Tue, 30 May 2006 15:42:45 +0000Giant U.S. Embassy project dismays Iraqis By Liz Sly Tribune foreign correspondent Published May 29, 2006 BAGHDAD -- On the western bank of the Tigris River, scenes of intense activity rarely witnessed in Iraq are unfolding behind the fortified perimeter of the closely guarded Green Zone. Trucks shuttle building materials to and fro. Cranes, at least a dozen of them, punch toward the sky. Concrete structures are beginning to take form. At a time when most Iraqis are enduring blackouts of up to 22 hours a day, the site is floodlighted by night so work can continue around the clock. This is to be the new U.S. Embassy in Iraq, and it will be the biggest embassy in the world. It also is the biggest construction project under way in battered Baghdad, where the only other cranes rising from the skyline belong to Saddam Hussein's abandoned project to build the world's biggest mosque. The irony is not lost on Mohammed Jasim, 48, a truck driver who was forced out of his home last month by sectarian violence and now is squatting in an abandoned building just across the river from the $592million embassy project. "They could build houses, or they could bring security to Baghdad," Jasim complained as he sat in the shade of a big tree on the riverbank. "But it's clear they only came here for their own benefit because you can see how much money they are spending across the river." Though the site is an open secret, U.S. Embassy officials, currently based in Hussein's former Republican Palace, are forbidden to discuss it. Senate report reviews project The few details available are contained in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee report. Scheduled for completion in June 2007, the 104-acre embassy compound, roughly the size of the Vatican, will resemble a mini-state, entirely independent from the outside world. It will generate its own power, pump its own sewage and draw its own water. Within the compound there will be six buildings containing 619 apartments for diplomats, a barrack for Marine guards, separate residences for the ambassador and his deputy, a gym, a swimming pool, a club, a food court, a beauty salon, a vehicle workshop and a warehouse. There is also, the report noted, an emergency exit. The Senate report marveled at the meticulous planning. "Most major construction projects undertaken in Iraq since 2003 have not met these standards," it said. "No large-scale U.S.-funded construction program in Iraq has yet met its schedule or budget," the report added, noting that this one is on schedule and within budget. Iraqis also are marveling at the scale of the project and the rapid rate at which it is starting to rise above the walls of the Green Zone, which is off-limits to most Iraqis. "Why are they only building this building?" asked Abdul Kareem al-Khiat, sales manager of the 14-story Babylon Hotel, whose riverside rooms have panoramic views of the construction site. "All the Iraqis are asking this question." A lack of security is the main answer. Violence has deterred all but the most meager reconstruction projects. The wreckage of the ministries and government buildings destroyed by American missiles in 2003 still litter Baghdad's landscape. The blackened shells of shops and mosques blown up since then by suicide bombers add to the air of decay hanging over the city. For security reasons, the new embassy is being built entirely by imported labor. The contractor, First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting Co., which was linked to human-trafficking allegations by a Chicago Tribune investigation last year, has hired a workforce of 900 mostly Asian workers who live on the site. Most American civilians working in Baghdad are forbidden from leaving the Green Zone because of the dangers that lie beyond. The Senate report questioned "the net worth of having an embassy when it is so isolated" and suggested that purchasing a video teleconferencing system would "improve interaction" with local Iraqis. Many Iraqi politicians also rarely leave the Green Zone. Government ministries are there, and politicians live there to avoid the[...]
Wed, 15 Mar 2006 15:24:54 +0000A Republican congressman speaks out and it is interesting. Texas congressman Ron Paul speaking in a 'special order' on the floor of congress warns the American people of the economic mess that we are in and the truth of how and why we got here. THE END OF DOLLAR HEGEMONY The agreement with OPEC in the 1970s to price oil in dollars has provided tremendous artificial strength to the dollar as the preeminent reserve currency. This has created a universal demand for the dollar and soaks up the huge number of new dollars generated each year. Last year alone, M3 increased by over $700 billion. The artificial demand for our dollar, along with our military might, places us in the unique position to rule the world without productive work or savings and without limits on consumer spending or deficits. The problem is it cannot last. Price inflation is raising its ugly head, and the NASDAQ bubble, generated by easy money, has burst. The housing bubble likewise created is deflating. Gold prices have doubled, and Federal spending is out of sight, with zero political will to rein it in. The trade deficit last year was over $728 billion. A $2 trillion war is raging, and plans are being laid to expand the war into Iran and possibly Syria. The only restraining force will be the world's rejection of the dollar. It is bound to come and create conditions worse than 1979-1980, which required 21 percent interest rates to correct. But everything possible will be done to protect the dollar in the meantime. We have a shared interest with those who hold our dollars to keep the whole charade going. Greenspan, in his first speech after leaving the Fed, said that gold prices were up because of concern about terrorism and not because of monetary concerns or because he created too many dollars during his tenure. Gold has to be discredited and the dollar propped up. Even when the dollar comes under serious attack by market forces, the central banks and the IMF will surely do everything conceivable to soak up the dollars in hope of restoring stability. Eventually, they will fail. Most importantly, the dollar/oil relationship has to be maintained to keep the dollar as the preeminent currency. Any attack on this relationship will be forcefully challenged, as it already has been. In November, 2000, Saddam Hussein demanded euros for his oil. His arrogance was a threat to the dollar; his lack of any military might was never a threat. At the first Cabinet meeting with the new administration in 2001, as reported by Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, the major topic was how we could get rid of Saddam Hussein though there was no evidence whatsoever he posed a threat to us. This deep concern for Saddam Hussein surprised and shocked O'Neill. It is now common knowledge that the immediate reaction of the administration after 9/11 revolved around how they could connect Saddam Hussein to the attacks to justify an invasion and overthrow of his government. Even with no evidence of any connection to 9/11 or evidence of weapons of mass destruction, public and congressional support was generated through distortions and flat-out misrepresentations of the facts to justify overthrowing Saddam Hussein. There was no public talk of removing Saddam Hussein because of his attack on the integrity of the dollar as a reserve currency by selling his oil in euros, yet many believe this was the reason for our obsession with Iraq. I doubt it was the only reason, but it may well have played a significant role in our motivation to wage war. Within a very short period after the military victory in Iraq, all Iraqi oil sales were carried out in dollars. The euro was immediately abandoned. In 2001, Venezuela's ambassador to Russia spoke of Venezuela's switching to the euro for all their oil sales. Within a year, there was a coup attempt against Chavez, reportedly with assistance from our CIA. After these attempts to nudge the euro toward replacing the dollar as the world's reserve currency were met with resistance, the sharp fall of t[...]
Fri, 16 Sep 2005 21:17:05 +0000Sausage - Looted Or Not - Puts Elderly Church Leader In Prison By Kevin McGill and John Solomon 9-16-5 KENNER, Louisiana (AP) -- A 73-year-old diabetic grandmother and church elder who fled Katrina's floodwaters for the safety of a hotel ended up in prison instead for more than two weeks -- all over a bite of food. Police in this New Orleans suburb arrested Merlene Maten the day after the hurricane on charges she took $63.50 in goods from a looted deli. Though never before in trouble with the law, her bail was set at a stiff $50,000 and she was shipped away to a state penitentiary. Family and eyewitnesses insist Maten's prison odyssey was unwarranted, claiming she only had gone to her car to get some sausage to eat when officers cuffed her in frustration, unable to catch younger looters at a nearby store. Despite intervention from the nation's largest senior lobby, volunteer lawyers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and even a private attorney, the family fought a futile battle for 16 days to get her freed. Then, hours after her plight was featured in an Associated Press story, a local judge on Thursday ordered Maten freed on her own recognizance, setting up a sweet reunion with her daughter, grandchildren and 80-year-old husband. "I'm just gonna hug her and say 'Mom, I'm so sorry this had to happen,"' Maten's tearful daughter, Elois Short, told AP shortly after getting the news. Prison officials planned to release Maten by this weekend. She must still face the looting charge at a court hearing in October. But the family, armed with several witnesses, intends to prove she was wrongly arrested outside the hotel. "There were people looting, but she wasn't one of them. Instead of chasing after people who were running, they (police) grabbed the old lady who was walking," said Short, who works in traffic enforcement for neighboring New Orleans police. Defense attorney Daniel Becnel, family members and witnesses said police snared Maten in the parking lot of a hotel after floodwaters swamped her New Orleans home. She had paid for her room with a credit card and followed authorities' instructions to pack extra food, they said. She was retrieving a piece of sausage from the cooler in her car and planned to grill it so she and her husband, Alfred, could eat, according to her defenders. The parking lot was almost a block from the looted store, they said. "That woman was never, never in that store," said Naisha Williams, 23, a New Orleans bank security guard who said she witnessed the episode and is distantly related to Maten. "If they want to take it to court, I'm willing to get on the stand and tell them the police is wrong. She is totally innocent." Police Capt. Steve Carraway said Wednesday that Maten was arrested in the checkout area of a small store next to police headquarters. The arrest report is short and assigns the value of goods Maten is alleged to have taken at $63.50. The items are not identified. "When officers arrived, the arrestee was observed leaving the scene with items from the store. The store window doors were observed smashed out, where entry to the store was made," police reported. Maten's husband was left at the hotel, until family members picked him up. He is too upset to be interviewed, the family said. Christine Bishop, the owner of the Check In Check Out deli, said that she was angry that looters had damaged her store, but that she would not want anyone charged with a crime if the person had simply tried to get food to survive. "Especially not a 70-year-old woman," Bishop said. Short, Maten's daughter, did not witness the incident. She said her mother has led a law-abiding life. She is a deaconess at the Resurrection Mission Baptist Church and won an award for her decades of service at a hospital, Short said. "Why would someone loot when they had a car with a refrigerator and had paid with a credit card at the hotel?" asked Becnel, Maten's lawyer. "The circumstances defy the theory of looting." Ok when is taking food (that will spoil i[...]
Sun, 19 Jun 2005 22:34:54 +0000
Florida Investigator Who Got Too Close to Florida "Coin Gate" Silenced by Jeb Bush's Gangsters
By Wayne Madsen
FLORIDA PANHANDLE, June 10, 2005 -- Experienced federal investigators, acting independently, have discovered a covert funding channel used by the 2000 and 2004 Bush-Cheney campaigns and the administrations of Jeb Bush in Florida and Bob Taft in Ohio to illegally funnel foreign and other questionable money into Republican coffers.
Ever since the brutal death of Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) investigator Ray Lemme in July 2003, the focus of investigators in Florida and Georgia has been on the political scandal Lemme was uncovering. After his official investigation of contract fraud, money laundering, illegal immigration, and election fraud was shut down on orders of Jeb Bush, Lemme continued to investigate the use of FDOT to launder cash for the Bush Brothers and their allies. Lemme's focus was on the use of the Florida turnpike system to launder cash for the Jeb and George W. Bush campaigns. It was an investigation that would ultimately lead to Lemme's body being discovered in a motel room bath tub in Valdosta, Georgia. A two-state police cover up of Lemme's death, threats directed at Florida and Georgia investigators, and a virtual media blackout indicates that the GOP administrations of Jeb Bush and Georgia's Sonny Perdue wanted the Lemme story to go away -- and fast.
The reason for the cover-up of Lemme's reported "suicide" is simple. Investigators have now discovered that foreign cash, including Chinese, Saudi, and Nigerian money, was laundered via the biggest state-run cash cow in Florida -- the Florida Turnpike system. Because most of the transactions involving Florida's toll roads involve cash and huge amounts of it, it was easy for foreign and other questionable money to be laundered via FDOT.
Lemme had reportedly become aware of the use of FDOT to commit criminal acts. Valdosta, where Lemme went to meet a still unknown source, is a key center for international organized criminal activity, including illegal foreign worker smuggling, involving close political allies of George W. and Jeb Bush.
From Dec. 6. 2004 article "Texas to Florida: White House-linked clandestine operation paid for 'vote switching' software," Wayne Madsen, http://www.Onlinejournal.com
There is a lot more on background here: http://www.waynemadsenreport.com/scoops/Lemme.htm
Mon, 28 Feb 2005 17:07:00 +0000
A new twist on collateral damage or sorry if you got victimized.
ChoicePoint made the news again recently when it was belatedly revealed that it had provided confidential personal information on 145,000 U.S. residents to identity thieves posing as legitimate business people. So far, according to an NPR report last week, 750 of those people have been victimized by the thieves.
How did ChoicePoint react to their damaging mistake? Well, at first it did nothing, claiming later that it did not want to interfere with a criminal investigation. The, when pushed, it sent out letters to the 145,000 victims, telling them they were at risk.
That's it. Letters. Just letters telling the victims that they'd been had and they'd better do something to protect themselves.
Here's the part that gets me. ChoicePoint is supposed to be the nation's top expert on personal information, so how is it that it cheerfully provides such information to a bogus company? Isn't the whole point of a company like ChoicePoint to protect others from being cheated by cheats? If it can't protect itself, why should others expect it to protect them?
The latest ChoicePoint fiasco cries out for investigation. Are there only 145,000 victims, or are there many more? Do all the victims belong to the same political party by any chance? What price will ChoicePoint be asked to pay for the massive damage its apparent negligence has caused?