Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Bush links terror war to independence war


MOUNT VERNON, Virginia (Reuters) - President George W. Bush linked the U.S.-led war on terrorism on Monday to the country's struggle for independence led by George Washington more than 200 hundred years ago.

Bush visited the snow-covered grounds where Washington lived and died and which today is a popular tourist attraction.

Joined by his wife Laura, with a military honor guard wearing Revolutionary War uniforms standing at attention, Bush laid a wreath at the tomb of the first American president on the Presidents Day holiday to mark Washington's birth 275 years ago.


Standing before the Mount Vernon mansion and sharing the stage with an actor dressed as Gen. George Washington, Bush said Washington's Revolutionary War leadership inspired generations of Americans "to stand for freedom in their own time."

"Today, we're fighting a new war to defend our liberty and our people and our way of life. And as we work to advance the cause of freedom around the world, we remember that the father of our country believed that the freedoms we secured in our revolution were not meant for Americans alone," Bush said.

"He once wrote, 'My best wishes are irresistibly excited whensoever in any country I see an oppressed nation unfurl the banners of freedom,'" Bush said.

Bush is locked in a dispute with the Democratic leaders of the U.S. Congress over his deployment of 21,500 more U.S. troops to Iraq, which Bush considers a central front in the war on terrorism.


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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Derren Brown;The Heist, Includes a Reenactment of the Milgram Shock Experiment


Can he get them to rob a bank?

Click here for the full episode of Derren Brown's The Heist

From Wikipedia;
The Heist ; In the show, Derren Brown used his skills on selected participants who answered an ad. "Under the guise of a motivational seminar" (where they would allegedly learn Derren Brown's skills) . . . The idea was that after the conditioning they received, they would voluntarily rob the van of their own accord . . .There was no mention of the 'crime' to the participants, and they were not (directly) instructed to do it.

This programme also contained a reenactment of the Milgram experiment carried out by Stanley Milgram in the 1960s in the aim of selecting four of the most motivated of the group.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Ahmadinejad: US claims over Iran are part of its 'failures in Iraq'

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, left, shakes hands with Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov

Iranian leader gives rare interview to American television, but sidesteps explicit denial of US claims;

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has accused the US of seeking to seeking to hide its failures in Iraq, saying that claims that Iran is arming Iraqi insurgents to target US forces are an attempt by Washington to cover its own mistakes.

In a rare interview with the US programme ABC News, the Iranian President sidestepped accusations that his Government was supplying arms to insurgents in Iraq, insisting instead that his country was against conflict of any sort and calling for the withdrawal of US and other foreign forces from Iraq as the only way to ensure peace.

Asked if Iran was sending weapons into Iraq to kill Americans, Mr Ahmadinejad replied: “We shy away from any kind of conflict and any kind of bloodshed.

“I think that Americans have made a mistake in Iraq and unfortunately are losing, and this is a shame for Americans of course and that's why they are trying to point their fingers to other people.

“We do not want the presence of armed forces in Iraq, foreign armed forces in Iraq. We would like to have the strengthening of Iraq and the stability of the Iraq government? But we think that the US is following another policy trying to hide its defeats and failures and that's why is pointing its fingers to others. This is not a solution to the problem.”

The comments came after the US military claimed that 170 soldiers had been killed in Iraq by sophisticated armour-piercing weapons supplied by Iranian agents acting on behalf of the highest levels of the Tehran government.


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Thursday, February 08, 2007

U.S. sends $4 billion cash on pallets to Baghdad-no receipts



The U.S. Federal Reserve sent record payouts of more than $4 billion in cash to Baghdad on giant pallets aboard military planes shortly before the United States gave control back to Iraqis, lawmakers said on Tuesday.

The money, which had been held by the United States, came from Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the U.N.-run oil-for-food program and frozen assets belonging to the ousted Saddam Hussein regime.

Bills weighing a total of 363 tons were loaded onto military aircraft in the largest cash shipments ever made by the Federal Reserve, said Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

"Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone? But that's exactly what our government did," the California Democrat said during a hearing reviewing possible waste, fraud and abuse of funds in Iraq.

On December 12, 2003, $1.5 billion was shipped to Iraq, initially "the largest pay out of U.S. currency in Fed history," according to an e-mail cited by committee members.

It was followed by more than $2.4 billion on June 22, 2004, and $1.6 billion three days later. The CPA turned over sovereignty on June 28.

Paul Bremer, who as the administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority ran Iraq after initial combat operations ended, said the enormous shipments were done at the request of the Iraqi minister of finance.

"He said, 'I am concerned that I will not have the money to support the Iraqi government expenses for the first couple of months after we are sovereign. We won't have the mechanisms in place, I won't know how to get the money here,"' Bremer said.

"So these shipments were made at the explicit request of the Iraqi minister of finance to forward fund government expenses, a perfectly, seems to me, legitimate use of his money," Bremer told lawmakers.

WHERE'S THE MONEY?


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Norquist:; Bush’s Advisers Telling Him ‘Invade Iran. Then Everyone Will See How Smart We Are’


In this month’s issue of Vanity Fair, Craig Unger writes that the same neoconservative advisers who advocated for the Iraq war are now recycling the same tactics to push for the bombing of Iran. Unger reports that not all of Bush’s key conservative allies are pleased with the administration’s course on Iran:

“Everything the advocates of war said would happen hasn’t happened,” says the president of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist, an influential conservative who backed the Iraq invasion. “And all the things the critics said would happen have happened. [The president’s neoconservative advisers] are effectively saying, ‘Invade Iran. Then everyone will see how smart we are.’ But after you’ve lost x number of times at the roulette wheel, do you double-down?”


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Monday, February 05, 2007

U.S. Set to Begin a Vast Expansion of DNA Sampling


The Justice Department is completing rules to allow the collection of DNA from most people arrested or detained by federal authorities, a vast expansion of DNA gathering that will include hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, by far the largest group affected.

The new forensic DNA sampling was authorized by Congress in a little-noticed amendment to a January 2006 renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, which provides protections and assistance for victims of sexual crimes. The amendment permits DNA collecting from anyone under criminal arrest by federal authorities, and also from illegal immigrants detained by federal agents.

Over the last year, the Justice Department has been conducting an internal review and consulting with other agencies to prepare regulations to carry out the law.

The goal, justice officials said, is to make the practice of DNA sampling as routine as fingerprinting for anyone detained by federal agents, including illegal immigrants. Until now, federal authorities have taken DNA samples only from convicted felons.

The law has strong support from crime victims’ organizations and some women’s groups, who say it will help law enforcement identify sexual predators and also detect dangerous criminals among illegal immigrants.

“Obviously, the bigger the DNA database, the better,” said Lynn Parrish, the spokeswoman for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, based in Washington. “If this had been implemented years ago, it could have prevented many crimes. Rapists are generalists. They don’t just rape, they also murder.”

Peter Neufeld, a lawyer who is a co-director of the Innocence Project, which has exonerated dozens of prison inmates using DNA evidence, said the government was overreaching by seeking to apply DNA sampling as universally as fingerprinting.

“Whereas fingerprints merely identify the person who left them,” Mr. Neufeld said, “DNA profiles have the potential to reveal our physical diseases and mental disorders. It becomes intrusive when the government begins to mine our most intimate matters.”

Immigration lawyers said they did not learn of the measure when it passed last year and were dismayed by its sweeping scope.

“This has taken us by storm,” said Deborah Notkin, a lawyer who was president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association last year. “It’s so broad, it’s scary. It is a terrible thing to do because people are sometimes detained erroneously in the immigration system.”


More here

U.S. contractors becoming a fourth branch of government


WASHINGTON: In June, short of people to process cases of incompetence and fraud by federal contractors, officials at the General Services Administration responded with what has become the government's reflexive answer to almost every problem.

They hired another contractor.

It did not matter that the company they chose, CACI International, had itself recently avoided a suspension from federal contracting; or that the work, delving into investigative files on other contractors, appeared to pose a conflict of interest; or that each person supplied by the company would cost taxpayers $104 an hour. Six CACI workers soon joined hundreds of other private-sector workers at the G.S.A., the government's management agency.

Without a public debate or formal policy decision, contractors have become a virtual fourth branch of government. On the rise for decades, spending on federal contracts has soared during the Bush administration, to about $400 billion last year from $207 billion in 2000, fueled by the war in Iraq, domestic security and Hurricane Katrina, but also by a philosophy that encourages outsourcing almost everything government does.

Contractors still build ships and satellites, but they also collect income taxes and work up agency budgets, fly pilotless spy aircraft and take the minutes at policy meetings on the war. They sit next to federal employees at nearly every agency; far more people work under contracts than are directly employed by the government. Even the government's online database for tracking contracts, the Federal Procurement Data System, has been outsourced (and is famously difficult to use).


The contracting explosion raises questions about propriety, cost and accountability that have long troubled watchdog groups and are coming under scrutiny from the Democratic majority in Congress. While flagrant cases of fraud and waste make headlines, concerns go beyond outright wrongdoing. Among them:

Competition, intended to produce savings, appears to have sharply eroded. An analysis by The New York Times shows that fewer than half of all "contract actions" — new contracts and payments against existing contracts — are now subject to full and open competition. Just 48 percent were competitive in 2005, down from 79 percent in 2001.

The most secret and politically delicate government jobs, like intelligence collection and budget preparation, are increasingly contracted out, despite regulations forbidding the outsourcing of "inherently governmental" work. Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group, said allowing CACI workers to review other contractors captured in microcosm "a government that's run by corporations."

Agencies are crippled in their ability to seek low prices, supervise contractors and intervene when work goes off course because the number of government workers overseeing contracts has remained level as spending has shot up. One federal contractor explained candidly in a conference call with industry analysts last May that "one of the side benefits of the contracting officers being so overwhelmed" was that existing contracts were extended rather than put up for new competitive bidding.

The most successful contractors are not necessarily those doing the best work, but those who have mastered the special skill of selling to Uncle Sam. The top 20 service contractors have spent nearly $300 million since 2000 on lobbying and have donated $23 million to political campaigns. "We've created huge behemoths that are doing 90 or 95 percent of their business with the government," said Peter W. Singer, who wrote a book on military outsourcing. "They're not really companies, they're quasi agencies." Indeed, the biggest federal contractor, Lockheed Martin, which has spent $53 million on lobbying and $6 million on donations since 2000, gets more federal money each year than the Departments of Justice or Energy.

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Mercenaries are second largest force in Iraq: UN official


LIMA (AFP) - Between 30,000 and 50,000 mercenaries are working in Iraq, making them the second largest military force there after the occupying United States.

The case of Iraq "is a new manifestation of the use of mercenaries that has caughts the US by surprise", Spain's Jose Luis Gomez del Prado -- a member of the UN working group on mercenaries -- said Fridayduring a visit to Peru.

The United States has 130,000 soldiers in Iraq, he noted. Britain has 10,000 troops.

Gomez del Prado told a news conference thousands of Peruvians, Chileans, Colombians, Hondurans and Ecuadorans had been contracted to work as mercenaries in Iraq, thanks to an array of legal loopholes.


Read the rest here.