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Afghan Corruption: How To Follow The Money?

Michael Munk commented about this article: "Nothing new about AfPak war corruption here, but the role of Rumsfeld and Zalmay Khalilzad in promoting the US resident son of the Afghan war minister with DOD contracts for its $2B+ Host Nations Trucking program is a nice expose. Remember Hamed Wardak and his NCL Holdings of McLean, VA. His "advisory board" consists of a former Lieberman campaign worker. Check out Hamed Wardak here."

Afghan corruption: How to follow the money?
By Karen DeYoung | Washington Post

Hamed Wardak, the soft-spoken Georgetown University-educated son of an Afghan cabinet minister, has a Defense Department contract worth up to $360 million to transport U.S. military goods through some of the most insecure territory in Afghanistan. But his company has no trucks.

Instead, Wardak sits atop a murky pyramid of Afghan subcontractors who provide the vehicles and safeguard their passage. U.S. military officials say they are satisfied with the results, but they concede that they have little knowledge or control over where the money ends up.

According to senior Obama administration officials, some of it may be going to the Taliban, as part of a protection racket in which insurgents and local warlords are paid to allow the trucks unimpeded passage, often sending their own vehicles to accompany the convoys through their areas of control.

The essential question, said an American executive whose company does significant work in Afghanistan, is "whether you'd rather pay $1,000" for Afghans to safely deliver a truck, even if part of the money goes to the insurgents, or pay 10 times that much for security provided by the U.S. military or contractors. Read more.

Guam Taxpayers Pay $1,019/Hr. for Port Negotiator!


Since former GM of the Port Authority of Guam, Ken Takagawa, became the Port’s Chief Negotiator, there has been no forward progress with the contract negotiations for our workers.

He refuses to negotiate on items that have been negotiable for Public Employees under the Public Employees Management Relations Act for 40 years. Mr. Takagawa works 6 hrs a week and receives $20,000 per month plus per diem of $215 per day which comes out to $1,019 per hour to basically delay the process of getting our Port workers a contract!

It appears that Mr. Takagawa is deliberately delaying the process to maximize his salary.

In an effort to rectify the situation, President Matt Rector sent a letter to the Office of Attorney General Chief Prosecutor, Diane Corbett, to investigate the situation and ensure protection of the people of Guam from Government corruption, theft and waste of thousands of public dollars to this private contractor. Read Letter.

Haiti Post-Quake: Devastation, Depravation, Exploitation, and Oppression

Haiti Post-Quake: Devastation, Depravation, Exploitation, and Oppression
By Stephen Lendman

Two and half months post-quake, the major media mostly ignore Haiti, the calamitous conditions on the ground, and the growing desperation of millions forced to largely endure on their own - out of sight, mind, the concern of world leaders, and UN, USAID and other aid organizations diverting most of the $700 million + donated to contractors and profiteering NGOs.

A March 11 New York Times editorial titled, "Haiti, Two Months Later," tried to have it both ways, citing relief effort failures, yet praising the US, UN, foreign countries, and aid organizations for:

"dispatch(ing) tents, tarps, food, water, medicine and doctors as they should. They have done a lot of good, particularly the United States, which rushed supplies, a troop force....and a hospital ship. Many lives were saved."

Unmentioned was the thousands of US combat troops obstructing aid, getting none to the most impoverished neighborhoods, and amounts to emergency shelters have been woefully inadequate, making calamitous conditions worse.

A March 25 Times editorial titled, "Haiti's Misery," in fact, admitted it, stating:

"The emergency in Haiti isn't over. It's getting worse, as the outside world's attention fades away....(Yet) Misery rages like a fever in the hundreds of camps sheltering hundreds of thousands of....people left homeless....The dreaded rains have swamped tents and ragged stick-and-tarp huts. They have turned walkways into mud lakes (exacerbating the problem of) cooking food, washing clothes, staying clean and avoiding disease."

Did a White Sheriff and District Attorney Orchestrate a Race-Based Coup in a Northern Louisiana Town?

Did a White Sheriff and District Attorney Orchestrate a Race-Based Coup in a Northern Louisiana Town?
By Jordan Flaherty | Huffington Post

In the small northeast Louisiana town of Waterproof, the African-American mayor and police chief assert that they have been forced from office and arrested as part of an illegal coup carried out by the region's white political power structure. In a lawsuit filed last week, Police Chief Miles Jenkins describes a wide-ranging conspiracy led by the area’s district attorney and parish sheriff. These charges come at a time of widespread and high-profile racist attacks against the US President and Black members of Congress nationwide, and in a state where white political corruption and violence have been and continue to be used as tools to suppress Black political representation.

About 800 people live in Waterproof, a rural community in Tensas Parish that is 88% African American. Tensas has just over 6,000 residents, making it both the smallest parish in the state, and the parish with the state’s fastest declining population. The area schools remain mostly segregated, with nearly all the Black students attending public schools, and nearly all the white students attending private schools. With a median household income of $10,250, Waterproof is also one of the poorest communities in the US. The only jobs for Black people in town involve working for white farmers, according to Chief Jenkins. “Unless you go out of town to work,” he says, “You’re going to ride the white man’s tractor. That's it.”

Bobby Higginbotham was elected mayor of Waterproof in September of 2006. The next year, he appointed Miles Jenkins as chief of police. Jenkins, who served in the US military for 30 years and earned a master’s degree in public administration from Troy University in Alabama, immediately began the work of professionalizing a small town police department that had previously been mostly inactive. “You called the Waterproof police for help before,” says Chief Jenkins, “He would say, wait ‘til tomorrow, it’s too hot to come out today.” The new mayor also sought to reform the town’s financial practices, which Chief Jenkins says were in disorder and consumed by debt. Read more.

U.S. Plunges Central America Back To Era Of Coups And Death Squads

U.S. Plunges Central America Back To Era Of Coups And Death Squads
Rick Rozoff | Stop NATO | Blog site | March 26, 2010

March 24th of this year was the thirtieth anniversary of the assassination of Oscar Arnulfo Romero, the Roman Catholic archbishop of El Salvador.

His killing drew attention to the murderous rampages of death squads in that nation and throughout Central America as no other slaying had, although hundreds of thousands of civilians were slaughtered in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras before and during the 1980s by paramilitary formations usually led by graduates of the U.S.'s School of the Americas and covertly funded by the same nation's Central Intelligence Agency.

Graduates of the Pentagon's School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia (now the equally euphemistic Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) include the man responsible for ordering Romero's killing, the late Roberto D'Aubuisson; Efrain Rios Montt, head of the military junta in Guatemala in 1982-1983 which perpetrated some of the worst atrocities in the nation's bloodstained history; and Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, who was dismissed as chief of the Honduran military on June 25 of last year and led the coup against President Manuel Zelaya three days later.

After being appointed El Salvador's top ecclesiastic in 1977 Romero, hitherto considered a doctrinal if not a political conservative, spoke out forcefully against the abuses of the country's military and the deaths squads linked to it.

Two months before he was killed he wrote to then U.S. President Jimmy Carter imploring him to desist from arming and training the Salvadoran army, particularly plans to "train three Salvadoran battalions in logistics, communications and intelligence," and criticizing the fact that three months before "a group of six Americans was in El Salvador...providing $200,000 in gas masks and flak jackets and teaching how to use them against demonstrators.” [1]

His appeal was ignored.

The F Word: Step Toward Justice for Jamie Leigh Jones

The F Word: Step Toward Justice for Jamie Leigh Jones
By Laura Flanders | Smirking Chimp

Score one for Senator Al Franken.

Thanks to him, Jamie Leigh Jones, a former KBR employee who alleges she was gang raped by her coworkers will get her day in court.

I think we call that equal protection.

In Jones' case, it took an amendment to the 2010 defense appropriations bill. That's right, freshman Franken had to get up and suggest that government shouldn't be in the business of giving rewards -- or government contracts -- to companies that strip their workers of basic Constitutional rights, like the right to a jury trial.

Jones, lest we forget, has testified that she was raped and battered so badly by a group of her co-workers in Iraq that she required reconstructive surgery. Her assailants locked her in a shipping container for 24 hours without food, water, and she has testified before Congress that the company “warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she’d be out of a job." Read more.

Britons Queued At Ben Gurion Airport As Israeli Officials Cloned Passports

Britons Queued At Ben Gurion Airport As Israeli Officials Cloned Passports
Soca report into forgeries used in Dubai killing says personal data was stolen in border checks
By Sandra Laville, Julian Borger and Richard Norton-Taylor | | Submitted by |

Passing through Israel's Ben Gurion airport, a few miles east of Tel Aviv, is a unique experience no first-time visitor is likely to forget.

It represents the pinnacle of modern aviation security. Baggage is passed through giant, state-of-the-art machines, and travellers – both arriving and leaving – are frequently subjected to lengthy, personal and repetitive questioning by officials, on their ethnic background and that of any local acquaintances they may have made.

It is not at all uncommon for the mostly youthful immigration officers to wander off, passports and tickets in hand, ostensibly to consult with their seniors. Surrendering documents at check-in or at immigration has hitherto been considered a necessary evil for all those travelling in and out of Ben Gurion.

But the evidence that the Israeli state has been taking the information gleaned from these inspections to create cloned identities for its spies introduces a new level of risk to the experience. Read more.

Boo! The Scary, Scary Social Security 'Crisis' is Back!

By Dave Lindorff

Get ready kids. It’s time for more scare stories about Social Security.

The New York Times weighed in today with a dire warning that this year, six years ahead of what had been predicted only a few years ago, the Social Security system would be (cue scary music) paying out more in benefits than it takes in from the payroll tax. The reason for this earlier-than-anticipated event is the Great Recession, the paper explained.

Stewart Udall, RIP

I cannot claim to be an expert on Stewart Udall, the Arizona Congressman, conservationist, supporter of environmentalist casandra Rachel Carson, and interior secretary under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson who died this week at the age of 90.

I can say, from personal experience, though, that he was a breed apart from the money-grubbing, corporate ass-kissing, Washington cocktail circuit, elitist pigs who have headed up federal government departments in the days and years since Richard Nixon, in 1969, inaugurated the "Imperial Presidency."

Obama Administration Destroys Incriminating Contracting Data

Obama Administration Destroys Incriminating Contracting Data
By Lloyd Chapman | Huffington Post

In March of 2005, the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of the Inspector General found large businesses had fraudulently represented themselves as small businesses to illegally receive federal small business contracts. Report 5-16 stated large businesses had committed fraud by making "false certifications," and "improper certifications." (PDF)

On Friday, March 12, the General Services Administration (GSA) destroyed all of the information that had been used in that investigation.

Since 2003, over a dozen federal investigations have found that Fortune 500 firms have received federal small business contracts. In 2004, the SBA Office of Advocacy found large businesses had received federal small business contracts fraudulently through what they referred to as "vendor deception."

As a result of the deletion of the data it will be significantly more difficult, if not impossible, for federal investigators to conduct investigations into fraud and abuse in federal small business contracting programs. Despite public outcry over the proposed changes, the GSA has eliminated the data under the guise of upgrading the system and making it easier to search. Read more.

Tax Scam? Federal Employees Owe Nearly a Billion in Back Taxes

Tax Scam? Federal Employees Owe Nearly a Billion in Back Taxes
Chaffetz Wants to 'Ferret Out' Federal Workers With Unpaid Taxes
By Devin Dwyer | ABC News

Working for Uncle Sam comes with some great perks, like job stability, posh benefits packages, and in many cases, average salaries that are higher than what the same job pays in the private sector.

That's why Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, is irked that nearly 100,000 civilian federal employees owe the IRS $962 million in back taxes. He thinks they should pay up or be fired.

Chaffetz has introduced a bill that calls for the federal government to "ferret out" civilian employees who have "seriously delinquent tax debt" and prevent the hiring of other tax delinquents.

More than 3 percent of the 2.8 million federal civilian employees owed the Treasury unpaid federal income taxes in 2008, according to the IRS. If you include retirees and military service members, the numbers go from nearly 100,000 up to 276,000 current or former workers who owe $3 billion in taxes.

"If you get to the point where the government is putting a lien on their property and they've exhausted their appeals… the right thing to do is fire them as a federal worker," said Chaffetz. "If you're going to take federal tax dollars, you should be paying your federal taxes." Read more.

"Time for the Truth"

"Time for the Truth"
By Eliot Spitzer and William K. Black | Huffington Post

In December, we argued the urgent need to make public A.I.G.'s emails and "key internal accounting documents and financial models." A.I.G.'s schemes were at the center of the economic meltdown. Three months later, a year-long report by court-appointed bank examiner Anton Valukas makes it abundantly clear why such investigations are critical to the recovery of our financial system. Every time someone takes a serious look, a new scandal emerges.

The damning 2,200-page report, released last Friday, examines the reasons behind Lehman's failure in September 2008. It reveals on and off balance-sheet accounting practices the firm's managers used to deceive the public about Lehman's true financial condition. Our investigations have shown for years that accounting is the "weapon of choice" for financial deception. Valukas's findings reveal how Lehman used $50 billion in "repo" loans to fool investors into thinking that it was on sound financial footing. As our December co-author Frank Partnoy recently explained as part of a major report of the Roosevelt Institute, "Make Markets Be Markets," such abusive off-balance accounting was and is endemic. It was a major cause of the financial crisis, and it will lead to future crises.

According to emails described in the report, CEO Richard Fuld and other senior Lehman executives were aware of the games being played and yet signed off on quarterly and annual reports. Lehman's auditor Ernst & Young knew and kept quiet.

The Valukas report also exposes the dysfunctional relationship between the country's main regulatory bodies and the systemically dangerous institutions (SDIs) they are supposed to be policing. The NY Fed, the regulatory agency led by then FRBNY President Geithner, has a clear statutory mission to promote the safety and soundness of the banking system and compliance with the law. Yet it stood by while Lehman deceived the public through a scheme that FRBNY officials likened to a "three card monte routine" (p. 1470). The report states: Read more.

The Video That Will Put Geithner Behind Bars

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The Video That Will Put Geithner Behind Bars The NY Fed, and likely Geithner himself, undermined, perhaps even violated, laws designed to protect investors and markets. By Mike Whitney | Alternet

You gotta see this! [Video above.] If this doesn't convince you that Timothy Geithner knew about the securities shenanigans that were going on at Lehman, than I don't know what will.

Keep in mind, that Geithner ran Lehman through 3 "stress tests" prior to bankruptcy; all of which Lehman failed, and yet, nothing was done. Anton R. Valukas--the examiner who wrote the 2,200 page investigative-report which was released on Thursday-- has provided plenty of information detailing Lehman's “materially misleading” accounting and “actionable balance sheet manipulation.”

In other words, they cooked the books. Read more.

Slick Barry and the $100-Billion Medicare/Medicaid Fraud Claim

By Dave Lindorff

President Barack Obama is out and abroad stumping like mad for his embattled health insurance “reform” plan, claiming now that his administration will “crack down” on $100 billion in annual “waste and fraud” in the Medicare and Medicaid systems.

This new tough rhetoric is meant to win over some of the conservative opposition that sees all government programs as inherently wasteful, inefficient and corrupt.

But the claim itself is bogus.

The figure comes from a study done annually by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and that study makes it clear that it is not looking at fraud, but at errors. And there are two things that can be said about those errors, most of which appear to involve problems like illegible signatures on doctors’ orders, or lost paperwork needed to document that a treatment being billed for actually happened.

Kill Bill: Death to Obamacare!

By Dave Lindorff

I’m with Marcia Angell, editor of the New England Journal of Medicine. The Obama plan for health care “reform”, as well as the two versions passed by the House and the Senate, are all devious disasters that do nothing to solve the nation’s burgeoning health care crisis, and in fact, will make it worse.

The only thing to do at this point is to take the whole stinking pile of paper and put it in the compost heap. Kill it.

This whole effort was never about reform from the day last March when the new president called on Congress to begin deliberations on health care reform. It was about catering to the wishes of the big players in the Medical Industrial Complex--the big pharmaceutical multinationals, the hospital companies, the physicians and, most of all, the insurance industry. People and their health care needs had little or nothing to do with this.

VIDEO: Colbert 'Deceptively Edits' Interview to Mock O'Keefe, Breitbart ACORN 'Pimp' Hoax Videos

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
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VIDEO: Colbert 'Deceptively Edits' Interview to Mock O'Keefe, Breitbart ACORN 'Pimp' Hoax Videos, Deceptive rightwing propagandists become national joke...
By Brad Friedman | Brad Blog

Earlier this week, the Brooklyn D.A. concluded a five-month investigation of the Brooklyn ACORN videos, finding "no criminality." Following the release of the findings, Rupert Murdoch's own New York Post, of all places, reported it this way: Read more.

Barry C. Lynn's "Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction"

Barry C. Lynn's "Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction"
By Stephen Lendman | Blogspot

Lynn is director of the Markets, Enterprise, and Resiliency Initiative, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, and author of "Too Big to Fail" about the dangers of monopoly capitalism. He will be Stephen's radio guest on Saturday, March 6th, on the Progressive Radio Network.

He expands on the threat in his newest book titled, "Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction," explaining today's peril given the power of predatory giants.

They control governments, the courts, war and peace, dominant information sources, and essential services, including health care, air and water, what we eat and drink, where we live, what we wear, and school curricula to the highest levels. They own genetic code patents, basic human life elements to be commodified the same as toothpaste, tomatoes or toilet paper.

Omnipotent, they plunder recklessly, ruthlessly at our expense. They're private tyrannies, endangering humanity, basic freedoms, environmental sustainability, and planetary survival. Without exaggeration, they're unaccountable, unchecked "weapons of mass destruction."

In "Cornered," Lynn explains the danger and urgency to address it. Our lives and futures depend on it.

Rove: Memoir Aims To Set Record Straight

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Rove "...confirmed to be one of two sources outing Valerie Plame...."

Wikipedia: Agreeing with the Bush administration, the Obama Justice Department argues the Wilsons have no legitimate grounds to sue. On the current justice department position, Sloan [Melanie Sloan, of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington], stated: "We are deeply disappointed that the Obama administration has failed to recognize the grievous harm top Bush White House officials inflicted on Joe and Valerie Wilson. The government’s position cannot be reconciled with President Obama’s oft-stated commitment to once again make government officials accountable for their actions."

Selling Out America to Wall Street

Selling Out America to Wall Street
By Stephen Lendman

"The (US) economy has reached its debt limit and is entering its insolvency phase. We are not in a cycle but (at) the end of an era. The old world of debt pyramiding to a fraudulent degree cannot be restored..."

Project Censored's top 2010 story was "US Congress Sells Out to Wall Street," highlighting that since 2001, "eight of the most troubled firms have donated $64.2 million to congressional candidates, presidential candidates and the Republican and Democratic parties." It's no surprise that they own them, what Wall Street showed in a March 2009 Essential Information and Consumer Education Foundation report titled,"Sold Out: How Wall Street and Washington Betrayed America."

The accompanying press release said:

Over the past decade, "$5 billion in political contributions bought Wall Street freedom from regulation, (and) restraint." From 1998 - 2008, "Wall Street investment firms, commercial banks, hedge funds, real estate companies and insurance conglomerates (the FIRE sector)" spent over $1.7 billion in political contributions and another $3.4 billion on lobbyists, in return for which:

  • they were freed from regulation;
  • could speculate on financial derivatives and an alphabet soup of securitized garbage, including asset-backed securities (ABSs), mortgage-backed securities (MBSs), collateralized mortgage obligations (CMOs), collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), collateralized bond obligations (CBOs), credit default swaps (CDSs), and collateralized fund obligations (CFOs) - combined, sliced, diced, packaged, repackaged, and sold in tranches to sophisticated and ordinary investors, many unwittingly through mutual funds, 401(k)s, pensions, and the like;
  • could merge commercial and investment banking and insurance operations;
  • bilk investors and the public through fraudulent schemes; and
  • get trillions of bailout dollars when the economy crashed.

Spying for Dollars: Military Contractors and Security Firms Reap Huge Profits

Spying for Dollars: Military Contractors and Security Firms Reap Huge Profits
As the Defense Budget Soars, Billions of Dollars are Channelled Offshore to Avoid Paying Taxes
By Tom Burghardt | Global Research | Antifascist Calling

<p>The Obama administration is seeking to increase the obscenely bloated U.S. Defense Department budget to a whopping $708 billion for fiscal year 2011, 3.4% above 2010's record level, The Wall Street Journal reported.

While the overall budget deficit will balloon to a staggering $1.6 trillion in 2011, the result of massive tax cuts for the rich, declining revenues, a by-product of capitalism's economic meltdown, imperial adventures abroad and general corporate malfeasance (the old tax-dodge grift), the administration plans to cut $250 billion over three years from non-military "discretionary spending" on domestic social programs.

However, as the World Socialist Web Site points out: "President Barack Obama has done nothing to reverse decades of wage stagnation, mounting poverty, and attacks on the social welfare system. On the contrary, following George W. Bush, he has seized on the crisis to redistribute wealth to a tiny financial elite through the ongoing bailout of the finance industry."

It is no small irony that despite stark budget figures and an even bleaker future for the American working class, Washington Technology reported January 28 that the "29 largest publicly traded defense contractors increased their use of offshore subsidiaries by 26 percent from 2003 to 2008."

Citing reports by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), journalist Alice Lipowicz disclosed that the "subsidiaries helped the contractors reduce taxes, in part by avoiding Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes for U.S. workers hired at the foreign subsidiaries."

Considering that the Pentagon hands out some $396 billion annually to contractors, outsourcing everything from "in theatre" construction in places like Afghanistan and Iraq to pricey "intelligence analysts" at secret state agencies, cash not spent on payroll taxes by dodgy firms slices another hole into the already-shredded social safety net.

Amongst the largest firms cited in GAO's 2008 report, updated in January 2010, Oracle Corp., operates in 77 tax havens; Boeing Co., 38; Dell Inc., 29; BearingPoint Inc., 28; Computer Sciences Corp., 21; Fluor Corp., 34; General Dynamics, 5; Harris Corp., 13; Hewlett-Packard, 14; Honeywell International, 7; ITT Corp., 18; L-3 Communications, 15; Sprint Nextel, 7.

Federal Lobbying Climbs in 2009 as Lawmakers Execute Aggressive Congressional Agenda

Federal Lobbying Climbs in 2009 as Lawmakers Execute Aggressive Congressional Agenda | Open Secrets
Efforts by Health, Business Industries Help Push Influence Peddling to New Heights

At nearly $266.8 million, the pharmaceutical and health products industry’s federal lobbying expenditures not only outpaced all other business industries and special interest areas in 2009, but stand as the greatest amount ever spent on lobbying efforts by a single industry for one year....In 2009, this sector spent nearly $544 million on federal lobbying efforts, up almost 12 percent from its 2008 total of about $487 million.

The economy stunk. Corporations slashed jobs. And some firms, once juggernauts of American industry, simply ceased to exist.

But for federal lobbyists, 2009 proved to be a year of riches unlike any other, a Center for Responsive Politics analysis indicates.

In all, federal lobbyists’ clients spent more than $3.47 billion last year, often driven to Washington, D.C.’s power centers and halls of influence by political issues central to the age: health care reform, financial reform, energy policy.

That figure represents a more than 5 percent increase over $3.3 billion worth of federal lobbying recorded in 2008, the previous all-time annual high for lobbying expenditures. And it comes in a year when a recession persisted, the dollar’s value against major foreign currencies declined and joblessness rates increased....

To explore the Center for Responsive Politics' full lobbying database, go here.

The database now includes a new feature, available here, which allows users to easily see how lobbying activity among sectors and industries has changed from quarter to quarter. Read more.

US: Adopt Anti-Corruption Proposals

US: Adopt Anti-Corruption Proposals | Human Rights Watch
Senators’ Investigation Follows the Hidden Money Trail from Foreign Kleptocrats

Human Rights Watch documented that between 2004 and 2006, the president’s son spent almost $44 million on luxury houses and cars in the US and South Africa, while the entire education budget of the country was $43 million in 2005.

The Obama administration should adopt recommendations in a report issued today to help stop the flow of stolen money into the United States, Human Rights Watch said. The report is the result of a detailed investigation by Senators Carl Levin and Tom Coburn into corruption in abusive, resource-rich states and the “enablers” that allow officials to funnel money out of their impoverished countries to spend lavishly abroad.

The 330-page report “Keeping Foreign Corruption out of the United States: Four Case Histories,” details how officials in Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Nigeria funneled millions of dollars into the US with the help of a network of facilitators, including lawyers, realtors, banks, and other individuals and institutions. The Senate investigation exposed the infrastructure that allows corrupt officials to steal their countries’ wealth, denying their populations vital resources that should be used to secure basic rights, Human Rights Watch said.

“It’s time for the US to stop allowing corrupt officials to use their countries as personal ATMs and the US as a shopping mall,” said Arvind Ganesan, business and human rights director at Human Rights Watch. “Kleptocrats need to know that the US is not open for business.” Read more.

It's Official: 2009 Was Record Year For Lobbying, Despite Recession

It's Official: 2009 Was Record Year For Lobbying, Despite Recession
By Arthur Delaney | Huffington Post

Every big sector spent more, first and foremost the pharmaceutical and health products industry, which spent $266.8 million -- "the greatest amount ever spent on lobbying efforts by a single industry for one year," according to CRP. Business associations spent $183 million, oil and gas interests spent $168.4 million and the insurance industry shelled out $164.2 million.

The final reports are in and we can now officially say that 2009 was the most profitable year ever for the lobbying industry.

The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics tallied lobbying income data from tens of thousands of disclosure filings, and the data show that special interests of all stripes spent $3.47 billion lobbying the federal government in 2009, up from $3.3 billion the previous year.

How did the influence industry manage such a banner year despite a battered economy? The simple answer is that the Obama administration's aggressive change agenda has prompted businesses to open their wallets to an unprecedented degree in the hope of preventing reform. Read more.

Will Jonathan Karl Confront Cheney's Crimes In His "This Week" Interview?

By Linda Milazzo

Tomorrow morning, ABC's Jonathan Karl will audition to replace George Stephanopoulos on the network's flagship Sunday morning program, This Week. Karl's exclusive "get" for his hosting debut is former Vice President Dick Cheney, whom Karl last interviewed on December 16, 2008 - a month after Barack Obama was elected President, and a month after Jonathan Karl was named ABC's Senior Congressional Correspondent.

The Terror-Industrial Complex

The Terror-Industrial Complex
By Chris Hedges | Truth Dig

“Justice was not served,” Tina Foster, executive director of the International Justice Network and the spokesperson for Aafia Siddiqui’s family, told me. “The U.S. government made a decision to label this woman a terrorist, but instead of putting her on trial for the alleged terrorist activity she was put on trial for something else. They tried to convict her of that something else, not with evidence, but because she was a terrorist. She was selectively prosecuted for something that would allow them to only tell their side of the story.”

The conviction of the Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui in New York last week of trying to kill American military officers and FBI agents illustrates that the greatest danger to our security comes not from al-Qaida but the thousands of shadowy mercenaries, kidnappers, killers and torturers our government employs around the globe.

The bizarre story surrounding Siddiqui, 37, who received an undergraduate degree from MIT and a doctorate in neuroscience from Brandeis University, often defies belief. Siddiqui, who could spend 50 years in prison on seven charges when she is sentenced in May, was by her own account abducted in 2003 from her hometown of Karachi, Pakistan, with her three children—two of whom remain missing—and spirited to a secret U.S. prison where she was allegedly tortured and mistreated for five years. The American government has no comment, either about the alleged clandestine detention or the missing children.

Siddiqui was discovered in 2008 disoriented and apparently aggressive and hostile, in Ghazni, Afghanistan, with her oldest son. She allegedly was carrying plans to make explosives, lists of New York landmarks and notes referring to “mass-casualty attacks.” But despite these claims the government prosecutors chose not to charge her with terrorism or links to al-Qaida—the reason for her original appearance on the FBI’s most-wanted list six years ago. Her supporters suggest that the papers she allegedly had in her possession when she was found in Afghanistan, rather than detail coherent plans for terrorist attacks, expose her severe mental deterioration, perhaps the result of years of imprisonment and abuse. This argument was bolstered by some of the pages of the documents shown briefly to the court, including a crude sketch of a gun that was described as a “match gun” that operates by lighting a match. Read more.

Mr. President: Bankers and Pro Athletes are Fundamentally Different

By Dave Lindorff

President Barack Obama is a relative newbie to Washington. He didn’t even complete one term in the senate, and now he’s just finished his first year in the White House, so it’s stunning to see how quickly this one-time “community organizer” has lost his moorings in the marbled halls of power in Washington.

In an interview reported in the Bloomberg news service, Obama expresses no concern with the latest huge bonuses that CEOs Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase ($17 million) and Lloyd Blankenfein of Goldman Sachs (9 million) paid themselves, saying not only that they are “savvy businessmen” and that “success and wealth” are “part of the American system,” but equating them with professional baseball players who “are making more than that who don't get to the World Series either.”

Talk about being out of it!

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