Impeach Bush--Index 75
January 29, 2008

Home ownership in record plunge

NEW YORK ( -- The housing and mortgage meltdown caused the biggest one-year drop in the rate of homeownership on record, according to government figures released Tuesday.

The decline, while expected, is yet another indication of the housing market's sudden and dramatic turn.

The Census Bureau report showed that home owners accounted for 67.8% of occupied homes in the fourth quarter, down 1.1 points from a year earlier. It's the largest year-over-year drop recorded in the report.

January 29, 2008

Food stamps offer best stimulus

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As Congress and the White House consider a $150 billion stimulus package that includes tax rebates and tax incentives for business, a report released Tuesday suggests that other methods would do a better job of infusing money into the flagging economy and doing it fast.

The industry research firm Moody's tracked the potential impact of each stimulus dollar, looking at tax rebates, tax incentives for business, food stamps and expanding unemployment benefits.

January 24, 2008

Corporate Debt Suggests Defaults Are Likely

The volume of U.S. corporate debt issued by companies in severe financial distress rose in January to the highest level in more than four years, suggesting corporate defaults are likely to surge in coming months, Standard & Poor's said Thursday.

The credit-rating agency said the ratio of "distressed" corporate debt to all speculative-grade debt jumped to 11.1 percent in January from 6.1 percent in December. The percentage this month is the highest since September 2003.

January 18, 2008

Clear Majority Rejects Immunity for Phone Companies

reject_immunity_th (6K)Sixty-three percent (63%) of voters favor requiring the government to obtain a warrant from a court before wiretapping the conversations U.S. citizens have with people in other countries—a figure quite consistent with the 61% opposition we found in October. An outright majority of voters (55%) "strongly" supports requiring warrants. Only one-third (33%) support warrantless wiretaps of Americans' international conversations, with fewer than 1-in-4 (24%) strongly supporting warrantless wiretaps.

Fifty-seven percent (57%) of voters reject immunity for phone companies that may have violated the law by selling customers' private information to the government, preferring to let courts decide the outcome of any cases. Again intensity favors opponents of immunity, with 45% "strongly" opposed. Just one-third (33%) support immunity for the phone companies, with only about 1-in-5 (22%) strongly supporting immunity/

January 30, 2008

Iraq conflict has killed a million Iraqis

LONDON (Reuters) - More than one million Iraqis have died as a result of the conflict in their country since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, according to research conducted by one of Britain's leading polling groups.

The survey, conducted by Opinion Research Business (ORB) with 2,414 adults in face-to-face interviews, found that 20 percent of people had had at least one death in their household as a result of the conflict, rather than natural causes.

The last complete census in Iraq conducted in 1997 found 4.05 million households in the country, a figure ORB used to calculate that approximately 1.03 million people had died as a result of the war, the researchers found.

Impeachable Offense
January 30, 2008

Ex-9/11 Panel Chief Held Secret Meetings With White House

The charges are said to be contained in New York Times reporter Philip Shenon's unreleased book, "The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation," according to Max Holland, an author and blogger, and generally confirmed by the book's publisher. Although the book is not slated to hit stores until early next month, Holland says he bought a copy of the audio version at a bookstore. (Attempts to purchase the book, in any format, at the Barnes & Noble across the street from ABC News headquarters were unsuccessful.)

9/11 Commission co-chairs Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton hired former Condoleezza Rice aide Philip Zelikow to be executive director, Zelikow failed to tell them about his role helping Rice set up President George W. Bush's National Security Council in early 2001 – and that he was "instrumental" in demoting Richard Clarke, the onetime White House counterterrorism czar who was fixated on the threat from Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, according to Holland's version of Shenon's tome.

Impeachable Offense
January 29, 2008

Justice Dept. accused of blocking Gonzales probe

gonzales_lying (11K)WASHINGTON -- The government agency that enforces one of the principal laws aimed at keeping politics out of the civil service has accused the Justice Department of blocking its investigation into alleged politicizing of the department under former Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales.

Scott J. Bloch, head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, wrote Atty. Gen. Michael B. Mukasey last week that the department had repeatedly "impeded" his investigation by refusing to share documents and provide answers to written questions, according to a copy of Bloch's letter obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

January 31, 2008

Army Suicides Up As Much As 20 Percent

WASHINGTON - As many as 121 Army soldiers committed suicide in 2007, a jump of some 20 percent over the year before, officials said Thursday.

The rise comes despite numerous efforts to improve the mental health of a force stressed by a longer-than-expected war in Iraq and the most deadly year yet in the now six-year-old conflict in Afghanistan.

Internal briefing papers prepared by the Army's psychiatry consultant early this month show there were 89 confirmed suicides last year and 32 deaths that are suspected suicides and still under investigation.

Impeachable Offense
January 29, 2008

Mukasey Won't Comment on Waterboarding

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Tuesday he will refuse to publicly say whether the interrogation tactic known as waterboarding is illegal, digging in against critics who want the Bush administration to define it as torture.

In a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, Mukasey said he has finished a review of Justice Department memos about the CIA's current methods of interrogating terror suspects and finds them to be lawful. He said waterboarding currently is not used by the spy agency.

January 18, 2008

Tom Ridge: Waterboarding Is Torture

WASHINGTON (AP) — The first secretary of the Homeland Security Department says waterboarding is torture.

"There's just no doubt in my mind — under any set of rules — waterboarding is torture," Tom Ridge said Friday in an interview with the Associated Press. Ridge had offered the same opinion earlier in the day to members of the American Bar Association at a homeland security conference.

Impeachable Offense
January 28, 2008

John Negroponte: U.S. used waterboarding

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States used waterboarding in terrorism interrogations but no longer does, a former U.S. spy chief said in the Bush administration's clearest confirmation of the technique's use.

U.S. officials have been reluctant to acknowledge the CIA's use of the simulated drowning technique, which human rights groups call an illegal form of torture.

The remarks by former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte in an interview with National Journal magazine come as senators are expected on Wednesday to grill Attorney General Michael Mukasey on a promised review of the legality of interrogation methods.

January 13, 2008

Intelligence Chief: Waterboarding as Torture

The nation's intelligence chief says that waterboarding "would be torture" if used against him, or if someone under interrogation was taking water into his lungs.

But Mike McConnell declined for legal reasons to say whether the technique categorically should be considered torture.

"If I had water draining into my nose, oh God, I just can't imagine how painful! Whether it's torture by anybody else's definition, for me it would be torture," McConnell told the magazine.

January 29, 2008

Foreclosures up 75% in 2007

auction_default_th (2K)
[Enlarge Image]

NEW YORK ( -- The number of foreclosures soared in 2007, with 405,000 households losing their home, according to a report released Tuesday.

Total foreclosure filings soared 97% in December alone compared with December of 2006, according to RealtyTrac, an online seller of foreclosure properties. For the year, total filings - which include default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions - grew 75%.

January 29, 2008

Nevada had top foreclosure rate in 2007

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The number of U.S. homes that slipped into some stage of foreclosure in 2007 was 79 percent higher than in the previous year, a real estate tracking company said Tuesday. Many homeowners started to fall behind on mortgage payments in the last three months, setting the stage for more foreclosures this year.

About 1.3 million homes received foreclosure-related warnings last year, up from 717,522 in 2006, Irvine-based RealtyTrac Inc. said. Foreclosure filings rose 75 percent from the previous year to 2.2 million.

Impeachable Offense
January 26, 2008

FISA Law Undermines Democracy

The House has passed a reasonable new bill — fixing FISA without further endangering civil liberties. But Mr. Bush wants to weaken FISA as much as he can. And the Senate leadership has been only too happy to oblige.

With the help of Republican senators and the misguided chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller, the White House got a bill that, once again, reduces court supervision of wiretapping. It also adds immunity for telecommunications companies that cooperated with the illegal spying.

Mr. Bush says without amnesty, the government won't get cooperation in the future. We don't buy it. The real aim is to make sure the full story of the illegal wiretapping never comes out in court.

January 23, 2008

Housing prices to free fall in 2008

NEW YORK ( -- The worst housing financial crisis in decades is only going to get worse, a Merrill Lynch report said Wednesday.

The investment bank forecasted a 15 percent drop in housing prices in 2008 and a further 10 percent drop in 2009, with even more depreciation likely in 2010.

By contrast, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) expects housing prices to remain flat in 2008. NAR did cut its home price estimate for the current quarter, however, to a 5.3 percent year-over-year decline, which represents the steepest drop in that price measure on record. But NAR sees an uptick in home prices in the last two quarters of 2008.

Pay special attention to the out years if Bush's tax cuts are made permanent. CBO projects deficits of $500-$600 billion per year.

January 23, 2008

U.S. budget deficit likely to hit $250 billion

us_budget_deficits_th (12K)
[Enlarge Image]

WASHINGTON - The overall U.S. budget deficit could hit $350 billion this year, largely due to a weakening economy and the costs of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Congressional Budget Office and a top Senate official.

The non-partisan CBO says that once the cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is added to its "baseline" deficit estimate of $219 billion, the deficit would be about $250 billion.

January 29, 2008

Hurt GIs' medical status altered

COLORADO SPRINGS — Army Staff Sgt. Jack Auble was in the process of being medically discharged after serving nearly 20 years in the military when he was sent to Baghdad last year.

Auble, 43, suffers from severe osteoporosis of the spine, bulging discs and compression fractures.

Auble had a "permanent" profile, meaning his condition would not improve, and because of his limitations, he did not meet the Army's retention standards.

Nevertheless, Auble's medical paperwork was changed. He received a new, "temporary" status, used to indicate his condition would improve, and he was redeployed. He said he was not re-examined by a medical professional at Fort Drum, N.Y., before receiving a new profile.

January 23, 2008

Army recruits with diplomas hit 25-year low

WASHINGTON - The share of Army recruits with a high school diploma - which has shown to be a key indicator of future success in the military - dropped more than 12 percent between 2005 and 2007, reaching a 25-year low, according to an analysis of government data published yesterday.

The percentage of Army enlistees who joined the service with a high school diploma went from almost 84 percent in 2005 to less than 71 percent last year, according to the analysis by the nonprofit National Priorities Project.

The data also revealed a steep decline in what the Army considers "high-quality" recruits, an assessment based on a combination of their education levels and scores on the Armed Forces Qualification Test; in fiscal year 2005, for example, 56 percent of enlistees were designated by the Army as high quality, while last year 45 percent were, the analysis found.

January 24, 2008

The foolishness of economic 'stimulus'

Fairfax, Va. - A consensus is building that America's economy is sliding – perhaps plummeting – into recession. In December the unemployment rate jumped to 5.0 percent, up 3/10ths of 1 percent from its November level. And of course investors are now growlingly bearish.

To no one's surprise, politicians are rushing in with various plans for helping the economy. Most of these plans involve "stimulus." The calls are loud to put more money into the hands of ordinary Americans in hopes that they will spend – not save – it, thereby boosting the overall economy.

January 26, 2008

Army Effort to Retain Captains Falls Short of Goal

retain_young_officers_th (3K)
[Enlarge Image]

WASHINGTON -- An expensive Army effort to retain young officers with big cash bonuses has fallen short of its target, underscoring the military's continuing struggle to recruit and keep troops.

The program persuaded 11,933 captains to commit to additional Army service, short of the 14,184 goal. The military will pay out more than $349 million in bonuses to the officers who took the incentives.

All told, 67.6% of those eligible for the program -- which offered officers cash bonuses of as much as $35,000, the ability to choose their next assignment or military-funded graduate school -- agreed to serve an additional one to three years in the Army. The military had hoped that 80.5% of the eligible captains would extend their time in the Army.

January 25, 2008

Australian minister says country withdrawing Iraq troops

NEW YORK - Australia's new foreign minister said Friday that though the "very strong alliance" between his country and the United States transcends political changes his new government will proceed with plans to withdraw troops from Iraq this year.

"We want to do that in a way which sees minimal disruption, which causes the least inconvenience to our allies there, both the United States and the United Kingdom," Stephen Smith said Friday in New York.

January 26, 2008

Four decades of GOP deficits

Since Nixon-Ford, the big spenders haven't been Democrats

Fiscal conservatives are right when they say that a leaner government is good for the economy -- if by "lean" they mean a government that operates within its means: The more government borrows, the less money there is for the private sector to invest.

That's not to say that government borrowing is bad in and of itself. Sometimes deficit spending is necessary, even wise, if used to pull an economy out of recession or to power it forward. In that sense, deficit spending is like a business borrowing to expand, or an individual borrowing to earn a degree that'll bring its own rewards. The problem is when deficit spending becomes a deliberate substitute for wise economic policy -- when it's used to bankroll an ideology rather than improve the national economy.

January 2008

The Top 100 Private Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan

KBR, Inc., the global engineering and construction giant, won more than $16 billion in U.S. government contracts for work in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2004 to 2006—far more than any other company, according to a new analysis by the Center for Public Integrity. In fact, the total dollar value of contracts that went to KBR—which used to be known as Kellogg, Brown, and Root and until April 2007 was a subsidiary of Halliburton—was nearly nine times greater than those awarded to DynCorp International, a private security firm that is No. 2 on the Center's list of the top 100 recipients of Iraq and Afghanistan reconstruction funds.

January 2008

Key False Statements

war_lies_thumb (109K)On September 8, 2002, Bush administration officials hit the national airwaves to advance the argument that Iraq had acquired aluminum tubes designed to enrich uranium. In an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, for example, Vice President Dick Cheney flatly stated that Saddam Hussein "now is trying through his illicit procurement network to acquire the equipment he needs to be able to enrich uranium."

Condoleezza Rice, who was then Bush's national security adviser, followed Cheney that night on CNN's Late Edition. In answer to a question from Wolf Blitzer on how close Saddam Hussein's government was to developing a nuclear capability, Rice said: "We do know that he is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon. We do know there have been shipments going into . . . Iraq, for instance, of aluminum tubes that really are only suited to—high-quality aluminum tools that only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs."

January 23, 2008

U.S. war costs in Iraq rising

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Iraq war may not dominate U.S. news reports as the carnage drops, but a new report underscores the financial burden of persistent combat that is helping run up the government's credit card.

"Funding for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and other activities in the war on terrorism expanded significantly in 2007," the Congressional Budget Office said in a report released on Wednesday.

War funding, which averaged about $93 billion a year from 2003 through 2005, rose to $120 billion in 2006 and $171 billion in 2007 and President George W. Bush has asked for $193 billion in 2008, the nonpartisan office wrote.

Impeachable Offense
January 2008

False Pretenses

iraq (5K)Following 9/11, President Bush and seven top officials of his administration waged a carefully orchestrated campaign of misinformation about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

President George W. Bush and seven of his administration's top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.

January 22, 2008

In Private, Bernanke Says First Six Months Of This Year Will Be "Bad"

bernanke (7K)We're told by those who've heard him that he says the first six months of this year will be "bad," an adjective that some interpret this as signaling there is better than a 50-50 chance for a recession. Even worse, the former Princeton prof believes the ensuing recovery will be "weak" because of persistent problems in the housing market that will result in subdued consumer spending. We checked in with his office, which says it doesn't comment on what the boss says in private. But it's certainly not comforting news considering that his recent public testimony was a bummer, like when he told Congress last week, "Recently, incoming information has suggested that the baseline outlook for real activity in 2008 has worsened and that the downside risks to growth have become more pronounced ... in particular, a number of factors, including continuing increases in energy prices, lower equity prices, and softening home values, seem likely to weigh on consumer spending as we move into 2008."

January 22, 2008

If Everyone's Finger-Pointing, Who's to Blame?

A wave of lawsuits is beginning to wash over the troubled mortgage market and the rest of the financial world. Homeowners are suing mortgage lenders. Mortgage lenders are suing Wall Street banks. Wall Street banks are suing loan specialists. And investors are suing everyone.

Two questions lie at the heart of many of the cases. The first is whether lenders and investment banks alerted borrowers and investors to the risks posed by subprime loans or securities backed by them. The second is how much they were legally obliged to disclose. "Those are the two issues that are frequently raised," said Jayant W. Tambe, a partner at the law firm Jones Day.

As defaults and foreclosures rise, the various players in the housing market are all pointing fingers at each other. State prosecutors like Andrew M. Cuomo, the attorney general of New York, are investigating whether investment banks that packaged mortgages into securities disclosed the risks to investors and credit ratings agencies. Investment banks, in turn, are accusing lenders and mortgage brokers of shoddy business practices.

"What strikes me here is that this a tainted system from A to Z," said Tamar Frankel, a law professor at Boston University. "Everybody blames everybody else. If you look at what is being said, there isn't one who doesn't blame another and there is half-truth in everything."

Of course much of our recent growth is a mirage...created from money that was borrowed from the next generation in what the GOP fondly calls tax cuts. Under Clinton, the Dow rose from the mid three-thousand mark to well over 11,000 and even after the 2001 recession and 911, the market retained most of that gain. During the seven years of Bush the Dow barely moved. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that Bush, like Reagan before him, could only keep the illusion of growth going as long as he could borrow trillions of dollars. Once the borrowing slows or stops, the illusion falls apart.

January 23, 2008

Economic Good Times Were Mostly a Mirage

The great moderation now seems to have depended — in part — on a huge speculative bubble, first in stocks and then real estate, that hid the economy's rough edges. Everyone from first-time home buyers to Wall Street chief executives made bets they did not fully understand, and then spent money as if those bets couldn't go bad. For the past 16 years, American consumers have increased their overall spending every single quarter, which is almost twice as long as any previous streak.

Now, some worry, comes the payback. Martin Feldstein, the éminence grise of Republican economists, says he is concerned that the economy "could slip into a recession and that the recession could be a long, deep, severe one." In Monday's Democratic presidential debate, Barack Obama made the same argument: "We could be sliding into an extraordinary recession," he said.

January 20, 2008

US rejects Japan request over fuel use in 'war on terror'

TOKYO (AFP) - The United States has rejected a request by Japan that it verify Tokyo's contribution to the US-led "war on terror" in Afghanistan is not used for military operations in Iraq, a report said Sunday.

They also argued that it was impossible to strictly match the amount of fuel provided with the amount consumed for certain purposes as the vessels' fuel tanks were never empty, Kyodo reported.

The US even warned that it would have to consider not accepting the fuel if Japan did not give up on the provisions.

The naval mission was suspended in November after Japan's opposition won the upper house of parliament and vowed that the officially pacifist nation should not take part in "American wars".

January 22, 2008

CIA Official May Have Destroyed Tapes

cia_wh (6K)Jan. 16 (Bloomberg) -- A CIA official may have acted on his own in ordering the destruction of videotapes of harsh interrogations of two al-Qaeda operatives, contrary to directions that the tapes be preserved, a Republican lawmaker said.

The House Intelligence Committee has evidence that Jose Rodriguez, the former head of the CIA's clandestine service, didn't seek authority to order the tapes' destruction in 2005, Michigan Representative Pete Hoekstra, the panel's top Republican, told reporters today in Washington.

The GOP solution to every problem is "borrow more money from the next generation and give it away as a tax cut." Why isn't it working?

January 20, 2008

New Generation of Homeless Vets Emerges

But it is happening to a new generation. As the war in Afghanistan plods on in its seventh year, and the war in Iraq in its fifth, a new cadre of homeless veterans is taking shape.

The 1,500 are a small, young segment of an estimated 336,000 veterans in the United States who were homeless at some point in 2006, the most recent year for which statistics are available, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

Still, advocates for homeless veterans use words like "surge" and "onslaught" and even "tsunami" to describe what could happen in the coming years, as both wars continue and thousands of veterans struggle with post-traumatic stress.

Impeachable Offense
January 22, 2008

FBI Coverup: government officials stealing nuclear secrets

She says the FBI was investigating a Turkish and Israeli-run network that paid high-ranking American officials to steal nuclear weapons secrets. These were then sold on the international black market to countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

One of the documents relating to the case was marked 203A-WF-210023. Last week, however, the FBI responded to a freedom of information request for a file of exactly the same number by claiming that it did not exist. But The Sunday Times has obtained a document signed by an FBI official showing the existence of the file.

These guys make Nixon's 18 minutes look like armature hour.

Impeachable Offense
January 18, 2008

White House Study Found 473 Days of E-Mail Gone

wh_email (5K)The White House possesses no archived e-mail messages for many of its component offices, including the Executive Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President, for hundreds of days between 2003 and 2005, according to the summary of an internal White House study that was disclosed yesterday by a congressional Democrat.

The 2005 study -- whose credibility the White House attacked this week -- identified 473 separate days in which no electronic messages were stored for one or more White House offices, said House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.).

January 20, 2008

The United States is now on sale at discount prices

Last May, a Saudi Arabian conglomerate bought a Massachusetts plastics maker. In November, a French company established a new factory in Adrian, Mich., adding 189 automotive jobs to an area accustomed to layoffs. In December, a British company bought a New Jersey maker of cough syrup.

For much of the world, the United States is now on sale at discount prices. With credit tight, unemployment growing and worries mounting about a potential recession, American business and government leaders are courting foreign money to keep the economy growing. Foreign investors are buying aggressively, taking advantage of American duress and a weak dollar to snap up what many see as bargains, while making inroads to the world's largest market.

January 22, 2008

Bernanke presses the panic button

Given the clear connection between Tuesday's rate cut and global market turmoil, it is hard to avoid at least one conclusion. Bernanke has proven, once and for all, that juicing the stock market is now considered Job No. 1 for the Federal Reserve Bank. The material effects of rate cuts do not show up in economic growth statistics for months or even years after their enactment. By making an emergency "inter-meeting" cut a mere eight days before its regularly scheduled meeting, Bernanke is conducting economic policy in order to appease market psychology. The fragile psyches of Wall Street traders who played such a pivotal role in creating this mess by romping through the derivatives wonderland, are now in control of government strategy.

How bad can it get? Economist Nouriel Roubini, who has been preaching doom for years, declares that the oncoming "recession will be ugly, deep and severe, much more severe than the mild 8-month recessions in 1990-91 and 2001." Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, observes that the housing bust "is creating the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression and might well lead to the most serious recession since World War II."

Before the US invaded Afghanistan, opium had been eradicated by the Taliban. Now both Iraq and Iran are growing opium. If making more drugs available to the world and the US is what these invasions were about, it's a success.

Impeachable Offense
January 17, 2008

Opium fields spread across Iraq

The cultivation of opium poppies whose product is turned into heroin is spreading rapidly across Iraq as farmers find they can no longer make a living through growing traditional crops.

Afghan with experience in planting poppies have been helping farmers switch to producing opium in fertile parts of Diyala province, once famous for its oranges and pomegranates, north- east of Baghdad.

At a heavily guarded farm near the town of Buhriz, south of the provincial capital Baquba, poppies are grown between the orange trees in order to hide them, according to a local source.

January 16, 2008

GOP funk slows turnout, money

Republicans are facing a threat that spells serious trouble for GOP candidates from the top of the ticket down to the most obscure races. The problem is the funk of the foot soldiers.

So far, the story of the 2008 campaign on the Republican side is what's not happening.

Ambitious Republican politicians at the state and local levels are not deciding that this is the year to make a bid for higher office.

Republican contributors are not opening their wallets and writing campaign checks.

Most striking of all, Republican voters are not heading to the polls to vote in the GOP primaries in anything like participation rates of early years.

January 17, 2008

Army Chief May Shorten Tours In Iraq, Afghanistan by Summer

Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the Army's chief of staff, said yesterday he hopes to shorten the 15-month tours in Iraq and Afghanistan this summer. The move would end a policy, required by the buildup of nearly 30,000 U.S. troops in Iraq last year, that has placed significant stress on soldiers and their families.

Casey suggested that the withdrawal from Iraq of five U.S. Army combat brigades by July could allow soldiers once again to deploy for 12 months and then spend a year at home, although he cautioned that a decision will depend on conditions in Iraq.

January 18, 2008

Bush's Yearly Approval Average Fourth Worst Since 1945

bush_cheney_right (3K)PRINCETON,NJ -- For his seventh full year in office, beginning Jan. 20, 2007, and ending Jan. 19, 2008, George W. Bush averaged a 33.3% job approval rating. That is down from a 37.3% average for his sixth year in office, and is the lowest of his presidency. It is also one of the lowest for a president since Gallup regularly began tracking presidential job approval in 1945.

After receiving very strong approval ratings for his first two years in office, fueled by strong public support following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Bush's approval ratings have shown consistent decline. His yearly approval average has now fallen in each of the last five years of his presidency, and has dropped a total of 38 points from where it was during his second year in office.

January 14, 2008

GOP-Identification 2007 Lowest Last Two Decades

PRINCETON, NJ -- The percentage of Americans who identified as Republicans in 2007 is the lowest of any of the 20 calendar years since 1988 that Gallup has conducted its interviewing primarily by telephone. An average of 27.7% of Americans identified as Republicans, based on more than 26,000 Gallup interviews in 2007. The previous low in Republican identification was 28.1% in 1999.

Meanwhile, 32.5% of Americans identified as Democrats and 38.6% as political independents last year. The latter percentage is on the high end of what Gallup has measured in the last two decades, surpassed by only the 39.1% independent identification average from 1995. The high point for Democratic identification came in 1988, when 35.6% said they were Democrats.

When the military doesn't support the troops we know we're in trouble.

January 17, 2008

Ft. Carson sent ailing GIs to meet deployment goals

COLORADO SPRINGS — Fort Carson sent soldiers who were not medically fit to war zones last month to meet "deployable strength" goals, according to e-mails obtained by The Denver Post.

One e-mail, written Jan. 3 by the surgeon for Fort Carson's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, says: "We have been having issues reaching deployable strength, and thus have been taking along some borderline soldiers who we would otherwise have left behind for continued treatment."

The Bush debt now stands at $3.4 trillion, twice as much debt as Reagan, the previous record holder.

January 19, 2008

Bush Ignores Record Debt: Pushes $150 Billion Package

WASHINGTON - President Bush said Saturday "the kind of spending projects that would have little immediate impact on our economy" should not be part of any stimulus package, setting the stage for a possible clash with Democrats.

Bush and the Democratic-controlled Congress are emphasizing their desire to work together as they rush negotiations on a short-term measure to prevent the economy from falling into recession. But while there is broad agreement that one-time tax rebates for consumers will be part of the package, there are different priorities at work for the rest of the measure.

Gates and his predecessor spent hundreds of billions fighting in Iraq...a country with no army, no navy, no air force...and he thinks he knows what's he doing?

January 17, 2008

UK Army chiefs Slam Gates and US Military

British commanders were outraged after the US defence secretary criticised other Nato troops for their role in the bloody conflict in Afghanistan.

Robert Gates said the 30,000 US troops in Afghanistan were "doing a terrific job" in confronting the Taliban insurgency.

He added, however: "I think our allies over there, this is not something they have any experience with."

Mr Gates's comments caused an international outcry following months of simmering tensions between the U.S. and its allies over strategy in Afghanistan.

Senior British officers in Afghanistan said he should "wind his neck in".

January 12, 2008

US Court: Guantanamo detainees 'have no right to sue Pentagon

A US appeals court ruled that four former Guantanamo prisoners, all British citizens, had no right to sue top Pentagon officials for torture and violations of their religious rights.

The decision by a three-judge panel to dismiss the lawsuit was issued on the sixth anniversary of the arrival of the first detainees at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

January 16, 2008

Worldwide Protest to Close Guantanamo Prison Camp

Dressed like Guantanamo prisoners and covered with hoods, the demonstrators demanded that the prison camp, that was established six years ago and symbolizes the US use of torture, be closed once and for all, says a Granma report.

In Spain, protestors delivered a statement in which 170 parliament members urged the closing of the prison. In the United States, demonstrators from different cities converged on Washington to make themselves heard.

Impeachable Offense
January 16, 2008

WH Admits It Destroyed Email

Yesterday's midnight filing by the White House in CREW v. Executive Office of the President, a lawsuit challenging the failure of the White House to preserve and restore millions of missing emails, raises some very troubling questions that the White House clearly does not want to answer.

The White House has now admitted that it does not have an effective system for storing and preserving emails. This is no mere technicality; it is this failure that led to the likely destruction of over 10 million email. What the White House has not explained is why it abandoned the electronic record-keeping system used by the prior administration -- a system that properly preserved White House email -- but did not replace it with another effective and appropriate system.

Impeachable Offense
January 19, 2008

Canada Adds U.S. to List Of Nations That Torture

In Canada, the United States has joined a notorious group of countries -- Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Afghanistan and China, among others -- as a place where foreigners risk torture and abuse, according to a training manual for Canadian diplomats that was accidentally given this week to Amnesty International lawyers.

The manual is intended to create "greater awareness among consular officials to the possibility of Canadians detained abroad being tortured." Part of the workshop is devoted to teaching diplomats how to identify people who have been tortured. It features a section on "U.S. interrogation techniques," including forced nudity, hooding and isolation.

January 16, 2008

Gates: NATO not up to the job

WASHINGTON -- In an unusual public criticism, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said he believes NATO forces currently deployed in southern Afghanistan do not know how to combat a guerrilla insurgency, a deficiency that could be contributing to the rising violence in the fight against the Taliban.

"I'm worried we're deploying [military advisors] that are not properly trained and I'm worried we have some military forces that don't know how to do counterinsurgency operations," Gates said in an interview.

January 15, 2008

Iraq Defense Minister: Need for U.S. Help in Iraq Until 2018

FORT MONROE, Va. — The Iraqi defense minister said Monday that his nation would not be able to take full responsibility for its internal security until 2012, nor be able on its own to defend Iraq's borders from external threat until at least 2018.

Those comments from the minister, Abdul Qadir, were among the most specific public projections of a timeline for the American commitment in Iraq by officials in either Washington or Baghdad. And they suggested a longer commitment than either government had previously indicated.

January 15, 2008

Poll: economy tops war in election

Washington; and battle creek, mich. - Within the space of a few weeks, economic worries have displaced the Iraq war as the top political issue in the United States, upending the carefully laid plans of presidential candidates and causing Congress and the White House to consider emergency measures intended to prevent – or moderate – a looming recession.

In one sense the rise of pocketbook issues reflects a glimmer of good news. Reduced violence in Baghdad has made Iraq seem a less pressing concern to many US voters.

January 15, 2008

ER Wait Times Getting Longer

TUESDAY, Jan. 15 (HealthDay News) -- The last thing you want to hear in the emergency room when you've got crushing chest pain or can't breathe is that you have to wait before you can get treatment.

Unfortunately, in too many instances, that's exactly what's happening. In fact, new research found that waiting times in emergency rooms have increased by 36 percent for all patients, to an average of 30 minutes per patient. And the sickest sometimes have to wait the longest: As many as one-quarter of all heart attack patients had to wait 50 minutes or longer before seeing a doctor.

January 15, 2008

Wholesale inflation hike largest in 26 years

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wholesale inflation shot up in 2007 by the largest amount in 26 years even though falling gasoline costs allowed price pressures to moderate in December.

The Labor Department reported that wholesale inflation was up 6.3 percent for all of 2007, reflecting a huge increase for the year in various types of energy costs ranging from gasoline to home heating oil.

January 15, 2008

Greenspan sees US in or near recession

NEW YORK: The US economy is probably in a recession or about to slide into it, former US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

The odds are "not overwhelming but they are marginally in that direction" Greenspan was quoted as saying in the interview, published on Tuesday. "The symptoms are clearly there. Recessions don't happen smoothly.

January 14, 2008

Escalating Ice Loss Found in Antarctica

Climatic changes appear to be destabilizing vast ice sheets of western Antarctica that had previously seemed relatively protected from global warming, researchers reported yesterday, raising the prospect of faster sea-level rise than current estimates.

While the overall loss is a tiny fraction of the miles-deep ice that covers much of Antarctica, scientists said the new finding is important because the continent holds about 90 percent of Earth's ice, and until now, large-scale ice loss there had been limited to the peninsula that juts out toward the tip of South America. In addition, researchers found that the rate of ice loss in the affected areas has accelerated over the past 10 years -- as it has on most glaciers and ice sheets around the world.

January 13, 2008

Joint Chiefs chairman: Close Guantanamo

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - The chief of the U.S. military said Sunday he favors closing the prison here as soon as possible because he believes negative publicity worldwide about treatment of terrorist suspects has been "pretty damaging" to the image of the United States.

"I'd like to see it shut down," Adm. Mike Mullen said in an interview with three reporters who toured the detention center with him on his first visit since becoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff last October.

January 10, 2008

Veterans' groups win post-traumatic stress disorder ruling

A federal judge in San Francisco has cleared the way for a national class-action lawsuit challenging how Department of Veterans Affairs treats Iraq and Afghanistan war casualties with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The federal system for weighing individual veterans' claims "does not provide an adequate alternative remedy for Plaintiffs' claims for several reasons," U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti wrote in a 42-page order rejecting the government's motion to dismiss three of the lawsuit's four claims.

January 13, 2008

No Quick Fix to Downturn

As leaders in Washington turn their attention to efforts to avert a looming downturn, many economists suggest that it may already be too late to change the course of the economy over the first half of the year, if not longer.

With a wave of negative signs gathering force, economists, policy makers and investors are debating just how much the economy could be damaged in 2008. Huge and complex, the American economy has in recent years been aided by a global web of finance so elaborate that no one seems capable of fully comprehending it. That makes it all but impossible to predict how much the economy can be expected to fall before it stabilizes.

January 13, 2008

121 veterans linked to killings

NEW YORK - At least 121 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have committed a killing or been charged in one in the United States after returning from combat, The New York Times reported Sunday.

The newspaper said it also logged 349 homicides involving all active-duty military personnel and new veterans in the six years since military action began in Afghanistan, and later Iraq. That represents an 89-percent increase over the previous six-year period, the newspaper said.

January 11, 2008

Wiretaps Are Cut Over Unpaid Bills

Telecommunications companies have repeatedly cut off FBI access to wiretaps of alleged terrorists and criminal suspects because the bureau did not pay its phone bills, according to the results of an audit released yesterday.

The report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said that more than half of nearly 1,000 FBI telecommunications bills reviewed by investigators were not paid on time, including one invoice for $66,000 at an unidentified field office.

January 10, 2008

Iraqi civilian death toll more than 150,000

About 151,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in bomb attacks and other violence in Iraq in the first three years after the invasion, according to the most comprehensive study yet into the number of fatalities.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) based its estimate on a survey of nearly 10,000 households, conducted jointly with the Iraqi Government. It said that the actual figure of violent deaths between March 2003 and June 2006 could be as high as 223,000 or as low as 104,000.

Many more people have died over the past 18 months, leaving the overall civilian death toll of the war to date unknown.

January 10, 2008

Ashcroft Deal Brings Scrutiny in Justice Dept.

WASHINGTON — When the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey needed to find an outside lawyer to monitor a large corporation willing to settle criminal charges out of court last fall, he turned to former Attorney General John Ashcroft, his onetime boss. With no public notice and no bidding, the company awarded Mr. Ashcroft an 18-month contract worth $28 million to $52 million.

That contract, which Justice Department officials in Washington learned about only several weeks ago, has prompted an internal inquiry into the department's procedures for selecting outside monitors to police settlements with large companies.