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Two days ago I learned that my company is transferring me to Seattle Washington.  It is a request that I made 6 months ago, and I’m pleased that they think that I deserve the promotion.  I kept this blog (although I’m not sure why) after my request to leave the shenandoah valley (and move north) was granted almost nine months ago.  I no longer see the need to continue the site….tata…

Onward to Seattle!!!!

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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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WASHINGTON (CNN) — One week after the U.S. Army announced record suicide rates among its soldiers last year, the service is worried about a spike in possible suicides in the new year.

The Army said 24 soldiers are believed to have committed suicide in January alone — six times as many as killed themselves in January 2008, according to statistics released Thursday.

The Army said it already has confirmed seven suicides, with 17 additional cases pending that it believes investigators will confirm as suicides for January.

If those prove true, more soldiers will have killed themselves than died in combat last month. According to Pentagon statistics, there were 16 U.S. combat deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq in January.

“This is terrifying,” an Army official said. “We do not know what is going on.”

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Washington Times-The divorce rate among soldiers and Marines increased last year as military marriages suffered continuing stress from America’s two ongoing wars.

There were an estimated 10,200 failed marriages in the active duty Army and 3,077 among Marines, according to figures obtained by the Associated Press for the budget year ended Sept. 30.

That’s a divorce rate of 3.5 percent among more than 287,000 married troops in the Army, up from 3.3 percent in the previous fiscal year, according to Defense Department figures.

“With increasing demands placed on Army families and soldiers, including frequent deployments and relocations, intimate relationships are tested,” said Army spokesman Paul Boyce.

Classic GOP “Family Values” and “Supporting the Troops”

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WASHINGTON (CNN) — The U.S. Army is recalling more than 16,000 sets of body armor even though the secretary of the Army disagrees with a Department of Defense report that some of the ceramic plates failed testing and might not offer the protection required for troops on the battlefield.

The report by the Department of Defense inspector general’s office, expected to be released officially on Friday, says the Army had flawed testing procedures before awarding contracts to make the armor plates.

“DoD does not have assurance that its body armor provides a standard level of protection,” according to the report.

Army Secretary Peter Geren denied any problems with testing but said the armor is being recalled as a precaution and will be replaced with other plates that are not part of the recall, according to Army officials.

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Suicides among Army troops hit a nearly three-decade high last year, senior defense officials tell The Associated Press.

The officials, speaking to the AP on condition of anonymity because the data have not been formally released, say at least 128 soldiers killed themselves in 2008, compared with 115 in 2007 and 102 in 2006.

Another example of the GOP’s “Country First”

 After a couple of presidential terms, mismanagement in every area of policy — foreign, domestic, even extraterrestrial — starts to add up. When George W. Bush entered the White House in January 2001, he inherited peace and prosperity. The military, the Constitution and New Orleans were intact and the country had a budget surplus of $128 billion. Now he’s about to dash out the door, leaving a large, unpaid bill for his successors to pay.

To get a sense of what kind of balance is due, Salon spoke to experts in seven different fields. Wherever possible, we have tried to express the damage done in concrete terms — sometimes in lives lost, but most often just in money spent and dollars owed. What follows is an incomplete inventory of eight years of mis- and malfeasance, but then a fuller accounting would run, um, somewhat longer than three pages.

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Remember Lee  Iacocca, the man who rescued Chrysler Corporation from its death throes?  He’s now 82 years old and has a new book, ‘Where Have All The Leaders Gone?’.

 

Lee Iacocca Says: 

‘Am I the only guy in this country who’s fed up with what’s happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder! We’ve got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we’ve got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can’t even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, ‘Stay the course.’

 

Stay the course? You’ve got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned, ‘Titanic’. I’ll give you a sound bite: ‘Throw all the bums out!’

 

You might think I’m getting senile, that I’ve gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore.

The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we’re fiddling in  Iraq , the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving ‘pom-poms’ instead of asking hard questions. That’s not the promise of the ‘America’ my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I’ve had enough. How about you?

 

I’ll go a step further. You can’t call yourself a patriot if you’re not outraged. This is a fight I’m ready and willing to have. The Biggest ‘C’ is Crisis! (Iacocca elaborates on nine C’s of leadership, with crisis being the first.)

 

Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It’s easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory. Or send someone else’s kids off to war when you’ve never seen a battlefield yourself. It’s another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down.

 

On September 11, 2001, we needed a  strong leader more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes. A hell of a mess, so here’s where we stand.

 

We’re immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving. 

We’re running the biggest deficit in the history of the country.

 

We’re losing the manufacturing edge to Asia,

 

 while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs. 

Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy.

 Our schools are in trouble. 

Our borders are like sieves. 

 

The middle class is being squeezed every which way.

 

These are times that cry out for leadership

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But when you look around, you’ve got to ask: ‘Where have all the leaders gone?’ Where are the curious, creative communicators? Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, omnipotence, and common sense?

 

 I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the  point.

Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo?

 

We’ve spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened.

 

Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina. Congress has yet to spend a single day evaluating the response to the hurricane or demanding accountability for the decisions that were made in the crucial hours after the storm. 

 

Everyone’s hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn’t happen again. Now, that’s just crazy. Storms happen. Deal with it. Make a plan. Figure out what you’re going to do the next time.

 

Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing. Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when ‘The Big Three’ referred to Japanese car companies? How did this happen, and more important, what are we going to do about it?

Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debt, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem. The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry.

 

I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn’t elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody so afraid of?

 

That some bonehead on Fox News will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don’t you guys show some spine for a change?

 

Had Enough? Hey, I’m not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here.  I’m trying to light a fire. I’m speaking out because I have hope – I believe in America. In my lifetime, I’ve had the privilege of living through some of  America ‘s greatest moments. I’ve also experienced some of our worst crises: The ‘Great Depression,’ ‘World War  II,’ the ‘Korean War,’ the ‘Kennedy Assassination,’ the ‘Vietnam War,’ the 1970’s oil crisis, and the struggles of recent years culminating with 9/11.

 

If I’ve learned one thing, it’s this: ‘You don’t get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether it’s building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play. That’s the challenge I’m raising in this book. It’s a “Call to Action” for people who, like me, believe in America’. It’s not too late, but it’s getting pretty close. So let’s shake off the crap and go to work. Let’s tell ’em all we’ve had ‘enough.’

 

Make your own contribution by sending this to everyone you know and care about. It’s our country, folks, and it’s our future. Our future is at stake!!

 

AMEN!

— Iraq, the holder of the world’s third-largest oil reserves, has opened nearly 90 percent of its reserves to international oil companies for development in two major bidding rounds this year as the war-plagued country tries to raise money amid falling oil prices.

Iraq, with at least 115 billion barrels in reserves, plans to add 4 million to 4.5 million barrels a day to its current 2.4 million barrels per day capacity over the next four to six years as it tries to rebuild its infrastructure and develop its economy.

On Wednesday, Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani kicked off the country’s second postwar bidding round, naming 11 oil and gas fields or groups of fields as eligible for development proposals.

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An Israeli army officer who repeatedly shot a 13-year-old Palestinian girl in Gaza dismissed a warning from another soldier that she was a child by saying he would have killed her even if she was three years old.

The officer, identified by the army only as Captain R, was charged this week with illegal use of his weapon, conduct unbecoming an officer and other relatively minor infractions after emptying all 10 bullets from his gun’s magazine into Iman al-Hams when she walked into a “security area” on the edge of Rafah refugee camp last month.

A tape recording of radio exchanges between soldiers involved in the incident, played on Israeli television, contradicts the army’s account of the events and appears to show that the captain shot the girl in cold blood.

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BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Former U.S.-installed Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has denounced the policies of President George W. Bush as an “utter failure” that gave rise to the sectarian venom that ravaged his country.

 

In an interview published on Saturday in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Allawi found fault with American management of Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 as well as the government of present Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

 

Allawi ruled Iraq for almost a year after U.S. occupation officials handed power to him in 2004 as prime minister of an interim government. He was selected by a council hand-picked by Washington after the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

 

“Yes, Bush’s policies failed utterly,” said Allawi, describing the U.S. administration that once backed him. “Utter failure. Failure of U.S. domestic and foreign policy, including fighting terrorism and economic policy.”

 

“His insistence on names like ‘democracy’ and ‘open elections’, without giving attention to political stability, was a big mistake. It cast shadows on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Egypt, and I believe this will be remembered in history as President Bush’s policy,” he said.

With his ABC interview Vice President Dick Cheney put a smoking gun on the table. He admitted that he, along with other top administration officials, personally approved the CIA’s waterboarding of prisoners. That he said it unapologetically is merely his low-keyed way of declaring open war.

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Marine Corps Air and Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC) Provost Marshal (head of a unit of military police) and the local California Highway Patrol office will begin working together 12/12 — and through the holiday season — in a joint effort to reduce accidents and drinking and driving. The combined mutual cooperation between the Marine Corps Military Police and State enforcement officers will begin somewhere along Highway 62. The CHP will set up DUI roadblocks with the presence of Military Police. A violation of the Posse Comitatus Act.

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Over the weekend, the president made his last “surprise” visit to Iraq, in what was supposed to be something of a victory lap, showing off how much better conditions in Iraq are now than before. When Muntadar al-Zaidi threw his shoes, and became a cause celebre, the victory lap apparently took a detour.

But it’s nevertheless hard to miss the public-relations offensive — presumably as an extension of the Bush Legacy Project — in which prominent administration officials and/or Bush allies push the notion that the war in Iraq really was a great idea, reality notwithstanding.

Just over the last few days:

* Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice inexplicably told the AP yesterday that no “American money” was lost to corruption in Iraq.

* Far-right commentator Frank Gaffney insisted on MSNBC yesterday that Saddam Hussein was a “mortal threat” to the United States and while it was “regrettable” that U.S. troops had to die, they “did have to die.”

 

* Several conservative media personalities have condemned Iraqis as “ingrates” this week, for failing to thank the U.S. for our efforts.

* Vice President Dick Cheney, for reasons that defy comprehension, argued on Monday that Saddam Hussein “still had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction” prior to the U.S. invasion.

* Bush, when confronted with the fact that al Qaeda wasn’t in Iraq until after the U.S. invasion, said the development was irrelevant, asking, “So what?

 

Even after all this time, Bush views the Iraq War with regret not over anything he did, but rather, over something that was done to him.

It’s tiresome to need to point this out at this late date but, yes, George W. Bush and his administration misled the country while making the case for war with Iraq and, remarkably, are still trying to mislead people about it. In a Dec. 1 interview with ABC News’ Charlie Gibson, Bush said that “the biggest regret” of his presidency was “the intelligence failure in Iraq.”

In other words, his biggest regret wasn’t regret over anything he did but rather regret over something that was done to him, a vague “intelligence failure” rather than a misguided decision to invade another country.

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