In my links of the day I try to find the links under the wire, articles all the top blogs miss. I'm not afraid to go to Al Jazeera, Kurd Media or to the Pakistan student movement page to bring the real daily news to you.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Links of the Day 4/14/2008 Bush says next 9/11 will come from Pakistan and World Bank on Food


All day I have tried to post today here and on myspace funny but both were down today at the same time!

My MS word would not paste to either blog.

And it wasn't just me others had the same problem with input.

Be aware people the day is coming when the internet will be shut down like China!







You know your in trouble when the World Bank issues a dire warning. I cannot remember in my lifetime when they have.

Mr. Zollick of the World Bank thinks only poor countries will see people push further down by poverty, well I have news for him 10% of the United States in on food stamps.

I said yesterday we could see nearly a billion people die world wide because of the greedy oil corps and Bush/Cheney paying US farmers not to grow corn just so they could raise the price of bio-fuels made from it.




World Bank echoes food cost alarm


The rapid rise in food prices could push 100 million people in poor countries deeper into poverty, World Bank head, Robert Zoellick, has said.

His warning follows that from the leader of the International Monetary Fund, who said hundreds of thousands of people were at risk of starvation.

Mr Zoellick proposed an action plan to boost long-run agricultural production.

There have been food riots recently in a number of countries, including Haiti, the Philippines and Egypt.

"Based on a rough analysis, we estimate that a doubling of food prices over the last three years could potentially push 100 million people in low-income countries deeper into poverty," Mr Zoellick said.

His proposal for a "new deal" to tackle the international food crisis was endorsed by the World Bank's steering committee of finance and development ministers at a meeting in Washington.

The World Bank and its sister organisation, the IMF have held a weekend of meetings that addressed rising food and energy prices as well as the credit crisis upsetting global financial markets.

Spiralling inflation

Food prices have risen sharply in recent months, driven by increased demand, poor weather in some countries that has ruined crops and an increase in the use of land to grow crops for transport fuels.

The price of staple crops such as wheat, rice and corn have all risen, leading to an increase in overall food prices of 83% in the last three years, the World Bank has said.

The sharp rises have led to protests and unrest in many countries, including Egypt, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, the Philippines and Indonesia.

In Haiti, protests last week turned violent, leading to the deaths of five people and the fall of the government.

Restrictions on rice exports have been put in place in major producing countries such as India, China, Vietnam and Egypt.

Importers such as Bangladesh, the Philippines and Afghanistan have been hit hard.

"We have to put out money where our mouth is now so that we can put food into hungry mouths," Mr Zoellick said. "It's as stark as that."

He called for more aid to provide food to needy people in poor countries and help for small farmers. He said the World Bank was working to provide money for seeds for planting in the new season.

He also urged wealthy donor countries to quickly fill the World Food Programme's estimated $500m (£250m) funding shortfall.

Mr Zoellick's "New Deal for Global Food Policy" also seeks to boost agricultural policy in poor countries in the longer-term.

On Saturday, the head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, warned of mass starvation and other dire consequences if food prices continue to rise sharply.

"As we know, learning from the past, those kind of questions sometimes end in war," he said.

He said the problem could lead to trade imbalances that may eventually affect developed nations, "so it is not only a humanitarian question".

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7344892.stm








Proof it is a artificial shortage. Growing less corn made the price rise as greedy men speculated on the price going up. The greedy will sit by the pool waiting for their dividend check to come in the mail as people starve.

You might be asking yourself how the US agriculture knows farmers will plant less corn? Because they cut the checks to farmers not to grow certain crops. This is usually done when there is to much of a crop on the market. But in the case of corn the oil men in the White House did it to cause a shortage of corn so as to keep bio fuel plants idle and empty.

Bush and Cheney along with Exxon/Mobile and other oil companies have blotted to slow down the use of bio-fuels! As I said earlier starving people to make money.

Since Reagan was the one who got the Conservation Reserve Program passed in 1985 republican administration have used it to cause shortages and gluts as they desire, just to make money.

Well starving people to death is one way to get people off the dole.


(excerpts from the article)

Less Corn Could Mean Higher Food Prices


Mar 31, 2008

Farmers are now expected to plant 86 million acres of corn this year, the Department of Agriculture predicted Monday, down 8 percent from last year, which was the highest since World War II.

Corn began its latest surge in early 2007, rising from just over $3 per bushel to record prices above $5 per bushel today. If prices hold steady or rise, the average yearly price per bushel in 2008 will be the highest ever, according to USDA statistics.

Corn climbed higher Monday following the release of the USDA report, with the most-active contract briefly hitting an all-time record of $5.88 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade before settling at $5.6725 a bushel, still up 6.75 cents.

They have been pushed along by the burgeoning ethanol industry, which turns the crop into fuel, and by rising worldwide demand for food.

http://www.examiner.com/a-1312647~Less_Corn_Could_Mean_Higher_Food_Prices.html






This is an excellent article that explains why farmers are paid to not grow crops and how the wealthy manipulate commodities such as corn and soy.

The Act passed by congress should be called the 1985 Food IN-security Act!

Once again oil corporations are manipulating the people White House!

Should We Pay Farmers Not to Grow Crops?


By Ben Fritz

The Conservation Reserve Program

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) was established under the Conservation Title of the 1985 Food Security Act and is still in place today. This program which intended to assist with possible environmental problems is one that is beneficial to the farmers and our country’s environment and therefore should stay in effect. However, it should be examined how this program is being conducted to ensure that the original objectives are being met today and with maximum efficiency.

http://uwstudentweb.uwyo.edu/B/BFRITZ/







Bush and his minions first targeted energy prices like oil, gas, natural gas, propane and diesel, now they’ve set their sites on food!

Paying farmers not grow corn is CRIMINAL! Starving people to make a buck should be criminal but Bush/Cheney/Oil corps are hiding behind CRP under the guise of conservation.


CHECK OUT THESE GRAPHS!

The cost of food: facts and figures


8 April 2008

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/7284196.stm






IN VIDEO

Global rice supply



Raids on hoarders, aerial planting and other snapshots from around the world



Egypt
Releases Journalists Documenting Deadly Food Riots




No food grain use for bio-fuel production, says Singh




The Global food crisis and the Indian situation




UN says food is the highest priority





Politics


Back to those questions that all share the same answer:

Why do we import over half of our motor fuel from other countries?
As much as we would like to believe otherwise, money, not logic, common sense, or even the democratic process, runs the world. And there is nothing that involves more money than the production and use of energy. Ninety-seven percent of all vehicles on earth run on oil-derived fuels. Government regulations, and just the massive scale of oil production, dictate that only the largest and richest of companies are able to compete in the oil business. Just after World War Two, American and British oil companies developed the extremely rich oil fields of the Middle East. Oil made a bunch of primitive tribes into some of the richest people on earth. In just a few short years these people went from living in tents and riding camels, to living in mansions and driving around in Cadillacs and Rolls-Royce automobiles. A big hunk of Middle East sand previously called Arabia was broken up into several smaller countries, the biggest of which was controlled by one family, with the name of Saudi. They even named their new country after themselves. For decades the country of Saudi Arabia gave each of their citizens about twenty five thousand dollars, just for being a citizen. And we thought America's streets were paved with gold!

As the Arab countries got richer, they acted no different than anyone and wanted even more money. This lead them to band together and create OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. This allows them to hold us hostage for even higher oil prices. And our government embraces them and their organization. Why? Because we need the oil!

Each and every day over 17-million barrels of oil (Over 700-million gallons) are used throughout the United States, principally as vehicle fuel. Over half of that oil comes from the Middle East. At around 30 to 40-dollars per barrel, how do we pay this huge bill? Unlike you and I, countries don't pay each other with cash, credit cards, or even gold. They use trade in food and merchandise to balance their debt. Our trading partners, in the Middle East, can only eat so much food, so we must find something else to trade them for their oil. This thing we trade must be very expensive, to offset the high cost of oil, it must be wanted or needed, by those that we trade with, and most of all, it must be consumable, so they will always need more. There is only one commodity that meets these requirements. Military Hardware! Its expensive, Its rapidly used-up or blown-up, it becomes obsolete in a short period of time, and most importantly, they really want it!

These people of the Middle East have been at war with one-another for thousands of years, and we hand them some of the most modern and lethal weapons on earth. As I said before, "The world runs on money, not logic!"

The leaders of many of these oil-rich countries are walking a very narrow line. The gap between their rich and poor is gigantic. The prominent religious superstition in those countries is completely incompatible with the modern world. It doesn't take a genius to see that there will come a time of great death and destruction in many of those places. Then what do we do for our oil needs?

Due, in part, to the oil companies wanting the cheapest raw materials, as any good business would, and the excessive drilling regulations placed on them by our government, foreign oil is more attractive than our own. If you had a high-profit product that was needed by everyone, would you embrace a competing product like alcohol?

Why can't we have a clean, cheap, and renewable fuel?


Now go read the rest of the section on POLITICS.

http://www.jrwhipple.com/hls/alcohol.html





35 Firms OK'd to Bid on Iraq Oil Deals


Associated Press
Published: Sunday April 13, 2008

Iraq Qualifies 35 International Oil Companies to Bid for Future Oil and Gas Contracts

AMMAN (AP) -- Thirty-five international oil companies have qualified to bid for future oil and gas contracts to develop one of the world's largest oil fields, an Iraqi oil ministry statement said Sunday.

"The total number of the companies and consortia that participated in the prequalification process was 120 from various nationalities," said the ministry's petroleum contracts and licensing office.

The office listed 35 companies that it said were qualified. They include, among others, BP PLC, Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Lukoil Holdings, China National Petroleum Corp., Edison International SpA and Eni SpA.

The contracts office, however, said it would continue updating the process of qualifying companies "especially those that didn't pass (the qualification process) by updating their information with the view to allowing as many as possible of the IOCs to participate in the next licensing round."

http://rawstory.com/news/2008/35_Firms_OKd_to_Bid_on_0413.html






Incredible! The Reverend Moon who has always beat up democrats in his paper for not speaking about their faith is now beating them up because they are and is praising McCain for not speaking about his faith!

Give me a freaking break!

If you want to read the article be my guest but I’m not posting this crap.

McCain keeps his faith out of politics


April 14, 2008

http://www.washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080414/NATION/952356185/1001&template=printart







OMG!



Once again I am reminded of the movie Bridge on the River Kwai when at the end after the bridge is blown up the Doctor stands there saying MADNESS! MADNESS!



US strike destroys own vehicle in Baghdad


AP
Sunday, 13 April 2008

The US military says an Apache helicopter has accidentally destroyed one of its own armoured vehicles in eastern Baghdad.

The military says the incident occurred yesterday afternoon, when the chopper spotted a group of four militants placing roadside bombs. It says a Hellfire missile hit the group, killing two gunmen.

Sunday's statement says that a second Hellfire was then launched. But it missed its target and struck a US armoured vehicle instead.

Iraqi police confirm that a Humvee was set ablaze in the Mashtal area of eastern Baghdad. They say two US soldiers and three Iraqi civilians were wounded and that American troops immediately blocked off the neighbourhood.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/us-strike-kills-own-soldiers-in-baghdad-808569.html





Same story just different.


April 13th, 2008 9:26 pm
U.S. air strike in Iraq wounds troops and civilians


BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A missile fired by U.S. forces at militants in east Baghdad overshot its target and hit a U.S. vehicle, wounding two soldiers and three civilians, the U.S. military said on Sunday.

In a statement, the U.S. military said it had observed four people placing roadside bombs in the district of New Baghdad on Saturday. An aircraft fired a Hellfire missile, killing two of them.

A second missile targeting the two survivors of the first strike "overshot," setting alight a U.S. military vehicle and nearby houses. The U.S. military said it was investigating the cause of the "misfire."

"(These) events are unfortunate and our apologies go out to those innocent civilians who were affected," Colonel Bill Buckner, a military spokesman, said in the statement.

Critics say U.S. forces often fire on militants without taking reasonable care to find out who else is in the area. The U.S. military says militants often deliberately use civilians as shields against its forces.

New Baghdad lies near the district of Sadr City, where U.S. and Iraqi forces have been battling Shi'ite militiamen loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr for the past week.

Police said there appeared to have been little fighting in the slum overnight.

(Writing by Noah Barkin; Editing by Catherine Evans)

http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/latestnews/index.php?id=11287








04/13/08 AFP: Kurdish rebels in Iraq threaten to attack Iran

A Kurdish rebel group based in northern Iraq threatened on Sunday to launch bomb attacks inside Iran if Tehran fails to halt anti-Kurdish policies in the Islamic country




04/13/08 Reuters: Stick bomb kills 2 people, wounds 10 in western Mosul

A stick bomb on an oil truck detonated, killing two people and wounding ten others on Saturday near an Iraqi Army checkpoint in western Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.




04/14/08 AP: British journalist rescued in Basra

The Iraqi military says a British journalist kidnapped two months ago in the southern city of Basra has been rescued. Basra security commander Lt. Gen. Mohan al-Fireji says the journalist was rescued and a group of kidnappers were captured ...




04/14/08 AP: Roadside bomb targets U.S. convoy in Baghdad

An attack on a U.S. convoy sparked a large fire in a marketplace in eastern Baghdad on Monday...Dozens of stalls were set ablaze at 2 a.m. local time when a bomb exploded next to a convoy of U.S. military vehicles driving down a commercial street...




04/14/08 Reuters: Fighting resumes in Baghdad's Sadr City

Fighting erupted in Baghdad's Sadr City overnight after a day's lull, dashing residents' hopes of a let-up in clashes between U.S. and government troops and Shi'ite gunmen who control the streets of the sprawling slum.




04/14/08 Reuters: Clashes kill six children in a clashes overnight of Sadr City

Ten people including six children were wounded in a clashes overnight of Sadr City, eastern Baghdad, police said.




Justice for the man who stole Justice from the American people is shunned by law firms.

April 13th, 2008 8:59 pm
In Job Search, Gonzales Sees No Takers


By Neil A. Lewis / New York Times

WASHINGTON — Alberto R. Gonzales, like many others recently unemployed, has discovered how difficult it can be to find a new job. Mr. Gonzales, the former attorney general, who was forced to resign last year, has been unable to interest law firms in adding his name to their roster, Washington lawyers and his associates said in recent interviews.

He has, through friends, put out inquiries, they said, and has not found any takers. What makes Mr. Gonzales’s case extraordinary is that former attorneys general, the government’s chief lawyer, are typically highly sought.

A longtime loyalist to George W. Bush dating to their years together in Texas, Mr. Gonzales was once widely viewed as a strong candidate to be the first Hispanic-American nominated one day to the Supreme Court. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he carried an impressive personal story as the child of poor Mexican immigrants.

Despite those credentials, he left office last August with a frayed reputation over his role in the dismissal of several federal prosecutors and the truthfulness of his testimony about a secret eavesdropping program. He has had no full-time job since his resignation, and his principal income has come from giving a handful of talks at colleges and before private business groups.

“Maybe the passage of time will provide some opportunity for him,” said one Washington lawyer who was aware of an inquiry to his firm from a Gonzales associate. “I wouldn’t say ‘rebuffed,’ ” said the lawyer, who asked his name not be used because the situation being described was uncomfortable for Mr. Gonzales. “I would say ‘not taken up.’ ”

The greatest impediment to Mr. Gonzales’s being offered the kind of high-salary job being snagged these days by lesser Justice Department officials, many lawyers agree, is his performance during his last few months in office. In that period, he was openly criticized by lawmakers for being untruthful in his sworn testimony. His conduct is being investigated by the Office of the Inspector General of the Justice Department, which could recommend actions from exonerating him to recommending criminal charges.

Friends set up a fund to help pay his legal bills.

Asked about reports that law firms have not taken up feelers from Mr. Gonzales, Robert H. Bork Jr., a corporate communications specialist and his spokesman, said Mr. Gonzales was talking to many people about the next steps in his career. “He is considering his opportunities in law and business,” Mr. Bork said, “but after many years in public service he is considering his options carefully.”

He said Mr. Gonzales “looks forward to the conclusion of the department’s inquiries and getting on with his life.”

While he has not taken any full-time job, friends said he was probably receiving as much income from speaking engagements as he did as attorney general with its annual salary of more than $191,000. Places like Washington University in St. Louis, Ohio State University and the University of Florida have paid him about $30,000 plus expenses for appearances, and the business groups pay a bit more, said sources at the schools and elsewhere who are familiar with the arrangements. Pomona College debated inviting him and decided he was not worth the money, the college newspaper reported.

His first speech at the University of Florida last November was interrupted by protesters dressed as detainees.

http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/latestnews/index.php?id=11286






Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear




US housing collapse spreads overseas




Oil Trades Near $110 on US Pipeline Leak, Mexico Shuts Ports




Largest remaining Arctic ice shelf now split in three, breaking up at

alarming rate, mission finds




Asia Stocks Post Biggest Loss in a Month on Earnings Outlook




Dalai Lama Says His Aides Are Talking to China



Chavez urges lawmakers to pass 'windfall' oil tax





Former Ala. Governor Turns Tables on Justice Department



Siegelman Connects His Case to Accusations of Interference

By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 13, 2008; A02

The successful criminal prosecution of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman (D) has become tangled in political charges and countercharges that reflect contrasting views about the independence of the Justice Department.

In the two weeks since his release from prison pending an appeal, Siegelman has sharply increased the volume of his assertions that he was railroaded. He says that Karl Rove, who was a White House adviser, targeted him for prosecution to ensure he did not win reelection to the governor's office and displace a Republican there.

Siegelman is seizing on a theme that is newly popular with politically connected defendants: turning the tables on a Justice Department vulnerable to accusations of interference because of missteps last year under then-Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.

An appeals court panel in Atlanta will decide whether Siegelman, the governor from 1999 to 2003, should win a new trial because of what he contends are faulty jury instructions underpinning his 2006 conviction on bribery, conspiracy, mail fraud and obstruction charges.

Yet Siegelman has not petitioned the court to hear his allegations of political tampering, choosing instead to make them on television programs and in newspapers and magazines. He asserts that Rove, two Republican U.S. attorneys, the son of his successor as governor, career prosecutors and former leaders of the Justice Department's public integrity unit conspired to manufacture a case and thwart Siegelman's ambitions to return to the governor's mansion.

Rove denies the assertions and derides the evidence offered by his accusers as vague and scanty. Federal prosecutors respond that they will argue in the courtroom, not in the court of public opinion.

Siegelman's assertions have attracted the attention of the House Judiciary Committee, which has launched an investigation into Justice Department actions under President Bush. But Siegelman acknowledges that he has no specific evidence tying his fate to White House political interference. "We don't have the knife with Karl Rove's fingerprints all over it, but we've got the glove, and the glove fits," Siegelman said in a telephone interview.

In arguing his case, Siegelman relies heavily on the sworn account of a lawyer with GOP ties who said she overheard state party officials plotting against Siegelman in a conference call on the same day in November 2002 when Siegelman conceded that Republican Bob Riley had won the gubernatorial election.

That lawyer, Dana Jill Simpson, said officials told her Rove would "take care of" Siegelman by talking to Justice Department officials in Washington overseeing an existing criminal investigation of him.

Two of the men who allegedly took part in that call, Terry Butts, a lawyer for HealthSouth founder Richard M. Scrushy, and Rob Riley, the son of the state's current governor, submitted affidavits last year saying they did not remember any such call and did not exert political influence in the investigation.

The other alleged participant, Bill Canary, a Republican campaign consultant who is the husband of the U.S. attorney in Montgomery, has told reporters he has "no recollection" of the call and did not intervene in Justice Department decision-making or discuss Siegelman's case with the White House.

Simpson is represented by Joseph Sandler, a former general counsel to the Democratic National Committee. He did not return calls.

Siegelman's assertions come as the Justice Department is vulnerable to allegations of politically tainted actions, given the departure last year of Gonzales and several of his top aides amid probes of White House interference in personnel matters. Puerto Rico's Democratic governor, after being indicted last month for allegedly violating campaign finance laws, has similarly accused prosecutors of being motivated by political considerations.

In response to the Siegelman accusations, Peter Carr, a Justice Department spokesman, said, "This case was brought by career prosecutors . . . based on the law and the evidence alone." Carr added that "after considering that evidence -- which is a matter of public record -- a jury of Mr. Siegelman's peers found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of federal funds bribery, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, honest services mail fraud and obstruction of justice."

Prosecutors note that the Justice Department has targeted more than a dozen high-profile Republicans in Congress and the executive branch in public corruption prosecutions during the Bush administration, including former California lawmaker Randall "Duke" Cunningham and disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a Rove ally.

Rove's lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, said that Rove "does not recall" ever meeting Simpson and "simply never had a conversation about targeting Siegelman. He didn't talk to anybody in the White House about it. He didn't talk to anybody in the Justice Department about it. . . . He had no role whatsoever in seeking the indictment."

Some independent groups have been wary of taking sides.

Melanie Sloan, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit group that focuses on issues of government corruption and White House influence, said the allegations are murky and may merit further inquiry from the courts or Congress.

"It seems like something bad may have happened, but it also seems like Siegelman may have done something wrong," Sloan said. "He may not be a total innocent, but that doesn't mean that what appears to have happened is okay."

During an eight-week trial in 2006, prosecutors alleged that, while serving as governor, Siegelman steered a seat on a key hospital board to health-care executive Scrushy, in exchange for $500,000 in donations to a state education lottery that Siegelman had embraced.

Siegelman's lawyers have blamed the jury's decision on poor instructions from the judge. Legal experts say the fact that the appeals court released Siegelman before even hearing his argument could signal that the court may order a retrial.

"I'm not sure we can learn anything more until some folks from the White House or Justice Department loosen up on this and agree to testify or at least be interviewed," said G. Douglas Jones, a Democrat and former U.S. attorney who is advising Siegelman.

Among other issues, Jones wants more information on what he says a career prosecutor in Montgomery told him was a "top to bottom" review of the case conducted by Justice Department officials in Washington in December 2004, when Jones said the probe of Siegelman was stalled. Shortly after Jones heard about the review, he said, government investigators began issuing new subpoenas for witnesses and documents.

Former prosecutors say there is a less sinister explanation for those events. Public corruption cases involving lawyers from the Justice Department routinely undergo a review by career prosecutors in Washington, in which evidence and legal theories are tested. It is not unusual, the lawyers said, for investigators to seek additional or different evidence after such a meeting, to bolster the case before they seek an indictment.

In the interview, Siegelman pointed to what he called suspicious timing of the charges against him, beginning with a first, failed federal fraud case in 2004 on what he says was the final day such charges could be filed. A second indictment was returned in May 2005 and unsealed that October, nine months after Siegelman announced he would run against Riley the following year. His trial began in May 2006, one month before Alabama's Democratic primary, which he lost.

Key lawmakers, including Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), have asked Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey during questioning at oversight hearings to reopen the case. But Mukasey has so far responded that he will not consider such a step until the appeals process ends.

Last month, Mukasey issued an internal memo reminding prosecutors of their responsibility to "safeguard" the Justice Department's reputation. "Law enforcement officers and prosecutors may never select the timing of investigative steps or criminal charges for the purpose of affecting any election, or for the purpose of giving an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party," Mukasey wrote.

Assertions of political motivation, however, could grow louder as the presidential election approaches and the end of the Bush administration nears. Federal prosecutors have made public corruption among their top priorities, and grand jury investigations of lawmakers including former Senate Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and House Appropriations panel member Alan B. Mollohan (D-W.Va.) could be resolved by the end of the year.

Research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/12/AR2008041201903_pf.html







POLITICS-US:

Lobbyists Spend Record Sums to Influence Washington


Abid Aslam
WASHINGTON, 10 Apr (IPS) - The old jab about the United States having the best democracy money can buy took on new meaning Thursday.

For every day Congress was in session last year, lobbyists spent an average of 17 million dollars currying favour with legislators and federal officials, the nonpartisan Centre for Responsive Politics (CRP) said in a new report.

Corporations, labour unions, governments, and other interests spent a record-setting 2.79 billion dollars last year in hopes of influencing policy, the group said. This marked a 7.7 percent, or 200-million-dollar, increase over 2006, also a bumper year for the influence industry.

'At a time when our economy is contracting, Washington's lobbying industry has been expanding,' said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the 25-year-old watchdog group. 'Lobbying seems to be a recession-proof industry. In some respects, interests seek even more from our government when the economy slows.'

Their efforts get results. The National Education Association (NEA), the largest U.S. teachers' union, succeeded in blocking reauthorisation of President George W. Bush's 2001 'No Child Left Behind' law governing the running and judging of schools nationwide. Likewise, Congress quashed proposals to raise taxes on private equity groups, an issue of concern to the Blackstone Group and other private finance firms.

Even so, how much bang lobbyists get for their clients' buck remains undetermined.

'It's difficult to quantify the return on this investment' in lobbying for or against legislation, said CRP spokesman Massie Ritsch. 'But generally, the amount spent on lobbying is small compared with the outcome.'

Where lobbying for government contracts is concerned, 'the returns are astronomical,' Ritsch added. 'Multimillion-dollar contracts are awarded for, say, 100,000 dollars worth of lobbying.'

Health interests poured 444.7 million dollars into federal lobbying last year, outspending all other sectors of the economy for the second year in a row, CRP said.

The finance, insurance, and real estate sector -- known collectively as FIRE and the powerhouse of the U.S. economy -- placed second with 418.7 million dollars poured into the political trough.

Drug and health-care product makers topped the ranking of specific industries by spending 227 million dollars for lobbying services, or 1.4 million dollars per day that Congress met in 2007.

The drug industry has spent 1.3 billion dollars on federal lobbying over the last 10 years, more than any other industry. Its reported lobbying increased 25 percent in 2007, CRP said.

Insurance firms spent 138 million dollars on lobbying, followed by electric utilities, which spent 112.7 million dollars. Computer and Internet firms spent 110.6 million dollars. Hospitals and nursing homes paid lobbyists at least 90.5 million dollars.

The securities and investment industry ranked sixth, spending 87.3 million dollars -- a 40 percent jump over 2006.

Among individual companies and organisations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce stood out as the biggest spender in 2007. The business association's reported lobbying fell by about 27 percent last year, following a record year in 2006. Nevertheless, the chamber and its affiliates spent nearly 52.8 million dollars on internal advocates and those hired from outside lobbying firms.

General Electric was the number-two spender (23.6 million dollars), followed by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (22.7 million dollars), the American Medical Association doctors' trade group (22.1 million dollars) and the American Hospital Association (19.7 million dollars).

The top 20 spenders also included the American Association of Retired Persons, the National Association of Realtors, General Motors, oil major Exxon Mobil, communications firms AT&T and Verizon, and defence contractors Northrop Grumman, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin.

Last year's overall growth in spending on federal lobbying was in keeping with the roughly 8.0 percent annual increase since the late 1990s, CRP said.

Some interests' lobbying surged in 2007, however.

Blackstone Group, which sought to prevent higher taxes on its profits, boosted its lobbying effort by 477 percent to spend 5.4 million dollars last year. The NEA spent 9.2 million dollars, a 464 percent increase. CRP said it presumed the teachers' union concentrated its lobbying efforts on 'No Child Left Behind'.

Among Washington lobbying firms, Patton Boggs reported the highest revenue from registered lobbying for the fifth year in a row: 41.9 million dollars, an increase over 2006 of more than 20 percent. The firm's most lucrative clients included private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, confection and pet food maker Mars, Verizon, pharmaceutical manufacturers Bristol-Myers Squibb and Roche, and the American Association for Justice (formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America).

CRP said that in calculating spending levels, it used the narrow definition of lobbying provided by the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995.

'Spending by corporations, industry groups, unions, and other interests that is not strictly for lobbying of covered government officials, but is still meant to influence public policy, is not reported -- and may exceed what was spent on direct lobbying,' the group said. Such activities include public relations, advertising and grassroots lobbying.

http://ipsnorthamerica.net/print.php?idnews=1407






V to the Tenth: Thousands of Women Gather in New Orleans for 10th Anniversary of Global Movement to Combat Violence Against Women


Democracy Now! broadcasts from New Orleans, where thousands of women are gathering to celebrate the tenth anniversary of V-Day, the global movement to combat sexual violence against women and children. V-Day began a decade ago when playwright and activist Eve Ensler held the first benefit performance of her award-winning play, The Vagina Monologues. This weekend, Ensler is organizing a two-day celebration at the Superdome called “V to the Tenth.” Its focus is on helping the women of New Orleans and the Gulf South. We speak with activists from New Orleans, Kenya and Iraq.

http://www.democracynow.org/2008/4/11/v_to_the_tenth_thousands_of







Iran confronted US in Persian Gulf, Claims US Media




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Over 600 earthquakes off Oregon coast in past 10 days puzzles experts





This article leaves me speechless.

Bush speaks on the possibility of another 9/11



Malaysia Sun
Sunday 13th April, 2008

US President George Bush has said he believes another 9/11 attack on the United Sates should be considered a strong possibility and warned that such an attack could originate from Pakistan.

In an interview with America’s ABC TV, Mr Bush said: "If another September 11 style attack is being planned, it probably is being plotted in Pakistan, and not Afghanistan."

Bush said if the terrorists were planning such attacks, they would be found out.

During the interview he also said that Washington had no intention of attacking Iran, but added that it was the responsibility of the US to convince the world of Iran's capacity to enrich its uranium capacities for a potentially threatening nuclear weapons program.

It was, therefore, in the interest of Washington to pressurise the Iranians to prevent them from enriching their uranium haul.

He said the US was continually gaining knowledge about Iran's activities in Iraq.

Bush said the United States would bring Iran to justice if it continued to try to use agents or surrogates to infiltrate Iraq and harm US troops and Iraqi citizens.

Asked to clarify "bring to justice," Bush replied: "It means capture or kill, is what that means."

http://story.malaysiasun.com/index.php/ct/9/cid/b8de8e630faf3631/id/348168/cs/1/





Are political journalists falling prey to technological misdirection?



COMMENTARY
| April 11, 2008

An information technology expert suggests five important points journalists are overlooking when it comes to the missing White House e-mails.

By David Gewirtz
david@ZATZ.com


There’s been remarkably little press coverage of the apparent disappearance of millions of White House e-mails. And what little there’s been has underestimated both the negligence of the White House’s information technologists and the troubling national security consequences.

Here are five important points – somewhat self-evident to e-mail experts -- that journalists are overlooking.

#1: The White House’s e-mail archiving system is wildly inadequate to the point of negligence.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing into the millions of potentially missing White House e-mail messages in late February. Unfortunately, the committee members and the reporters covering the hearing completely missed the significance of a key bit of information.

In his written responses to committee questions, Steven McDevitt, a former information technology specialist at the White House, stated that White House e-mails had been archived in .PST files, and that "there were over 5,000 .PST files with an average size of approximately 2 Gigabytes."

Why is this statement so technically significant? Probably the number one question we get from readers of OutlookPower Magazine, a publication aimed at e-mail users and administrators, is how to recover corrupted .PST files. PST is the file format Outlook uses to store its e-mail in, and is quite explicitly not an enterprise-level archiving technology.

There's also a limit to the PST file format, in that all PST files created by Outlook prior to Outlook 2003 had a 2 gigabyte limit. In fact, Microsoft recommends never, ever letting your PST file get above 1.6 gigabytes, because of the likelihood of corruption and the difficulty in restoration.

So what congressmen and journalists missed was the fact that the bulk of the White House e-mail records are now stored in bundles of rotting computer files, at or above their safe file-size limit.

#2: The White House apparently had no good reason to switch e-mail systems in the first place.

The whole archiving mess stems from the White House’s switch from IBM's Lotus Notes to Microsoft Outlook. Members of congress attending the February hearing were led to believe the switch was urgently needed. Congressman Darrell Issa asked, "Lotus Notes no longer exists, right? " And White House CIO Theresa Payton replied, "It is no longer supported. Some groups may still use it, but it is no longer supported."

But Lotus Notes remains a multi-billion dollar IBM product, an active, vibrant messaging system that's had a major upgrade as recently as last month. And allowing Payton’s answer to go unchallenged allowed her to get away without ever justifying why the switch ever took place. If you think Lotus Notes is an obsolete technology, then migrating away from it, even in a build-up to war, might make sense.

But if you realize that Notes is anything but obsolete, then you have to ask: Why did a migration occur at such a critical time? Why was it put in motion without a stable archiving solution? Was that a bug, or a feature?

#3: The Hatch Act has made it much too easy to bypass the Presidential Records Act.

Another key element of the White House e-mail scandal is that many White House aides apparently used their Republican National Committee e-mail accounts for official White House business.

The Hatch Act prohibits aides from using White House resources, such as e-mail, for their purely political communication. As a result, many White House aides had RNC e-mail accounts to use for those purposes. But some of those aides, including Karl Rove, apparently ended up using their RNC accounts for official White House business as well – though whether they did so out of convenience or out of a desire to avoid scrutiny isn’t entirely clear.

According to analysis done at OutlookPower, in the 2,072 days between September 11, 2001 and May 15, 2007, a minimum of 103.6 million messages were likely sent by White House staffers on RNC servers.

That’s an overt violation of the Presidential Records Act. Because these e-mails weren’t on White House servers, there wasn’t even a token attempt made to preserve them as is required by federal law. In fact, the RNC regularly deleted those e-mails.

But this is primarily a structural flaw: The Hatch Act makes it much too simple a matter for a White House staffer to decide he or she doesn't want a message saved forever, and to instead send it through private-sector servers. It's not nefarious -- it's human nature.

#4: Insecure messaging puts national security at risk.

What little press coverage the Hatch Act provisions have gotten has focused on the overt violation of the Presidential Records Act. But from an e-mail administrator’s perspective, the Hatch Act is significant for entirely different reasons: It has opened up a huge security vulnerability by forcing White House aides to use private-sector resources for some of their communication, bypassing all of the government's security resources.

Imagine a White House aide sending an e-mail message about a campaign appearance to another aide, working just a few feet away. Because of the Hatch Act, that e-mail message can't travel through the White House e-mail servers. Instead, it leaves the desk of the first staffer, travels all the way down to Chattanooga, Tenn., where the RNC houses its servers, and then travels all the way back to Washington (a round-trip distance of 1,200 miles).

For nearly all of those 1,200 miles, the message travels through the open, unsecured Internet, available for possible interception all along the way. Even if the message is encrypted, it can still be captured and potentially cracked because the SMTP protocol used by e-mail servers is a totally insecure transmission mechanism.

And very little information passing between White House aides is without at least some strategic value. Any communication that could possibly cause a national security risk should use secure government systems.

This should encompass all e-mail communication by such staffers, including personal communication. Whether it's a note about going on a date or a note about picking up milk, those e-mail messages (and, by extension, instant messages as well) should be managed securely.

#5: And what about all those amazing gadgets?

If you watch spy movies back in the 60s, you're familiar with the image of the government courier handcuffed to an important briefcase. Today, many key government officials carry BlackBerry handheld smartphones instead. They're easier to carry, can hold a lot more information, and provide excellent, instant, two-way communication.

Unfortunately, they're also easy to lose. According to congressional testimony by Susan Ralston, Karl Rove's former assistant, Rove lost his BlackBerry more than once, possibly as many as four or five times. Given the rigors of the job, long hours, and high stress, it's not surprising that White House staffers sometimes lose things.

But in addition to the risk of open e-mail communication described above, there's the very real concern about what happens if a lost BlackBerry falls into the hands of the enemy.

A typical BlackBerry has 64MB of memory, at minimum (they also often have expansion slots for more memory). Let's put this in perspective. The King James Bible is about 1,120 pages, or about 2.5MB, so a typical BlackBerry could hold about 25 King James Bible's worth of information. That's the equivalent in strategic U.S. government information of about 28,000 printed pages of data, or seven complete sets of all seven Harry Potter novels.

Given the reality that these are small machines that, when lost, can do a lot of potential damage, I recommend a comprehensive contingency procedure be put into place when such a device is lost or misplaced.

Clearly, these devices have proven too useful to ban them from use. But each staffer issued such a device needs to be trained to notify the Electronic Communication Protection Detail (a group I've recommend be created to manage all of the e-mail security issues) immediately when a device is lost. I recommend that no communication device be issued to White House staffers without two key features: location and destruction.

It is possible to both remotely erase certain BlackBerry devices and remotely locate them. When lost, a team from the Electronic Communication Protection Detail should first trigger the remote erase and then a tracking team needs to be dispatched to recover these little mobile nightmares as quickly as possible.

http://www.niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=background.view&backgroundid=00239&stoplayout=true&print=true





And finally today I suggest everyone go check out what C.R.E.W. is doing today.

CREW Reports

http://citizensforethics.org/reports



The 22 most corrupt members of Congress


Roy Blunt should be at the top of the list! I need to email Beyond Delay about that.


Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-NM)


Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)


Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)


Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK)


Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA)


Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-CA)


Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL)


Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA)


Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA)


Rep. William J. Jefferson

(D-LA)

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA)


Rep. Gary G. Miller (R-CA)


Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-WV)


Rep. Timothy F. Murphy (R-PA)


Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA)


Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM)


Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ)


Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY)


Rep. David Scott (D-GA)


Rep. Jerry Weller (R-IL)


Rep. Heather A. Wilson (R-NM)


Rep. Don Young (R-AK)


Dishonorable mentions


Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-ID)

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA)



http://www.beyonddelay.org/




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Bush' Way of Bringing the Troops Home

Bush' Way of Bringing the Troops Home
If Not Now When?