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interpreting the constitution
crowd control
News
spread of the red
red state rebate
spread of the red
number 173    
11.09.08
redstat
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Slim Harpo  
Tribute Page
The United States government
has paid at least $6 billion to
more than 300 private security
contractors for services in Iraq
since the occupation of the
country in 2003, according to
the results of a federal
investigation released last
week. The report also
documents that the Pentagon
has failed to take measures to
ensure that companies that
default on jobs or perform
poorly are prevented from
receiving further contracts.
The report by Special
Inspector General for Iraq
Reconstruction Stuart Bowen
is the most detailed look so far
at the murky world of the
private security firms employed
to support US military
operations during the Bush
administration.

Several companies that have
been accused of fraud and
waste
in their dealings with the
Defense Department are
included on the list of 310
private security contractors
compiled by the Inspector
General. According to the
New
York Times
, while the large
contracts are dominated by
familiar US firms like
Blackwater,  DynCorp,and
Bechtel, the extensive roster
also includes many little-known
companies from Uganda,
Cyprus, the Philippines,
Romania, and the Czech
Republic.

The report identifies 1262 DoD
reconstruction projects in Iraq
that have been terminated
before completion. At least 530
of these were cancelled due to
contractor default. About $90
million was paid to contractors
for projects they defaulted
on.      
it's all true
The federal government’s plan to
replace US passports with new state-
of-the-art electronic cards containing
RFID chips has been plagued by a
series of controversies and security
breaches, most recently last week
with the State Department warning
Washington, DC-area passport
applicants that their personal data
may have been obtained by a ring of
identity thieves.

Reports over the summer that the
manufacturing of the electronic
passports has been outsourced to
overseas companies drew criticism
from members of Congress who
raised concerns about the security
implications of the outsourcing
arrangements. An investigation by
the
Washington Times revealed
that the Government Printing Office
was overcharging the State
Department for the finished passport
blanks, booking a profit on the
transaction in an apparent violation of
its federal charter.

House Energy and Commerce
Committee chairman John Dingell (D-
MI) initiated an investigation into the
procedures adopted for rolling out
the new passports, a high profile
component of the Bush
administration “homeland security”
policy. Dingell told the
Times, “I am
not only troubled that there may be
serious security concerns with the
new passport production system, but
also that GPO officials may have
been profiting from producing them.”
Spokesmen for the GPO, the State
Department, and the Department of
Homeland Security disputed that the
outsourcing of passport production to
foreign contractors had created any
significant security risks.       
it's all true
Persistent Privacy Problems Plague
Passports
Report Documents
Expanding
Contracting
A federal judge has ruled that the
government may classify and
withhold information that reveals
violations of the law, as long as the
classification is not solely for the
purpose of covering up criminal
activity. The decision, which narrowly
interprets an important executive
order on classification policy, was
rendered in a lawsuit brought by the
American Civil Liberties Union
against the Defense Department
seeking documents related to
detainee interrogations at
Guantanamo Bay. The ruling by
District of Columbia District Judge
Royce C. Lamberth is a setback for
efforts to impose limits on executive
branch authority to deny access to
documents and other information on
security grounds.

The ACLU petitioned for the release
of records from Combatant Status
Review  
Tribunals held at Guantanamo to
determine if detainees were so-called
“enemy combatants”. Staff attorney
Ben Wizner of the ACLU National
Security Project said of the ruling,
“This decision allows the Bush
administration to continue its illegal
cover-up of its systemic torture
policies. The government has
suppressed these detainees’
allegations of brutal torture not to
protect any legitimate national
security interests, but to protect itself
from criticism and liability. It is
unlawful for the government to
withhold information on these
grounds.”

The wider implications of Judge
Lamberth’s interpretation of the
wording of Executive Order 12958,
which governs classification policy,
were discussed by Steven Aftergood
in an article in the Federation of
American  
Scientists’ Secrecy News: “This
narrow understanding of the
executive order converts an
important guarantee of the
integrity of the classification
process into an empty rhetorical
gesture.” Aftergood points out
that, under the ruling, “the
executive order provision limiting
classification of violations of the
law is not a limitation on the types
of information that may be
classified at all, but rather an
unverifiable limitation on the
classifier’s intention.”

The White House and the Office
of the Vice President have
consistently refused to cooperate
with federal oversight agencies,
citing security concerns. The
administration has invoked
executive privilege to avoid
Congressional subpoenas.  
it's all
true
Executive Branch Obstruction Can Be Classified as
Transparent
The Bush administration has
embarked upon a massive rule
changing frenzy as it enters its final
sixty days.  The rule changes, many
of which have been lobbied for by
special business interests for some
time, would have far reaching
consequences for the environment,
workers and consumers.  The
regulatory blitzkrieg is premised upon
the fact that, although the rules will
be hastily approved, the task of
undoing rule changes is cumbersome
and costly and many of the eleventh
hour rules are likely to remain on the
books for a long time or will never be
reversed.

Nearly one hundred rule changes
have been proposed by the
administration,
including amendments to rules
protecting the nation’s ocean
fisheries, our drinking water and the
air quality in the nation’s national
parks, and relaxing rules that limit
industrial agricultural waste
discharges and power plant
emissions.  

The Bush administration has
proposed to make fundamental and
far-reaching changes to the
Endangered Species Act.  The new
rules would exclude greenhouse
gasses from the regulations and
allow individual federal government
agencies to decide on their own if a
planned project would threaten a
protected species. The rules
currently require that agencies
consult with
experts at the Fish and Wildlife
Service or the National Marine
Service before embarking on a
project that may impact a
protected species.  The rule
changes are the most significant
amendment of the Endangered
Species Act since 1987.

Another change would allow
mining companies to dump debris
into mountain streams when they
believe that “avoidance is not
possible”.  
This rule change, as with the
majority of those proposed by the
admin-istration as it prepares to
leave office, shifts the regulatory
power away from the agency and
towards
private companies.        
it's all true
Last Blast of Legislation by Fiat Leaves Legacy of Corporate
Cronyism
According to the Congressional
Budget Office, retirement plans,
including 401(k) plans, have lost
more than$2 trillion in value over the
past 15 months as stocks have been
battered in increasingly turbulent
financial times.  Many Americans who
are at or nearing retirement age are
facing the prospect of having to
forestall retirement and continue to
remain in the workforce.  The
dramatic reduction in value of stocks
has also forced some retirees to
have to return to the workforce
because their retirement investments
have disappeared.  The Bureau of
Labor Statistics reports that more
than 6 million workers last year were
over 65, and says that the rate of
workers who are over fifty-five will
continue to increase over the next
ten years.

A study recently released by the
senior advocacy group AARP found
that the recent declines in the stock
market have led many workers to
become anxious about ability of basic
retirement strategies meeting their
financial requirements when the are
old enough to retire.  AARP
performed a survey of American
workers and found that 27 percent of
workers age 45 and over, and 32
percent of workers between the ages
of 55 and 64 said they have delayed
their
planned retirement date because of
the current economic slowdown.  
Overall, 65 Percent of the workers
surveyed who are 45 and older said
that they anticipate delaying their
retirement.  69 percent said that they
will have less to spend in their
retirement if the nation’s economic
situation does not improve.  

Beyond these figures, AARP also
reports that over the past year, 20
percent of workers 45 and older have
stopped making payments into their
retirement accounts and 13 percent
of workers withdrew money from their
retirement accounts to meet
unexpected financial obligations.  
The financial services company
Ameritrade found in its polling that 63
percent of American workers have
stopped contributing to their
retirement plans.   

AARP says that it found that there is
“considerable distress among
vulnerable elements” of the working
population and says that their
findings suggests that the “most at-
risk individuals may be the hardest
hit” by the economic collapse.  AARP
calls for employers to do more to
ensure that employees are more
secure in their retirement saying,
“Employer-provided pension
coverage needs to be greatly
increased.”               
it's all true
Researchers reported that
minorities are more likely to die in
America’s emergency rooms
following a serious traumatic injury
than white patients.  The study,
which appeared in the October
issue of
Archives of
Surgery
, also found that patients  
without health insurance are more
likely to die in emergency rooms
than patients covered by private
health insurance.

For insured patients, black
patients have a 20 percent and
Latino patients a 51 percent
increased odds of dying after a
trauma in US emergency rooms
than white patients.  Among
uninsured patients, a white patient’
s risk of dying rises by 55 percent.
For uninsured minority patients,
the odds of dying increase by 78
percent for blacks and 130
percent for Latinos.  

The findings are surprising
because admittance to America’s
emergency rooms is universal.  
The author of the study, Dr. Adil
Haider, said, “There are racial
disparities in survival after trauma,
and differences in insurance...
cannot explain away
these disparities.”           
it's all true
...and I particularly
like it when I'm
fishing."   
Washington
DC 09.26.08
verbatim                                 number 33.5
"I didn't grow up
in the ocean - as
a matter of fact -
near the ocean, I
grew up in the
desert...
...Therefore, it was
a pleasant contrast
to see the ocean...
Plastic surgery
procedures
selected countries
us
mexico
canada
0                50,000            
100,000
japan
france
greece
uk
Retirement Plans Changing For Struggling Seniors
Emergency Rooms
Don't Suffer From
Color Blindness
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