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Federal authorities examining the early, chaotic days of the $125 billion American-led effort to rebuild Iraq have significantly broadened their inquiry to include senior American military officers who oversaw the program, according to interviews with senior government officials and court documents.

Court records show that last month investigators subpoenaed the personal bank records of Col. Anthony B. Bell, who is now retired from the Army but who was in charge of reconstruction contracting in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 when the small operation grew into a frenzied attempt to remake the country’s broken infrastructure. In addition, investigators are examining the activities of Lt. Col. Ronald W. Hirtle of the Air Force, who was a senior contracting officer in Baghdad in 2004, according to two federal officials involved in the inquiry.

It is not clear what specific evidence exists against the two men, and both said they had nothing to hide from investigators. Yet officials say that several criminal cases over the past few years point to widespread corruption in the operation the men helped to run. As part of the inquiry, the authorities are taking a fresh look at information given to them by Dale C. Stoffel, an American arms dealer and contractor who was killed in Iraq in late 2004.

Typical republican greed, Cheney must be envious

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William Greider

The look and tone of the Treasury Secretary reminds me of the third grade. The smartest kid in the class, the one teachers loved, was the boy who always raised his hand and waved it impatiently while some other student fumbled for an answer. If the teacher stepped out of the room for a moment, bedlam usually followed and this kid would try to restore order. “Be quiet or I will tell.” Kids threw things and tormented him until the teacher returned.

Timothy Geithner reminded me of that type as he lectured the country on how the Obama administration intends to save the financial system. The country is apparently responding in kind — hurling blistering comments at him and the “best and brightest” who are now in high office. How could these smart people be so dumb about things everyone else already understands? Americans do not need to be told, as Geithner did, that they have “lost faith.” The remark is condescending and infuriates further.

What people wanted to hear, in plain English, were hard answers and an honest acknowledgment of the extreme irregularity of events — government is rushing to rescue the very private interests that led us to sorrow. Instead, Geithner told us he has a “plan.” He will share the details at some later date. Be calm. Stay tuned.

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Michael Moore is about to uncover “the biggest swindle in American history,” and he needs your help.  In an e-mail yesterday, Moore asked for anyone connected to Wall Street or the financial industry to contact him at bailout@michaelmoore.com with information about the economic meltdown.  All correspondence with him will be kept confidential.

The activist filmmaker’s previous documentaries like SiCKO, Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11, Roger & Me, and last year’s free release of Slacker Uprising revealed, ripped, and ridiculed gross injustices in the health-care industry, gun violence, the 9/11 attacks and aftermath, General Motors, and youth voter turnout, respectively.  You can only imagine what he’ll do to the bailed out bank CEOs whose excessive greed and impropriety resulted in millions of Americans facing foreclosure, soaring unemployment, and $1.1 trillion in economic loss.

As Howard Rubenstein, president of a New York-based public-relations firms that advises hedge funds, private-equity firms and banks, told Bloomberg, “Moore’s reputation is locked in. Whatever he touches gets gored.”  But this time around, Moore needs your help to tell “the greatest crime story ever told.”

Funny how so few of them are Democrats……….

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CNN) — Luis Caplan served the poor of the South Bronx for decades out of a small medical office. His leg was amputated after a bout with cancer in 1990, yet he continued to work for another five years.

Now, his savings has nearly been wiped out because of the economic crisis. At the age of 71, he faces losing his apartment if things don’t change soon. The government bailed out the big institutions, but “what happens to the little people,” he asks.

“What happens to the real middle class? What happens to me?” he says, choking back tears. “It’s awful. It’s really awful.”

With Congress working to pass the $800 billion stimulus bill, millions of Americans — especially those with homes they’re trying to sell or about to be foreclosed on — are asking the same thing: What’s in it for me?

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Typical GOP disregard for for the rest of us…..

Wall Street bankers, with their $18 billion in bonuses, private jets and gaudy conferences, are causing headaches for the GOP.

President Obama has proposed capping compensation for executives at banks that take taxpayer bailout money at $500,000. Republicans hate the idea — a position puts them uncomfortably on the side of people currently about as popular as child-porn producers and subprime mortgage brokers.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) blamed the “tone deaf” bankers for creating the political environment that allows Obama…

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Explosive anger is spilling out onto the streets of Europe. The meltdown of the global economy is igniting massive social unrest in a region that has long been a symbol of political stability and social cohesion. 

It’s not a new trend: A wave of upheaval is spreading from the poorer countries on the periphery of the global economy to the prosperous core.

Over the past few years, a series of riots spread across what is patronizingly known as the Third World. Furious mobs have raged against skyrocketing food and energy prices, stagnating wages and unemployment in India, Senegal, Yemen, Indonesia, Morocco, Cameroon, Brazil, Panama, the Philippines, Egypt, Mexico and elsewhere.  

For the most part, those living in wealthier countries took little notice. But now, with the global economy crashing down around us, people in even the wealthiest nations are mad as hell and reacting violently to what they view as an inadequate response to their tumbling economies.

The Telegraph (UK) warned last month that protests over governments’ handling of the crisis “are widespread and gathering pace,” and “may spark a new revolution”: 

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Ronald Reagan’s 98th birthday is being celebrated today at a time that should be a cause for soul searching among his admirers. The conservative revolution that Reagan unleashed upon the nation and much of the world lay in ashes, and Washington is embarking on a new epoch of government intervention to eradicate the excesses of free-market purism. One would expect liberals to be out in the streets looking for statues of the Gipper to topple from their pedestals.

But nothing of the kind is happening. While George W. Bush is now the bane even of many conservatives, a Marine Corps contingent will lay a wreath at Reagan’s gravesite safe in the knowledge that much of the nation holds his memory in a warm embrace.

Historians may one day view this as an odd historical conundrum, since Reagan’s legacy is so clearly imprinted on the myriad of forces that have vitiated the American dream for millions of working people and brought wreckage to the world economy.

The continuing fallout from Reagan’s policies – the meltdown of the financial sector, widening income inequality, the emergence of lockdown America, the obscene inflation of CEO compensation, the end of locally owned media, market crashes, blackouts, drug-company scandals, rampant greed and materialism — is all around us. As D.H. Lawrence once wrote in another context, “The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins.”

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James Ridgeway of Mother Jones-A test case for the new government will be how it deals with the pharmaceutical industry, which rivals the gun manufacturers and tobacco companies for the position of most amoral industry in America.

Democrats have long been promising to stand up to Big Pharma on issues like Medicare drug pricing and importing drugs from Canada, but they’ve accomplished little since they won Congressional majorities in 2006. If they truly want to reign in the drugmakers now that they have the clout, they’ll need to not only move forward on these hot-button issues, but also completely overhaul the Food and Drug Administration, which stands as one of the most corrupt and compromised bodies in the federal government today.

Last week offered a glimmer of hope, with a bipartisan bill aimed at one of the many scurrilous practices employed by drug companies to win swift approval for their products and push them on the public. Called the Physician Payments Sunshine Act of 2009, the legislation was introduced last Thursday by Senators Herb Kohl (D-WI), Chair of the Senate Special Committee on the Aging, and Charles Grassley (R-IA), in the past a rare Republican voice opposing some of Big Pharma’s outrages. They are calling for establishment of ”a nationwide standard requiring drug, device and biologic makers to report payments to doctors to the Department of Health and Human Services and for those payments to be posted online in a user friendly way for public consumption.”

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Sen. Claire McCaskill has delivered a sharp threat to the wallets of corporate executives who took large compensation packages even as their companies accepted government bailout funds. Things, she warned, are going to change.

“I’ve been mad for a while,” said the Missouri Democrat. “When we passed the initial half of the TARP money, [there were] rumors about bonuses, the fact that too many of these guys were holding onto the jobs even though they were running these companies into the ground. Reality didn’t seem to be the order of the day.”

So McCaskill took to the Senate floor on Friday to put an end to the surrealism. In a bill that came to the surprise of reporters, her colleagues, and the White House alike — there was no coordination with the Obama administration, she said — the Missouri Democrat called for compensation for employees of bailout recipients to be capped at $400,000 a year.

“They don’t get it,” McCaskill said on the floor. “These people are idiots. You can’t use taxpayer money to pay out $18-billion in bonuses… What planet are these people on?”

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REPORT: GOP Lawmakers Outnumber Democratic Lawmakers 2 To 1 In Stimulus Debate On Cable News»

graph_correctedAs Media Matters has documented, during the Bush administration, the media consistently allowed conservatives to dominate their shows, booking them as guests far more often than progressives. The rationale was that Republicans were “in power.”

It appears that old habits die hard. Even though President Obama and his team are in control of the executive branch and Democrats are in the majority in Congress, the cable networks are still turning more often to Republicans and allowing them to set the agenda on major issues, most recently on the debate over the economic recovery package.

On Sunday, conservatives began an all-out assault on President Obama’s economic recovery plan, with House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) both announcing that they would vote against the plan as it stood. Despite Obama’s efforts at good faith outreach, congressional conservatives have continued to attack the stimulus plan with a series of false and disingenuous arguments.

The media have been aiding their efforts. In a new analysis, ThinkProgress has found that the five cable news networks — CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Business and CNBC — have hosted more Republican lawmakers to discuss the plan than Democrats by a 2 to 1 ratio this week:

Pushed past their breaking points, people are robbing banks to pay the rent, setting homes on fire — even taking their own lives.
The body count is still rising. For months on end, marked by bankruptcies, foreclosures, evictions, and layoffs, the economic meltdown has taken a heavy toll on Americans. In response, a range of extreme acts including suicide, self-inflicted injury, murder, and arson have hit the local news. By October 2008, an analysis of press reports nationwide indicated that an epidemic of tragedies spurred by the financial crisis had already spread from Pasadena, California, to Taunton, Massachusetts, from Roseville, Minnesota, to Ocala, Florida.

In the three months since, the pain has been migrating upwards. A growing number of the world’s rich have garnered headlines for high profile, financially-motivated suicides. Take the New Zealand-born “millionaire financier” who leapt in front of an express train in Great Britain or the “German tycoon” who did much the same in his homeland. These have, with increasing regularity, hit front pages around the world. An example would be New York-based money manager René-Thierry Magnon de la Villehuchet, who slashed his wrists after he “lost more than $1 billion of client money, including much, if not all, of his own family’s fortune.” In the end, he was yet another victim of financial swindler Bernard Madoff’s $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) — A man apparently despondent about losing his job killed his wife and five children before turning the gun on himself, officials said Tuesday.he bodies of five children and two adults — the children’s mother and father — were found Tuesday in a home in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Wilmington. Among the dead, authorities said, were an 8-year-old girl and two sets of twins — 5-year-old girls and 2-year-old boys.

Ervin Lupoe apparently called 911 and contacted a television station by fax before committing suicide, authorities said.

A suicide note found at the scene “indicated a business dispute” between Lupoe and Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center, Lupoe’s former employer, Hayes said. In the faxed note to KABC, the man said he was despondent over an employment situation, police said.

Kaiser Permanente said Lupoe and his wife, Ana, were both former employees of the medical center. Both had been terminated, Hayes said, with Lupoe’s termination coming last week

“No words can describe this tragedy,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “There’s no way to comprehend this unspeakable act.”

Sadly, its too bad that Lupoe didn’t work for Haliburton or Blackwater, instead of a health care enterprise. Then he’d be set for life.

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What a difference a meltdown makes.

Just months ago, John Thain was CEO of Merrill Lynch, a top backer of presidential candidate John McCain, and widely talked of as in line for a top White House economic position should his man win on Election Day.

Instead, Thain has been fired in disgrace after Merrill was taken over by Bank of America and tarred for spending 1.2 million dollars on a Merrill office renovation including spending $35,000 on a toilet and $87,000 for a rug in those new digs.  All while while the government was bailing Merrill Lynch out.   Thain, in yet another arrogant snub to the American Taxpayer, then demanded a $30 million bonus after losing $5 billion in just three months at the bank’s Merrill Lynch unit.

And McCain is again a Senator from the state of Arizona, uninterested in talking about his old friend.

“I haven’t had a chance to look into it. I really haven’t. I haven’t had a chance to absorb it,” McCain said when asked by the Huffington Post about Thain’s plight.

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Bailout Recipients Hosted Call To Defeat Key Labor Bill

Three days after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, Bank of America Corp. hosted a conference call with conservative activists and business officials to organize opposition to the U.S. labor community’s top legislative priority.

Participants on the October 17 call — including at least one representative from another bailout recipient, AIG — were urged to persuade their clients to send “large contributions” to groups working against the Employee Free Trade Act (EFCA), as well as to vulnerable Senate Republicans, who could help block passage of the bill.

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