret War in Pakistan

Blackwater's Secret War in Pakistan
By Jeremy Scahill | The Nation

At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, "snatch and grabs" of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help run a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.

The source, who has worked on covert US military programs for years, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has direct knowledge of Blackwater's involvement. He spoke to The Nation on condition of anonymity because the program is classified. The source said that the program is so "compartmentalized" that senior figures within the Obama administration and the US military chain of command may not be aware of its existence.

The White House did not return calls or email messages seeking comment for this story. Capt. John Kirby, the spokesperson for Adm. Michael Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Nation, "We do not discuss current operations one way or the other, regardless of their nature." A defense official, on background, specifically denied that Blackwater performs work on drone strikes or intelligence for JSOC in Pakistan. "We don't have any contracts to do that work for us. We don't contract that kind of work out, period," the official said. "There has not been, and is not now, contracts between JSOC and that organization for these types of services."

The previously unreported program, the military intelligence source said, is distinct from the CIA assassination program that the agency's director, Leon Panetta, announced he had canceled in June 2009. "This is a parallel operation to the CIA," said the source. "They are two separate beasts." Read more.

Too Many Overseas Bases

Too Many Overseas Bases
By David Vine | Foreign Policy in Focus

In the midst of an economic crisis that’s getting scarier by the day, it’s time to ask whether the nation can really afford some 1,000 military bases overseas. For those unfamiliar with the issue, you read that number correctly. One thousand. One thousand U.S. military bases outside the 50 states and Washington, DC, representing the largest collection of bases in world history.

Officially the Pentagon counts 865 base sites, but this notoriously unreliable number omits all our bases in Iraq (likely over 100) and Afghanistan (80 and counting), among many other well-known and secretive bases. More than half a century after World War II and the Korean War, we still have 268 bases in Germany, 124 in Japan, and 87 in South Korea. Others are scattered around the globe in places like Aruba and Australia, Bulgaria and Bahrain, Colombia and Greece, Djibouti, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Romania, Singapore, and of course, Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — just to name a few. Among the installations considered critical to our national security are a ski center in the Bavarian Alps, resorts in Seoul and Tokyo, and 234 golf courses the Pentagon runs worldwide.

Unlike domestic bases, which set off local alarms when threatened by closure, our collection of overseas bases is particularly galling because almost all our taxpayer money leaves the United States (much goes to enriching private base contractors like corruption-plagued former Halliburton subsidiary KBR). One part of the massive Ramstein airbase near Landstuhl, Germany, has an estimated value of $3.3 billion. Just think how local communities could use that kind of money to make investments in schools, hospitals, jobs, and infrastructure. Read more.

Three Cheers for Women Behaving "Badly"

This Sunday on Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox, one misbehaving woman interviews another one. Thank goodness for women who do buck the system and resist "going with the flow," just so as to appear socially acceptable to a society that is not so polite.

Cindy interviews Malalai Joya, a female Afghan Parliamentarian who courageously stands up for female rights and peace against the warlords of Afghanistan and America. Cindy and Cliff caught up with Malalai when she was in Berkeley to talk about her book: A Woman Among Warlords.

Cindy loves to bust Myths (and is almost finished with Myth America II: 20 Greatest Myths of the Robber Class and the Case for Revolution) and was thrilled when Malalai busted the stuffing out of the Myth that US and NATO forces must remain in Afghanistan to "protect the women."

Please listen to this interview on Sunday at the website after 2pm (PACIFIC):

www.CindySheehansSoapbox.com

or

1360am Rational Radio in Dallas, TX at 3pm (central)

The 15 Biggest Congressional Recipients Of Wall Street Campaign Cash

The 15 Biggest Congressional Recipients Of Wall Street Campaign Cash | Huffington Post

Reforming Wall Street is a hot topic on Capitol Hill these days. Congress is currently weighing two financial reform bills that would, to varying degrees, reshape the way the financial system is regulated.

Still, Wall Street's influence in Washington appears to be as strong as ever. After all, it was just last spring that Senator Dick Durbin, frustrated by pushback on bankruptcy reform, denounced the financial sector's influence on the Senate: the banks, he said, "they frankly own the place." The Center for Responsive Politics, a research group that tracks money in politics, reports that financial industries -- the finance, insurance and real estate sectors, specifically -- have been one of the biggest benefactors to Congress over the past two decades,,,

We [Huffington Post] took a look at the Center for Responsive Politics's database, OpenSecrets.org, to see which members of Congress have so far received Wall Street money for the 2010 election cycle. The answers may surprise you. Check out our slideshow of the top 15 recipients and choose which politician may be taking too much money from Wall Street. Read more, view the slideshow.

Tomgram: Pratap Chatterjee, Afghanistan as a Patronage Machine

Tomgram: Pratap Chatterjee, Afghanistan as a Patronage Machine | TomDispatch.com

~Chip's Note: Every once in a while, Tom over at Tom's Dispatch writes an intro to an article that is so well-researched and comprehensive that it's difficult to excerpt just a portion as a prelude to the published article. This is one of those times. Both Tom's introduction and Pratap Chatterjee's "Paying Off the Warlords, Anatomy of an Afghan Culture of Corruption" will provoke your outrage at the stark reality of the what is really happening in Afghanistan. Now, on to Tom's introduction.

There is much discussion in the media today about "corruption" in Hamid Karzai's Afghanistan, but remarkably little actual reporting about it. Just back from Kabul, TomDispatch regular Pratap Chatterjee, author of Halliburton's Army, helps to rectify that deficit. He offers a rare, news-making, eye-opening inside look at how that country's system of nepotism and corruption -- involving its old "warlords" from the days of the post-Soviet civil war and its new corporate "reconstruction" raiders -- actually works. His piece is an anatomy of the way the brother of the country's new vice president (and long-time warlord), Mohammed Fahim, is raking in tens of millions of dollars in diesel fuel contracts for an American-built power plant -- even though far cheaper methods of bringing electricity to the Afghan capital now exist.

"Every morning," Chatterjee begins, "dozens of trucks laden with diesel from Turkmenistan lumber out of the northern Afghan border town of Hairaton on a two-day trek across the Hindu Kush down to Afghanistan's capital, Kabul. Among the dozens of businesses dispatching these trucks are two extremely well connected companies -- Ghazanfar and Zahid Walid -- that helped to swell the election coffers of President Hamid Karzai as well as the family business of his running mate, the country's new vice president, warlord Mohammed Qasim Fahim."

He then follows the history of corruption and the path of the money -- both Afghan and American -- as he traces the business dealings of the Afghan elite, including figures connected to Afghan president Hamid Karzai, and well-connected western "reconstruction" companies.

He concludes: "This week, Mohammed Qasim Fahim will be sworn in as the next vice-president of the new government of Afghanistan. Under an agreement with USAID, this new government is required to spend Afghan money to buy yet more diesel for the [U.S.-built] Tarakhil power plant, which in turn will put money exclusively and directly into the vice president's brother's pocket."

From TomDispatch today, a rare, carefully reported, follow-the-money piece from Afghanistan that reveals the corruption and nepotism at the highest levels of the Afghan government -- Pratap Chatterjee, "Paying Off the Warlords, Anatomy of an Afghan Culture of Corruption." This is a devastating look at how Afghaniscam actually works. Read more.

The 15 Biggest Congressional Recipients of Legal Bribes from Wall Street

Here's a list. Hint: 4 of them are Republicans. Context: None of them are in the same league as the president.

Opinion: U.S. Is Doing No Good In Afghanistan

Note: Chris Cook recorded some interesting audio of Malalai on her current book tour as well as some of the Question & Answer period.

Opinion: U.S. is doing no good in Afghanistan
By Malalai Joya | Mercury News

As an Afghan woman who was elected to Parliament, I am in the United States to ask President Barack Obama to immediately end the occupation of my country.

Eight years ago, women's rights were used as one of the excuses to start this war. But today, Afghanistan is still facing a women's rights catastrophe. Life for most Afghan women resembles a type of hell that is never reflected in the Western mainstream media.

In 2001, the U.S. helped return to power the worst misogynist criminals, such as the Northern Alliance warlords and druglords. These men ought to be considered a photocopy of the Taliban. The only difference is that the Northern Alliance warlords wear suits and ties and cover their faces with the mask of democracy while they occupy government positions. But they are responsible for much of the disaster today in Afghanistan, thanks to the U.S. support they enjoy.

The U.S. and its allies are getting ready to offer power to the medieval Taliban by creating an imaginary category called the "moderate Taliban" and inviting them to join the government. A man who was near the top of the list of most-wanted terrorists eight years ago, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has been invited to join the government.

Over the past eight years the U.S. has helped turn my country into the drug capital of the world through its support of drug lords. Today, 93 percent of all opium in the world is produced in Afghanistan. Many members of Parliament and high ranking officials openly benefit from the drug trade. President Karzai's own brother is a well known drug trafficker. Read more.

In House, Many Spoke With One Voice: Lobbyists’

In House, Many Spoke With One Voice: Lobbyists’
By Robert Pear | NY Times

In the official record of the historic House debate on overhauling health care, the speeches of many lawmakers echo with similarities. Often, that was no accident.

Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies.

E-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that the lobbyists drafted one statement for Democrats and another for Republicans.

The lobbyists, employed by Genentech and by two Washington law firms, were remarkably successful in getting the statements printed in the Congressional Record under the names of different members of Congress.

How the US Funds the Taliban

How the US Funds the Taliban
By Aram Roston | The Nation

On October 29, 2001, while the Taliban's rule over Afghanistan was under assault, the regime's ambassador in Islamabad gave a chaotic press conference in front of several dozen reporters sitting on the grass. On the Taliban diplomat's right sat his interpreter, Ahmad Rateb Popal, a man with an imposing presence. Like the ambassador, Popal wore a black turban, and he had a huge bushy beard. He had a black patch over his right eye socket, a prosthetic left arm and a deformed right hand, the result of injuries from an explosives mishap during an old operation against the Soviets in Kabul.

But Popal was more than just a former mujahedeen. In 1988, a year before the Soviets fled Afghanistan, Popal had been charged in the United States with conspiring to import more than a kilo of heroin. Court records show he was released from prison in 1997.

Flash forward to 2009, and Afghanistan is ruled by Popal's cousin President Hamid Karzai. Popal has cut his huge beard down to a neatly trimmed one and has become an immensely wealthy businessman, along with his brother Rashid Popal, who in a separate case pleaded guilty to a heroin charge in 1996 in Brooklyn. The Popal brothers control the huge Watan Group in Afghanistan, a consortium engaged in telecommunications, logistics and, most important, security. Watan Risk Management, the Popals' private military arm, is one of the few dozen private security companies in Afghanistan. One of Watan's enterprises, key to the war effort, is protecting convoys of Afghan trucks heading from Kabul to Kandahar, carrying American supplies. Read more.

Mexican Business Groups Call for U.N. Troops

Mexican business groups call for U.N. troops
5,000 soldiers aren't enough protection, Ciudad Juarez business owners say
By Associated Press | MSNBC

"What we are asking for with the blue helmets (U.N. peacekeepers) is that we know they are the army of peace, so we could use not only the strategies they have developed in other countries ... but they also have technology," Maynez said....Maynez said the United States could also contribute to the solution, adding that the U.S. might be forced to in its own interests. "We know that sooner or later, the violence will spill over into our sister city of El Paso, Texas," he said.

Business groups in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez said Wednesday they are calling for United Nations peacekeepers to quell the drug-related violence that has given their city one of the highest homicide rates in the world.

Groups representing assembly plants, retailers and other businesses said they will submit a request to the Mexican government and the Inter American Human Rights Commission to ask the U.N. to send help.

"This is a proposal ... for international forces to come here to help out the domestic (security) forces," said Daniel Murguia, president of the Ciudad Juarez chapter of the National Chamber of Commerce, Services and Tourism. "There is a lot of extortions and robberies of businesses. Many businesses are closing." Read more.

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