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Impeach Bush--Index 79

As long as we reward failure; in politics (911 and WMD), in business (CEOs being paid when they fail) and the media (liars make millions) we'll never be able to fix what's wrong with this country.

May 19, 2008 (issue)

Paying for Failure

Sprint first paid him $6.5 million in cash and stock just to leave BellSouth, where he was the number two executive. Sprint also bought Forsee's house in Atlanta before he moved to Kansas City. Once on the job Forsee was paid between $1.5 million and $5 million a year. His only real claim to fame while running Sprint was engineering the disastrous Nextel merger and watching its stock price tumble from $25 two years ago to $7.40.

At the end of 2007 he was fired "without cause." But he had negotiated well. Sprint gave him $40 million, including a $1.5 million salary through 2009, $5 million in bonuses, stock options and restricted shares worth $23 million and an $84,000-a-month pension for life. This package was structured under his contract as if he were still running the company and had met all his goals. Oh, Sprint also paid for "outplacement services" that landed him the presidency of the University of Missouri (where his annual salary and bonus amount to $500,000).

With Ford's pay scale on steroids, directors then set at ankle height the performance bar its bosses must clear to hit the jackpot. Their "profit" goal in 2007 was to lose only $4.9 billion, excluding special items. It hit that goal, losing $3.9 billion. For beating the bogey, Chief Executive Alan Mulally got $12 million, including a $7 million bonus. Ford's shares fell 10% last year. Can he rescue this firm? If--and when--he does, shareholders won't mind a $12 million cost.

Conservatives say government doesn't work, then they cut taxes, bankrupt the government and say "see, we're right." The problem is conservatism. Wherever it raises its ugly head, damage follows.

May 1, 2008

Prosecutors demand more witness-protection money

Around the country, prosecutors say tight budgets are hamstringing their ability to keep witnesses safe at a time when intimidation on the streets appears to be surging, particularly in gang cases.

"The most basic thing we should be able to do is assure them they'll be safe while their case is proceeding," Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm said. "We can't guarantee your safety."

Florida's witness protection efforts took a hit after a budget shortfall forced lawmakers in 2007 to reduce $500,000 originally appropriated for the program to $100,000.

April 30, 2008

47 percent of those polled considered struggling

The survey found that 47 percent of those polled can be considered struggling, mostly with worries about money.

The 4 percent defined as "suffering" generally lacked food or shelter, and also had no hope of improvement in the future.

Gallup's James Harter said this compares to Denmark, where 83 percent of people appear to be thriving and fewer than 1 percent struggling. In Cambodia, the situation is the opposite, with only 2 percent thriving, according to other surveys.

April 30, 2008

Clinton-McCain gas tax holiday slammed as bad idea

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A gas tax holiday proposed by U.S. presidential hopefuls John McCain and Hillary Clinton is viewed as a bad idea by many economists and has drawn unexpected support for Clinton rival Barack Obama, who also is opposed.

"Score one for Obama," wrote Greg Mankiw, a former chairman of President George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisers. "In light of the side effects associated with driving ... gasoline taxes should be higher than they are, not lower."

Will the media give equal time to the fact that the surge has failed? We now know the so-called success of the surge (the reason for the McCain candidacy) were a result of one cleric who decided on a cease-fire. Without that cease fire the surge is a failure, which means the surge had nothing to do with the lull.

Impeachable Offense

Bush said the surge caused the "lull." In reality, a ceasefire from one cleric reduced the violence. Bush and McCain used their version of reality because it suited their goals (of deserving the American people).

April 29, 2008

Lull in Iraq over as U.S. deaths reach 7-month high

MEXICO CITY — U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on Tuesday acknowledged that a seven-month lull in U.S. troops deaths in Iraq has come to an end and blamed the bloodshed on Shiite Muslim militiamen who have bombarded the Green Zone and key parts of Baghdad with rockets and mortar rounds.

April has been the bloodiest month for Americans in Iraq since September, with 44 troops killed, compared to 39 in March and 29 in February.

April 7, 2008

"How You Can Thrive When Oil Costs $200 a Barrel"

He foresees an energy crisis that could spell the end of modern civilization -- though presumably not before he sells lots of copies of his latest book, "The Coming Economic Collapse: How You Can Thrive When Oil Costs $200 a Barrel."

No stranger to skepticism, Leeb is perhaps best known for his prediction in "The Oil Factor" (2004) that oil would reach $100 a barrel by the end of the decade. Now, citing worsening fundamentals, he predicts oil will top $200 a barrel and touch off hyperinflation, double-digit interest rates and a cascading collapse of the world economy. His book, written with Glen Strathy, tries to be both a call to arms against a looming oil shock and a primer on how investors can protect themselves.

April 29, 2008

Foreclosure more than doubled in first quarter

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The number of U.S. homes heading toward foreclosure more than doubled in the first quarter from a year earlier, as weakening property values and tighter lending left many homeowners powerless to prevent homes from being auctioned to the highest bidder, a research firm said Monday.

Among the hardest hit states were Nevada, Florida and, in particular, California, where Stockton led the nation with a foreclosure rate that was 6.6 times the national average, Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac Inc. said.

April 28, 2008

Why the Discredited Right Still Sets the Agenda and Dominates the Debate

These three factors have combined to allow the lunatic fringe that has taken over the Right to hijack our country, our democracy, and our Constitution. So that 28 percent of the population that continues to support George W. Bush no matter how many bodies pile up in Iraq, how many jobs disappear overseas, how many For Sale signs go up on their block, or how high gas prices get, continues to dominate our politics.

Let's take them one by one, starting with the media which remains hopelessly addicted to the false belief that in order to be fair and balanced every story needs to be given the "on the one hand... and on the other" treatment. But not every story has two sides -- and the truth is often to be found not in the middle but solidly on one side or the other.

The earth is not flat. Global warming is a fact. Evolution is a fact -- sorry Mike Huckabee. And not even Republicans still believe in the unfettered, free market. Look how they rushed to Big Government to save their beloved Bear Sterns.

Nor are there two sides to the proposition that Iraq is our generation's greatest foreign policy disaster. It is. Period. Full stop. Yet the same media that enabled the administration to sell us the multi-trillion dollar war are -- nearly six years later -- still pushing the Right's line that "the surge is working." Green Zone bombardments be damned.

Conservatives cut taxes, bankrupt state and the federal treasury and then say there's no money left to help the poor. But there's always enough money to bail our corporations, banks or give tax cuts to the very wealthy.

April 25, 2008

Cutoffs and Pleas for Aid Rise With Heat Costs

After struggling with soaring heating costs through the winter, millions of Americans are behind on electric and gas bills, and a record number of families could face energy shut-offs over the next two months, according to state energy officials and utilities around the country.

The escalating costs of heating oil, propane and kerosene, most commonly used in the Northeast, have posed the greatest burdens, officials say, but natural gas and electricity prices have also climbed at a time when low-end incomes are stagnant and prices have also jumped for food and gasoline.

Another Bush and Pentagon lie exposed.

Impeachable Offense
April 26, 2008

Iran's involvement in Iraq may not have increased

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Some US intelligence and administration officials believe that while Iranian arms shipments to Iraq continued in recent months, they have not necessarily increased, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Citing unnamed US officials, the newspaper said Tehran has shifted tactics to distance itself from a direct role in Iraq since the US military captured 20 Iranian operatives in December 2006 and January 2007.

Since then, Iran seems to have focused instead on training Iraqi Shiite fighters inside Iran, the report said.

Another Bush and Pentagon lie exposed.

Impeachable Offense
April 25, 2008

Pentagon Reports on Iraq's Military Are Suspect, Audit Says

April 25 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. public and lawmakers should be skeptical of the Pentagon's quarterly reports on Iraq's progress toward building a viable military and police force, according to a new audit.

The reports from the Defense Department are based on data supplied by the Iraqi government that hasn't been fully vetted by the U.S. military and is unreliable, according to the Special Inspector General For Iraq Reconstruction, Stuart Bowen.

There are uncertainties," for example, about the true number" of Iraqi military and police personnel on active duty or in training, Bowen wrote. A substantial number of personnel still on the payroll are not available for duty for various reasons, such as being on leave, absent without leave, injured or killed," he said.

April 9, 2008

Mortgage Brokers Overcharged Clients

More often than not, brokers placed borrowers with weak credit in loans with significantly higher interest rates than lender-originated mortgages, according to the study released Tuesday by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Responsible Lending.

By tacking on additional percentage points to subprime borrowers' loans, mortgage brokers got rewarded in bonuses from lenders called "yield-spread premiums" that often totaled several thousand dollars and added thousands of dollars in payments to the borrower during the life of the loan, the study found.

April 25, 2008

Many states appear to be in recession

The finances of many states have deteriorated so badly that they appear to be in a recession, regardless of whether that's true for the nation as a whole, a survey of all 50 state fiscal directors concludes.

The situation looks even worse for the fiscal year that begins July 1 in most states.

"Whether or not the national economy is in recession — a subject of ongoing debate — is almost beside the point for some states," said the report to be released Friday by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

April 24, 2008

Wealthiest Americans aren't immune from mortgage crisis

GREENWICH, Connecticut: With the mortgage crisis still spreading, even homes in one of the wealthiest towns in the United States can fall into foreclosure. But to be in charge of auctioning off such homes to the highest bidder is a far greater challenge here in Greenwich than in most other places.

Just ask John Thygerson, who parked his Jeep sport utility vehicle in front of an empty $1.6 million, 4-bedroom colonial on the flawless spring Saturday last week. As a foreclosure auctioneer, he was scheduled - for the third time since January - to sell the house. But the owner, a construction business owner who has fallen on hard times, made a last-minute mortgage payment and the foreclosure was postponed yet again.

April 25, 2008

Consumer Confidence Fell to a 26-Year Low

April 25 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. consumer confidence fell more than forecast in April to a 26-year low as record fuel prices and rising unemployment threatened to reduce spending.

The Reuters/University of Michigan sentiment index decreased to 62.6, from 69.5 the previous month. The measure was down from a preliminary estimate of 63.2 issued on April 11.

Does anyone still trust the CIA, the Pentagon, this White House? I'm classifying it as an impeachable offense until they prove otherwise.

Impeachable Offense
April 22, 2008

Detainees Allege Being Drugged, Questioned

"I'd fall asleep" after the shot, Nusairi, a former Saudi policeman captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2002, recalled in an interview with his attorney at the military prison in Cuba, according to notes. After being roused, Nusairi eventually did talk, giving U.S. officials what he later described as a made-up confession to buy some peace.

"I was completely gone," he remembered. "I said, 'Let me go. I want to go to sleep. If it takes saying I'm a member of al-Qaeda, I will.' "

April 26, 2008

Democrats favored in electoral map

WASHINGTON - The electoral road to the White House favors Democrats this fall — either Barack Obama or Hillary Rodham Clinton — and has Republican John McCain playing defense to thwart a presidential power shift.

A downtrodden economy, the war in Iraq and a public call for change have created an Electoral College outlook and a political environment filled with extraordinary opportunity for the Democrats and enormous challenge for the GOP nominee-in-waiting.

April 25, 2008

Record oil price to boost oil majors' profits

LONDON (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil (XOM.N: Quote, Profile, Research), Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L: Quote, Profile, Research) (RDSa.L: Quote, Profile, Research) and BP (BP.L: Quote, Profile, Research) are expected to report bumper first-quarter profits next week, thanks to record crude prices, but $110 per barrel oil will also squeeze refining profits and delay a return to oil production growth.

Brent and benchmark U.S. crude prices rose around 70 percent in the first quarter compared with the same period last year, to average almost $97/bbl and $98/bbl, respectively, while gas prices also rose.

Bush's war based on fabricated intelligence and his tax cuts have created nearly as much debt than all the presidents from Washington through Bush 41 combined.

Impeachable Offense
April 18, 2008

Iraq war, not earmarks, busting federal budget

Bridge to nowhere: $398 million.

Pre-emptive war to nowhere: $3 trillion.

Sometimes it's important to review where our federal tax dollars go and in what proportions. Conventional political spin would have us believe that spending on unnecessary earmarks is busting the budget while the war in Iraq need not enter our fiscal consciousness because it's funded with "supplementals" and therefore "off budget."

"Support our troops" was a campaign slogan, not public policy.

Impeachable Offense
April 17, 2008

300,000 vets have mental problem, 320,000 had brain injuries

WASHINGTON (AP) — Some 300,000 U.S. troops are suffering from major depression or post traumatic stress from serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 320,000 received brain injuries, a new study estimates.

Only about half have sought treatment, said the study released Thursday by the RAND Corporation.

April 18, 2008

Workers Get Fewer Hours, Deepening the Downturn

Throughout the country, businesses grappling with declining fortunes are cutting hours for those on their payrolls. Self-employed people are suffering a drop in demand for their services, like music lessons, catering and management consulting. Growing numbers of people are settling for part-time work out of a failure to secure a full-time position.

The gradual erosion of the paycheck has become a stealth force driving the American economic downturn. Most of the attention has focused on the loss of jobs and the risk of layoffs. But the less-noticeable shrinking of hours and pay for millions of workers around the country appears to be a bigger contributor to the decline, which has already spread from housing and finance to other important areas of the economy.

April 21, 2008

Pope criticises US for shunning Iraq diplomacy

In a carefully-worded speech at the United Nations, Benedict underlined the need for diplomacy.

"Multilateral consensus continues to be in crisis because it is still subordinated to the decisions of a few, whereas the world's problems call for interventions in the form of collective action," he said, adding that international rules must be "binding".

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican representative at the UN, said Benedict wanted to attack "the false notion that might makes right".

April 18, 2008

Across Globe, Empty Bellies Bring Rising Anger

That anger is palpable across the globe. The food crisis is not only being felt among the poor but is also eroding the gains of the working and middle classes, sowing volatile levels of discontent and putting new pressures on fragile governments.

In Cairo, the military is being put to work baking bread as rising food prices threaten to become the spark that ignites wider anger at a repressive government. In Burkina Faso and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, food riots are breaking out as never before. In reasonably prosperous Malaysia, the ruling coalition was nearly ousted by voters who cited food and fuel price increases as their main concerns.

April 20, 2008

Military medical errors, malpractice immune to redress

Medical personnel at David Grant Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base screamed at one another. A double dose of a powerful stimulant was mistakenly administered. When a breathing tube was finally inserted, it was misdirected. By the time a breathing tube finally was inserted correctly, Witt had devastating brain damage. Three months later, he was removed from life support and died. Witt, who grew up in Oroville, Calif., left behind a wife and two children, including a 4-month-old son.

Despite the report's harsh criticism of Witt's medical care, the bereaved family could not sue for malpractice, because Witt was an active-duty airman. Under limits stemming from an obscure Supreme Court ruling nearly 60 years old, military hospitals and their staffs are immune from malpractice claims - even for the most egregious lapses - if the victim is an enlisted man or woman on active duty.

April 21, 2008

Nine Years Ago, Oil Was Projected to Fall to Five Dollars

Nine years ago The Economist ran a big story on oil, which was then selling for $10 a barrel. The magazine warned that this might not last. Instead, it suggested, oil might well fall to $5 a barrel.

In any case, The Economist asserted, the world faced "the prospect of cheap, plentiful oil for the foreseeable future."

Last week, oil hit $117.

Impeachable Offense
April 23, 2008

Rezko friend: Rove was asked to dump Fitzgerald

As a federal probe into Gov. Blagojevich's administration heated up in late 2004, there were discussions between GOP powerbroker Robert Kjellander and Bush White House insider Karl Rove to oust corruption-busting U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald from his job, according to a man whom prosecutors want to testify at Tony Rezko's trial.

Those alleged efforts were disclosed in federal court this morning, as prosecutors sought to have them introduced into the corruption trial of Rezko, who is accused of seeking kickbacks and campaign contributions to Blagojevich from companies seeking state business.

"With respect to Mr. Ata, what I anticipate Mr. Ata would testify to would be that he did actually have direct conversations with Mr. Rezko about the fact that ... Mr. Kjellander was working with Karl Rove to have Mr. Fitzgerald removed," Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie E. Hamilton told St. Eve.

April 22, 2008

Falling Wages and Health Care Are Top Issues

The top workplace-related issues for the 2008 presidential election are improving wages, keeping jobs in the country and providing universal health care, according to a recent poll of U.S. workers conducted by the Employment Law Alliance (ELA).

According to the poll results, the top issue among workers is improving wages and the earning potential for all workers. A large majority (87 percent) of the respondents would like to see the next president work on increasing the proportion of U.S. workers who earn at least a living wage, and 86 percent thought the president needed to focus on reducing the number of U.S. jobs that are outsourced overseas. A surprising 83 percent of the respondents said that providing health care coverage for all U.S. citizens should be one of the next president's top priorities.

Impeachable Offense
April 21, 2008

More convicted felons allowed to enlist in Army, Marines

WASHINGTON - Under pressure to meet combat needs, the Army and Marine Corps brought in significantly more recruits with felony convictions last year than in 2006, including some with manslaughter and sex crime convictions.

Data released by a congressional committee shows the number of soldiers admitted to the Army with felony records jumped from 249 in 2006 to 511 in 2007. And the number of Marines with felonies rose from 208 to 350.

Those numbers represent a fraction of the more than 180,000 recruits brought in by the active duty Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines during the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2007. But they highlight a trend that has raised concerns both within the military and on Capitol Hill.

Impeachable Offense
April 21, 2008

Injured Iraq war vets sue VA

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Frustrated by delays in health care, a coalition of injured Iraq war veterans is accusing VA Secretary Jim Nicholson of breaking the law by denying them disability pay and mental health treatment.

The class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, filed Monday in federal court in San Francisco, seeks broad change in the agency as it struggles to meet growing demands from veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Impeachable Offense
April 21, 2008

Former Justice Department official charged in Jack Abramoff lobbying probe

WASHINGTON - A former high-ranking Justice Department official was accused Monday of criminal conflict of interest in the latest case stemming from the investigation of disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Robert Coughlin was deputy chief of staff of the Justice Department's criminal division — the same division handling the Abramoff probe — before resigning a year ago, citing personal reasons. He was due in federal court in Washington on Tuesday for a plea hearing.

Impeachable Offense
April 12, 2008

VA Hid Suicide Risk, Internal E-Mails Show

(CBS) The Department of Veterans Affairs came under fire again Monday, this time in California federal court where it's facing a national lawsuit by veterans rights groups accusing the agency of not doing enough to stem a looming mental health crisis among veterans. As part of the lawsuit, internal e-mails raise questions as to whether top officials deliberately deceived the American public about the number of veterans attempting and committing suicide. CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian reports.

In San Francisco federal court Monday, attorneys for veterans' rights groups accused the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs of nothing less than a cover-up - deliberately concealing the real risk of suicide among veterans.

April 12, 2008

Disapproval of Bush breaks record

WASHINGTON — President Bush has set a record he'd presumably prefer to avoid: the highest disapproval rating of any president in the 70-year history of the Gallup Poll.

In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday, 28% of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing; 69% disapprove. The approval rating matches the low point of his presidency, and the disapproval sets a new high for any president since Franklin Roosevelt.

Impeachable Offense
April 11, 2008

US posts record breaking deficit

WASHINGTON—The US government turned in a $48.14-billion budget deficit for March and a record deficit for the first six months of the fiscal year despite record receipts for the month, the US Treasury said on Thursday.

The March deficit compared with a year-earlier deficit of $96.27 billion and with the $71.0-billion deficit forecast by economists polled by Reuters.

For the first six months of the fiscal year, the Department of Treasury saw a record $311.4-billion deficit which broke the previous record of a mid-year budget gap of $302.9 billion set in fiscal year 2006.

April 17, 2008

Pentagon institute calls Iraq war 'a major debacle'

WASHINGTON — The war in Iraq has become "a major debacle" and the outcome "is in doubt" despite improvements in security from the buildup in U.S. forces, according to a highly critical study published Thursday by the Pentagon's premier military educational institute.

The report released by the National Defense University raises fresh doubts about President Bush 's projections of a U.S. victory in Iraq just a week after Bush announced that he was suspending U.S. troop reductions.

The report carries considerable weight because it was written by Joseph Collins, a former senior Pentagon official, and was based in part on interviews with other former senior defense and intelligence officials who played roles in prewar preparations.

Impeachable Offense
April 18, 2008

Top US general 'hoodwinked' on torture

• Senior figures in the Bush administration pushed through previously outlawed measures with the help of unqualified and inexperienced military officials at Guantánamo.

• Myers believes he was a victim of "intrigue" by top lawyers at the department of justice, the office of the vice president, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld's defence department.

• Myers wrongly believed interrogation techniques had been taken from the army's field manual.

You'll never trust network news again after you read this article. It's very long and it's worth the click.

Those of you who've been reading this site for years already knew how corrupt the US media had become. In The Media: Squelching Dissent we learned that Americans were 25 times more likely to hear a pro war US source ("fair and balanced?).

Impeachable Offense
April 18, 2008

Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as "military analysts" whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration's wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

The nice thing about being a modern day republican is they can support more money for the military and their party doesn't require them to pay for it. They just pass the costs to the next generation. It all started with Reagan and it's gone down hill since them. With well over $9 trillion of debt it's safe to say we've never been over-taxed.

April 18, 2008

Life after Bush - the US defence budget

The administration of US President George W Bush has overseen the largest defence spending increase in real terms for 30 years.

However, despite the enormous size of the budget and the political impact of a new administration's priorities, a series of factors is combining to make the prospect of cuts to the main Department of Defense (DoD) budget a distant one - regardless of who wins the election in November. Although total expenditure is set to decline in real terms from 2009/10, the reductions will be seen in the operational budgets for Iraq and Afghanistan, not in the core DoD personnel and equipment programme.

April 12, 2008

For the first time on record the middle class failed to grow with the economy

I wonder what the answers would be if each American asked himself or herself the question: "How is the war in Iraq helping me?"

The economic boom so highly touted by the president and his supporters "was, for most Americans," said Mr. Leonhardt, "nothing of the sort." Despite the sustained expansion of the past few years, the middle class — for the first time on record — failed to grow with the economy.

April 11, 2008

The First Draft of History Looks Rough for Bush

President Bush often argues that history will vindicate him. So he can't be pleased with an informal survey of 109 professional historians conducted by the History News Network. It found that 98 percent of them believe that Bush's presidency has been a failure, while only about 2 percent see it as a success. Not only that, more than 61 percent of the historians say the current presidency is the worst in American history. In 2004, only 11.6 percent of the historians rated Bush's presidency in last place. Among the reasons given for his low ratings: invading Iraq, "tax breaks for the rich," and alienating many nations around the world. Bush supporters counter that professional historians today tend to be liberal and that it's too early to assess how his policies will turn out.

April 16, 2008

March consumer prices up, reflecting higher energy price

WASHINGTON - Inflation rose again last month, reflecting big jumps in the cost of energy and airline tickets. And the forecast is for even bigger energy-related increases to come, including the possibility of $4 per gallon gasoline by Memorial Day.

Those inflation pressures are occurring just as the economy seems to be sinking into a recession, with consumers cutting back on spending and the housing industry, where all the troubles started, sinking further.

April 17, 2008

Merrill Lynch posts loss of nearly $2 billion

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) - Ongoing write-downs for soured mortgage investments and other bad credit bets continued to plague Wall Street icon Merrill Lynch, leading to an almost $2 billion first-quarter loss and a planned 4,000 job cuts, the company reported Thursday.

But new Chief Executive John Thain said core businesses continued to operate well. "Despite this quarter's loss,

Merrill Lynch's underlying businesses produced solid results in a difficult market environment," he said. "The firm's $82 billion excess liquidity pool has increased from year-end levels, and we remain well-capitalized."

Thain's comments are likely to calm some market jitters sparked by stubborn talk the firm may need to raise new capital. In recent weeks, Thain has repeatedly reassured investors that the firm will not need new capital.

April 13, 2008

War at the Pentagon

The most intense arguments over U.S. involvement in Iraq do not flare at this point on Capitol Hill or on the campaign trail. Those rhetorical battles pale in comparison to the high-stakes struggle being waged behind closed doors at the Pentagon.

On one side are the "fight-win guys," as some describe themselves. They are led by Gen. David Petraeus and other commanders who argue that the counterinsurgency struggle in Iraq must be pursued as the military's top priority and ultimately resolved on U.S. terms.

Arrayed against them are the uniformed chiefs of the military services who foresee a "broken army" emerging from an all-out commitment to Iraq that neglects other needs and potential conflicts. It is time to rebuild Army tank battalions, Marine amphibious forces and other traditional instruments of big-nation warfare -- while muddling through in Iraq.

April 12, 2008

Fewer Options Open to Pay for Costs of College

Parents will have to navigate unfamiliar and difficult terrain when it comes time to pay for college this year, with student loan companies in turmoil and banks tightening their standards and raising rates on other types of borrowing.

Lawmakers and the administration are trying to head off any crisis by making sure that "lenders of last resort" stand ready to take the place of companies that have left the federal loan program. And a growing number of colleges have applied to participate in the federal direct loan program, in which students borrow from the government.

April 31, 2008

'If History Can Take Me Back, I Will Kiss the Statue of Saddam Which I Helped Pull Down'

BAGHDAD, 10 April 2008 — Ibrahim Khalil, who five years ago took part in the toppling of a giant statue of Saddam Hussein in central Baghdad, said yesterday he now regrets taking part in the hugely symbolic event.

"If history can take me back, I will kiss the statue of Saddam Hussein which I helped pull down," Khalil said on the fifth anniversary of the statue's toppling. "I will protect the statue more than my own self," Khalil said in Firdos Square alongside a monument erected where Saddam's statue once stood before US Marines and Iraqis strung a chain around its neck and brought it crashing down.

April 13, 2008

Gonzales Can't Find A Job

WASHINGTON — Alberto R. Gonzales, like many others recently unemployed, has discovered how difficult it can be to find a new job. Mr. Gonzales, the former attorney general, who was forced to resign last year, has been unable to interest law firms in adding his name to their roster, Washington lawyers and his associates said in recent interviews.

He has, through friends, put out inquiries, they said, and has not found any takers. What makes Mr. Gonzales's case extraordinary is that former attorneys general, the government's chief lawyer, are typically highly sought.

April 31, 2008

Iraq sacks 1,300 troops over Shiite crackdown

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraq has dismissed 1,300 policemen and soldiers for failing to perform their duties during a crackdown on Shiite militiamen in the south of the country, an official said on Sunday.

"Those people did not do their duties in Basra and Kut," interior ministry spokesman Major General Abdel Karim Khalaf said referring to the southern and central cities.

April 14, 2008

Fewer Large Corporations Audited by IRS

WASHINGTON (AP) — The tax audit rates of the largest companies are less than half what they were 20 years ago while more small and mid-size businesses are coming under scrutiny, according to an organization that monitors the Internal Revenue Service.

The Syracuse University-based Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse described what it said was a "historic collapse" in audits for corporations holding assets of $250 million or more. About 26 percent of them were audited in the 2007 budget year compared with 34 percent in 2006 and 43 percent in 2005.

April 14, 2008

Co-Payments for Expensive Drugs Soar

Health insurance companies are rapidly adopting a new pricing system for very expensive drugs, asking patients to pay hundreds and even thousands of dollars for prescriptions for medications that may save their lives or slow the progress of serious diseases.

With the new pricing system, insurers abandoned the traditional arrangement that has patients pay a fixed amount, like $10, $20 or $30 for a prescription, no matter what the drug's actual cost. Instead, they are charging patients a percentage of the cost of certain high-priced drugs, usually 20 to 33 percent, which can amount to thousands of dollars a month.

April 10, 2008

VA Secretary says registering voters in VA facilities is a "partisan" distraction

On the same day the Pentagon's commander in Iraq told the Senate that new troop withdrawals could not considered for months, Secretary of Veterans Affairs James B. Peake told two Democratic senators that his department will not help injured veterans at VA facilities to register to vote before the 2008 election.

"VA remains opposed to becoming a voter registration agency pursuant to the National Voter Registration Act, as this designation would divert substantial resources from our primary mission," Peake said in an April 8th letter to Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and John Kerry (D-MA). He was referring to a 1993 federal law that allows government agencies to host voter registration efforts.

April 11, 2008

Bush Approval Hits All Time Low

(CNN)— With the economic outlook looking dim and the continued war in Iraq, President Bush'nidjs job approval rating hit an all time low Friday, according to a just released poll.

The latest Gallup poll shows the president's approval dropped to 28 percent, the lowest of his eight years in office.

The survey, which questioned 1,021 adults between April 6 and 9, with a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percent, found the decrease came largely because of Democratic and Independent dissatisfaction with his administration. Only 6 percent of Democrats questioned and 24 percent of Independents had a favorable opinion of President Bush, with about two-thirds support coming from Republicans.

April 9, 2008

Poor get Poorer as Recession Looms

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The gap between rich and poor in many states has broadened at a quickening pace since the last U.S. recession, which could make it difficult for low-income families to weather the current economic downturn, according to a report issued Wednesday.

Since the late 1990's average incomes have declined 2.5 percent for families on the bottom fifth of the country's economic ladder, while incomes have increased 9.1 percent for families on the top fifth, said the report from the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Economic Policy Institute.

Impeachable Offense
April 31, 2008

GAO: Millions Wasted on Gov't Cards

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal employees charged millions of dollars for Internet dating, tailor-made suits, lingerie, lavish dinners and other questionable expenses to their government credit cards over a 15-month period, congressional auditors say.

A report by the Government Accountability Office, obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, examined spending controls across the federal government following reports of credit-card abuse at departments including Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs.

March 27, 2008

Obama, Clinton Lead McCain

Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton hold roughly comparable leads in head-to-head matchups with John McCain. Obama edges McCain by a 49% to 43% margin among registered voters nationwide; Clinton holds an almost identical 49% to 44% edge. Obama and Clinton held similar leads over McCain in late February.

Yet there are positive signs for McCain. He now leads Obama among independent voters by six points. In late February, McCain trailed Obama among independents by seven points.

Whatever happened to the "free market?" Let them go under.

Impeachable Offense
March 27, 2008

Investment firms tapping Fed for billions

WASHINGTON - Big Wall Street investment companies are taking advantage of the Federal Reserve's unprecedented offer to secure emergency loans, the central bank reported Thursday.

Those firms averaged $32.9 billion in daily borrowing over the past week from the new lending facility, compared with $13.4 billion the previous week. The program, which began last Monday, is part of the Fed's effort to aid the financial system.

On Wednesday alone, lending reached $37 billion.

April 11, 2008

Largest Oil Reserve May Lie Under Northern Plains

An area of shale and other rock in North Dakota and Montana is estimated to hold the largest potential oil resources in the 48 contiguous states, according to an assessment released Thursday by the United States Geological Survey.

The area, known as the Bakken Formation, might contain 3 billion to 4.3 billion barrels of oil that could be extracted using current technology, the survey said.

April 11, 2008

Consumer Confidence Falls to Record Low

WASHINGTON -- Americans' confidence in the economy fell to a new low, dragged down by worries about mounting job losses, record-high home foreclosures and zooming energy prices.

According to the RBC Cash Index, confidence dropped to a mark of 29.5 in April, down from 33.1 in March. The new reading was the worst since the index began in 2002. It marked the fourth month in a row where confidence has fallen to an all-time low.

"Consumers are very pessimistic," said Mark Vitner, economist at Wachovia. "There are not a lot of happy campers out there."

Impeachable Offense
April 11, 2008

Cops and Former Secret Service Agents Ran Black Ops on Green Groups

A private security company organized and managed by former Secret Service officers spied on Greenpeace and other environmental organizations from the late 1990s through at least 2000, pilfering documents from trash bins, attempting to plant undercover operatives within groups, casing offices, collecting phone records of activists, and penetrating confidential meetings. According to company documents provided to Mother Jones by a former investor in the firm, this security outfit collected confidential internal records—donor lists, detailed financial statements, the Social Security numbers of staff members, strategy memos—from these organizations and produced intelligence reports for public relations firms and major corporations involved in environmental controversies.

Impeachable Offense
April 9, 2008

Bush Aides Approved Torture

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush's most senior advisers approved "enhanced interrogation techniques" of top al Qaeda suspects by the Central Intelligence Agency, ABC News reported on Wednesday, citing sources it did not name.

ABC reported that the so-called "principals" discussed interrogation details in dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House.

Impeachable Offense
April 3, 2008

Pentagon overspent budget by $295 billion

The Pentagon has gone hundreds of billions of dollars over budget in recent years on key weapons systems, including aircraft, ships, and satellite, said a government audit. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said for the sixth year in a row that the Pentagon had significantly gone over budget, but according to a report presented to Congress this week, the problem is getting worse.

The Government Accountability Office found that 95 major systems have exceeded their original budgets by a total of $295 billion, bringing their total cost to $1.6 trillion, and are delivered almost two years late on average. In addition, none of the systems that the GAO looked at had met all of the standards for best management practices during their development stages.

Impeachable Offense
April 6, 2008

Investigators review VA credit charges

WASHINGTON - Veterans Affairs employees last year racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in government credit-card bills at casino and luxury hotels, movie theaters and high-end retailers such as Sharper Image and Franklin Covey — and government auditors are investigating, citing past spending abuses.

On at least six occasions, employees based at VA headquarters made credit card charges at Las Vegas casino hotels totaling $26,198.

Impeachable Offense
April 6, 2008

Air Force Can't Account for Ballistic Missile Parts

SALT LAKE CITY - Inspectors warned Hill Air Force Base last year that its poor record-keeping could lead to inventory mistakes with ballistic missile parts without knowing a significant shipping error had already occurred, a newspaper reported Sunday.

The Pentagon announced last month that in 2006 the United States mistakenly shipped to Taiwan four electrical fuses designed for use on intercontinental ballistic missiles, but had since recovered them.

April 7, 2008

Iraq's humanitarian crisis worsens

AMMAN (Reuters) - Iraq's humanitarian crisis has worsened, and decades of conflict and deteriorating basic services are reducing people's ability to cope with the hardships they face, a senior U.N. aid official said on Monday.

"There are wider concerns about the longer-term effect of prolonged conflict, and people's coping mechanisms become strained ... this deterioration of basic services is not yet reversed..." Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes told Reuters in an interview.

April 16, 2008

Dollar Falls to Record Against Euro as EU Inflation Quickens

April 16 (Bloomberg) -- The dollar fell to a record low against the euro as European inflation accelerated last month, reducing chances the European Central Bank will follow the Federal Reserve in cutting interest rates.

The currency had its biggest decline versus the euro in three weeks, weakening to $1.5979 as U.S. housing starts dropped more than twice as much as forecast to a 17-year low. The Canadian and Australian dollars and the Norwegian krone increased after crude oil touched a record $115.07 a barrel.

April 7, 2008

Political progress in Iraq 'halting and superficial'

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States faces the risk of a costly, open-ended quagmire in Iraq because of a lack of political progress in the divided country, a report by US experts said.

"Political progress is so slow, halting and superficial, and social and political fragmentation so pronounced, that the US is no closer to being able to leave Iraq than it was a year ago," said the US Institute of Peace (USIP) study released Sunday.

Impeachable Offense
April 8, 2008

Chertoff Suspends More than 30 Laws

Securing the nation's borders is so important, Congress says, that Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, must have the power to ignore any laws that stand in the way of building a border fence. Any laws at all.

Last week, Mr. Chertoff issued waivers suspending more than 30 laws he said could interfere with "the expeditious construction of barriers" in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. The list included laws protecting the environment, endangered species, migratory birds, the bald eagle, antiquities, farms, deserts, forests, Native American graves and religious freedom.