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Posts Tagged ‘gifts

Top US general in Africa may escape being court-martialed

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The former top U.S. general in Africa won’t face court martial over accusations he misused hundreds of thousands of dollars, former military lawyers predict.

A report by the Defense Department’s inspector general says Gen. William “Kip” Ward committed a variety of non-criminal offenses as the first head of Africa Command…

Among the offenses, the inspector general said Ward was reimbursed for personal travel, spent $18,500 on gifts at his change-of-command ceremony and accepted free meals and tickets from a prohibited source.

While Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is due to decide in the next few weeks whether to charge Ward, former military attorneys said court-martialing a senior officer is a difficult task.

Military rules require that jurors deciding any court-martial be of equal or greater rank than the defendant. In Ward’s case, it’s not certain that his alleged wrongdoings reach the level appropriate for a court-martial. However, he could be tried for failing to obey an order or regulation.

It’s more likely, the attorneys say, that Ward will face a battery of non-judicial administrative punishments…He could be reprimanded and fined, and forced to retire at a lower rank, which would slash his monthly benefits.

Rank still has its privileges. Including how to escape from a jury because of scarce peers.

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Written by Ed Campbell

September 1, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Supercommittee focuses lobbyists’ clients against one another

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It will be a profitable Xmas season

The bipartisan congressional supercommittee charged with finding $1.5 trillion in budget savings is leaving Washington lobbying firms in a quandary, seeing their clients pitted against one another in a competition for government cash.

Major defense contractors such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin have a dozen or more lobbying firms working for them, many of whom also represent the health-care industry, another likely target of budget cuts. While firms often deal with conflicts of interest, the supercommittee represents an unusual challenge, said Clyde Wilcox, a government professor at Georgetown University in Washington.

“This actually is going to be much more like a zero sum game,” Wilcox said. “If someone wins, someone loses…”

If all else fails, “I suspect that they’ll be rational businesspersons and make a decision based on their long-term financial interest,” Jeffrey Berry said. “They have a bottom line, just like their clients.”

You do recall, I hope, that principles, ethics, the needs of the people are irrelevant?

The 12-member panel, whose work has taken on greater urgency since Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating in August, will be the central focus of political and lobbying activity for the next few months…

It’s akin to working with congressional leadership, which we — as most firms — do all the time,” Stewart Verdery [whose clients include clients Boeing, General Dynamics, Eli Lilly & Co. and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America] said…

The politicians will have their hands out – and will find them filled.

Written by Ed Campbell

September 4, 2011 at 6:00 am

Bunga-Bunga gets showgirls cars, flats and jobs in politics

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Silvio Berlusconi rewarded young showgirls and starlets with cars, rent-free apartments and jobs in politics, a lawyer for one of his protégés has admitted in court for the first time.

Pier Maria Corso was speaking on behalf of Nicole Minetti, 25, an Anglo-Italian former showgirl who has been accused of recruiting 32 young women as prostitutes for the prime minister’s so-called “bunga bunga” parties.

He told the court in Milan that Miss Minetti was “absolutely not a brothel keeper”, saying she was simply one of “many girls” who were part of the media tycoon’s inner circle and had benefited from his largesse.

Miss Minetti, whose mother is British, was working as a model and television starlet when she was plucked from obscurity by Mr Berlusconi and propelled into politics as a councillor for his People of Freedom party in Lombardy’s regional assembly.

She is accused of being in charge of a stable of 32 models and aspiring actresses, allocating them apartments paid for by Mr Berlusconi and despatching them to sex parties at his mansion at Arcore, a town outside Milan…

“There are those who were given a Land Rover, those who got a Smart car, those who received an apartment in the city centre and those who were elected to a regional assembly. “To be elected in this way is not a crime,” he said.

Yes, puritanism is a curse. One we specialize in – along with other hypocrisies – here in the United States. But, placing your government in the hands of an old lecher whose priorities are governed more by lust than public need – is just plain idiotic.

Written by Ed Campbell

July 15, 2011 at 2:00 am

LA County sheriff accepts “appreciation” gifts worth $120,000

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Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has accepted gifts from executives seeking his agency’s business, individuals who later received special treatment from him, and even a pair of felons implicated in a massive money-laundering and fraud scheme, according to a Times review of disclosure records…

Since becoming sheriff in 1998, he has accepted more than $120,000 worth of gifts and free travel. In a recent three-year span, he accepted significantly more freebies than California’s 57 other sheriffs combined.

State law allows local officials to accept gifts, with some restrictions. But government watchdogs said Baca’s willingness to accept so many gifts creates potential conflicts of interest.

“Doesn’t he realize the appearance is terrible?” said Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies. “When you’re taking gifts from strangers, there’s only one reason. They only give gifts because they want something.”

Baca rejected the notion that donors were looking for special favors or treatment. “The implication of all these gifts is ‘Well, they’re influence-buying.’ Nothing could be more opposite than that,” he said. “What they’re expressing is appreciation for the respectful way we do business…”

RTFA. It’s long, almost as complex as the way the sheriff rationalizes away any sense of ethics while accepting gifts from people doing business with the county.

Written by Ed Campbell

May 2, 2011 at 6:00 am

Nicolas Sarkozy orders hacks to holiday at home

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Next one caught, i’ll squeeze your head till it pops!

Nicolas Sarkozy has ordered his ministers to stay in France on holiday to avoid diplomatic gaffes after two scandals over hospitality from authoritarian North African leaders.

Mr Sarkozy bowed to criticism from rivals after embarrassing revelations that his prime minister and foreign minister accepted free holiday flights in Egypt and Tunisia, shortly before popular uprisings in both countries.

From now on, members of the government must prefer France for their holidays,” Mr Sarkozy told a cabinet meeting, according to a transcript released by his office.

“Invitations accepted abroad will be authorised by the prime minister and the presidential diplomatic unit … to see whether they are compatible with France’s foreign policy.”

Francois Fillon, the prime minister, on Tuesday admitted that he had a New Year family holiday on the Nile paid for by Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s under fire president.

“What was common a few years ago can shock nowadays. So it must be strictly monitored,” Mr Sarkozy said. “Only by being above reproach will people holding high office strengthen their citizens’ trust in the state institutions”.

Mr Sarkozy and his pop singer wife Carla Bruni spent their end-of year holiday in Morocco at the Jnane Lekbir royal residence belonging to King Mohammed VI.

Not much difference from golf trips to Scotland paid for with lobbyist money or some congress-creep retiring and waiting a week or two before showing up back on the street with a foreign flag in his lapel and a fat wallet.

Written by Ed Campbell

February 9, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Berlusconi gave €7,000 to 17-year-old belly dancer

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Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

The latest sex scandal threatening Silvio Berlusconi has deepened after a 17-year-old Moroccan belly dancer linked to the Italian prime minister said he had given her €7,000 and jewellery when she sat next to him at a Valentine’s Day dinner held this year for 10 women at his mansion near Milan.

The girl, named in the Italian media as Karima Keyek but known more widely by her stage name Ruby Rubacuori, or Stealer of Hearts, denies sleeping with Berlusconi.

“It is the first time in my life that a man has not tried to take me to bed. He behaved like a father, I swear,” she told La Repubblica from Genoa, where she is hiding out in an apartment allegedly lent to her by a former porn star.

But she has painted a vivid portrait of private parties held by the 74-year-old prime minister, known by the Italian media as lavish affairs that often transformed into “bunga-bunga” sessions involving after-dinner sex between male and female guests.

In La Repubblica yesterday, Keyek said her host had told her not to come to see him any more after discovering she was not, as she had claimed, 24. “Berlusconi said he had had enough problems in the past with another underage girl,” she said…

“He gave me an envelope with €7,000 in it and I told him I dreamed of gaining Italian citizenship and becoming a policewoman.” She told La Repubblica: “It was like going to the church charity where they give you a bag of shopping…”

Yesterday the respected Corriere della Sera newspaper reported that Berlusconi had personally informed a senior police official that Keyek was related to Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak. Berlusconi says he merely told police he was dispatching a colleague to take temporary custody of Keyek should she be released – from charges of theft.

My kin in Italy wouldn’t vote for Berlusconi on a bet. He reminds him too much of the Fascisti they fought against 80 years. That’s not just style, either.

In Italy – it is surprising how often a four-flusher can succeed by pushing the Right buttons. Patriotism, piety, bigotry have always been more profitable than civil rights and civil liberties. But, then, Italy doesn’t have the world market cornered on sophistry, Old colonial powers have been forced to share that with the 20th Century’s champion.

Written by Ed Campbell

October 31, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Like father, like son – not necessarily a good thing!

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The 4-year-old Tennessee boy was found wandering his Chatanooga neighborhood in the middle of the night, beer in hand, wearing a little girl’s dress taken from under a neighbor’s Christmas tree.

Hayden’s mother, 21-year-old April Wright, woke up at 1:45 a.m. and panicked when she realized he was missing. She found Hayden, drunk, outside the house drinking a 12-ounce can of beer.

He was taken to a hospital and treated for alcohol consumption…

Hayden runs away “trying to find his father,” Wright said. “He wants to get in trouble so he can go to jail because that’s where his daddy is.”

Wright’s husband is currently behind bars, and she is in the process of divorcing him…

The boy’s mother says she met with child protective services and was told she will get to keep custody of her son.

Maybe they should put an ankle bracelet on the twerp – with a GPS?

Thanks, Jägermeister

Written by Ed Campbell

December 20, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Posted in Crime, Culture

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Baltimore mayor guilty of stealing from the poor

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Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

A jury has convicted Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon of embezzlement for improperly using gift cards intended for the needy, the poor.

She was found guilty of a single misdemeanor count of fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary. She could be removed from office because it is a theft-related crime.

Dixon solicited several cards for her own use from two developers, including Patrick Turner, who testified this month that Dixon asked him to donate gift cards from retailers and have them delivered to her office. He said he spent $1,000 total — $500 for a Best Buy gift card and $500 for a Target one, according to the Baltimore Sun newspaper.

No date was set for sentencing. Cabezas said Dixon, Baltimore’s first black female mayor, faces up to five years in prison. She was indicted in January.

She is guilty of behaving like an old-fashioned American politico. Because she and her machine won an election or two, she presumed approval of anything she chose to appropriate for herself. Like most hacks – she was taking care of herself instead of taking care of the people she represents.

More than anything else, changing this part of American politics is what Obama voters wanted. Obviously Congress, the Republican Party, the Democrat Party – haven’t yet gotten the message.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 2, 2009 at 6:00 pm

What makes world leaders think George Bush loves nut pastries, reads poetry and plays the harp?

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This week, as it is required to do by law, the US state department published a list of all the presents given by foreigners in 2007 to President George Bush. It was an enormous list, running to hundreds of items, and remarkable also for the consistently unappealing nature of the gifts. I can honestly say that I didn’t covet any of them…

You would think, for example, that before deciding to give Bush a £150 box of Charbonnel et Walker chocolates, Gordon Brown would have borne in mind that the American secret service requires the destruction of all food gifts to the president. However, Brown was not alone in this idiocy. The prime minister of Qatar gave Bush a large tin of “chocolates, fruits and cookies” worth £650, and the Iraqi president gave an “assortment of nut pastries”, but these, too, in the words of the state department, were “handled pursuant to secret service policy” (ie destroyed). The same sad fate befell the £3 worth of “live shamrocks” given to Bush by the then Irish prime minister, Bertie Ahern, on St Patrick’s Day.

Bush would have been allowed to keep another of Brown’s gifts – a “green, beige and red plaid lambswool blanket” – because it is worth so little; but it has ended up all the same in a government warehouse, as has a present from Tony Blair (a Wedgwood bowl inscribed with the words “Am I not a man and a brother?”, the slogan of the 19th-century British anti-slavery movement). If it is difficult to imagine what either British prime minister intended with these gifts, it is even harder to guess what was in the mind of Vladimir Putin when he gave Bush a book of “English Sonnets, 16th to 19th century”, which he obviously would never read, and utterly mystifying why the president of Vietnam gave him an electric harp, which he most definitely would never play.

I clearly still have a great deal to learn about the workings of international diplomacy.

The harp sounds pretty cool to me. Though I’d prefer a non-electrified version for certain. I always played acoustic strings.

Written by Ed Campbell

January 30, 2009 at 8:00 am

Posted in Politics

Tagged with , , , ,

Consider Giving a COW for Christmas

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As much as I enjoy picking on my Christian brethren, I’m not as much of a hard-ass as you might think. I was recently made aware of Heifer International by some crazy Methodist friends who are together raising money to buy a heifer for a needy family. A little research and a look at the org’s website and I said, “Cool. What a great concept!”

You don’t have to give a cow. Choose from llamas, goats, even trees and honey bees. One of the coolest parts of their site is the online “Gift Catalog.” This is a matter of life and death, folks. Think about it.

I also appreciate the org’s long-term vision, avoiding the temptation of a quick-fix approach:

“Heifer International knows that the solution to hunger lies not only in encouraging people to donate money to buy animals for families in need, but also in establishing a meaningful connection between donors and recipients. Many of us have experiences during our lives that have drawn us to care for people in a specific country. You may have been a missionary; traveled with the Peace Corps; your construction group has assisted a community in a far off land; or perhaps you are a physician who has provided medical care to a country in need. There are hundred’s of examples of connecting with other countries, but we would like to offer another.”

On a personal note, my own mother, who lived through the depression, was sustained during her younger years in part by her family’s ownership of a cow. So this is something that I can really appreciate and relate to. I encourage you to look over their entire website.

Written by K B

December 15, 2008 at 10:00 am

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