Archive for July, 2007

I want to know why the hell this stuff keeps coming out of the U. K. while our media keeps giving us Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton and Britney Spears!?!?!?! And we need to add Rupert Murdock and his agenda to the mix?!

Please – is there ANYBODY out there who’s not corrupt to the core – ’cause I’m getting sick of this sh*t!

Ewen MacAskill in Washington
Tuesday July 31, 2007

A US army major is scheduled to appear in court today charged with what a Congressional investigator describes as the biggest bribery case to come out of Iraq since the US took over four years ago.

Major John Cockerham, 41, who was arrested last week, is accused of accepting millions of dollars in bribes from businessmen who had contracts in Iraq and Kuwait. Maj Cockerham, a contracting and procurement officer assigned to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, denies the charges. He is due in court in San Antonio, Texas, with his wife, Melissa, 40, and sister, Carolyn Blake, 44, a former schoolteacher, to request bail.

The US justice department said records indicated he might have received up to $9.6m (£4.74m), with the possibility of a further $5.4m in the pipeline.Stuart Bowen, who was appointed by Congress to investigate mismanagement and corruption in relation to the $44bn spent so far on reconstruction projects in Iraq, told the San Antonio Express-News that the amounts involved in the alleged bribery were the largest “that’s come out of the Iraq reconstruction experience”.

Mr Bowen, who reports to Congress every three months, has referred 28 cases to the justice department for prosecution.

Maj Cockerham is charged with bribery, money laundering and conspiracy in relation to his service as an army contracting officer in Kuwait in 2004 and 2005.

Both his wife and his sister were charged with conspiracy to defraud the government and conspiracy to commit money laundering, the justice department said.

All three face up to 20 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.

Investigators say the payments occurred in 2004 and 2005, with the money being deposited at banks in the Middle East and then moved to offshore banks in the Caribbean, according to court records.

The biggest bribery case in relation to Iraq reconstruction so far has been $4m.

In his quarterly report published yesterday, Mr Bowen said his agency had carried out 95 audits which had led to 13 arrests and five convictions.

From The Guardian

UPDATE:  Please read the comment by the original reporter, Guillermo Contreras, and then the update with a link to his report here.

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From Yahoo! News

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. is expected to reach a definitive agreement to buy Dow Jones & Co. Inc. on Tuesday evening, capping his three-month pursuit of the publisher of the Wall Street Journal, a source familiar with the matter said.

Oh, yeah – I remember Barbara Walters’ telling Rosie O’Donnell that Rupert is a “nice man.”  Probably nothing to worry about, then.

Also, you should remember all that talk earlier this week about the terrorist dry runs at airports here in the U.S. Well, just kidding. It turns out it was all one big false alarm. We’ll explain.— CNN anchor T.J. Holmes, at the top of Saturday morning newscast (via Nexis).

In other reports on CNN over the weekend when fewer people watch television news:

(CNN reporter Brian) TODD: In fact, a U.S. government official familiar with the investigation now says there were valid explanations for all four incidents in that bulletin and no charges will be brought in any of these cases.

(on camera): TSA officials first told us the incident with Sara Weiss** got put on that bulletin because of a systems error. But they also say they were right to put all these incidents on that alert because whenever they find suspicious objects, they have to run them to ground and tell law enforcement officials to look out for items like that.

** Sara Weiss is a 66-year old woman (visiting her family in San Diego) with a leaky ice pack in her luggage, who was asked by a Federal Agent “Do you know Osama Bin Laden?!”

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“Those of us who wear ‘When.’ wristbands have taken our stand. We recognize each other and, as our numbers grow, they have begun to see us as well. There’s not a damned thing they can do – our bands say nothing derogatory about anyone. When someone asks me why I’m wearing the wristband, I turn it around and ask them why they aren’t!” – P. Arthur

Why aren’t you wearing a “When.” wristband? Say “When.”

Looks like Mr. Brown’s got a pair!

 

 

 

From The Independent

By Andrew Grice, Political Editor at Camp David

Published: 31 July 2007

Gordon Brown has paved the way for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq by telling George Bush he would not delay their exit in order to show unity with the United States.

After four hours of one-to-one talks with the US President at his Camp David retreat, Mr Brown told a joint press conference he would make a Commons statement in October on the future of the 5,500 British troops in the Basra region.

The Bush administration, under mounting domestic pressure to produce an exit strategy from Iraq, has been nervous that a full British withdrawal would add to the criticism. But Mr Brown made clear – and President Bush accepted – that Britain would go its own way, even if that gave the impression the two countries were diverging.

Mr Brown’s willingness to pursue an independent British policy in Iraq will be seen as an important break with Tony Blair. Mr Brown said the two leaders had had “full and frank discussions” – diplomatic code for some disagreements.

President Bush heaped praise on Mr Brown after their first meeting since he became Prime Minister, playing down suggestions that Mr Blair’s departure would weaken the strong US-UK partnership. Revealingly, Mr Brown did not return the personal compliments, instead focusing on the historic links between the two countries and predicting they would get even stronger. This reflected his desire for a more business-like relationship with the President, instead of the strong personal bond forged by Mr Blair.

The two leaders also had to paper over their different approaches on how to respond to terrorism. While maintaining a united front, Mr Brown told President Bush that the fight could not be won by military might alone, and called for a “Cold War-style” propaganda battle in the Muslim world.

Deliberately avoiding the phrase “war on terror,” Mr Brown said: “Terrorism is not a cause but a crime – a crime against humanity.” In contrast, the President spoke of “this war against extremists and radicals”. But he said of Mr Brown: “There is no doubt in my mind that he understands the stakes in the struggle.”

On Iraq, Mr Brown insisted Britain would honour its responsibilities but admitted there had been problems with political reconciliation and that the reconstruction effort had taken longer than expected.

He said that Britain’s decision in the Basra region would be based on the military advice from its commanders on the ground. Later, British officials insisted that the departure timetable was not being accelerated and said it was too soon to speculate on the plans that would be set out in October. Initially, they would mean handing military control to the Iraqis and moving to “overwatch”.

However, President Bush acknowledged that a British withdrawal could take place while the US remained in Iraq because, he said, decisions would be “results-orientated”. He said America could be there for “a long time”. He added that America’s next moves would be decided after a report in September by General David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, on the “surge” of US troops in the Baghdad region.

But despite their differences over Iraq and terrorism, the two leaders agreed to work together to end the stalemate over a new world trade agreement, to resolve the crisis in Darfur and impose a new round of sanctions against Iran unless it halts its nuclear weapons programme.

Bush on Brown

* “I would describe Gordon Brown as a principled man who really wants to get something done.”

* “Not a dour Scot …not an awkward Scot…a humorous Scot.”

* “He’s got a strong commitment to helping people realize the blessing of education. I thank you very much for that vision.”

* “He’s a glass half full man.”

* [Referring to the death of Brown’s 10 day old baby in 2002]

“He’s a man who’s suffered unspeakable tragedy – it’s strengthened his soul.

I was impressed.”

Brown on Bush

* “We have had full and frank discussions. We have had the capacity and ability to meet yesterday for two hours to discuss person-to-person some of the great issues of our time.”

FBI Searches U.S. Senator’s Home Amid Corruption Probe 

WASHINGTON (CNN) — FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents searched the Alaska home of longtime Sen. Ted Stevens on Monday amid a corruption probe that already has snared two oil-company executives and a state lobbyist.

Dave Heller, an FBI spokesman in Anchorage, Alaska, confirmed that agents entered Stevens’ home Monday afternoon, but he referred further comment to the Justice Department.

Neither the senator nor any family members were home at the time, Heller said.

Stevens, 83, the Senate’s senior Republican, has been under federal investigation for a 2000 renovation project more than doubling the size of his home in Girdwood, Alaska, near Anchorage, The Associated Press reported.

The project was overseen by Bill Allen, a contractor who has pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska state legislators.

Read the rest of the story about the Honorable Mr. Stevens at Cnn.com.

We guess it’s not just a problem for U. S. soldiers – here’s a story about our “allies” – (at this writing, a British Pound is worth $2.02 USD)

RAF typist who hurt thumb is awarded eight times more than soldier who lost leg

An RAF typist who injured her thumb at work is to be paid almost half a million pounds by the Ministry of Defence.

The civilian’s award is almost 30 times the amount a serviceman would receive for the same injury.

It is eight times more than a soldier would receive for losing a leg and almost double the amount he could expect if he lost both legs.

The £484,000 payout was condemned by former soldiers, politicians and servicemen’s charities who fear it will severely damage morale.

The woman, believed to be in her 20s, developed a repetitive strain injury while typing computer data.

She claimed it left her unable to work and caused her to become depressed, and she started legal action against the MoD.

Tory defence spokesman Liam Fox said: “I think it is indicative of a very weird set of priorities that those who are injured carrying out orders are less well compensated than those who are typing up the orders.”

Critics claimed it was an insult to the 2,626 British servicemen who have been injured fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Defence analyst Major Charles Heyman said: “An award like this to a civilian who is never going to be in fear of her life drags down morale.

“It shows where the MoD’s priorities lie and those don’t appear to be with the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The soldiers will be shocked and astounded as they all know people with severe injuries who got nothing like that.”

Jerome Church, secretary of the British Limbless Ex-servicemen’s Association, said: “It would be laughable if it wasn’t so outrageous.

“Hearing about this would certainly upset the soldiers coming back from war zones with serious injuries.”

The woman was working as a data input clerk for the RAF when she developed an injury in her right hand.

It was later diagnosed as de Quervain’s tenosynovitis – a repetitive strain-type injury in which the tendons at the base of the thumb become inflamed.

The woman claimed her injury left her unable to work and also caused her to become depressed.

She sued the MoD and it was revealed that she was awarded a total of £484,000 in compensation and associated costs.

Legal sources estimated that her total costs for the action would be unlikely to amount to more than £50,000, meaning she would pocket about £434,000.

This dwarfs the sums offered to serving members of the armed forces who could expect a one-off payment of just £16,500 for the same injury.

It is almost double the £285,000 a soldier can expect if he loses two limbs while fighting for his country.

The official tariff of compensation for injuries lists £28,750 for someone blinded in one eye; £57,500 for the loss of a leg and just £8,250 for injuries associated with surviving a gunshot wound.

Serving military personnel operate under what are called Queen’s Regulations.

Under these rules they give up certain rights normally available to British employees.

MoD personnel are employed under civilian working laws which make suing for compensation easier.

An RAF spokesman would say only: “The MoD takes the welfare of our personnel, particularly those serving on operations, very seriously.

“Where we have a legal liability to pay compensation for a work related injury we do so.”

•Sergeant Trevor Walker, who lost a leg while serving in Bosnia, would welcome any compensation.

His limb was shattered by a shell from a Serbian tank as he was building a road with the Royal Engineers in May 1995.

Despite 13 operations it had to be amputated above the knee the following year and he applied for £150,000 compensation.

But the MoD refused to pay because it had decided – without telling troops – that the compensation rules would not apply to soldiers injured while serving in the former Yugoslavia.

If Sergeant Walker, from Gillingham, Kent, had been serving in Northern Ireland, which was at peace, it would have paid out under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Overseas Scheme.

His lawyers appealed to the High Court, claiming the Government behaved unfairly by changing the rules without telling troops, but lost the case.

The married ex-soldier has described the effect on his life of losing his leg: “Just the simple things, like playing with the kids to the extent that what you used to do, you can’t do it.

“Walking from A to B, where previously I would have not bothered about walking four or five miles, just for a breath of fresh air, now it’s a couple of hundred metres.”

˜Private Steve Baldwin, 22, was badly injured in a bomb attack in Iraq which killed three of his friends of the 1st Battalion Staffordshire Regiment in 2005.

Most of his body was scarred, he almost lost his right arm and was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. Compensation: £10,000.

From The Daily Mail