WASHINGTON - July 27, 2009 - Despite their denials, influential Democrat Senators Kent Conrad and Christopher Dodd were told from the start that they were getting VIP mortgage discounts from one of the nation's largest lenders, the official who handled their loans told Congress in secret testimony.
MOSCOW, Russia - August 21, 2008 - The West’s deteriorating
relations with Moscow were plunged into deep freeze yesterday when the United
States and Poland sealed a deal that will place a key part of Washington’s “Son
of Star Wars” anti-missile system on Polish soil. Condoleezza Rice, the U.S.
Secretary of State, flew to Poland from the NATO meeting that condemned
Russia’s military presence in Georgia, to sign the agreement with Radoslaw
Sikorski, the Polish Foreign Minister.
MOSCOW, Russia - August 20, 2008 - The Russian aircraft
carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov” is ready to head from Murmansk towards the
Mediterranean and the Syrian port of Tartus. The mission comes after Syrian
President Bashar Assad said he is open for a Russian base in the area.
WASHINGTON - August 18, 2008 - Half
a dozen Blackwater Worldwide security guards have gotten target letters from
the Justice Department in a probe of shootings in Baghdad that killed 17
Iraqis, The Washington Post reported.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - August 14,
2008 - Faced with desertions by his political supporters and the neutrality of
the Pakistani military, President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, an important
ally of the United States, is expected to resign in the next few days rather
than face impeachment charges, Pakistani politicians and Western diplomats said
WASHINGTON -August 18, 2008 -
Homeland security officials in the Washington area plan to dramatically expand
the use of automated license plate readers to prevent possible terrorist
DES MOINES, Iowa - August 16, 2008
- State records show that a $50,000 judgment has been awarded to two retired
schoolteachers who were strip-searched during a 2004 campaign stop by President
MIAMI, Florida - August 16, 2008 - A Florida man is dead after being
repeatedly shocked by a Taser stun gun.
Former Louisiana police officer accused of
repeatedly jolting handcuffed man
Louisiana - August 13, 2008 - A former police officer accused of repeatedly
jolting a handcuffed man with a Taser before he died was indicted on a
manslaughter charges Wednesday by a grand jury in central Louisiana.
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana - August 13,
2008 - A judge threw out murder and attempted murder charges Wednesday against
seven New Orleans police officers accused of gunning down two men on a bridge
in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Radiation sensors and surveillance cameras to be
used to screen and follow every vehicle entering lower Manhattan
NEW YORK - August 12, 2008 - The NYPD is working on a high-tech, anti-terror plan
to track every vehicle that enters Manhattan. It's called "Operation
Sentinel," and it's already sparking a debate about the right to privacy.
MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada - August 11, 2008 - Rioting broke out late
Sunday in a Montreal neighborhood where police shot a young man to death over
the weekend. A police officer was shot in the leg, stores were looted and
firefighters were pelted with beer bottles.
MOSCOW, Russia - August 11, 2008 - Russian Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin has accused Washington of undermining Russia’s attempts to
restore peace in the South Ossetian conflict zone. Putin said a
decision by the U.S. military to fly 800 Georgian soldiers from Iraq to Georgia
showed America was ‘trying to get in the way’.
Metamaterials can deflect light waves surrounding an object, making it disappear
WASHINGTON - August
10, 2008 - Scientists say they are a step closer to developing materials that
could render people and objects invisible.
PHOENIX, Arizona - August 8, 2008 -
Four Mexican army soldiers entered southern Arizona and pointed their rifles at
a U.S. Border Patrol agent early this week, the Border Patrol said.
KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait - August 7,
2008 - Two additional United States naval aircraft carriers are heading to the
Gulf and the Red Sea, according to the Kuwaiti newspaper Kuwait Times.
WASHINGTON - August 7, 2008 - The
Department of Defense continued its controversial mandatory anthrax
vaccinations program despite high ranking Bush regime officials acknowledging
there were problems with the vaccine within months of the Bush regime taking
office - well before the events of 9/11 and the October 2001 anthrax letters.
PHOENIX, Arizona - August 7, 2008 -
According to federal prosecutors more than 40 million credit and debit card
numbers were stolen from popular retailers and restaurants.
TRENTON, New Jersey - August
6, 2008 - Small towns that will soon have to pay for their State Police patrols
hope that drivers who break the law, and not local taxpayers, foot the bill.
WASHINGTON - July 31, 2008 - A
House committee voted yesterday to cite former top White
House aide Karl
Rove for contempt of Congress, as its Senate counterpart explored
punishment for alleged Bush regime misdeeds.
SAN FRANCISCO, Kalifornia - August
1, 2008 - Garbage collectors would inspect San Francisco residents' trash to
make sure pizza crusts aren't mixed in with chip bags or wine bottles under a
proposal by Mayor Gavin Newsom, who has developed a reputation for disregarding
state and federal laws in pursuit of his own personal and political agenda.
CONCORD, New Hampshire - August 4,
2008 - Two men have been sentenced to prison for helping tax evaders Ed and
WASHINGTON - July 30, 2008 - In a little-reported brief filed late
Tuesday with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Bush regime asked
the court to keep any review of the warrantless wiretapping law passed earlier
this year by Congress secret.
WASHINGTON - July 30, 2008 - On
January 2, 2008, Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth was electrocuted while taking
a shower at the Legion Security Forces Building in Baghdad. Press reports have
indicated that contractor KBR ignored repeated warnings about the unsafe
JERUSALEM, Israel - July 30, 2008 -
The United States has agreed to place advanced missile detection systems in
WASHINGTON - July 29, 2008 - Senator
Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican senator and a figure in Alaska
politics since before statehood, has been indicted on seven counts of falsely
reporting hundreds of thousands of dollars in services he received from a
company that helped renovate his home.
By Jerome Corsi
July 28, 2008 - The Security and
Prosperity Partnership of North America is dead, says Robert A. Pastor, the
American University professor who for more than a decade has been a major
proponent of building a North American Community.
NEW YORK - July 28, 2008 - Soaring
corn and soy prices on top of rising construction costs and tight credit
markets have pushed about a dozen U.S. biofuel plants to file for bankruptcy
protection, experts said.
Critics of the president let loose before the judiciary
committee. One Republican calls it 'impeachment lite.'
WASHINGTON - July 26, 2008 - Call it the un-impeachment
Aug. 20, 2007 - In one of history's more absurd acts of totalitarianism, China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is "an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation."
But beyond the irony lies China's true motive: to cut off the influence of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual and political leader, and to quell the region's Buddhist religious establishment more than 50 years after China invaded the small Himalayan country. By barring any Buddhist monk living outside China from seeking reincarnation, the law effectively gives Chinese authorities the power to choose the next Dalai Lama, whose soul, by tradition, is reborn as a new human to continue the work of relieving suffering.
August 27, 2007 - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced his resignation today, ending months of calls that he would step down from the Justice Department over his role in the dismissal of federal prosecutors and role in expanding the power to spy on Americans. Gonzales said he will leave office Sept. 17.
In a news conference this morning, Gonzales did not address the reasons for his resignation, and he refused to answer reporters' shouted questions.
"Even my worst days at Attorney General have been better than my father's best days," said Gonzales, whose parents immigrated to Texas from Mexico before he was born.
LUBBOCK, Texas - August 22, 2007 - New security measures are now in place at Lubbock ISD's newest elementary schools.
"In this building (Centennial Elementary) we have surveillance cameras throughout the building and we have monitors in several places, " said Superintendent Wayne Havens.
Havens says Centennial and Roy W. Roberts Elementary schools were built with security in mind. These schools also have an outdoor keypad access system. Since doors are locked during the school day, faculty members are the only ones who can access that keypad and enter.
Havens adds that security upgrades are also being made to other schools in the district. The first day of school for Lubbock ISD is this Monday, August 27th.
WASHINGTON - August 23, 2007 - The White House Office of Administration "is responsible for responding to requesters who are seeking OA records under the (Freedom of Information Act)."
According to the Washington Post, "The Bush (regime) argued in court papers this week that the White House Office of Administration is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act as part of its effort to fend off a civil lawsuit seeking the release of internal documents about a large number of e-mails missing from White House servers."
PRINCETON, New Jersey - August 21, 2007 - A new Gallup Poll finds Congress' approval rating the lowest it has been since Gallup first tracked public opinion of Congress with this measure in 1974. Just 18% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, while 76% disapprove, according to the August 13-16, 2007, Gallup Poll.
That 18% job approval rating matches the low recorded in March 1992, when a check-bouncing scandal was one of several scandals besetting Congress, leading many states to pass term limits measures for U.S. representatives (which the Supreme Court later declared unconstitutional). Congress had a similarly low 19% approval rating during the energy crisis in the summer of 1979.
August 13, 2007 - The U.S. "war czar" has called for the nation's political leaders to consider bringing back the draft to help a military exhausted by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a radio interview, Lieutenant General Douglas Lute said the option had always been open to boost the all-volunteer army by drafting in young men as happened in the Vietnam war.
"It makes sense to consider it," he said.
August 13, 2007 - Karl Rove will resign from his position in the Bush regime and return to Texas Aug. 31, according to an interview published Monday with Paul Gigot, editorial page editor for The Wall Street Journal.
Rove's scalp is one for which a special place has been reserved on most Democratic mantles. His ruthless pursuit of a permanent Republican majority has left many bruised egos and damaged reputations in its wake. Rove's fingerprints are believed to smudge scandals ranging from the disclosure of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity in 2003 to the dismissals of nine U.S. Attorneys late last year. Congress has subpoenaed Rove's testimony in its investigation of the federal prosecutor-firings, but so far he has refused to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
A spokeswoman for the committee said that its chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), was expected to release a statement on Rove's resignation later today.
Two former aides to Rove, Sara Taylor and J. Scott Jennings, complied with subpoenas and testified earlier this year in front of Leahy's committee. Rove refused to appear when called to appear before a Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this month.
When asked by Gigot whether he's leaving "to avoid Congressional scrutiny," he said, "I know they'll say that. But I'm not going to stay or leave based on whether it pleases the mob."
Speaking to reporters today outside the White House, Rove said he and President Bush began discussing his resignation "last summer," and Bush joked of his own upcoming departure from the White House in January 2009.
"I'll be on the road behind ya here in a little bit," Bush said before he and his longtime aide boarded Marine One.
The pair ignored reporters' shouted questions as they boarded the helicopter.
Rove, who has held a senior post in the White House since President Bush took office in January 2001, told Gigot he first floated the idea of leaving a year ago. But he delayed his departure as, first, Democrats took Congress, and then as the White House tackled debates on immigration and Iraq. He said he decided to leave after White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten told senior aides that if they stayed past Labor Day they would be obliged to remain through the end of the president's term in January 2009.
"I just think it's time," he says. His friends confirm he had been talking about it with others even earlier.
Observers say Rove's departure represents the extent to which President Bush has become a lame duck approaching the end of his second term. Without an upcoming election, the role of political adviser has less prominence.
"There's always something that can keep you here, and as much as I'd like to be here, I've got to do this for the sake of my family," Rove says. His son attends college in San Antonio, and he and his wife, Darby, plan to spend much of their time at their home in nearby Ingram, in the Texas Hill Country.
JACKSON HOLE, Wyoming - August 13, 2007 - Hundreds of anti-war activists gathered near Dick Cheney's home at an exclusive Wyoming country club to protest the vice president's role in leading the U.S. into Iraq.
Chanting, "No more Iraq war," and "Impeach Cheney first," protesters gathered outside the Teton Pines Country Club, where Cheney typically spends the month-long August recess. They brought along a 10-foot-tall papier-mâché sculpture that featured Cheney holding a fishing poll in one hand and an oil well in the other.
In a video posted on YouTube, a protester climbs the effigy and places a noose around its neck. Protesters then pull down the Cheney likeness in a scene reminiscent of Iraqis and U.S. troops toppling a statue of Saddam Hussein after the fall of Baghdad.
"We organized it because of the war in Iraq and what an injustice it has been," Walt Farmer, a retired Air Force captain and registered Republican, told the Casper Star Tribune. "The Vice President has received a pass in Jackson long enough. We want to let them know we don't approve of the war or how they play fast and loose with the Constitution."
Protesters carried signs that said "Bush-Cheney, War Profiteers," "Feel safe yet?”, “Violence breeds violence," and "At least the war on the middle class is going well," the Tribune reported.
One of the protesters, Cindy Knight, said she has a son in the military and came to voice displeasure with the administration's war policy. Knight's son has served in Afghanistan. "I don't want him to lose his life in the Iraq war," Knight told the Tribune.
August 7, 2007 - Some interesting info regarding the Minneapolis bridge collapse. I was watching BBC News24 at about 3am(GMT) this morning. Whilst covering the bridge collapse they had a witness on via telephone who spent a few minutes explaining how he walks under the bridge almost daily. He had witnessed the fact that large holes had been drilled/cut through the concrete supports. This angle was covered for an hour or so on the news and they had this same guy on again later - however, this time whilst he was re-telling the same story there was a weird buzzing/pulsing sound and he was cut off mid-talk.
It is now 10.30am GMT and BBC News24 are no longer reporting this guys story - not only that but they are reporting that all rescue efforts were stopped after a couple of hours and that the police have cordoned off the bridge - since when do rescue efforts stop when it gets dark, especially when there are supposed to be people in cars at the bottom of the river."
August 15, 2007 - The Bush administration said Monday the constitutionality of its warrantless electronic eavesdropping program cannot be challenged.
The government is taking that position in seeking the dismissal of federal court lawsuits against the government and AT&T over its alleged involvement in the once-secret surveillance program adopted after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. The strategy was first recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in a McCarthy-era lawsuit. It has been increasingly invoked in a bid to shield the government from legal scrutiny.
Two senior Justice Department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity in a teleconference with reporters, reiterated the administration's position that it was invoking the so-called "state secrets privilege" in arguing that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals must dismiss the cases because they threaten to expose information authorities say is essential to the nation's security.
"The case cannot be litigated in light of the national security interest involved," one official said.
The officials spoke on the condition that their names would not be published because, they said, it was the government's protocol not to comment on pending litigation.
August 6, 2007 - The day after President George W. Bush marshaled political forces in Congress to grant him greater authority to engage in counterterrorism-related spying, the president stated that he would seek greater changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act when the legislative branch returns to work in September.
"While I appreciate the leadership it took to pass this bill, we must remember that our work is not done," the President said in his Sunday statement. "This bill is a temporary, narrowly focused statute to deal with the most immediate shortcomings in the law."
The President said next month he would focus on further immunizing private companies that cooperate with government wiretapping. However, he used complicated language to describe these activities.
"When Congress returns in September the Intelligence committees and leaders in both parties will need to complete work on the comprehensive reforms requested by Director McConnell, including the important issue of providing meaningful liability protection to those who are alleged to have assisted our Nation following the attacks of September 11, 2001," he said.
One constitutional scholar derided Bush's reasoning, particularly the tortuous language in his statement.
"Apparently 'allegedly helped us stay safe' is Bush Administration code for telecom companies and government officials who participated in a conspiracy to perform illegal surveillance," wrote Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin in a Monday morning blog post. "Because what they did is illegal, we do not admit that they actually did it, we only say that they are alleged to have done it."
Balkin also offered another amusing interpretation of Bush's words.
"Or perhaps the Administration is suggesting that although such parties are alleged to have helped the country stay safe, there's no evidence that their repeated violations of federal law actually did much to promote our security," he quipped.
Last week, National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell made a related appeal, appearing to acknowledge that telecommunications companies had not only 'allegedly' assisted the government in its wiretapping activities.
"[T]hose who assist the Government in protecting us from harm must be protected from liability," he said in a Friday statement. "This includes those who are alleged to have assisted the Government after September 11, 2001 and have helped keep the country safe....I appreciate the commitment of the congressional leadership to address this particular issue immediately upon the return of Congress in September 2007."
And for one top Congressional advocate of Bush's proposed wiretapping 'reforms,' the participation of telecommunication companies in government spying was not described as an allegation at all.
"These are companies who were doing the patriotic thing," said Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), Ranking Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, in an interview with Paul Gigot for Fox News Journal Editorial Report on Saturday night. "They were helping the U.S. government, the American people, get the information that we believe we needed to keep us safe. They voluntarily participated, and now that the program is exposed, they've been open to all kinds of lawsuits."
Meanwhile, pundits were already building the case for expanding liability protections for telecommunications companies that help the government spy.
August 5, 2007 - The House handed President Bush a victory Saturday, voting to expand the government's abilities to eavesdrop without warrants on foreign suspects whose communications pass through the United States.
The 227-183 vote, which followed the Senate's approval Friday, sends the bill to Bush for his signature.
Late Saturday, Bush said, "The Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, has assured me that this bill gives him what he needs to continue to protect the country, and therefore I will sign this legislation as soon as it gets to my desk."
The administration said the measure is needed to speed the National Security Agency's ability to intercept phone calls, e-mails and other communications involving foreign nationals "reasonably believed to be outside the United States." Civil liberties groups and many Democrats said it goes too far, possibly enabling the government to wiretap U.S. residents communicating with overseas parties without adequate oversight from courts or Congress.
The bill updates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA. It gives the government leeway to intercept, without warrants, communications between foreigners that are routed through equipment in United States, provided that "foreign intelligence information" is at stake. Bush describes the effort as an anti-terrorist program, but the bill is not limited to terror suspects and could have wider applications, some lawmakers said.
The government long has had substantial powers to intercept purely foreign communications that don't touch U.S. soil.
If a U.S. resident becomes the chief target of surveillance, the government would have to obtain a warrant from the special FISA court.
Congressional Democrats won a few concessions in negotiations earlier in the week. New wiretaps must be approved by the director of national intelligence and the attorney general, not just the attorney general. Congress has battled with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on several issues, and some Democrats have accused him of perjury.
The new law also will expire in six months unless Congress renews it. The administration wanted the changes to be permanent.
Many congressional Democrats wanted tighter restrictions on government surveillance, but yielded in the face of Bush's veto threats and the impending August recess.
"This bill would grant the attorney general the ability to wiretap anybody, any place, any time without court review, without any checks and balances," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., during the debate preceding the vote. "I think this unwarranted, unprecedented measure would simply eviscerate the 4th Amendment," which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.
Republicans disputed her description. "It does nothing to tear up the Constitution," said Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif.
If an American's communications are swept up in surveillance of a foreigner, he said, "we go through a process called minimization" and get rid of the records unless there is reason to suspect the American is a threat.
The administration began pressing for changes to the law after a recent ruling by the FISA court. That decision barred the government from eavesdropping without warrants on foreign suspects whose messages were being routed through U.S. communications carriers, including Internet sites.
August 7, 2007 - U.S. business travelers and tourists flying to the European Union are facing the threat of the same laborious registration requirements that Washington has demanded of Europeans in the latest U.S. security crackdown.
In its first reaction to the new U.S. visa law, the European Commission said it was “considering” a so-called electronic traveler authorization scheme - similar to the American plan - that would require foreigners heading to the EU to give notice of their travel plans before departure.
The threat has been conveyed to senior U.S. officials and lawmakers, with one letter sent last month stressing that a European system would “of course operate on a reciprocal basis”.
A spokesman for the EU executive said no final decision had been taken, but the idea had received “new impetus” by the adoption of a U.S. counter-terrorism bill last week that requires travelers to give U.S. authorities at least 48 hours’ notice of their plans to visit the country.
George W. Bush, U.S. president, signed the law last Friday in spite of repeated appeals by the Commission and European business groups to reconsider the measures. The law will tighten scrutiny of travelers from the 26 developed countries whose citizens do not at present require visas to enter the U.S., including Britain, France, German and most other western European countries.
Russ Knocke, spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said the U.S. was “comfortable” with the EU having a reciprocal system. “It would lend itself to increasing baseline security for air travel throughout the west,” he said.
European business groups voiced sharp criticism of the U.S. law. Carlos González, an international relations adviser at Business Europe, a pan-European federation that lobbies on behalf of more than 16m companies, said: “This measure is a setback for business travelers and we are concerned about it. Business travel to the U.S. is a very regular activity.” The law demands the screening of all air and sea freight at foreign ports before being shipped to the U.S.
The German Industry Federation, BDI, hit out at the screening requirements enshrined in the law. “We are following with concern the tightening of security measures in the U.S., which impose a burden that is not justified by the benefits,” said the BDI’s Carsten Kreklau.
The federation added that the law “contradicted all existing customs security initiatives, which are based on targeted risk analysis”. According to BDI data, it takes about 10 minutes to scan each container - meaning that the screening of a large cargo ship “could easily result in an additional delay of 1,600 hours [nearly 70 days]”.
The spokesman for Franco Frattini, EU commissioner for justice and home affairs, said Brussels had asked the U.S. for more information about the details of its plans - some of which have been left open in the legislation.
August 9, 2007 - The U.S. has built nine navigation systems for Mexico and Canada under the controversial Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America in an apparent first step toward establishing the satellite infrastructure needed to create a North American air traffic control system.
The defining vision for North American air traffic control was articulated by then-Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta in a September 27, 2004 statement, announcing, "We must make flying throughout North America as seamless as possible if we are to truly reap the rewards of the expanding global economy."
The “2006 Report to Leaders”, posted on the SPP website, proclaimed, "In order to increase navigational accuracy across the region, five Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) stations were installed in Canada and Mexico in 2005."
WAAS is a space-based augmentation system that provides precision navigation information to aircraft equipped with Global Positioning Satellite/WAAS receivers through all phases of flight.
Working through the North American Aviation Trilateral, the U.S. has built for Mexico, WAAS stations at five locations: Mexico City, San Jose del Cabo, Puerto Vallarta, Merida and Tapachula.
Additionally, the U.S., working through NATT, has built four Canadian WAAS stations, at Iqaluit, Gander, Winnipeg and Goose Bay.
Discussions are underway to create a North American Air Traffic Control System, complete with Federal Aviation Administration issuance of WAAS certifications for Canadian and Mexican airspace. According to a government official who specializes in satellite technology applied to air traffic control systems, it would involve Canadian and Mexican foreign nationals not only hosting but operating and maintaining U.S. air navigation equipment as part of a continental Global Navigation Satellite System.
The vision would permit Mexican and Canadian air traffic controllers to operate within North American airspace as if they simply were operating from a U.S. city.
August 8, 2007 - In a new effort to crack down on illegal immigrants, federal authorities are expected to announce tough rules this week that would require employers to fire workers who use false Social Security numbers.
Officials said the rules would be backed up by stepped-up raids on workplaces across the country that employ illegal immigrants.
After first proposing the rules last year, Department of Homeland Security officials said they held off finishing them to await the outcome of the debate in Congress over a sweeping immigration bill. That measure, which was supported by President Bush, died in the Senate in June.
Now Bush regime officials are signaling that they intend to clamp down on employers of illegal immigrants even without a new immigration law. The approach is expected to play well with conservatives who have long demanded a tougher stance on illegal immigration, but could also spur a renewed legislative effort to provide legal status for the estimated six million or so unauthorized immigrants in the work force.
“We are tough and we are going to be even tougher,” said Russ Knocke, the spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security. “There are not going to be any more excuses for employers, and there will be serious consequences for those that choose to blatantly disregard the law.”
Experts said the new rules represented a major tightening of the immigration enforcement system, in which employers for decades have paid little attention to notices, known as no-match letters, from the Social Security Administration that workers’ names and numbers did not match the agency’s records.
Employers, especially in agriculture and low-wage industries, said they were deeply worried about the regime’s new stance, which could force them to lay off thousands of low-wage immigrant workers. More than 70 percent of farm workers in the American fields are illegal immigrants, according to estimates by growers’ associations.
“Across the employer community, people are scared, confused, holding their breath,” said Craig Reggelbrugge, co-chairman of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform, a trade organization. “Given what we know about the demographics of our labor force, since we are approaching peak season, people are particularly on edge.”
The expected regulations would give employers a fixed period, perhaps up to 90 days, to resolve any discrepancies between identity information provided by their workers and the records of the Social Security Administration. If a worker’s documents cannot be verified, employers would be required to fire them or risk up to $10,000 in fines for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. Illegal workers often provide employers with fabricated or stolen Social Security numbers to qualify for a job.
Immigrants rights groups and labor unions, including the A.F.L.-C.I.O, predicted the rules would result in discrimination against Hispanic workers. They said they were preparing legal challenges to try to stop them from taking effect.
The new rules responded to demands from groups opposing illegal immigration and from many Republican lawmakers for the Bush regime to enforce existing laws before offering legal status to undocumented immigrants.
The new rules codify an uneasy partnership between the Department of Homeland Security, which enforces the immigration laws, and the Social Security Administration, which collects identity information from W-2 tax forms of about 250 million workers each year, including immigrants and Americans, so it can credit the earnings in its system.
Mark Hinkle, a spokesman for Social Security, said the agency expected to send out about 140,000 no-match letters to employers this year, covering more than eight million workers. After the rules are announced, the agency is anticipating a surge in requests from employers seeking to clarify workers’ information, he said.
Social Security issues letters only to employers who have more than 10 workers whose numbers do not match, when those workers represent at least one-half of 1 percent of the company’s workforce, Mr. Hinkle said.
The agency cannot verify which mismatches came from immigrants who presented false Social Security numbers when they applied for jobs, he said. Mismatches also occur because of clerical errors, or when workers marry and forget to inform Social Security that they changed their names. Several studies in recent years, including a 2005 survey by the General Accounting Office, have found significant error rates in the Social Security database.
“We don’t know and we don’t speculate” about the reasons for mismatches, Mr. Hinkle said.
The new rules will clarify steps employers can take to avoid being accused of knowingly hiring illegal immigrants, officials said. According to the draft, employers would be given 14 days after receiving a no-match letter to check for clerical errors and consult with the employee to correct mistakes. If the discrepancies are eliminated and new, valid work papers are filed within the fixed period, employers would enjoy a “safe harbor” from penalties.
The rules proposed last year brought a storm of criticism from both employers and workers groups. In a formal comment, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. said the rules would “harm all workers regardless of immigration status.”
“The enforcement is only on the immigration side,” Ana Avendaño, associate general counsel for the A.F.L.-C.I.O, said today. “They don’t do any labor inspection. So they are just giving employers another tool to repress workers’ rights.”
Even large companies that do not hire many low-skilled immigrants would also be affected by the rules, lawyers said. “It’s going to be a big change for almost every company,” said Cynthia J. Lange, an immigration lawyer in California.
“If this is strictly enforced, there could be massive layoffs of workers,” said Muzaffar Chishti, a director of the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan research group. But he said that illegal immigrant workers might not leave the labor force, but would apply for jobs at other businesses using the same invalid documents. He predicted the market for forged documents would grow.
“A lot of employers are saying we just can’t handle this,” said Laura Reiff, co-chairwoman of the Essential Worker Immigrant Coalition, which represents employers in low-skilled industries. She said the rules might spur new pressure from business on Congress to reconsider measures granting legal status to illegal immigrants.
BRAINTREE, Massachusetts - July 18, 2007 - It looked like a textbook training exercise, but there was something amiss.
Firefighters drove to a vacant house on Tuesday, cut holes in the roof and walls, and broke windows to test their tools and their proficiency.
The problem? It was the wrong house.
They were supposed to be two blocks away at a house slated for demolition.
The owners of the damaged home now want the town pay for the mistake, but they're trying to keep a sense of humor about it.
"Accidents happen," said Jeffrey Luu, who owns the house with his brother, Clayton. "Luckily, nobody got hurt," added Clayton Luu.
The home had been vacant since an electrical fire last year left a scorch mark up one side. The knee-high grass had not been cut in several weeks. The owners were planning a renovation of the house - just not this much of one.
The fire department is conducting an internal investigation, Deputy Chief John Donahue said in a statement, but officials otherwise remained tightlipped and red-faced about the incident.
Meanwhile, the house where the firefighters were supposed to train was demolished later Tuesday as scheduled.
August 10, 2007 - President George W. Bush poked fun at a balding BBC political editor in a press conference.
Nick Robinson asked Bush at a Camp David if he could trust Gordon Brown not to "cut and run" from Iraq, reports the Daily Mirror.
Bush, who crossed swords with Robinson last year, replied dismissively: "Are you still hanging around?"
Later, unable to resist a gibe in the baking heat, he told the BBC journalist: "You'd better cover up your bald head, it's getting hot out."
Robinson replied: "I didn't known you cared". Bush hit back: "I don't" before snorting disdainfully and walking away to laughter.
Robinson angered Bush last year by asking him if he was in "denial" about the Iraq war.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - July 31, 2007 - The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) raided the home of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) yesterday, advancing the corruption probe that has ensnared the once-untouchable GOP dean.
The Anchorage Daily News first reported the search of Stevens’s Girdwood, Alaska, residence on yesterday afternoon, citing the assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s local office.
That home has fueled the investigation into Stevens’ ties to oil-field services company Veco, whose two top executives recently resigned after pleading guilty to bribery and fraud.
Bill Allen, Veco’s former CEO, is a longtime friend and business partner of Stevens, and investigators are examining Allen’s involvement in a 2000 renovation of the senior Republican appropriator’s house. The construction project added a story to the building, and contractors have reportedly testified before a grand jury that Allen and Veco received the bills for their work.
Stevens has denied any appearance of impropriety in the home renovation, stating specifically earlier this month that every bill he and his wife received was paid with their personal money, “and that’s all there is to it.” The famously combative senator has acknowledged that the federal probe may complicate his reelection effort next year - a concept still almost unthinkable to many in Alaska, where Stevens’ talent for securing federal dollars has made him a legend.
In a statement released by his office Monday, Stevens said his attorneys were notified of the search Monday morning. He vowed to continue providing for his state as normal while the investigation proceeds.
“I continue to believe this investigation should proceed to its conclusion without any appearance that I have attempted to influence its outcome. I will continue my policy of not commenting on this investigation until it has concluded,” Stevens said.
He added, “I urge Alaskans not to form conclusions based upon incomplete and sometimes incorrect reports in the media. The legal process should be allowed to proceed so that all the facts can be established and the truth determined.”
The Anchorage FBI office did not return a request for comment late yesterday. Two House Republicans, Rick Renzi (Ariz.) and John Doolittle (Calif.), have experienced home raids by federal authorities this year, but a raid on Stevens’ residence marks a significant intrusion of congressional corruption scandals into the more clubby Senate.
Stevens’ financial disclosure form for last year, which he requested that the ethics committee review before submission, is still under wraps after the senator requested a second deadline extension.
LONDON - July 31, 2007 - Gordon Brown has paved the way for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq by telling George Bush he would not delay their exit in order to show unity with the United States.
After four hours of one-to-one talks with the U.S. President at his Camp David retreat, Mr. Brown told a joint press conference he would make a Commons statement in October on the future of the 5,500 British troops in the Basra region.
The Bush regime, under mounting domestic pressure to produce an exit strategy from Iraq, has been nervous that a full British withdrawal would add to the criticism. But Mr. Brown made clear - and President Bush accepted - that Britain would go its own way, even if that gave the impression the two countries were diverging.
Mr. Brown's willingness to pursue an independent British policy in Iraq will be seen as an important break with Tony Blair. Mr. Brown said the two leaders had "full and frank discussions" - diplomatic code for some disagreements.
July 31, 2007 - The Pentagon announced today that it will rotate 20,000 soldiers into Iraq at the end of this year but denied the troops would extend President Bush's troop "surge" through next spring.
CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr reported that a "worst case scenario" would stretch military ranks as troops leave for their 15-month rotations.
"They may have to reach down into the National Guard or Army Reserve" to maintain the troop levels, said Starr.
Military commanders began to expect earlier this year that the surge would have to be extended into next year. In an article that appeared in the Washington Post in May, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who manages day-to-day operations in Iraq, said the surge needed to last "through the beginning of next year, for sure." Odierno noted at the time that new regulations extending tours of duty to 15 months would allow for the surge to last through spring 2008.
"These will be the replacement troops on a 15 month tour of duty, as the troops that are there finish up their tours of duty," said Starr. "Reading between the lines, what is interesting here, is these troops will allow the Pentagon to maintain the status quo."
Starr said troop shortages will hamper efforts to maintain the increased troop presence.
"Fifteen combat brigades [will move] into Iraq in 2008, not the twenty combat brigades of the surge," she said. "It is well understood that they simply don't have enough troops to maintain that surge much past the spring of 2008."
A Pentagon spokesman denied that the troops would be continuing the surge, citing that the new troops would be rotating in for only 15 brigades, not the current 20 brigades comprising the post-surge troops. However, the Pentagon did not say which units were being rotated out of Iraq. The final troops of Bush's 28,000-troop surge arrive in Iraq in June.
BAGHDAD - August 1, 2007 - The United States government cannot account for 190,000 weapons issued to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005, according to the Government Accountability Office.
According to its July 31 report, the military “cannot fully account for about 110,000 AK-47 assault rifles, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 items of body armor and 115,000 helmets reported as issued to Iraqi forces”.
The weapons disappeared from records between June 2004 and September 2005, as the military struggled to rebuild the disbanded Iraqi forces from scratch amid increasing attacks from Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias.
August 2, 2007 - Reports from Russia's Institute of Solar-Terrestrial Physics located in Irkutsk are that their Siberian Solar Radio Telescope (SSRT) detected a 'massive' ultra low frequency (ULF) 'blast' emanating from Latitude: 45° 00' North Longitude: 93° 15' West at the 'exact' moment, and location, of a catastrophic collapse of a nearly 2,000 foot long bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The Star Tribune News Service reported:
"The 1,907-foot bridge fell into the Mississippi River and onto roadways below. The span was packed with rush hour traffic, and dozens of vehicles fell with the bridge, leaving scores of dazed commuters scrambling for their lives.
Nine people were confirmed dead as of 4 a.m. today. Sixty were taken to hospitals and 20 people were still missing this morning. Authorities said they expected the death toll to rise."