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Impeach Bush


Military bill filled with tax cuts
By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 5, 2003; Page A01

Days before the House Ways and Means Committee took up an innocuous military bill last month, Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) made an offer to other Republican committee members at their weekly luncheon: prepare a wish list of tax breaks under $100 million each, and they could add them to the measure.

"It was Mr. Thomas's idea," said panel member Jim McCrery (R-La.), adding that Democrats declined the same offer. "Everybody in the meeting agreed there were a lot of little tax items we had not [been able to enact] the last couple of years. This was something that was going to move."

For a small cadre of local companies and one trade association, this was the equivalent of the lobbying mother lode. After years of trying, they would finally have their priorities added to a bill likely to become law -- even if there were no guarantees that their amendments would remain intact throughout the legislative process.

The first test will come Thursday when the full House will take up the bill, which was designed to extend several tax benefits to members of the military. If the House accepts the committee's version, and it survives an eventual conference committee with senators, then racetrack owners and horse breeders would have an easier time enticing foreigners to bet on their races; an alternative type of diesel fuel would get a tax break, and U.S.-made bows and arrows would sell for less.

Some Democrats have reacted angrily, saying it is wrong to push special tax breaks just as the nation prepares for war in Iraq and the federal deficit continues to soar. Rep. Martin Frost (Tex.) said he and other Democrats hope to strip the provisions from the bill Thursday. "We don't have to be adding to that deficit, particularly with things that are unrelated to our troops."

Rep. Charles B. Rangel (N.Y.), the committee's top Democrat, concurred. "While some Republicans say we cannot afford more money for states, public schools and homeland security, they have no problem spending hundreds of millions on these pet provisions," he said. "In normal times, that's hypocritical. In a time of war, that's shameful."

In an interview after the committee vote, Thomas noted that the bill has been changed a few times through the process.

"It's a matter of degrees," he said, adding that the GOP amendments were justified on policy grounds. "At what point do you say the degrees were too far?"

The amendments, which added more than $300 million in tax breaks to the bill, prove that patient and dogged advocates can get their proposals translated into legislation over time. Marrying a broad policy pitch with an appeal to members' parochial interests, these groups managed to slip their desired tax cuts into the previously little-noticed bill.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association teamed up with the American Horse Council and American Quarterhorse Association several years ago to convince McCrery and other lawmakers that the United States should eliminate a 30 percent tax for foreigners who bet on American horse races.

Tim Smith, the thoroughbred association's commissioner, estimated that $700 million a year is wagered in Canada on U.S. races. If the 30 percent tax were eliminated, advocates say, many of those bets would be included in the broader U.S. betting pool. "It would almost certainly increase foreign wagering on U.S. horse racing," Smith said. "It would boost both the entertainment side of our business and the agribusiness side."

If a Canadian bets in Canada on a U.S. horse race and wins, he gets to keep all the winnings. Canadian racetracks pay U.S. tracks 3 percent of the money wagered north of the border -- about $21 million a year -- for the right to show U.S. races. Under the McCrery plan, Canadians' bets would be commingled with the larger U.S. pool and the winnings would be divided accordingly. Canadians would not have to pay U.S. taxes, but the track owners and breeders would reap the benefits of bigger business.

The groups had a key ally in a college friend of McCrery's named J.D. Blondin, a past president of the quarterhorse association who now sits on the Louisiana State Racing Commission. The thoroughbred association hired the Washington firm of O'Brien Calio, now named the OB-C Group, to make its case in Congress. The association also gave liberally to congressional candidates in 2001-02. It funneled $75,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, $50,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and $15,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

"Obviously, knowing J.D., I would listen to him," McCrery said, adding that he usually turns down his friends' legislative requests but decided this one was worthy. Under the current system, he said, "there's no money coming in because nobody's stupid enough to place a bet in our betting pools, knowing they have to give away 30 percent of their money."

The proposed tax break would cost the Treasury almost nothing, Smith said, because so few foreigners now bet in America.

Rep. Gerald C. Weller (R-Ill.), by contrast, offered a measure that is aimed at makers of fishing tackle boxes and carries an estimated cost of $30 million over the next decade. The beneficiary? Plano Molding Co., an Illinois company based just outside Weller's district that has been lobbying the issue for more than four years.

"It's been one of those things that's been out there . . . for years and we've had trouble getting it across the finish line," Weller spokesman Ben Fallon said. He noted that if consumers chose to put their fishing gear in sewing kits, they would not have to pay the 10 percent excise tax that applies to tackle box purchases.

Lubrizol Corp. was another winner; the committee voted to lower taxes on the company's brand of fuel, composed of diesel and water. Located just outside GOP Rep. Rob Portman's district in Wickliffe, Ohio, the company produces an environmentally friendly fuel that includes 20 percent water.

Lowering the excise tax from 24.3 cents to 19.7 cents per gallon would provide "an incentive" for consumers to buy Lubrizol's product, Portman spokesman Jim Morrell said.

Kevin Snape, the company's manager of economic policy and regulatory affairs, said the company simply wanted to pay taxes only on the diesel portion of the fuel, since the tax is geared toward diesel products. Portman was a natural allie.

"He's the Ohio seat of the Ways and Means Committee; it's really that simple," Snape said. "It took him about half a second to figure this one out."

The House is expected to pass the military bill this week, and then may face reconciling its version with a Senate measure that does not include the added tax breaks. McCrery, pushing his racing amendment, said: "I'm optimistic this will make it into law at some point, because it makes too much sense. Whether it's going to make it into law on this bill, I don't know."

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

Commentary:
This one is simple. If your congressman is listed in this article--vote against him.


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Senator Clinton, a Force in the Senate
Washington Post
By Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 5, 2003; Page A01

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, after lying low for most of her first two years, is emerging as one of the Senate's most prominent and influential Democrats, moving aggressively on fundraising and policy matters and fueling speculation that she plans to run for president in 2008.

The only first lady to have served in the Senate, Clinton is playing a key role in a behind-the-scenes effort to create at least one new political group, funded with so-called soft money, to promote the Democratic agenda in the 2004 elections and beyond, Democratic officials said. With her help, leading Democrats are putting the finishing touches on a new "activist think tank" designed to crank out policy ideas and disseminate them to voters without running afoul of the new campaign finance laws, the officials said.

"She's strongly encouraging people, including myself, to get our act together, get out there, generate more ideas [and] market our ideas better," said John D. Podesta, chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, who is heading the think tank effort.

In an interview yesterday, Sen. Clinton said, "It would be a tremendous indictment of us" if Democrats do not create new groups to "make sure the point of view we think is needed can be heard."

New York's junior senator also is commanding greater influence over the party's base of trial lawyers, environmentalists, union workers and abortion rights activists through her new leadership assignment: chairman of the Democratic Steering Committee, a Senate organization that helps promote the party's agenda. Leading senators tapped Clinton for the job of revving up party activists and enlisting their help in attacking President Bush and congressional Republicans. She brought civil rights leaders to Washington last week to discuss a broader campaign against Bush judicial nominee Miguel Estrada.

"I am trying to broaden the base of people we have reached out to in the past," Clinton said.

To the chagrin of some Senate Democrats, she is assuming a bigger role in crafting the party's agenda and message for the next election. Most recently, she has been vocal and visible in escalating the fight with Bush over funding for firefighters and other first-responders to emergencies and crime. At the same time, she has tried to cultivate a centrist image for herself, much as her husband did by working the Democratic Leadership Council in the 1990s.

"I consider myself a New Democrat," the senator said. "I am very proud of the political identity developed by Democrats during the Clinton administration."

She has reached out to conservative Republicans, including House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) on foster care legislation, and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Don Nickles (R-Okla.) on unemployment insurance.

Clinton backs Bush's goal of deposing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, an unpopular view among her party's antiwar base, though she's critical of the president's "rhetoric and tactics" in dealing with the international community. She was recently awarded a seat on the Armed Services Committee, which provides her an opportunity to build a foreign policy resume in the years ahead.

Clinton's new roles are providing her the ideal forum to put her imprint on Democratic policies, cement her relationship with key party activists and lay the groundwork for what many believe will be a presidential run in 2008, several senators and party strategists said.

"She spent the first two years in a learning process, [learning] not only the rules of the Senate but the traditions of how things should be handled here," said Sen. John Breaux (D-La.). "She was very careful and more restricted. Now she's moving into a second stage, being more out front, more visible and more available to articulate issues."

Some Democrats privately worry that Clinton is moving too quickly. "There are some people inside the caucus grumbling, suggesting she wants to bring more of a war-room mentality to the Senate than some senators are comfortable with," said a top Senate Democratic aide. "Others think this also has to be viewed with her future presidential runs and national ambitions in mind."

It is unusual for a freshman to accumulate so much power so precipitously in an institution ruled by tradition and seniority. Most senators wait many years to win a leadership post, and still more years to build a national following. But Clinton is anything but a typical senator. Considered among the most influential first ladies of all time, she won a Senate seat by moving to New York and spending $40 million convincing New Yorkers she was one of them. She prevailed by 12 percentage points, and recent polls show that 55 percent or more of New Yorkers are satisfied with the job she's doing.

By spending most of her first two years in office quietly tending to parochial concerns, working assiduously on policy and showing deference and charm to fellow senators, Clinton appears to have won over most of her colleagues. She got rave reviews for digging deep into the details of legislation and learning the Senate's esoteric rules. She was one of six Democrats awarded a Golden Gavel for presiding over the Senate for more than 100 hours in 2002.

Yet colleagues said it was only a matter of time before she seized more power. "It took a while for some people to really understand her brilliance," said Minority Whip Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). "We had to find a place for her -- she is that good."

Many Democrats interviewed for this article predicted Clinton will run for president in 2008, if Bush wins reelection. "I think she's very well positioned to be a candidate next time around," said Breaux.

Some Democrats want Clinton to run now, though many strategists believe she should give voters another four years to forget, or at least forgive, the scandals that dogged her husband's eight-year presidency. She has pledged to complete her six-year Senate term, which ends in 2006.

Recent polls suggest Clinton would enter the 2004 Democratic primary as the clear frontrunner. A national poll conducted by Connecticut's Quinnipiac University in February found 42 percent of Democrats favored her in the primary. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.) was a distant second at 15 percent.

Still, that same poll showed Bush beating her easily, underscoring how divisive the Clinton name remains. "She's intensely liked and she's intensely disliked," said Breaux. "Both sides think they are helped by Hillary. There are not many people you can say that about."

Clinton said she will not run in 2004 and "has no plans to" in 2008. But several Democrats said Clinton's White House ambitions are growing increasingly apparent.

Harold Ickes, one of her closest advisers, is assembling a group to raise money to spend on behalf of the Democratic presidential nominee after the 2004 summer convention, according to party officials. Bill and Hillary Clinton are expected to be among the biggest fundraisers.

Sen. Clinton has taken a bigger interest in a Democratic think tank -- envisioned as a liberal version of the conservative Heritage Foundation -- being assembled by Podesta and other party strategists. Podesta met recently with Daschle and others to update them on the think tank, which will likely be unveiled this spring, and to discuss related political projects, according to people at the meeting. Clinton has advised Podesta on the project and contacted donors about helping finance it, two strategists close to her said.

"She's extremely supportive of the [groups] that Podesta and others are working on," said Patty Solis Doyle, who runs Clinton's congressional fundraising operation. The new think tank might serve as the central nervous system of other groups Democrats are creating, party officials said, which would put Clinton at the heart of the party's new political operation.

During her first two years in office, Clinton gave Democratic candidates more than $1.4 million, tops among party leaders. She will host a fundraiser at her home in New York for Senate Democrats later this month.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

Commentary:
I think this is a great article. This line is great; "Some Democrats privately worry that Clinton is moving too quickly. "There are some people inside the caucus grumbling, suggesting she wants to bring more of a war-room mentality to the Senate than some senators are comfortable with." These are the same guys who LOST the Senate in 1994 and have been unable to get it back even though the greatest minds in the conservative party are only slightly smarter than Neanderthals.

Senator Clinton should tell those (conservative) Democrats who like being in the minority to "shut-up and obey." If she plays her cards right the words "President Clinton will be once again rolling off our lips.

Note how morons in the press continue to lie about the Clinton Presidency. They talk of "scandals that dogged [his] eight-year presidency." Needless to say the press and the republican party spent every waking moment creating the illusion of scandal only to proven that they were the ones lying to us. The same media that hated Bill Clinton for lying about a bj, has no problem lying about scandals that never existed. Adding insult, they also have no problem with Bush lying to us about national security and budget deficits.


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Bush Plan a Boon to Drug Companies
By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 5, 2003; Page A06

Health care economists said the drug benefit President Bush proposed for Medicare yesterday would be a bonanza for the pharmaceutical and managed-care industries, both of which are huge donors to Republicans.

Bush went before the friendly audience of the American Medical Association at the Washington Hilton to ask Congress to pass incentives for millions of senior citizens to switch from Medicare, the federally funded health insurance program for the elderly, to private health insurance in return for drug coverage. Those who stayed in Medicare would receive more modest benefits, including a discount of 10 percent to 25 percent at the drugstore checkout.

Marilyn Moon, a health economist at the Urban Institute, said Bush's plan would hand tremendous negotiating power to health insurance companies.

"By making the private plans such a central part of the future of Medicare, the government is going to have to meet their demands for greater contributions to the cost of care, over and above the subsidy for prescription drugs," Moon said.

Bush's proposal is vague on many points, including the terms for insurers. But Tricia Neuman, a vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said the plan would have to provide a windfall for the companies, "or too few would participate for the plan to work."

The analysts said drug companies also could be expected to reap huge profits under Bush's approach. More senior citizens would be able to afford prescriptions, and doctors could be expected to write more of them. And drug company executives fear that federal price controls on their products would be the result if a drug benefit were provided within Medicare.

Bruce C. Vladeck, who was President Clinton's head of the federal agency that runs Medicare, said Bush's plan "strikes me as the kind of proposal the pharmaceutical companies would write if they were writing their own bill."

"A slew of private health plans would have nowhere near the negotiating power that Medicare would have if there was national drug benefit," said Vladeck, now a health policy professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

If Bush's proposal were enacted, it could provide a high-profile benefit for industries that are reliable donors to Republican candidates and committees. The Center for Responsive Politics said that for the past two elections combined, pharmaceutical manufacturers gave $30 million to Republicans and $8 million to Democrats.

Health service companies and HMOs, a leading form of managed care, donated $10 million to Republicans and $5 million to Democrats over the past two elections, according to the center's figures.

Several administration officials said the drug and insurance businesses would profit from Bush's plan, which is estimated to cost $400 billion over 10 years.

But the officials said critics are ignoring the benefits that Medicare patients would receive from greater access to drugs and more choices of insurance. "I can't imagine anyone will say it's bad to get pharmaceuticals to people who need them," said a senior administration official working on the plan.

Thomas A. Scully, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs Medicare, disputed the analysts' assessments. He said competitive bidding by health plans would result in "the same benefit for lower cost to the government and the beneficiary, within just a couple years." He said the plan also would drive down drug prices.

"The only success anyone has seen in controlling drug costs has been when private health plans have used the power of the market to negotiate cheaper rates," Scully said.

Karen Ignagni, president of the American Association of Health Plans, said managed care would "stretch the dollars and improve the quality" for Medicare patients by emphasizing preventive care and encouraging the use of generic drugs, among other ways.

The White House's proposal appeared to do little to bridge differences on Capitol Hill that have repeatedly prevented passage of changes to Medicare, even though a drug benefit has been a touchstone promise for both parties in the past several elections.

"The time for action is now," Bush told the doctors, who interrupted his remarks with standing ovations, especially when he touted his plan to limit liability in medical malpractice cases.

Bush, promising to bring more free enterprise to medicine, denounced "government-run health care ideas," and said he aims for a system "in which the patient-doctor relationship is the center of good medical care."

Democrats denounced Bush's plan as an effort to privatize an essential entitlement. And key Republican lawmakers said Bush's version is unlikely to pass without a more generous allowance for people who choose to remain in Medicare.

"The bottom line," said Rep. W. J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-La.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, "is that for those who don't want to even think about a choice here, who want to stay in fee-for-service, you have to give them an adequate drug coverage."

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

Commentary:
Let's be clear about some facts here. First, the first Bush plan which never really existed is being replaced by this Bush plan that is "vague." A plan that is vague is not a plan, it's a punt. Second, and this is far more important, any senior or in fact any American can go to any of the online prescription companies in Canada and get up to 80% off US prices.

The value of the Canadian dollar is such that every dollar can buy about $1.55 of US goods, which alone saves you at least 50%. Canadian drug companies are also not allowed to advertize, saving them even more. Screw Bush, buy Canadian.


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Panel Revises Tax Cut Cost Estimate to $726 Billion
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 5, 2003; Page A04

The nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation boosted the cost estimate of President Bush's proposed tax cut yesterday by $31 billion, to $726 billion through 2013, with the plan to slash taxes on dividends taking $396 billion of that total.

The new estimate is important because it will serve as the plan's official price tag as Congress tries to establish a blueprint for spending and taxation for the next fiscal year. The Treasury Department had put the cost of the plan at $695 billion over the same time frame.

The estimate surfaced as Treasury Secretary John W. Snow began the administration's formal defense of the tax cut during the first of four hearings scheduled by the House Ways and Means Committee. Also yesterday, seven Senate moderates from both parties began meeting to try to find consensus on a smaller tax cut.

Snow acknowledged that the Bush dividend proposal was facing tough questions on Capitol Hill. Speaking before business lobbyists at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, he said opponents of the plan who were expressing concern over the prospect of record budget deficits were merely making a "convenient" argument, "not a substantive attack."

Hours later, Ways and Means Committee Democrats hammered Snow and the administration for what they called an unprecedented push for deep tax cuts as the nation prepares for war. "How in the world can you sit there with a straight face and sell that to the American people?" asked Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), a vocal opponent of war with Iraq. In hectoring tones, the Democrats implored Snow to offer a cost estimate for the war and the planned occupation of Iraq before Congress is asked to vote on the tax cut.

Snow tried to keep the economic proposal and the war on separate tracks. "We can afford the war, and we'll put it behind us," he told lawmakers, "but we have to be sure the economy is growing."

But some Republicans also raised war costs as a tax-related issue. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) said he needed to get a firmer grasp on war costs and the price tag of a prescription drug plan for seniors before he can decide on the size of a tax cut. "I wonder if we should be debating [tax cuts] in the middle of a war, or at the start of a war," he said. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) echoed his comments.

Staff writer Helen Dewar contributed to this report.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

Commentary:
.For Bush shared sacrifice means giving the rich more borrowed money. Don't forget, he's asking Vets to take another hit. Those who fight and die for this country get screwed and the super rich get their taxes cut.

By now most of you know the drill. A tax cut that results in deficits is really a tax increase. Deficits this year are expected to exceed $400 billion, with another $307 billion next year, or a tax increase of $707 billion in two years. This is on top of the $700 billion in new debt (taxes) Bush has already given us.


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HHS Official Janet Rehnquist to Resign
New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 8:23 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Janet Rehnquist, the daughter of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, is leaving her job as the Health and Human Services official who investigates fraud and waste in Medicare and a range of other social programs.

Congressional officials are investigating Rehnquist's management decisions as the HHS inspector general, but Bush administration aides said she was not pushed out.

Rehnquist wrote President Bush on Tuesday that she will leave June 1 to spend more time with her teenage daughters and pursue other professional opportunities.

She delayed an audit of Florida's pension fund at the request of a top aide to Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother. The delay ensured that the audit would not be completed until after the November election, in which Bush won a second term.

Several top career staff members in Rehnquist's office either quit or said they were forced out. Rehnquist also kept a government handgun in her office, raising questions about whether she was authorized to have the weapon.

In addition to Congress' General Accounting Office, Rehnquist's management is under review by the Integrity Committee of the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency, a peer group of inspectors general.

Two senior administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that after Rehnquist made her plans known both the White House and HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson's office told Rehnquist she did not need to resign.

Rehnquist was appointed by President Bush in August 2001. The position is considered nonpartisan.

In her letter to Bush, Rehnquist did not mention the controversies.

``During my first year in office, our organization saved the American taxpayers over $21 billion,'' she told Bush. ``This was the best year ever for the office, and we are poised to beat those numbers this year.''

Thompson, the HHS secretary, called Rehnquist ``a strong and effective investigator'' and said she had ``a clear and determined vision for fighting fraud and abuse.''

The White House also praised her. ``The president appreciates her service very much and wishes her well,'' said spokeswoman Ashley Snee.

The Associated Press reported in December that Rehnquist -- responding to a plea from a friend who represented two medical societies -- intervened in an attempt to settle the groups' legal fight with Medicare regulators. Her office wasn't involved in the case.

Rehnquist ordered her legal staff to try and settle the dispute, current and former inspector general officials said.

Before that September 2001 episode, the inspector general's office would have shunned involvement in such a matter and would have told groups to take complaints directly to Medicare regulators, according to Rehnquist's predecessor and other officials. It was not clear whether the GAO was looking into the Medicare intervention.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Rehnquist's biggest critic in Congress, called her decision ``the right step. The inspector general job wasn't a good fit for her abilities.''

In a letter to GAO last October, Rehnquist said she welcomed the review. ``I am confident that your findings will further illustrate our many successes,'' she wrote.

On the Florida controversy, the AP has obtained internal HHS documents that show a draft audit could have been completed before Jeb Bush's re-election if the work had started on time. It was first scheduled to begin last April, but Bush's aide called Rehnquist on April 15 to request the delay. Several postponements delayed the start for five months, and the audit still is not complete.

Rehnquist has said her decision to grant the delays ``was based on the merits and not motivated by political reasons.'' A spokesman for the inspector general also argued that the audit would not have been completed by Election Day even if it had begun on time, though some documents suggest otherwise.

Jeb Bush's spokeswoman Jill Bratina on Tuesday repeated previous statements from the governor's office that the delay was requested because a new pension director was assuming office, and Bush wanted him in place before the audit began.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press

Commentary:
Another one bites the dust!


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Global Homeland Security Outlays Seen at $550 Billion
ABC News Wire/Reuters
March 05, 2003

— WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Governments around the world will spend an estimated $550 billion on homeland security in 2003, with that figure set to rise to $572 billion by 2005, according to an analysis released on Tuesday by U.S. business development firm Equity International.

The Center for Homeland & Global Security, a division of Equity International, said total homeland security spending in the United States would reach $55.6 billion in 2003, with that figure set to rise to $56.8 billion by 2005.

The group, which is hosting a conference on homeland security in Washington this week, predicted that despite poor global financial conditions, governments around the world would increase homeland security spending for at least the next two years, spurred on by increased terror attacks like the Sept. 11, 2001, hijacking attacks on New York and Washington.

"Governments have responded to, and will continue to respond to, the new reality that their people and their lands are more vulnerable to new forms of aggression and that protecting them in this new reality will require more spending," the group said in its report.

President Bush's 2004 budget request called for $41.3 billion in domestic security spending, with that figure due to grow steadily and reach $42.2 billion in 2005, but critics have said far higher spending is need to protect the United States. The balance of the center's total estimate was comprised of spending by state and local governments.

The Center for Homeland & Global Security said the federal government would account for the large share of U.S. homeland security spending, since local and state spending was expected to remain flat due to poor financial conditions.

The group said its forecasts were based on analyzes of annual military expenditures from the United States and 155 other countries. It said it did not include the U.S. defense budget in its spending forecasts.

The group noted that global homeland security spending grew at an annual rate of one-tenth of 1 percent from 1998 through 2000, but average annual growth increased to 3.91 percent from 2000 through 2002, spurred by the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States.

Global homeland security spending, which comprised 1.54 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) in 1998, was expected to reach 1.64 percent by 2005.

U.S. spending on homeland security comprises a much smaller percentage of GDP, accounting for just .12 percent in 1998 and projected to reach .46 percent in 2005.

Copyright 2003 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Commentary:
With $550 billion being sucked out of the world economy by more government spending is it a wonder the world economy is in turmoil? This nonsense has to stop. The terrorists are winning. Government budgets around the world are broke and we're not even in a "real war." Witness the power of propaganda.

A real president would have called 9/11 a criminal act, gone after those who did it and not called this nonsense a "war on terrorism." This silly war is destroying the world economy and those who are doing it are not bin Laden, or the terrorists, they are our governments. Can we find a bigger bunch of nuts?


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Canadian, French and US Resolutions
ABC News Wire/Reuters
March 4, 2003
— By Evelyn Leopold and Irwin Arieff

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Ready or not, the United States signaled it would push its U.N. resolution authorizing war to a vote next week despite misgivings among several nations whose support is crucial for passage.

U.S. and British officials said the draft resolution, which declares Iraq had "failed" to meet it obligations to dismantle its banned weapons systems, should be put before the 15-member council for a vote the week of March 10.

John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said he expected a vote "quite soon," after chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix delivers another report to the U.N. Security Council on Friday.

"Our view is that we don't need to debate this very simple and straightforward resolution," Negroponte told reporters on Monday.

U.S. envoys have been traveling the globe to seek support for the resolution, co-sponsored by Britain and Spain and supported by Bulgaria, in what one council diplomat described as a "mean, frantic and muscular" campaign.

France, Germany and Russia are doing their own lobbying in an effort to prevent adoption of the resolution and keep inspections going for at least another four months.

In a last-minute effort to bridge the gap, Chile, Mexico and Pakistan have contemplated a Canadian proposal which has specific tests or "benchmarks" Iraq has to fulfill by about March 28 or face the possibility of war.

CANADIAN PROPOSAL

But after a two-hour meeting on Monday between Canadian Ambassador Paul Heinbecker and the 10 elected, temporary council members, Chile's deputy ambassador was not certain if a concrete proposal would emerge.

"There are lots of possibilities that could be applied there," Chile's Christian Maquieira said after the meeting at Mexico's U.N. mission.

"But we are still far from getting a document," he said.

The United States, Britain and Spain have rejected the Canadian approach, although some diplomats would not rule out a variation of Ottawa's proposal for a future compromise.

A resolution needs a minimum of nine votes for adoption in the 15-member council and no veto from its permanent members -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.

Virtually certain to vote against the resolution or abstain are France, Russia, China, Germany and Syria.

The undecided members include Chile, Mexico, Pakistan, Angola, Guinea and Cameroon. Both Angola and Pakistan are said to be leaning toward the U.S. stance, which has four definite votes, should no viable alternative or amendment be presented.

Washington's strategy is to get the minimum nine votes and then dare France, Russia, or China to veto the measure.

France has the reverse strategy: if the United States does not get the nine votes, it would be spared making a decision about whether or not to veto the draft resolution.

To complicate matters further, Blix's Friday report may not give much comfort to the United States as Iraq has suddenly cooperated on a host of issues.

Baghdad met a Saturday deadline to begin destroying its Al Samoud 2 missile system, banned because its range may be greater than allowed. Iraqi workers also have dug up buried bombs they say are loaded with anthrax, aflatoxin and botulin toxin and which inspectors are now analyzing.

PENTAGON SEEKS "MORNING AFTER" HELP

While the maneuvering goes on, few believe that war can be prevented. The main purpose of the resolution appears to be providing political cover for U.S. allies in Europe and elsewhere who support an American-led assault in defiance of domestic public opinion.

The United States also would like international help in rebuilding Iraq after an invasion but U.N. officials warned in a meeting with Pentagon planners that assistance would be limited if Washington went to war without a U.N. endorsement.

"We need a clear mandate to go beyond basic humanitarian assistance," said one U.N. official of Monday's meeting.

The message came during a "get-acquainted" visit to U.N. headquarters by Jay Garner, a retired lieutenant-general, who is to be the U.S. military's transitional administrator in Iraq, according to participants at the meeting.

Garner, in charge of reconstruction and humanitarian aid programs, made clear that Washington understood the value of "full and early international involvement in the planning and decision-making," the U.N. source said.

Garner also indicated his goal was to hand over to a civilian administration as quickly as possible, said one official at the meeting organized by Louis Frechette, the U.N. deputy secretary-general.

Copyright 2003 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Commentary:
What to say? I'm thinking Bush will get his butt kicked at the UN. I doubt we'll be able to get the nine votes necessary unless Bush opens up the Treasury and buys support.

It boggles the mind the US is pushing for Chili's support. Chili is one of the most corrupt governments on earth. I can't help but wonder how much it'll cost us (morally by looking the other way, and financially).

Pakistan is easy. They want duo-use technologies--things that can be used for nuclear weapons. Bush is giving them what they want so he's got their vote. Pakistan is also believed to be helping N. Korea get their nukes. Bush needs to keep his endless war going so giving Pakistan what it wants is a no-brainer.

Mexico is dirt poor so Bush should be able to promise them a few billion for their vote. That still only gives Bush five votes, but even then it's still possible Canada will peal those votes away. Another major defeat for Bush is coming.


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Mohammed believed to be tortured in Afghanistan *
If True--An Impeachable Offense
ABCNews Wire/Reuters
March 4, 2003
— By David Brunnstrom

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan said on Tuesday that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, was in U.S. hands, probably in Afghanistan.

U.S. officials said on Monday that Mohammed, the biggest catch so far in the global war on terror, was already in their custody outside Pakistan but Islamabad insisted he only left on Tuesday morning.

"He is somewhere in this region," Pakistan Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told Reuters. "Most probably he is in Afghanistan."

U.S. military officials declined to say if Mohammed was held at a detention facility at Bagram Air Base, the U.S. headquarters in Afghanistan.

The base has been used in the past for questioning suspects arrested in the war on terror before their transfer elsewhere, including to the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

"It has been long-standing policy to not give out names or nationalities of detainees," said Major Robert Hepner, a U.S. military spokesman at the base.

Pakistani officials say Mohammed was arrested on Saturday with two other al Qaeda suspects in Rawalpindi near Islamabad. One was Pakistani and sources in Washington identified the other as Mustafa Ahmed al-Hasawi, who was believed to be Saudi.

Rashid told Pakistan TV the other foreigner was also handed over to the United States, but did not identify him.

U.S. officials say Kuwaiti-born Mohammed was intricately involved in planning the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed about 3,000 people.

On Monday, they said they were in a race against time to get information from him that could foil any potential plots now in motion to attack American targets.

The immediate goals were to find out about any attacks planned for the near future and the location of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden before he moved again, they said.

They believe bin Laden is hiding in the rugged northern border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

SECRET FACILITY

The Washington Post said in a report late last year that the detention center at Bagram was one of a number of secret facilities used by the Central Intelligence Agency to interrogate terrorist suspects.

Being outside the United States, it was not subject to U.S. rules of due process and interrogators used "stress and duress" techniques on prisoners there which blurred the line between the legal and the inhumane.

Citing intelligence specialists said to be familiar with CIA interrogation techniques, the newspaper said captives who refused to cooperate were sometimes kept standing or kneeling for hours, in black hoods or spray-painted goggles.

The paper said at times they were held in awkward, painful positions and deprived of sleep with lights on 24 hours a day.

The U.S. military denied reports of torture at the center and said it was run by the army and not the CIA.

Another interrogation center in the region is at a U.S. base on the British-owned island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, while more than 600 al Qaeda suspects are being held at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

On Monday in Washington, U.S. officials would not discuss interrogation methods, except to say that "all appropriate techniques" and "the full-range of permissible interrogation techniques" were being employed without crossing the line into torture.

The U.S.-backed Afghan government said on Tuesday Mohammed's arrest was good news and said it hoped his interrogation yielded useful information.

BORDER CROSSINGS

At the same time Afghanistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Omar Samad said it was a concern that Mohammed's capture in Rawalpindi showed that terror suspects were hiding in Pakistani cities rather than in the Afghan border region.

"We see now, it is not just tribal areas, but in large cities, in mainland Pakistan," he said.

Afghan officials say there has been an increase in recent weeks in cross-border activity from Pakistan by militants opposed to the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.

"We are encouraging Pakistan to hunt down these extremists and terrorists, to make sure any re-grouping of al Qaeda and Taliban elements does not take place," Samad said.

The fundamentalist Taliban allowed al Qaeda to operate from Afghanistan and then gave it shelter before being overthrown by a U.S.-led coalition in late 2001.

Commentary:
At what point do moral people rise up against their government and demand they stop violating International Law? The UN charter forbids torture even if we transfer the suspect to another country. Let's only hope this press report is a incorrect. Because if it is true, then the terrorist's have already won--we've become like them.


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Iraq Pledges Nerve Gas Report
ABC News Wire/Reuters
March 03, 2003
— By Hassan Hafidh

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq, seeking to avert a threatened U.S. invasion, will submit a new report on VX nerve gas and anthrax stocks in a week's time, the United Nations said on Monday as Baghdad scrapped more of its banned missiles.

The United States and Britain have justified their buildup for war by charging that Iraq has failed to account for all the chemical and biological agents that were slated by the United Nations for destruction after the 1991 Gulf War.

Britain dismissed the latest Iraqi concessions. "Given the history of deception, cheating and lies it is understandable that we should be approaching what we are seeing at the moment with a degree of skepticism," a government spokesman said.

U.S. and British warplanes raided southern Iraq overnight and Iraq said six civilians were killed and 15 injured. The U.S. military said planes patrolling Iraq's southern "no-fly" zone struck air defense targets in response to fire from the ground.

The raids came after U.S. defense officials said Washington had extended targets for air patrols in "no-fly" zones over Iraq to include weapons that could hinder a ground invasion.

Iraq says it has destroyed all its chemical and biological arms, but chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix, due to report on Iraqi compliance to the U.N. Security Council at week's end, says Iraq has provided no details to back up that claim.

Iraq and U.N. arms experts discussed on Sunday Baghdad's proposal for "quantitative verification" of VX and anthrax. Iraq says it has carried out recent excavations that proved it has destroyed "important quantities" of the banned substances.

"Iraq will be providing a report on the VX and anthrax in a week's time," Hiro Ueki, spokesman for U.N. weapons inspectors in Baghdad, told Reuters.

Ueki also said six more Iraqi al-Samoud 2 missiles and two empty warheads were destroyed on Monday at Taji base, some 40 km (25 miles) north of Baghdad.

It was the first time warheads related to the missile were destroyed. Ueki said earlier that the destruction of casting chambers for the missiles would be completed by Tuesday.

Baghdad began on Saturday to destroy some 120 missiles, meeting a key U.N. deadline. Ten of the missiles, whose range Blix says exceeds the 150-km (93-mile) limit allowed by U.N. resolutions, were scrapped on Saturday and Sunday.

Iraq has threatened to stop destroying the Samouds if the United States ignores the United Nations and continues to press for war.

But the missile destruction and the offer of a new report on VX and anthrax led oil traders to believe the war timetable could be pushed back. U.S. light crude fell 85 cents to $35.60 a barrel and Brent crude dropped 44 cents to $32.35.

SHIFT IN U.S. STRATEGY

Washington is still seeking U.N. backing for military action despite fresh opposition from France and Russia, two of the five veto-wielding members of the Security Council.

French President Jacques Chirac, speaking during a visit to Algiers, reaffirmed on Monday that Paris opposed any U.N. resolution that would allow the use of force against Iraq, and said inspections were "still the way to go."

In the raids on southern Iraq, the U.S. Central Command said planes hit a military command and control center near Basra, 245 miles from Baghdad, and four fiber optic communications centers near Al Kut, 95 miles from the capital.

Senior U.S. defense officials said on Sunday there had been a shift in strategy in the no-fly zones over Iraq, set up after the Gulf War and now covering more than half the country.

New targets include surface-to-surface missile systems and multiple-launch rockets that could be used against ground troops in an invasion or against neighboring countries.

In a setback to Washington's plans, there was little hope on Monday that Turkey's parliament might quickly reconsider its narrow vote at the weekend to bar U.S. forces from using Turkish soil as a launchpad to attack Iraq.

A top U.S. general said on Monday a war in Iraq would be successful even without a northern front.

"I don't think it's absolutely a showstopper in terms of whether you have a northern front or not," General James L. Jones, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, told a news conference in Stuttgart, Germany. "We're going to be successful regardless of what we're limited to."

Analysts say, however, such a campaign would be slower, more costly and far riskier. Kuwait offered on Monday to accept U.S. troops Washington had wanted to deploy in Turkey.

The United States and Britain are likely to seek U.N. backing for war in the form of a resolution by the Security Council in the days after Blix presents his next report. They have already presented a draft resolution.

The United States said on Monday Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would not be allowed to stay in power if war was launched against Iraq, but did not rule out allowing him to remain if he fully disarmed beforehand.

Gulf Arab foreign ministers stopped short on Monday of formally backing a call on Saddam to go into exile in order to avert war. They said the idea, floated by the United Arab Emirates, needed wider discussion among Arab states.

Saddam himself has dismissed the suggestion.

pyright 2003 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Commentary:
Bush claims Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. We have to wonder where they are? The US has been photographing Iraq for over 12 years, doing fly-overs in the north and south and still with all this information we don't have a single weapon. We have to start wondering if Bush is still sane. Most likely he's not.


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Economy stumbles again. Oil prices hit decade high
ABC News Wire/Reuters
March 03, 2003
— By Wayne Cole

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. manufacturing stumbled in February after a strong start to the year, suggesting a sustained recovery in economic growth and employment remains an uncertain prospect.

Other economic data on Monday were more mixed, with construction booming in January and personal consumption surprisingly weak, but the overall impression was of an economy firing on only a few cylinders.

The Institute for Supply Management said the main index in its monthly survey of manufacturing dipped to 50.5 in February from 53.9 in January, well below market forecasts of 52.4 and only just above the 50.0 barrier that separates growth from contraction.

Alarming for an already-depressed jobs outlook, the ISM's index of employment slumped to 42.8 from 47.6, its lowest reading in a year and a grim omen for the February payrolls report due this Friday.

"No one is hiring; all the leading indicators of employment are weak and I would not be surprised at all to see another fall in payrolls," said Ram Bhagavatula, chief economist at Royal Bank of Scotland Financial Markets.

Analysts are looking for payrolls to rise a tiny 8,000 in February after January's 143,000 bounce, but that forecast could well turn negative.

The gloomy outlook took its toll on equities, dragging the Dow Jones industrial average back to flat from an early gain of over 1.0 percent.

In contrast, Treasuries took heart from the thought that the economy was far too weak for the Federal Reserve to contemplate raising U.S. interest rates -- and may yet have to cut again. Benchmark 10-year yields stood at 3.68 percent, only a whisker above five-month lows of 3.66 percent reached last week.

LOWER ORDERS, HIGHER COSTS

Much of the deterioration in the overall ISM survey was due to a relatively large 7-point slide in new orders to 52.3, a jarring development since orders are considered a leading indicator of production.

"It was pretty much across every industry," noted Norbert J. Ore, chairman of the ISM manufacturing business survey committee, pointing to Iraq as a major factor. "The threat of war is dampening demand and that applies to every industry."

He also singled out the impact of higher energy prices, which are squeezing both demand and profit margins.

"Energy is functioning as a tax on growth," Ore said.

Oil prices hit a decade high near $40 a barrel last week, although weekend developments in Iraq and Turkey caused prices to ease back to $36 on Monday.

Baghdad's move to destroy some banned missiles and Turkey's decision to block a U.S. request to use its territory for an attack on Iraq, were seen as possibly delaying a war.

FEWER CARS, MORE HOUSES

Other figures had mixed implications for growth this quarter. Personal consumption fell 0.1 percent in January, versus forecasts of a 0.1 percent rise, while income rose 0.3 percent, against estimates of a 0.4 percent gain.

Analysts noted real consumption, adjusted for inflation, fell a steeper 0.3 percent, largely due to a slump in demand for autos, and that suggested spending made less of a contribution to GDP in January than first thought.

Indeed, the weak result caused some analysts to shave their forecasts for consumption and GDP growth this quarter. Estimates are still fluid, but most are crowded in the 2.0 percent to 3.0 percent area, compared with an annualized 1.4 percent rise in GDP in the last three months of 2002.

Industry figures on February auto sales, due later on Monday, are expected to show a further dip from January's subdued levels despite a resumption of aggressive promotions by carmakers.

Still, the weakness in consumption was balanced in part by another spectacular performance from the home building industry, where residential spending jumped 2.5 percent to a record high in January, courtesy of ultra-low mortgage rates.

That compensated for a still-depressed office and industrial sector and lifted overall construction spending by 1.7 percent, far above economists' forecasts for a second month in a row.

Copyright 2003 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Commentary:
When there is no war it's hard to be called a war-time president. Bush's political need for war outweighs everything else. Same for Blair. Without war and victory, both are failed leaders. So now we wait to see if Americans continue to support a war-mongering president.


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