Texas politicians said they’d be first with cancer cure – and needed no oversight for the budget

Texas put up $3 billion in taxpayer money and promised cancer breakthroughs. But a criminal investigation, widespread rebuke from scientists and the resignations of embattled state officials came faster than medical discoveries.

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas launched in 2009, flaunting the second-biggest trough of cancer research dollars in the country. Nobel laureates eagerly took jobs with the agency and celebrity Lance Armstrong lent visible and then-coveted support. It was an unprecedented state-run battle against a worldwide killer.

Three years later, it’s become unhinged by suggestions of politics and personal profit and is on the ropes.

“People expected that we get some good results. Not that we make people rich in private companies doing cancer research,” said Cathy Bonner, a cancer survivor who was a close aide to former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, and who helped brainstorm the idea for CPRIT. “I can’t imagine anything lower than misuse of research money that’s meant to save people’s lives.”

Embroiled by two lucrative grants approved despite scant review — or none at all, in one case — CPRIT is ending a year of turmoil saying the beleaguered agency is cooperating with separate prosecutor investigations. One is by a public corruption unit that convicted former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on money laundering charges, and is beginning this probe trying to recover key internal emails CPRIT says it cannot retrieve.

The investigations opened last week after CPRIT revealed its latest and most serious blunder: Giving a private biomedical startup, Dallas-based Peloton Therapeutics, an $11 million award in 2010 without ever scrutinizing the merits of the company’s proposal. The discovery came on the heels of the agency funding a $20 million project roundly condemned for not first undergoing an independent scientific review…

Amid the escalating troubles, an agency that doled out more than $800 million in three years has practically ground to a halt…

Gov. Rick Perry and other elected leaders are now talking tough about transparency and getting to the bottom of the Peloton grant.

Well, golly gosh, Rick – ain’t it special finding sufficient integrity after the fact, after the waste of millions of taxpayers dollars, that you think someone should take responsibility to divvy up the corruption?

How about presuming there might be some need to keep an eye out for deceit and theft when throwing sums of money around?

Governor benefited from untraceable $1.5 million donation

At a campaign stop near Philadelphia early in his 2010 bid for governor, Republican Tom Corbett announced “we’ve got to raise money,” that it was the “number-one” priority. In an answer to his prayers, that same July day, a $1.5 million contribution arrived from — Wisconsin?

Officially, the donation was from the Wisconsin affiliate of a D.C.-based political organization called the Republican Governors Association.

The $1.5 million could not travel directly from the RGA to Corbett. Pennsylvania law bans candidates from accepting corporate money and the RGA accepts millions of dollars from some of the nation’s largest businesses.

Also, state law requires all non-individuals to establish PACs in Pennsylvania.

In a single day, the $1.5 million gift traveled from the D.C.-based parent organization to the RGA Wisconsin PAC, to the RGA Pennsylvania PAC and finally to Corbett’s campaign account.

By the time the donation reached Corbett, it was impossible to identify the original source of the cash or whether the donation was permissible under state law…

The RGA’s funding played a central role in Corbett’s victory. By Election Day he had received a total of $6 million from the RGA — 21 percent of his total fundraising, easily the top donor to the campaign, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics…

The RGA spending spree did not stop in Pennsylvania.

Our Supreme Court – and especially money-pimps like Scalia – think this is a perfectly legitimate exercise of free speech. I think they would have had a tough time convincing most folks interested in a constitutional democracy – even in the 18th Century.

Not that it matters to them or the people who supply money by the pallet-load.

RTFA for details on case after case of the scum managing the framework of our elections.

Swiss village votes to turns its back on $1.2 billion goldmine

Half a lovely hillside

Villagers almost anywhere in the world would be celebrating if more than a billion dollars of gold was found under them. But not in Switzerland.

It was not a question many villagers will ever have to face – and theirs was an answer that even fewer would probably give. But when residents of a remote Alpine valley were offered a share of a fortune that would have brought them tens of millions of pounds, they said “No”…

After months of anguished debate, the villagers of Curaglia voted in a referendum last week to stop a Canadian mining company prospecting for the estimated $1.2 billion worth of gold ore believed to be lie in seams beneath the surrounding snow-capped mountains.

It would have been Switzerland’s first gold mine and one of only a handful in Europe but locals ran scared of the prospect of turning their valley into a miniature version of the Klondike.

In doing so they rejected a windfall of around 40 million Swiss francs over the next 10 years – a veritable bonanza for the 450 inhabitants of the picturesque valley…

The referendum result was unambiguous – while 90 people were in favour of allowing gold exploration to go ahead, 180 were implacably opposed.

Many people feared that the valley, with its crystal-clear streams, coniferous forests and timber barns, would have been irrevocably scarred by the mine, from which around five million ton of rock would have been dug…

But Thomas Boehm, 41, who works in the Hotel Vallastscha, which has the only bar and restaurant in the valley, said the mine would have reversed the valley’s long-term demographic decline. Ninety of its inhabitants are over the age of 75 and young people leave as soon as they can because of the lack of work…

Such arguments failed to sway the majority of the valley’s inhabitants. The conservatism for which the Swiss have been renowned for centuries ultimately snubbed out calls for change.

The money would have been nice,” said 17-year-old Nicole Venzin, sitting on a bench on Curaglia’s main street as elderly women entered the tiny supermarket with shopping bags. “But what sort of future would we have if we ruined the environment?”

That illustrates the actual contradiction confronting the villagers. Money vs. environmental degradation.

Please, don’t waste too much time on agitprop from the mining company. I’ve seen gold mines all over the Rockies. The scarring, the lengths mining companies will go to avoiding responsible cleanup are legion in this part of the GOUSA.

It’s why I supported the community and our elected officials who opposed the same kind of offer, the same line of bull, offered by the last gold miners who tried to come into Santa Fe County to suck gold out of the rocks and mountains around here. You can stand on the south side of town and look at the Ortiz Mountains 20 miles away and see the decades-old scars, acres of spoil left from cyanide-extraction of the gold. No thanks. We’d rather have happy tourists and citizens who can enjoy clean air and a comparatively unspoiled landscape.

The Pentagon not only wastes our money — they managed to lose $2 billion they got from Iraq!

Pentagon policy on issuing contracts for Iraq reconstruction

The U.S. Defense Department cannot account for about $2 billion it was given to cover Iraq-related expenses and is not providing Iraq with a complete list of U.S.-funded reconstruction projects, according to two new government audits…

The Iraqi government in 2004 gave the Department of Defense access to about $3 billion to pay bills for certain contracts, and the department can only show what happened to about a third of that, the inspector general says…

Although the Department of Defense had “internal processes and controls” to track payments, the “bulk of the records are missing,” the report says, adding that the department is searching for them. Other documents are missing as well, including monthly reports documenting expenses, the audit says.

“From July 2004 through December 2007, DoD should have provided 42 monthly reports. However, it can locate only the first four reports…”

Sounds like the Pentagon performed exactly up to the standards required by Bush and Cheney. Which means none at all.

Separately, the inspector general’s office sent a letter Sunday to the U.S. ambassador to Iraq complaining that the U.S. government is not providing Iraq with a complete list of reconstruction projects…

The Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction was created in 2004 to continue oversight of Iraq reconstruction programs.

In some nations, civil servants and bureaucrats are part of an honorable profession. They exist and function on behalf of the best interests of the country.

The tradition in much of our local, state and federal bodies is to either have a safe, secure job offering a better life of retirement than private industry – or to have a safe, secure job offering an easy way to steal.

Is Mubarak the wealthiest man in the world?

The only flag Mubarak salutes

President Hosni Mubarak’s power may have visibly crumbled before the world on Jan. 25 when protesters took to the streets of Cairo, but his personal wealth will likely be intact when he leaves office as pledged at the end of the year, or sooner if the crowds have their way.

Experts say the wealth of the Mubarak family was built largely from military contracts during his days as an air force officer. He eventually diversified his investments through his family when he became president in 1981. The family’s net worth ranges from $40 billion to $70 billion, by some estimates.

“The business ventures from his military and government service accumulated to his personal wealth,” said Professor Amaney Jamal. “There was a lot of corruption in this regime and stifling of public resources for personal gain.”

Jamal said that Mubarak’s assets are most likely in banks outside of Egypt, possibly in the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

“This is the pattern of other Middle Eastern dictators so their wealth will not be taken during a transition, she said. “These leaders plan on this…”

Gross national income is $2,070 per family in Egypt, according to the World Bank. About 20 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, according to a 2010 report by the CIA.

“Gamal and Alaa are partners in the biggest trade and industrial companies in Egypt, practically paying nothing,” Aladdin Elaasar wrote in his book of Mubarak’s two sons. Elaasar said the sons have shares in Chili’s restaurants, Hyundai and Scoda auto dealerships, Vodafone, and several luxury hotel and residential properties.

The Mubarak family owns properties in London, Paris, Madrid, Dubai, Washington, D.C., New York and Frankfurt, according to a report from IHS Global Insight…

Whatever Mubarak’s wealth is, Jamal said it is certain that whenever the president actually leaves office, there will be an investigation into his assets.

“There’s not much of a cover-up,” she said. “The people have already outed him as a corrupt leader.”

There will be the question of how much cooperation is received from foreign governments, bankers, financiers in reporting how much Mubarak stole during the years of his regime.

I’d expect little cooperation from the Swiss and not much more from Brits and Americans.

Meanwhile, the range of his reported wealth exceeds Carlos Slim, Bill Gates or Warren Buffett.

Bush White House used tax dollars to break elections law

“Don’t worry, George – no one really cares about honesty”

The Bush White House, particularly before the 2006 midterm elections, routinely violated a federal law that prohibits use of federal tax dollars to pay for political activities by creating a “political boiler room” that coordinated Republican campaign activities nationwide, a report issued Monday by an independent federal agency concludes.

The report by the Office of Special Counsel finds that the Bush administration’s Office of Political Affairs — overseen by Karl Rove — served almost as an extension of the Republican National Committee, developing a “target list” of Congressional races, organizing dozens of briefings for political appointees to press them to work for party candidates, and sending cabinet officials out to help these campaigns…

The Office of Special Counsel, a relatively obscure federal agency, is charged with enforcing the Hatch Act, a 1939 law that prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity. Certain members of the White House political staff — including the top aides at the Office of Political Affairs — are exempt, as are the president, vice president and members of the cabinet. But the law still prohibits the use of federal money, even by these officials, to support political causes.

The report found that during the Bush administration, senior staff members at the Office of Political Affairs violated the Hatch Act by organizing 75 political briefings from 2001 to 2007 for Republican appointees at top federal agencies in an effort to enlist them to help Republicans get elected to Congress…

“These briefings created an environment aimed at assisting Republican candidates, constituting political activity within the meaning of the Hatch Act,” the 118-page report said…

The investigators also found evidence that the Bush White House improperly classified travel by senior officials as official government business, “when it was, in fact, political,” and the costs associated with this travel were never reimbursed.

A spokesman for the Office of Special Counsel said Monday that because the administration officials had left office, it no longer has jurisdiction to file any charges. It also said that it had not made a formal referral to the Justice Department to ask it to pursue any possible charges.

Obama’s version of the same Office of Political Affairs hasn’t conducted business with federal dollars – and has been moved to Chicago to assure functioning with political party funds. Just another area of “change” Republicans hate – and would reverse if they were once again in charge of the White House.

Corruption and deceit as a lifestyle is hard to leave. Just ask Dick Armey.

Costly military plans for Iraqi civilians fall apart

Jadriyah Lake in better days

In the spring of 2008, Gen. David H. Petraeus decided he had spent enough time gazing from his helicopter at an empty and desolate lake on the banks of the Tigris River. He ordered the lake refilled and turned into a water park for all of Baghdad to enjoy.

The military doctrine behind the project holds that cash can be as effective as bullets. Under Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq at the time, that principle gained unprecedented emphasis, and it has become a cornerstone of the war effort in Afghanistan, now under Petraeus’s command.

But today the Baghdad park is nearly waterless, more than two years after a U.S. military inauguration ceremony that included a marching band and water-scooter rides. Much of the compound is in ruins, swing sets have become piles of twisted steel, and the personal watercraft’s engines have been gutted for spare parts…

In many cases, such as that of the Jadriyah Lake park, the investments under the plan, known as the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, have created no more than a temporary illusion of progress. They have also shown a lack of U.S. foresight and highlighted the shortcomings of an Iraqi government the Americans were trying to boost…

We did run a danger of looking like Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burned,” Lt. Col. Dennis Yates said in a recent interview…

Bread and Circuses was the first thought I had about the project. Our military hasn’t advanced any further beyond Nero than has Congress over the Roman Senate.

Gen. Ray Odierno, who from 2007 to 2010 held each of the top two military jobs in Iraq, declined to be interviewed for this article. He has called the Commander’s Emergency Response Program one of the key factors that allowed U.S. commanders to improve security in Baghdad…

“Our efforts were often derailed by the military losing millions of dollars in CERP funding in the name of ‘If we don’t spend it, we will lose the money to the Afghanistan effort,’ ” wrote Blake Stone, an adjunct professor at the United States Naval War College.

RTFA. Several pages – brightened essentially by the ease of lifting money from the US military with no accountability. Brigands accustomed to stealing from ordinary civilian institutions in the Middle East must have felt like Iraq became the Promised Land when they saw Americans bringing in money by the pallet-load to distribute to schemes with little or no chance of bearing fruit.

U.S. offers Pakistan Army $2 billion bribe aid package

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Even as the Obama administration moved to stop training and equipping Pakistani Army units that have killed civilians in the offensive against the Taliban, the United States said Friday that it planned increased aid for Pakistan’s military over the next five years.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made the announcement in Washington alongside the Pakistani foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, as leaders from both nations convened for a series of meetings.

The new aid package, totaling $2 billion, is meant to replace one that expired Oct. 1. It would complement $7.5 billion in aid that the United States has already pledged to Pakistan for civilian projects, some have which have been directed toward helping the nation recover from the damaging floods.

In announcing the aid, Mrs. Clinton did not discuss the administration’s moves to stop financing certain elements in the Pakistani Army that have killed unarmed prisoners and civilians…

One senior administration official said there was “a lot of concern about not embarrassing” the Pakistani military, especially during a week in which officials are here for the third “Strategic Dialogue” in a year

President Obama met Wednesday in Washington with Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and other senior Pakistani officials before leaving on a campaign trip to the West Coast, but the White House provided only a vague description of their conversations. Most of the strategic dialogue is focused on coordination of a range of subjects, including counterterrorism, nuclear security, flood relief and trade.

“I told the White House that I have real concerns about the Pakistani military’s actions, and I’m not going to close my eyes to it because of our national interests in Pakistan,” Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the author of the amendment, said Wednesday from his home in Vermont. “If the law is going to have teeth, it has to be taken seriously. Pakistan’s military leaders have made encouraging statements about addressing these issues, but this requires more than statements.”

Our various governments, you know, administrations we are told are vastly different from each other – have been consistently giving away billions of dollars for so many years I honestly can’t tell them apart once I’m outside the United States.

RTFA. American weapons, US-trained officers, good guys, bad guys who used to be good guys [can you say Zeta?], every flavor of opportunist thug who claims to have the best wishes of the United States and General Dynamics engraved upon his heart gets money, shekels, dollars, zlotys, pesos, dinars, whatever – by the pallet-load.

Pakistan alone has been getting 10 figures a year for a decade and longer. What sort of security has the United States received from that? What have the people of Pakistan received? Nothing, nada, squat, nuttin honey!

Chicago lawyer cops plea deal in billion-dollar tax fraud

A former Chicago, Illinois, attorney has admitted that he helped create, push and hide fraudulent tax shelters that ended up costing the federal government billions of dollars in tax revenue…

Loopholes provided by Congress are never quite sufficient for the richest Americans. Reflect upon that while Republicans fall over each other to extend tax cuts for the richest 2% of our nation.

Erwin Mayer, 47, pleaded guilty in a New York federal court to conspiracy and tax evasion charges…

Law enforcement authorities — including investigators from the U.S. attorney’s office, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Justice’s tax division — said that Mayer designed, marketed, ran and defended illegal tax shelters, the clients of which wrongly claimed billions of dollars in fraudulent losses.

“These professionals, who were supposed to be the gatekeepers preventing fraud, instead helped their well-heeled clients avoid their tax obligations through deceit and trickery,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharra said in a statement, referring to Mayer, some of his colleagues at the now defunct law firm Jenkins & Gilchrist, and others involved in the scam.

After being a partner at Altheimer and Gray in Chicago between 1994 and 1998, Mayer joined a new Chicago office of Texas-based Jenkins & Gilchrist. Up until 2006, Mayer and colleagues set up, pitched and ran high-fee tax shelters so clients could skirt taxes on significant income or gains, according to statements made during his guilty plea proceeding…

The Winnetka, Illinois, resident will be sentenced on February 10. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison on the conspiracy charge, plus another five years for tax evasion. Mayer has agreed to forfeit his two residences and various financial accounts worth more than $10 million as part of his plea deal.

That sentencing may be deferred. In the legalese of one of the web’s law blogs…”Given that Mayer will be providing ongoing cooperation with the prosecution, no date has been set for sentencing.”

I hopes he turns over every client who used his services to screw the overwhelming number of honest Americans who pay their fair share of taxes – and more. Time to pay up!