Republicans Wednesday blocked an effort by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Judiciary ranking member Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., to create stiffer criminal penalties for war profiteering.
The Leahy/Daschle amendment to the fiscal 2005 defense authorization bill would have created new penalties -- including up to 20 years in jail -- for government contractors convicted of inflating the cost of goods or services. It was defeated 52-46.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., later filed a motion to invoke cloture on the defense authorization bill, setting a deadline of 1 p.m. Thursday for any further amendments to be filed. The cloture vote could be held as early as Friday.
Daschle and Leahy introduced the war-profiteering amendment in response to growing accusations by Defense Department whistleblowers and House and Senate Democrats that Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, has overcharged the government for a host of services provided to the military in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Much of the material in "Fahrenheit 9/11" has already been covered in books and newspapers, but some is new, and it all benefits from the different kind of impact a movie has. Near the beginning of the film, as Congress moves to ratify the election of Bush after the Florida and Supreme Court controversies, it is positively eerie to see 10 members of Congress -- eight black women, one Asian woman and one black man -- rise to protest the move and be gaveled into silence by the chairman of the session, Al Gore.
On the night before his film premiered, Moore, in uncharacteristic formalwear, attended an official dinner given by Gilles Jacob, president of the festival. Conversation at his table centered on the just-published New Yorker article by Seymour Hersh alleging that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld personally authorized use of torture in Iraqi prisons.
Moore had his own insight into the issue: "Rumsfeld was under oath when he testified about the torture scandal. If he lied, that's perjury. And therefore I find it incredibly significant that when Bush and Cheney testified before the 9/11 commission, they refused to swear an oath. They claimed they'd sworn an oath of office, but that has no legal standing. Do you suppose they remembered how Clinton was trapped by perjury and were protecting themselves?"
Would something like that belong in the film?
"My contract says I can keep editing and adding stuff right up until the release date," Moore said. He said he expects to sign a U.S. distribution deal this week at Cannes; the film's producer, Miramax, was forbidden to release it by its parent company, Disney.
After the first press screening on Monday, journalists noted on their way out that Moore was more serious in this film and took fewer cheap shots. But there are a few. Wait until you see Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz preparing for a TV interview. First he puts a pocket comb in his mouth to wet it and combs down his hair. Still not satisfied, he spits on his hand and wipes the hair into place. Catching politicians being made up for TV is an old game, but this is a first. "
Leading the attempts to give her the "Hillary treatment" thus far is the Capital Research Center (CRC), a conservative, Washington-based organization that studies the spending of nonprofits. Grant Oliphant, who served as Senator John Heinz's press secretary and is now executive director of the Heinz Endowments, says that the CRC has "aggressively tried to drum up interest in the notion it would be a conflict of interest to be an active philanthropist and also be First Lady."
In April, CRC published a report titled "The Heinz Foundations and The Kerry Campaign" which concluded ominously:
The United States has never had a wealthy spouse overshadow its president. But Teresa Heinz Kerry leads and funds philanthropic foundations and she sits on the board of directors of highly political nonprofit groups that receive her foundations' support and that can advance or frustrate the policies of her husband, should he become president. That's unprecedented political power. More public scrutiny of Heinz Kerry's public role is in order. While there is still time.
The reality is that people on both ends of the political spectrum have publicly lauded Heinz Kerry for her philanthropic activities in western Pennsylvania. According to the Boston Globe, her foundations have poured nearly $200 million into an array of environmental causes, including large sums for cleanup projects in western Pennsylvania and a riverfront park in Pittsburgh -- all of which have helped turn that region into an environmental model for the rest of the nation.
Batter-coated french fries are a fresh vegetable, according to the Agriculture Department, which has a federal judge's ruling to back it up.
But the department said Tuesday that the classification applies only to rules of commerce, not nutrition, and it doesn't consider an order of fries the same as an apple in school lunches.
The ruling last week by federal District Judge Richard Schell in Beaumont, Texas, allowed batter-coated french fries to be considered fresh vegetables under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act. Most other frozen fries had been on the list since 1996.
Regulations under the law help to assure buyers of commodities such as french fries that they are getting what they ordered, said George Chartier, a spokesman for the department's Agricultural Marketing Service. Frozen fries are fresh simply because they don't meet the standard necessary for them to be listed as processed, and adding batter to the fries does not change the classification, he said.
"He's an extraordinarily thoughtful, very civil, easy-to-deal-with, courteous guy," said McCaffrey, who stressed he is staying neutral in the presidential race. "He doesn't produce exothermic reactions; he produces solutions." Translation: Beers is no hot head.
The number of Americans filing initial claims for jobless aid rose unexpectedly last week, government data showed on Thursday, and the rolling average rose to its highest level since late April.
First-time claims for state unemployment benefits rose 12,000 to 352,000 the week ended June 5, the Labor Department said. Despite the rise in layoffs, economists still consider claims near the 350,000 level as a token of an improving labor market.
Wall Street analysts had forecast a fall in claims to 335,000 from a revised 340,000 the previous week. This was originally reported as 339,000.
The Defense Department has wasted at least $100 million on tickets for flights that employees never boarded, General Accounting Office investigators told lawmakers Wednesday.
GAO has previously reported widespread abuse of individual employee travel cards, which work like credit cards. But the latest research, published in two reports, (GAO-04-576 and GAO-04-398), indicates that problems of waste and abuse extend to travel items, most notably airline tickets, bought using centrally billed Pentagon accounts.
From 1997 to 2003, the Defense Department paid as much as $100 million for plane tickets that went unused, Gregory Kutz, GAO director of financial management and assurance, told the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. His estimate is based on data provided by five major airlines and the Bank of America, where Defense holds its central credit card accounts.
In fiscal 2001 and 2002 alone, the Pentagon paid at least $21.1 million for nearly 28,000 unused tickets, the data shows. These figures likely underestimate the true extent of waste, Kutz told lawmakers, because the financially strapped airlines lacked incentives to fully report tickets that weren't used.
Of the five major air carriers surveyed, only American Airlines willingly provided data, responding to GAO's request within two weeks, Kutz said. The other carriers (Delta, Northwest, United and US Airways) supplied the data in six to eight weeks, after subpoena threats and letters from lawmakers.
Ok - I couldn't pass this up. As many of you probably know, Kos is raising money for a handful of House candidates (and 2 Senate candidates yet to be determined). One of the House candidates is the opponent of Marilyn Musgrave, the sponsor of the federal marriage amendment. She is apparently concerned about the competition (she's a freshman Rep.), and Kos has a copy of the fund-raising letter she sent out. I would strongly encourage everyone to read it.
It's a one to two page letter that uses the word "homosexual" twenty-four times. TWENTY-FOUR. My friends, there is a culture war a-comin' this fall. You can see the storm clouds forming in the distance. I'll have a lot more to say about this later (hopefully later today). Back to work.
[Update: Andrew Sullivan did some research on Musgrave:
Khan told NBC and The Wall Street Journal that he was lured into joining a group of Islamic radicals in Britain who offered to pay his gambling debts and was trained to hijack planes at a camp in Pakistan.
A congressional report on the Sept. 11 attacks confirmed that in April 2000 an unnamed "walk-in" source told FBI agents in Newark, New Jersey, that he "was to meet five or six persons," some of them pilots, who would take over a plane and fly to Afghanistan, or blow up the plane, NBC said.
During the Wall Street Journal interview, Khan produced business cards from two FBI counterterrorism agents with whom he said he spent about two weeks in 2000, the newspaper reported.
Citing records and law-enforcement officials, the report also said Khan passed two FBI polygraph tests of his story.
NBC quoted a former FBI official as saying that the Newark agents believed Khan but were ordered by headquarters to "return him to London and forget about it." But the FBI insists it investigated Khan's allegations thoroughly, could not confirm them, and had no grounds to hold him, NBC said.
PBDEs, which have caused neurological damage in laboratory rats in numerous studies, are related to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). PCBs have been used in fire extinguishers, fluorescent lights and liquid insulators since the 1920s.
PCBs were outlawed in the 1970s, but the toxins don't erode and still persist in the environment.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and several other organizations have confirmed that PCBs damage brains of human fetuses.
n 9 11.
AJ: That’s right my friends it’s eight minutes ten seconds into this 3rd hour of global transmission. I am so honored to have on Andreas von Bulow former German defense minister, head of their defense department and of course until just a few years ago, head of their technology system which is, that is a very high level post, just as high level as defense minister there in Deutschland. And he’s written a best selling book and I’ve read some quotes out of it that have been translated into English. And the title translated is ‘911 and the CIA.’ And he lays out the evidence of the military-industrial complex carrying out the attacks. Also we have lined up Michael Micher. And he of course was the English environmental minister who resigned over Tony Blair’s fraud. He has written articles saying that if they didn’t carry it out, they certainly funded and allowed them to take place. So, if you’ve got a brain, it’s clear, and Mr. von Bulow, very intelligent individual has gone over this. So, sir, you’ve said that on the day of the event you began to look at it, you began to research it. And, from your specific expertise in intelligence and military and technology, you know heading up entire sectors of the world’s third largest economy. Please discuss for us your research and how you wrote the book and what really happened o
AvB: Err, 9 11, I just watched the scenery. And I said there must have- gone something very [wrong]. I watched the TV for example and in the same minute that the TV showed the planes driving into the World Trade Center, you found these Palestinians dancing and laughing. And a few days later one could find out that this was fake. It was made by a TV crew of the defense ministry in Israel and they gave candies to the people and they laughed about it. And, nobody told it. And the question for me was who brought this TV stuff right in time into the national networks like CNN and CBS and so on and so on. And then we look for the, the story came out that this had been done by bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda and these 19 people of Muslim background, which did this. And you could watch the Persian journalist, and nobody showed up. Not one Arabic name was showing up there. And then one is interested to see video because all these 19 passengers must have passed the video, a lot of video cameras in Dallas, and New York, and Logan in Boston, and Portland in the North. You don’t get this stuff. And then we’re looking for the black boxes and we don’t get them. And the story how these, these World Trade Center buildings broke down, they were constructed against an approach by airplanes. And, the firemen of New York, they were able to come to the floor where the fires were burning, and they said, the fire commander said he needed two teams, small, to fight these fires and then it’s finished. So the heat, it is impossible that the heat was as high as it has been written in the papers and in all the media. AJ: And then, and then the feds declared that all firefighter tapes malfunctioned, turns out that wasn’t true; we’ve got copies of them. And it did say that the firefighters said the fires were out or almost out. There is video of people standing in the holes of the buildings with no fire around them. And we’re going to go over the evidence that’s in your book, sir, and why you came to these educated conclusions.
Ironically, it was the fair-haired Republican stalwart Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr who decimated the attorney-client privilege for government lawyers and their clients - which, to paraphrase the authority Wigmore, applies when legal advice of any kind is sought by a client from a professional legal adviser, where the advice is sought in confidence.
The reason the privilege was created was to insure open and candid discussion between a lawyer and his or her client. It traditionally applied in both civil and criminal situations for government lawyers, just as it did for non-government lawyers. It applied to written records of communications, such as attorney's notes, as well as to the communications themselves.
But Starr tried to thwart that tradition in two different cases, before two federal appeals courts. There, he contended that there should be no such privilege in criminal cases involving government lawyers.
In the first case, In re Grand Jury Subpoenas Duces Tecum, former First Lady Hillary Clinton had spoken with her private counsel in the presence of White House counsel (who had made notes of the conversation). Starr wanted the notes. Hillary Clinton claimed the privilege.
A divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit agreed with Starr. The court held that a grand jury was entitled to the information. It also held that government officials -- even when serving as attorneys -- had a special obligation to provide incriminating information in their possession.
In the second case, In re Lindsey, Deputy White House Counsel Bruce Lindsey refused to testify about his knowledge of President Clinton's relationship to Monica Lewinsky, based on attorney-client privilege. Starr sought to compel Lindsey's testimony, and he won again.
This time, Starr persuaded the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to follow the Eighth Circuit. The court ruled that exposure of wrongdoing by government lawyers fostered democracy, as "openness in government has always been thought crucial to ensuring that the people remain in control of their government."
Based on these precedents, President Bush has almost certainly been told that the only way he can discuss his potential testimony with a lawyer is by hiring one outside the government.
CNN sued Florida's elections office Wednesday to get access to a state list with names of possible felons who may need to be deleted from voter rolls. The state uses the list to provide names of possible felons to county elections officials, who must review them to determine if individuals should be removed from the rolls. The list is of interest to journalists because of the potential for mistakes.
The list is a public record. But state law allows only certain people and groups - such as political parties or candidates - to make copies. Others may view it, but may not make copies.
The lawsuit in state circuit court claims the requirement is unconstitutional and irrational and says some people on the list have no way of knowing it unless someone contacts them.
Jenny Nash, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of State, said allowing anyone to make copies of the list could "potentially violate the privacy of innocent voters." She said that's because the list only includes potential - not certain - matches of voters and felons.
State and county officials acknowledge the list likely contains many people who legally should continue to be allowed to vote.
Established by an act of Congress in 1979, the Federal Procurement Data System was a rare island of public information, the only complete record of federal contracts. Using the database, journalists, auditors and federal investigators could review the million or so agreements with corporations Uncle Sam signed each year. They could find the companies reaping the largest awards, track the rise in no-bid deals, and measure the recent drive to replace federal employees with corporate employees. But under a new contract, the General Services Administration has now turned over responsibility for collecting and distributing information on government contracts to a beltway company called Global Computer Enterprises, Inc.
In signing the $24 million deal, the Bush Administration has privatized not only the collection and distribution of the data, but the database itself. For the first time since the system was established, the information will not be available directly to the public or subject to the Freedom of Information Act, according to federal officials. "It's a contractor owned and operated system," explains Nancy Gunsauls, a project manager at GCE. "We have the data."
With the compiled database under private control, journalists, corporate consultants, and even federal agencies will be barred from independently searching copies of it. Instead, GCE has pledged only to produce a set of public reports required by the government, and to provide limited access to the entire database for a yet-to-be-determined fee.
"It seems that something quite inappropriate has been done here," says Angela Styles, who served until last year as President Bush's chief procurement official, noting that Congress requires the government to compile and share this information. "They have ceded their responsibility."
Experts in federal contract law worry that the new system could cripple public scrutiny of federal contracts. "This is the ultimate metaphor for the administration's view of contracting out," says Paul Light, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, who has used the procurement database for his own work. "It insulates the process from inspection, which I think is exactly what this administration prefers. They don't want people digging. They don't want people looking." Similarly, Charles Tiefer, a professor at Baltimore Law School who wrote a textbook on contract law, described the change as a political move. "They are covering up," he said. "They are making it more difficult to know that we have less competition."
Army officials estimated that the new orders will affect tens of thousands of soldiers over the next year and a half but did not offer a precise figure. They said that on average about 25 percent of any given division can be expected to retire or otherwise depart the service during an 18-month period.
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