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Archive for February 12th, 2009

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(h/t HuffPo via AP)

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Foreclosures Remain 18 Percent Above Last Year



HARDEST HIT:

CALIFORNIA
ARIZONA
NEVADA
FLORIDA

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Unredacted documents reveal prisoners tortured to death

RAW STORY
Published: Thursday February 12, 200

The American Civil Liberties Union has released previously classified excerpts of a government report on harsh interrogation techniques used in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. These previously unreported pages detail repeated use of “abusive” behavior, even to the point of prisoner deaths.

The documents, obtained by the ACLU under a Freedom of Information Act request, contain a report by Vice Admiral Albert T. Church, who was tapped to conduct a comprehensive review of Defense Department interrogation operations. Church specifically calls out interrogations at Bagram Air base in Afghanistan as “clearly abusive, and clearly not in keeping with any approved interrogation policy or guidance.”

The two unredacted pages from the Church report may be found here.

“In both cases, for example, [prisoners] were handcuffed to fixed objects above their heads in order to keep them awake,” reads the document. “Additionally, interrogations in both incidents involved the use of physical violence, including kicking, beating, and the use of “compliance blows” which involved striking the [prisoners] legs with the [interrogators] knees. In both cases, blunt force trauma to the legs was implicated in the deaths. In one case, a pulmonary embolism developed as a consequence of the blunt force trauma, and in the other case pre-existing coronary artery disease was complicated by the blunt force trauma.”

In a press release, the ACLU summarized the documents as detailing, “[An] investigation of two deaths at Bagram. Both detainees were determined to have been killed by pulmonary embolism caused as a result of standing chained in place, sleep depravation and dozens of beatings by guards and possibly interrogators. (Also reveals the use of torture at Gitmo and American-Afghani prisons in Kabul).

“[An] investigation into the homicide or involuntary manslaughter of detainee Dilar Dababa by U.S. forces in 2003 in Iraq.

“[An] investigation launched after allegations that an Iraqi prisoner was subjected to torture and abuse at ‘The Disco’ (located in the Special Operations Force Compound in Mosul Airfield, Mosul, Iraq). The abuse consisted of filling his jumpsuit with ice, then hosing him down and making him stand for long periods of time, sometimes in front of an air conditioner; forcing him to lay down and drink water until he gagged, vomited or choked, having his head banged against a hot steel plate while hooded and interrogated; being forced to do leg lifts with bags of ice placed on his ankles, and being kicked when he could not do more.

“[An] investigation of allegations of torture and abuse that took place in 2003 at Abu Ghraib.

“[And an] investigation that established probable cause to believe that U.S. forces committed homicide in 2003 when they participated in the binding of detainee Abed Mowhoush in a sleeping bag during an interrogation, causing him to die of asphyxiation.”

“A large portion of the torture, maiming, and murder of detainees occurred under authority issued under secret rules of engagement in the Pentagon,” wrote Scott Horton, a contributing editor with Harper’s magazine. “Much of this flowed through Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone, a figure who has so far evaded scrutiny in the torture scandal and now serves as vice president for strategy of QinetiQ North America, a subsidiary of the United Kingdom-based defense contractor QinetiQ. Even the Senate Armed Services Committee review fails to get to the bottom of Dr. Cambone, his interrogations ROEs for special operations units he controlled, and the death, disfigurement and torture of prisoners they handled. This is one of many reasons why a comprehensive investigation with subpoena power is urgently needed. But full airing of the internal investigations already conducted by the Department of Defense is an essential next step.”

The ACLU’s catalog of documents relating to torture under the Bush administration may be found here.

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Guns N’ Roses – November Rain

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Maxine Waters grills CEO’s over the raising of credit card interest rates

CLICK VIDEO

Rep. Maxine Waters asks CEO’s about their practice of raising credit card limits at the Bank CEO hearing today. How many of us have had a sudden jump in our interest rates without ever even knowing it.Which of course never allows people to pay off the debt. Waters is making a key point here.

Waters: Since you received TARP money, have any of you increased the amount of interest on the credit cards by sending out letters to the consumers, to your credit card holders indicating that this was part of the contract even though this was in small print and you now have the ability to do it, have any of you Did any of you do that?

Did you do this?

CEO: I was volunteering. First of all I feel like corporal of the universe not captain of the universe.

Waters: Did you increase your credit card interest rate?

CEO: In 2008, we increased interest rates on 9 % of our customers.

Waters: Thank you very much, did anyone else increase credit card rates after you received TARP money? Anyone else, if so would you please raise your hand. (most of them did)

You sent out the letters I’m trying to describe? Saying that you have the authority to do that. Did any of you reduce the amount of credit that was available to credit card holders because they shopped at certain stores? Just raise your hand if you did. None of you did. Let the record reflect, none of them raised their hands.

Tom Geoghegan has repeatedly talked about the idea of helping the American consumer with their credit debt by canceling their private consumer debt which would immediately stimulate the economy. He often speaks about how these institutions can raise their rates to as high as they want. The consumer can never catch up and it’s a sad practice which will cripple Americans with overriding fear about their state of finances. And as he points out in the linked video, we always come up with the money for war….

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Laid-Off Foreigners Flee as Dubai Spirals Down

By ROBERT F. WORTH

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Sofia, a 34-year-old Frenchwoman, moved here a year ago to take a job in advertising, so confident about Dubai’s fast-growing economy that she bought an apartment for almost $300,000 with a 15-year mortgage.

Now, like many of the foreign workers who make up 90 percent of the population here, she has been laid off and faces the prospect of being forced to leave this Persian Gulf city — or worse.

“I’m really scared of what could happen, because I bought property here,” said Sofia, who asked that her last name be withheld because she is still hunting for a new job. “If I can’t pay it off, I was told I could end up in debtors’ prison.”

With Dubai’s economy in free fall, newspapers have reported that more than 3,000 cars sit abandoned in the parking lot at the Dubai Airport, left by fleeing, debt-ridden foreigners (who could in fact be imprisoned if they failed to pay their bills). Some are said to have maxed-out credit cards inside and notes of apology taped to the windshield.

The government says the real number is much lower. But the stories contain at least a grain of truth: jobless people here lose their work visas and then must leave the country within a month. That in turn reduces spending, creates housing vacancies and lowers real estate prices, in a downward spiral that has left parts of Dubai — once hailed as the economic superpower of the Middle East — looking like a ghost town.

(more…)

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The Big Winners In Stimulus Compromise: The Upper-Middle Class

Huffington Post- Thomas B. Edsall

February 11, 2009 07:19 PM

When President Obama outlined on January 8 the rationale for the economic stimulus bill, “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” he clearly identified the men and women most in trouble:

Nearly two million jobs have now been lost, and on Friday we are likely to learn that we lost more jobs last year than at any time since World War II. Just in the past year, another 2.8 million Americans who want and need full-time work have had to settle for part-time jobs.

The House-Senate compromise, however, cuts funds for extended health care coverage for the unemployed; cuts $30 billion in aid to state governments to prevent reductions in social services to the poor and out-of-work; and also cuts a special “Making Work Pay” tax holiday from $500 to $400 for an individual, and from $1,000 to $800 for a couple, for low-to-middle-income workers still hanging on to their jobs

Amid all the cutting, however, one group emerged unscathed: the upper-middle class, the not-quite-super-rich, but certainly not on the ropes. Most of these folks, in terms of income and employment, are what could be called the un-needy, a group clearly distinct from those Obama identified as the core target of the legislation. The “compromise” legislation includes $70 billion, or just under 10 percent of the whole package, to be used expressly to take care of these affluent people.

In fact, these lucky men and women make so much money that they fall into the ever-expanding grasp of the alternative minimum tax (AMT). The AMT was originally designed in 1969 to prevent the nation’s millionaires and billionaires from using tax loopholes to pay zero income tax. That year, 155 very wealthy taxpayers paid no federal tax whatsoever. This year, if the law remains as it is currently crafted, the AMT would, through bracket creep, apply to as many as 25 million taxpayers, including those making in the $85,000 to $250,000 range, depending on how many deductions they claim (the more deductions, the more likely the AMT comes into play).

There is a strong case to be made that the AMT was never intended to apply to people in these income categories – for example two public school teachers married to each other — and Congress in recent years has repeatedly passed temporary one-year “patches” postponing the downward reach of the tax provision.

MORE HERE

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