Sunday, August 31, 2008


BRIDGE TO SOMEWHERE.... The good news is, the McCain campaign is now starting to tell the public about Sarah Palin's accomplishments in Alaska. The bad news is, the principal example of Palin's strength as a leader is a blatant falsehood.

On a couple of the Sunday morning shows, John McCain and his chief surrogates touted Palin's opposition to the now-infamous "bridge to nowhere," a $398 million bridge to connect the town of Ketchikan to an island with 50 residents.

To McCain and his supporters, Palin's firm stand against the congressional earmark is compelling evidence of her courage and conviction.

But what McCain and his cohorts are claiming is simply untrue. Palin supported the funding for the project, and kept the federal funds after the bridge deal fell through. Indeed, she ran for governor on a "build-the-bridge platform," and ended up directing federal funds to other wasteful pork projects, for fear of having to return unused tax dollars funds to the federal government.

This isn't an example the McCain campaign should be bragging about; it's an example the campaign should find embarrassing.

It does, however, lead to another question. McCain and other Republicans are boasting that Palin opposed the bridge. They're wrong. So, is the McCain campaign a) completely ignorant about Palin's actual record on this key issue; or b) simply trying to con the public?

Under the circumstances, it may be either. Making matters worse, I suppose it could be both.
If the single best example of Palin's leadership in office is bogus, what, pray tell, is the McCain campaign's Plan B?


The Veterans Administration is supposed to help wounded veterans not make them prove their wounds are combat related.

By Joshua Kors
This article appeared in the September 15, 2008 edition of The Nation.

Wounded soldiers returning from Iraq are increasingly being wrongly diagnosed by the military, which prevents them from collecting benefits. What Jimenez didn't realize is that before he could receive benefits for his wounds, he'd have to prove that those wounds came from war. Three and a half years later, the sergeant is still making his case. The Department of Veterans Affairs isn't convinced. And it won't give him his benefits until it is.

The VA requires all veterans to prove their wounds are "service-connected" before it writes them a check. Jimenez thought that hurdle was merely a formality. The Army sergeant had been struck by two roadside bombs. The first sliced into his arms; six months later, a second bomb sprayed scrap metal into his face, knocking him unconscious and leaving him brain damaged. He began having seizures and suffering from memory loss. The blast left a persistent ringing in his right ear. The stress sparked nightmares, flashbacks and acid-reflux disease.
"I'm a different person now," Jimenez says glumly. "I come home; I lock myself in my room. I don't really talk to anyone. I used to be fun." Now, he says, he can't even have a bowl of cereal. It gives him heartburn for days. "That second bomb, it killed me--it just left my body." Sick, suicidal, the sergeant sought help from the VA.

The VA's diagnosis: too much caffeine. "They said I was drinking too much Red Bull. That's what was causing my problems."

Jimenez got mad. At that point, he did something few veterans even consider: he sued the VA.

The sergeant is a member of Veterans for Common Sense (VCS), one of the most prominent veterans' groups in the country. In July 2007, executive director Paul Sullivan filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Jimenez and the thousands of veterans in his organization who were wounded in Iraq and, he says, were rebuffed by the VA when they sought disability and medical benefits.

"The VA needs more than a few minor changes at the margins. It needs a massive overhaul," says Sullivan. His organization's lawsuit asked Judge Samuel Conti to do exactly that: radically restructure the VA and the way it processes veterans' claims. The VA moved immediately to get the case dismissed, asserting that Sullivan's organization didn't represent the nation's wounded vets and had no standing to demand an overhaul of a $94 billion government organization.
Judge Conti disagreed.

The 86-year-old World War II veteran scheduled the trial for the end of April, and he demanded VA's top officials appear and take the stand. Over seven days VCS's lawyers would press them to explain internal e-mails and studies, statistics and videos, all suggesting that high-ranking officials purposely deceived Congress and the public, twisted data to cloak the VA's poor care of the ill and injured, and fired a prominent doctor who decided to expose the problems.

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The United States has lost 4,133 troops in the Iraq War and another 34,000 wounded, and China has not lost a single soldier in the Iraq war yet China is the recipient of a $3 BILLION oil deal with Iraq.

Iraq signs $3 billion oil deal with Chinese national oil company

Deal is first major contract with foreign company since fall of Saddam Hussein
China National Petroleum Corporation to develop oil field in southern Wasit province
Oil field expected to produce 125,000 barrels a day within three years

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq has signed its first major oil deal with a foreign company since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, a spokesman for the Iraqi Oil Ministry said Saturday.

Iraq's oil fields currently produce about 2.5 million barrels a day.

It was the first time in more than 35 years that Iraq has allowed foreign oil companies to do business inside its borders.

The contract with the China National Petroleum Corporation could be worth up to $3 billion. It would allow the CNPC to develop an oil field in southern Iraq's Wasit province for about 20 years, Oil Ministry spokesman Assim Jihad said.

Iraq's Cabinet must still approve the contract, but Jihad said that would happen soon and work could start within a few months.

The Chinese company will provide technical advisers, oil workers and equipment to develop al-Ahdab oil field, providing fuel for al-Zubaidiya power plant in Wasit, southeast of Baghdad, bordering Iran, Jihad said.

Once development begins, the field is expected to start producing a preliminary amount of 25,000 barrels of oil a day and an estimated constant daily amount of 125,000 barrels after three years, he said.

Iraq currently produces about 2.5 million barrels a day, 2 million of which are exported daily, Jihad said. That is close to its status before the U.S.-led war that toppled Saddam in 2003, but below its levels prior to the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

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