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Friday, May 30, 2003

CONGRESS QUIETLY SUGGESTS 911 COVER-UP

On May 30, 2003, the USA Today website posted an article reporting on the ongoing conflict between Congress and the White House over the 911 investigation report. After spending most of 2002 investigating the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the House and Senate intelligence committees submitted their roughly 800-page report in December of 2002 only to have it classified so US intelligence agencies could make sure it didn't expose anything sensitive to national security.

This seems a bit absurd since any secrets that may be exposed by the report were already known by the 911 hijackers. But, in case there are other secrets, perhaps it's reasonable for a short period of classification... however, it's been five months now. One would assume that five months would be an adequate amount of time to read 800 pages - especially when considering the amount of members of the intelligence community. Surely, after 911, they're willing to work together?

Beyond that there is the oft heard from but seldomly respected conspiracy theory regarding the USGov allowing 911 to happen. This conspiracy theory angle is getting more and more respected by the mainstream as we see, even in the USA Today article, that more people are willing to suggest US Government complacency in allowing the disaster to happen and/or for hindering investigation into the disaster.

From the USA Today article:
Sen. Bob Graham, a Florida Democrat who co-chaired the joint intelligence committee's inquiry and is running for president, said he suspects intelligence agencies want parts of the report kept secret because it tells ''a fuller and more complete story than they would like.''
This takes guts to admit in public - especially during this pro-Bush era of being behind the guy in the Oval Office in the interest of our country.

More from the article:
Even House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss, R-Fla., a former CIA officer who is sympathetic to the intelligence agencies, has said Congress could overrule the agencies. ''We have the right to use our apparatus to declassify the report,'' he said earlier this week.

Under an obscure, 26-year-old rule, the House and Senate could vote to declassify the intelligence committees' report over administration objections. ''If we want, we could have the entire thing printed,'' said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
This is, of course, the way to go. It's high-time the citizens of The United States of America see how our government works and how it doesn't work. It's also high-time the government of the United States of America stop treating its citizens like children. One last quote from the USA Today article:
Some of those who lost loved ones in the attacks suspect a coverup. ''Apparently, the joint inquiry did too good a job,'' said Kristen Breitweiser of New Jersey, whose husband, Ronald, died at the World Trade Center. Said Steve Push of Washington, D.C., whose wife, Lisa Raines, died on the jet that struck the Pentagon: ''It's essential that this report be declassified.''
Now, head on over to the USA Today's web site and read the article for yourself. It's important we all get educated since that's clearly what the US Government doesn't want to happen.

From May 30, 2003 on the USA Today website:

Congress, White House clash over declassifying 9/11 report


By Kathy Kiely and John Diamond

USA TODAY

WASHINGTON -- A behind-the-scenes dispute over how much the public should be allowed to see of a report on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks could touch off a constitutional confrontation between Congress and the White House.

The House and Senate intelligence committees spent most of last year investigating why the nation's spy and law enforcement agencies failed to prevent the attacks. The committees filed the approximately 800-page report in December, but it was classified so that intelligence agencies could review it first.

When the agencies recommended censoring more than two-thirds of the report, committee leaders protested. The agencies made their counteroffer late Thursday; committee aides were reviewing it.

''We will continue to work with them to resolve issues and address concerns,'' said CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield. He said the agency is trying to ''protect sensitive sources and methods that will help us prevent future attacks.''

But Sen. Bob Graham, a Florida Democrat who co-chaired the joint intelligence committee's inquiry and is running for president, said he suspects intelligence agencies want parts of the report kept secret because it tells ''a fuller and more complete story than they would like.''

One sign of the seriousness of the dispute: Even House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss, R-Fla., a former CIA officer who is sympathetic to the intelligence agencies, has said Congress could overrule the agencies. ''We have the right to use our apparatus to declassify the report,'' he said earlier this week.

Under an obscure, 26-year-old rule, the House and Senate could vote to declassify the intelligence committees' report over administration objections. ''If we want, we could have the entire thing printed,'' said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Among the information at issue: reports on Saudi Arabian ties to the terrorists. Graham would not confirm that the report fingers the Saudis, but he said, ''There's a lot of protection of . . . political relationships between the United States and foreign governments.''

Another potential area of dispute: an August 6, 2001, intelligence briefing for President Bush that warned al-Qaeda might try to hijack U.S. airliners.

The White House says material from the briefings should not be made public for security reasons. But some committee members have questioned that argument after it was revealed that Bush invited Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Russian President Vladimir Putin to attend his morning intelligence updates while they were at his Texas ranch.

''You can be assured that they are getting access to information that is in America's interest for them to know,'' White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., said she wants to know what type of briefings were shared with the foreign leaders. ''If it's the president's daily briefing, which is only for him, that would be totally inappropriate,'' she said.

The declassification rule has never been used and would be certain to provoke a court challenge. But there are those, including some family members of Sept. 11 victims, who think Congress should invoke it if the agencies don't agree to make most of the report public.

''If the agencies cannot or will not declassify it, then Congress . . . should pursue that option,'' said Tim Roemer, a former congressman who participated in the House-Senate inquiry. He is now a member of an independent commission investigating the attacks.

Some of those who lost loved ones in the attacks suspect a coverup. ''Apparently, the joint inquiry did too good a job,'' said Kristen Breitweiser of New Jersey, whose husband, Ronald, died at the World Trade Center. Said Steve Push of Washington, D.C., whose wife, Lisa Raines, died on the jet that struck the Pentagon: ''It's essential that this report be declassified.''

TED TURNER SAYS: BIG MEDIA BAD!

No, seriously - he does! In a Washington Post article posted to their website on May 30, 2003, Ted Turner, a self-admitted major shareholder in major media conglomerate AOL/Time/Warner, says that FCC deregulation will harm some very basic concepts of American free-speech. Check it out:
If a young media entrepreneur were trying to get started today under these proposed rules, he or she wouldn't be able to buy a UHF station, as I did. They're all bought up. But even if someone did manage to buy a TV station, that wouldn't be enough. To compete, you have to have good programming and good distribution. Today both are owned by conglomerates that keep the best for themselves and leave the worst for you -- if they sell anything to you at all. It's hard to compete when your suppliers are owned by your competitors.
There you have it - these new changes in who can own how much in any given market would quite literally stifle competition. Sure, the big 5 (or is it 3?) media conglomerates aren't as bad as Micro$oft, but they sure have more control over what we see, hear and read. Turner went on to explain that stifling competition isn't the main reason the American people should care about these changes. He also said:
When you lose small businesses, you lose big ideas. People who own their own businesses are their own bosses. They are independent thinkers. They know they can't compete by imitating the big guys; they have to innovate. So they are less obsessed with earnings than they are with ideas. They're willing to take risks. When, on my initiative, Turner Communications (now Turner Broadcasting) bought its first TV station, which at the time was losing $50,000 a month, my board strongly objected. When TBS bought its second station, which was in even worse shape than the first, our accountant quit in protest.
And look how far he's come in taking those risks. And he also asks the question "When small businesses are gone, where wil the new ideas come from?"

Good question.

Pretty bizarre hearing all of this from one of the richest men in America who has both bought companies and been absorbed by them. But shouldn't that tell us something? One last quote and then you should go read the whole article yourself:
Our democracy needs a broader dialogue. As Justice Hugo Black wrote in a 1945 opinion: "The First Amendment rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public." Safeguarding the welfare of the public cannot be the first concern of large publicly traded media companies. Their job is to seek profits.
Sounds very much like a conflict of interests, doesn't it? Sounds like the Bush/Cheney White House, too... Cheney still gets millions in "consultation fees" from Haliburton, y'know...

Read the full article by Ted Turner at the Washington Post website.

From WashingtonPost.Com:

Monopoly or Democracy?

By Ted Turner
Friday, May 30, 2003; Page A23


On Monday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to adopt dramatic rule changes that will extend the market dominance of the five media corporations that control most of what Americans read, see and hear. I am a major shareholder in the largest of those five corporations, yet -- speaking only for myself, and not for AOL Time Warner -- I oppose these rules. They will stifle debate, inhibit new ideas and shut out smaller businesses trying to compete. If these rules had been in place in 1970, it would have been virtually impossible for me to start Turner Broadcasting or, 10 years later, to launch CNN.

The FCC will vote on several proposals, including raising the cap on how many TV stations can be owned by one corporation and allowing single corporations to own TV stations and newspapers in the same market.

If a young media entrepreneur were trying to get started today under these proposed rules, he or she wouldn't be able to buy a UHF station, as I did. They're all bought up. But even if someone did manage to buy a TV station, that wouldn't be enough. To compete, you have to have good programming and good distribution. Today both are owned by conglomerates that keep the best for themselves and leave the worst for you -- if they sell anything to you at all. It's hard to compete when your suppliers are owned by your competitors. We bought MGM, and we later sold Turner Broadcasting to Time Warner, because we had little choice. The big were getting bigger. The small were disappearing. We had to gain access to programming to survive.

Many other independent media companies were swallowed up for the same reason -- because they didn't have everything they needed under their own roof, and their competitors did. The climate after Monday's expected FCC decision will encourage even more consolidation and be even more inhospitable to smaller businesses.

Why should the country care? When you lose small businesses, you lose big ideas. People who own their own businesses are their own bosses. They are independent thinkers. They know they can't compete by imitating the big guys; they have to innovate. So they are less obsessed with earnings than they are with ideas. They're willing to take risks. When, on my initiative, Turner Communications (now Turner Broadcasting) bought its first TV station, which at the time was losing $50,000 a month, my board strongly objected. When TBS bought its second station, which was in even worse shape than the first, our accountant quit in protest.

Large media corporations are far more profit-focused and risk-averse. They sometimes confuse short-term profits and long-term value. They kill local programming because it's expensive, and they push national programming because it's cheap -- even if it runs counter to local interests and community values. For a corporation to launch a new idea, you have to get the backing of executives who are obsessed with quarterly earnings and afraid of being fired for an idea that fails. They often prefer to sit on the sidelines waiting to buy the businesses or imitate the models of the risk-takers who succeed. (Two large media corporations turned down my invitation to invest in the launch of CNN.)

That's an understandable approach for a corporation -- but for a society, it's like overfishing the oceans. When the smaller businesses are gone, where will the new ideas come from? Nor does this trend bode well for new ideas in our democracy -- ideas that come only from diverse news and vigorous reporting. Under the new rules, there will be more consolidation and more news sharing. That means laying off reporters or, in other words, downsizing the workforce that helps us see our problems and makes us think about solutions. Even more troubling are the warning signs that large media corporations -- with massive market power -- could abuse that power by slanting news coverage in ways that serve their political or financial interests. There is always the danger that news organizations can push positive stories to gain friends in government, or unleash negative stories on artists, activists or politicians who cross them, or tell their audiences only the news that confirms entrenched views. But the danger is greater when there are no competitors to air the side of the story the corporation wants to ignore.

Naturally, corporations say they would never suppress speech. That may be true. But it's not their intentions that matter. It's their capabilities. The new FCC rules would give them more power to cut important ideas out of the public debate, and it's precisely that power that the rules should prevent. Some news organizations have tried to marginalize opponents of the war in Iraq, dismissing them as a fringe element. Pope John Paul II also opposed the war in Iraq. How narrow-minded have we made our public discussion if the opinion of the pope is considered outside the bounds of legitimate debate?

Our democracy needs a broader dialogue. As Justice Hugo Black wrote in a 1945 opinion: "The First Amendment rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public." Safeguarding the welfare of the public cannot be the first concern of large publicly traded media companies. Their job is to seek profits. But if the government writes the rules in a certain way, companies will seek profits in a way that serves the public interest.

If, on Monday, the FCC decides to go the other way, that should not be the end of it. Powerful public groups across the political spectrum oppose these new rules and are angry about their lack of input in the process. People who can't make their voices heard in one arena often find ways to make them heard in others. Congress has the power to amend the rule changes. Members from both parties oppose the new rules. This isn't over.

The writer is founder of CNN and chairman of Turner Enterprises Inc.


(C) 2003 The Washington Post Company

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

THE NAZIS HAVE WONDER WOMAN!!!

wwtiedbynazis (74k image)

That's bad, right?

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

DAN RATHER SAYS MEDIA WEAK POST-911

To anyone paying attention from outside the mainstream media, CBS Evening News Anchor and veteran newsman, Dan Rather's comments are somewhat unshocking - but considering how he is very firmly inside the media, it's still gets your attention.

From an article originally posted May 17, 2002 at www.independent.co.uk:

"What we are talking about here, whether one wants to recognise it or not, or call it by its proper name or not, is a form of self-censorship. I worry that patriotism run amok will trample the very values that the country seeks to defend."
When someone like Dan Rather admits he is concerned about this sort of thing, it does not bode well for the regular citizenry of America getting reasonable news coverage...

From Independent.co.uk:

Veteran anchor attacks media for being timid

By Andrew Buncombe
17 May 2002


Dan Rather, one of the most respected and well-known broadcasters in the United States said last night that the mood of extreme patriotism engulfing the country since 11 September had stopped the media asking difficult questions of America's leaders. He said he was personally guilty of self-censorship.

"It is an obscene comparison ... but you know there was a time in South Africa that people would put flaming tyres around people's necks if they dissented," said Mr Rather. "And in some ways the fear is that you will be necklaced here, you will have a flaming tyre of lack of patriotism put around your neck.

"Now it is that fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions, and to continue to bore in on the tough questions so often. And again, I am humbled to say, I do not except myself from this criticism."

He added: "What we are talking about here � whether one wants to recognise it or not, or call it by its proper name or not � is a form of self-censorship. I worry that patriotism run amok will trample the very values that the country seeks to defend."

Since the attacks on New York and Washington, Mr Rather, 70, a veteran anchor for CBS, has for many been the embodiment of American patriotism. A week after the attacks he broke down in tears recalling the efforts of rescue workers. Later, when he was sent anthrax-tainted mail, he tried to reassure the public, saying: "Our biggest problem today is not anthrax. Our biggest problem is fear."

In an interview with BBC's Newsnight, Mr Rather said he believed it was a patriotic duty to bring the government to account. "It's unpatriotic not to stand up, look them in the eye, and ask the questions they don't want to hear � they being those who have the responsibility, the ultimate responsibility in a society such as ours, of sending our sons and daughters, our husbands, wives, our blood, to face death, to take death," he said.

PENTAGON LIED ABOUT MISSILE DEFENSE TECH BACK IN '97

Does this surprise anyone? Why does anyone trust anything anyone with a uniform and a halfway-decent rank says? Back on March 4, 2002, Netscape's news page posted an article from the Associated Press that documented the release of General Accounting Office findings showing that the Pentagon exaggerated the success of missile defense shield technology.

From the original article:
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Pentagon and contractors exaggerated the success of the nation's first missile defense test in 1997, ignoring a flawed sensor that had trouble distinguishing a warhead from a decoy, congressional investigators said Monday.

The Pentagon called the findings outdated.
This is nothing compared to the fudging going on in Iraq right now, but how can anyone keep up with all of that? It happens literally daily...

From Netscape's news page:

GAO: Pentagon Fudged Missile Test
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Pentagon and contractors exaggerated the success of the nation's first missile defense test in 1997, ignoring a flawed sensor that had trouble distinguishing a warhead from a decoy, congressional investigators said Monday.

The Pentagon called the findings outdated.

Contractors TRW and Boeing, who jointly built the system that was tested, played down the problems as did a Massachusetts Institute of Technology review team, said investigators from the General Accounting Office.

But Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., who released the findings by Congress' investigative agency, said, ``If we can't tell the warhead apart from a decoy, what good is it?''

The latest disagreement surfaced as the costs of an anti-missile system, strongly favored by President Bush, continues to grow. Designing, testing and building a land- and sea-based missile defense system would cost between $23 billion and $64 billion by 2015, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated this year.

The GAO did not say the 1997 test was a failure but pointed out flaws, including failure of software to work properly and the loss of data needed to evaluate the results. Markey's aides said the sensor used technology similar to that still in use.

The Pentagon disagreed. It contends it now relies on a different system to distinguish warheads from decoys.

Air Force Lt. Col. Rick Lehner said the GAO report ``doesn't matter, because that was a test of hardware that hasn't been part of the missile defense program in more than four years.''

The Boeing and TRW system was rejected and a competing system by Raytheon was chosen, Lehner said, one that relies on a different sensor, design and method of finding the warhead.

Lehner said the Pentagon agrees with an FBI determination that there was a scientific disagreement, in which some experts believed the original reporting was adequate for the first test, and others disputed it. The 1997 test did not try to intercept and destroy a warhead.

The FBI reviewed the case after a fired TRW employee alleged in a lawsuit that the company falsely reported or hid information to make the Pentagon believe the system worked.

The GAO offered no conclusions whether the test failed but pointed out the flaws and questioned the favorable reviews.

The investigators took issue with the contractors' use of ``success'' and ``excellent'' to describe the test's outcome, characterizing such terms as ``qualitative and subjective rather than quantitative and objective.''

``We believe their use increases the likelihood that test results would be interpreted in different ways and could even be misunderstood,'' the GAO said.

The report found:

The sensor cooling and calibration systems malfunctioned and often detected targets where there were none. The contractors described the sensor performance as excellent.

The contractors analyzed only about 12 seconds of data out of more than 60 seconds available, because of sensor malfunctions and other problems. Toward the end of the flight test, the software began to identify a decoy incorrectly as the warhead, but this data was eliminated from the analysis.

An engineering team that reviewed the test did not verify whether the data was accurate or the software was able to discriminate between a warhead and a decoy. Despite this, the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency used the engineers' review to dismiss allegations of fraud.

Many problems and limitations of the flight test were not immediately disclosed by contractors.

The Defense Department is working to develop several ways to destroy long-range missiles fired at the United States. President Bush last year announced over Russian objections that he was withdrawing the United States from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, which bans such anti-missile systems.

The Pentagon has tested prototypes of missile interceptors fired from silos on land and Navy ships at sea in recent months. Although all the most recent tests have destroyed dummy warheads, officials say the tests were designed to evaluate system components and were virtually guaranteed to knock down the warheads anyway.

On the Net: Ballistic missile defense system: http://www.acq.osd.mil/bmdo/bmdolink/html/system.html

Federation of American Scientists on ballistic missile defense:
http://www.fas.org/ssp/bmd/index.html

HUMAN CIVILIZATION OLDER THAN WE THINK? DUH.

Back on January 16, 2002, BBC News reported on their web site that recent archaeological finds suggest that human culutre, specifically Indian culture appears to go back 9,000 years. Considering Egypt's recorded history only goes back to 5,000 years ago, this is quite a find.

This is more of an FYI kind of thing, since this site did a similar story earlier this month. Check out page 2 to read the article from BBC News which is no longer at their site. You can get a sort of abstract of the article here.

From the BBC News web site:

Indian civilisation '9,000 years old'

By Rajyasri Rao in Delhi
thepete030528a (5k image)
Marine scientists in India say an archaeological site off India's western coast may be up to 9,000 years old.

The revelation comes about 8 months after acoustic images from the sea-bed suggested the presence of built-up structures resembling the ancient Harappan civilisation, which dates back around 4,000 years.

The Harappan civilisation is the oldest in the subcontinent.

Although Palaeolithic sites dating back around 20,000 years have been found on the coast of India's western state of Gujarat before, this is the first time there are indications of man-made structures as old as 9,500 years found deep beneath the sea surface.

Search impeded

Known as the Gulf of Cambay, the area has been subject to a great deal of archaeological interest due to its proximity to another ancient submerged site - Dwaraka - in the nearby Gulf of Kutch.

thepete20030528b (8k image)
Harappan remains have been found in India and Pakistan


But investigations in the Cambay region have been made more difficult by strong tidal currents running at around two to three metres per second.

They impede any sustained underwater studies.

Marine scientists led by the Madras-based National Institute of Ocean Technology said they got around this problem by taking acoustic images off the sea-bed and using dredging equipment to extract artefacts.

A second round of investigations was conducted about three months ago.

'Glorious past'

The Indian Minister for Ocean Technology, Murli Manohar Joshi, told journalists the images indicated not only symmetrical man-made structures but also a paleo-river, running for around nine kilometres, on whose banks all the artefacts were discovered.

thepete20030528c (6k image)
Experts say submerged pottery may offer a clue


Carbon dating carried out on one of these artefacts - a block of wood bearing the signs of deep fissures - suggested it had been around since about 7,595 BC.

Mr Joshi said his ministry planned to set up a multi-disciplinary group to look into what this discovery really meant and what relation it might have to other ancient sites in the area.

Critics say the minister, who has been in the eye of a storm recently for attempts to Hinduise school history textbooks, may well be presenting these archaeological discoveries as proof of India's glorious and ancient past.

But others say only further scientific studies can tell whether such a claim can be made at all.

TWEAKS, TWEAKS AND MORE TWEAKS

Well, I've been good up until this weekend. I've stayed away from changing stuff on my web site. I've concentrated on more important things like my method of transportation over the last week. But starting on Friday, I decided to spend some serious time on the web trying to learn some new scripts/code/tricks/etc for designing better web pages/sites. And you know what? I did just that.

I didn't implement all of the things I learned this weekend, but have used a good chunk of them. Most of them should be pretty invisible. I redid the backgrounds here on the main page. Now you can put your pointer over the "themes" link above and get a huge list of BGs to chose from. Just click on one and then click "close" at the top of the BGs list and after that, every time you visit ThePete.Com, THAT'S the background you'll see. Pretty neat, huh? The only compromise is that it doesn't have a random setting. But every once in a while when I add new BGs, I'll always make sure to announce them right here.

Anyway, I've got to go to bed. Web design is fun, but it can drive you batty, too. And right now, I hear my belfry calling... you know, it's brown and sort of sounds like a bell... sorry, it's late...

laughingman (12k image)

Friday, May 23, 2003

Pic of the Mo: COKE FOR WHITES ONLY!

I'm sorry - did this ever make any sense?
cokewhiteonly (31k image)
Click for a larger version


Yeah, so you're black/latino/asian/not-white, you've got money, but the Coca-Cola people don't want it. Sure, that makes sense.

Well, that's one good trait of capitalism - eventually the greedy bastards at Coca-Cola had to stop being racist. It just goes to show you that in the end, the only color that really matters is green.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

C-3POH MY GOD!

Threepio is as "fully-functional" as Commander Data!

c-3pohmygod (67k image)
Click for a larger image...
if you need one!


Thanks be unto Jen for sending that to me...

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

I Would Like To See the Charlie's Angels Sequel...

Here are a few reasons why:
(click to make them...ahem... larger.)
ca01 (36k image)
ca03 (33k image)
ca02 (32k image)

In the last one it was that race car sequence and now a car wash scene... oh, man... women have so much power over us heteroes...

BAYER SOLD BAD DRUGS TO POOR COUNTRIES

Imagine that. A big, powerful, rich pharmaceutical company whose business it is to make people feel better sold drugs for hemophiliacs that were more likely to transmit the AIDS virus to 3rd World customers and then did nothing to expose the documents proving this for twenty years. But now, thanks to the New York Times the truth has come out.

From the article:
The Bayer unit, Cutter Biological, introduced its safer medicine in late February 1984 as evidence mounted that the earlier version was infecting hemophiliacs with H.I.V. Yet for over a year, the company continued to sell the old medicine overseas, prompting a United States regulator to accuse Cutter of breaking its promise to stop selling the product.

By continuing to sell the old version of the life-saving medicine, the records show, Cutter officials were trying to avoid being stuck with large stores of a product that was proving increasingly unmarketable in the United States and Europe.

Yet even after it began selling the new product, the company kept making the old medicine for several months more. A telex from Cutter to a distributor suggests one reason behind that decision, too: the company had several fixed-price contracts and believed that the old product would be cheaper to produce.
So, there you have it. A big-ass company putting human lives beneath the bottom line. If you believe in hell, you should probably sell that Bayer stock...

Check out the whole article.

From NYTimes.com:

May 22, 2003

2 Paths of Bayer Drug in 80's: Riskier Type Went Overseas


By WALT BOGDANICH and ERIC KOLI


A division of the pharmaceutical company Bayer sold millions of dollars of blood-clotting medicine for hemophiliacs � medicine that carried a high risk of transmitting AIDS � to Asia and Latin America in the mid-1980's while selling a new, safer product in the West, according to documents obtained by The New York Times.

The Bayer unit, Cutter Biological, introduced its safer medicine in late February 1984 as evidence mounted that the earlier version was infecting hemophiliacs with H.I.V. Yet for over a year, the company continued to sell the old medicine overseas, prompting a United States regulator to accuse Cutter of breaking its promise to stop selling the product.

By continuing to sell the old version of the life-saving medicine, the records show, Cutter officials were trying to avoid being stuck with large stores of a product that was proving increasingly unmarketable in the United States and Europe.

Yet even after it began selling the new product, the company kept making the old medicine for several months more. A telex from Cutter to a distributor suggests one reason behind that decision, too: the company had several fixed-price contracts and believed that the old product would be cheaper to produce.

Nearly two decades later, the precise human toll of these marketing decisions is difficult, if not impossible, to document. Many patient records are now unavailable, and because an AIDS test was not developed until later in the epidemic, it is difficult to pinpoint when foreign hemophiliacs were infected with H.I.V. � before Cutter began selling its safer medicine or afterward.

But in Hong Kong and Taiwan alone, more than 100 hemophiliacs got H.I.V. after using Cutter's old medicine, according to records and interviews. Many have since died. Cutter also continued to sell the older product after February 1984 in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan and Argentina, records show. The Cutter documents, which were produced in connection with lawsuits filed by American hemophiliacs, went largely unnoticed until The Times began asking about them.

"These are the most incriminating internal pharmaceutical industry documents I have ever seen," said Dr. Sidney M. Wolfe, who as director of the Public Citizen Health Research Group has been investigating the industry's practices for three decades.

Bayer officials, responding on behalf of Cutter and its president at the time, Jack Ryan, declined to be interviewed but did answer written questions. In a statement, Bayer said that Cutter had "behaved responsibly, ethically and humanely" in selling the old product overseas.

Cutter had continued to sell the old medicine, the statement said, because some customers doubted the new drug's effectiveness, and because some countries were slow to approve its sale. The company also said that a shortage of plasma, used to make the medicine, had kept Cutter from manufacturing more of the new product.

"Decisions made nearly two decades ago were based on the best scientific information of the time and were consistent with the regulations in place," the statement said.

The medicine, called Factor VIII concentrate, essentially provides the missing ingredient without which hemophiliacs' blood cannot clot. By injecting themselves with it, hemophiliacs can stop bleeding or prevent bleeds from starting; some use it as many as three times a week. It has helped hemophiliacs lead normal lives.

But in the early years of the AIDS epidemic, it became a killer. The medicine was made using pools of plasma from 10,000 or more donors, and since there was still no screening test for the AIDS virus, it carried a high risk of passing along the disease; even a tiny number of H.I.V.-positive donors could contaminate an entire pool.

In the United States, AIDS was passed on to thousands of hemophiliacs, many of whom died, in one of the worst drug-related medical disasters in history. While admitting no wrongdoing, Bayer and three other companies that made the concentrate have paid hemophiliacs about $600 million to settle more than 15 years of lawsuits accusing them of making a dangerous product.

The Cutter documents � a few of them have surfaced in recent years in television and newspaper reports about Cutter's marketing practices � were gleaned from that litigation. But because the documents did not relate directly to the suits, most went uninvestigated.

The documents � internal memorandums, minutes of company marketing meetings and telexes to foreign distributors � reveal and chronicle Cutter's decision to keep exporting the older product after it began making the new one, which was heat-treated to kill H.I.V. The heat treatment rendered the virus "undetectable" in the product, according to a government study. (There are few available records documenting the actions and decisions of the three other American-based companies that also sold unheated concentrate after offering a heated product.)

Doctors and patients contacted overseas said they had not known of the contents of the Cutter documents. Bayer and other blood-product companies, though admitting no wrongdoing, have already made some payments to foreign hemophiliacs. It is unclear if Bayer could now face legal liability specifically for selling the older product after a safer one was available.

Federal regulators helped keep the overseas sales out of the public eye, the documents indicate. In May of 1985, believing that the companies had broken a voluntary agreement to withdraw the old medicine from the market, the Food and Drug Administration's regulator of blood products, Dr. Harry M. Meyer Jr., summoned officials of the companies to a meeting and ordered them to comply. "It was unacceptable for them to ship that material overseas," he said later in legal papers.

Even so, Dr. Meyer asked that the issue be "quietly solved without alerting the Congress, the medical community and the public," according to Cutter's account of the 1985 meeting. Dr. Meyer said later that he could not recall making that statement, but another blood-product company's summary of the meeting also noted that the F.D.A. wanted the matter settled "quickly and quietly." Dr. Meyer died in 2001.

Whether Cutter was behaving ethically became an issue in internal company discussions. "Can we in good faith continue to ship nonheat-treated coagulation products to Japan?" a company task force asked in February 1985, fearing that some of its plasma donors might be H.I.V. positive. The decision, records show, was yes.

Taken together, the documents provide an inside view of Cutter's bottom-line strategizing and efforts to manage the flow of information amid growing public anxiety about the safety of its product.

When a Hong Kong distributor in late 1984 expressed an interest in the new product, the records show, Cutter asked the distributor to "use up stocks" of the old medicine before switching to its "safer, better" product. Several months later, as hemophiliacs in Hong Kong began testing positive for H.I.V., some local doctors questioned whether Cutter was dumping "AIDS tainted" medicine into less-developed countries.

Still, Cutter assured the distributor that the unheated product posed "no severe hazard" and was the "same fine product we have supplied for years."

Li Wei-chun said her son, who died in 1996 at the age of 23, was one of the hemophiliacs in Hong Kong who got AIDS after using that product. "They did not care about the lives in Asia," Ms. Li said in a recent interview. "It was racial discrimination."

How It Started
Discovery That Blood Spreads the Disease

At the beginning of the epidemic, more than two decades ago, fear over what would later be known as AIDS was centered mostly among gays and intravenous drug users. But that changed on July 16, 1982, when the federal Centers for Disease Control reported that three hemophiliacs had acquired the disease.

This gave epidemiologists a strong reason to believe that the disease was being spread through blood products. And that belief carried grave implications for the many thousands of hemophiliacs who routinely injected themselves with concentrate made from giant pools of donated plasma.

Because an AIDS test had not yet been developed, federal health officials had no idea how many plasma donors carried the disease.

By March of 1983, the C.D.C. went so far as to warn that blood products "appear responsible for AIDS among hemophilia patients."

The unfolding story had not gone unnoticed at Cutter headquarters. Back in January, Cutter's manager of plasma procurement had acknowledged in a letter: "There is strong evidence to suggest that AIDS is passed on to other people through . . . plasma products."

With sales of concentrate beginning to slip, Cutter got more bad news in May 1983: after learning that a Cutter rival had begun to make heated concentrate, France decided to halt all imports of clotting concentrate until it could figure out what to do.

Fearing a loss of customers, Cutter conceived a marketing plan that stopped well short of full disclosure. "We want to give the impression that we are continuously improving our product without telling them we expect soon to also have a heat-treated" concentrate, an internal memo said.

Several weeks later, Cutter tried to minimize the danger hemophiliacs faced when using blood products. "AIDS has become the center of irrational response in many countries," the company said in a June 1983 letter to distributors in France and 20 other countries. "This is of particular concern to us because of unsubstantiated speculations that this syndrome may be transmitted by certain blood products."

The French decided to keep using unheated concentrate, and Cutter said it sold them more of the unheated product in August 1983. Later, two French health officials were sent to prison for continuing to use up old stocks of unheated concentrate in 1985, when a heated product was available.

Cutter finally received United States approval to sell heated concentrate on Feb. 29, 1984, the last of the four major blood product companies to do so. Though some doctors and patients held out against the heated product, a safer era had clearly begun for hemophiliacs in the United States.

Market Considerations
Bayer Says Some Wanted Old Product

For five months more, until August 1984, Cutter said it continued to make the old, unheated medicine. The records suggest that the company hoped to preserve the profit margin from "several large fixed-price contracts." But in its statements to The Times, Bayer also said that some customers still wanted the old medicine, initially believing � incorrectly, it turned out � that heating the concentrate could leave it less effective and possibly dangerous.

The new product, meanwhile, was selling briskly, leaving Cutter with a problem: "There is excess nonheated inventory," the company noted in minutes of a meeting on Nov. 15, 1984.

"They needed to get the return for what they invested," explained Michael Baum, a Los Angeles lawyer who has represented dozens of United States hemophiliacs in suits against blood-product companies. "They paid the donors. They had processed the plasma, put it into vials, kept it in warehouses � and all that expense had already been incurred." (One vial is roughly equivalent to a small dose, though more may be needed to stop severe bleeding.)

At the November meeting, the minutes show, Cutter said it planned to "review international markets again to determine if more of this product can be sold." And in the months that followed, it had some success, exporting more than 5 million units (a typical vial might contain 250 units) in the first three months of 1985, documents show.

"Argentina has been sold 300,000 units and will possibly order more, and the Far East has ordered 400,000 units," according to a March 1985 Cutter report. Two months later, the company reported that "in Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, doctors are primarily dispensing nonheated Cutter" concentrate.

By then, while there were still a small number of buyers in the United States, nearly all of the unheated concentrate was being sold abroad, available records show. All told, Cutter appears to have exported more than 100,000 vials of unheated concentrate, worth more than $4 million, after it began selling its safer product.

Gary Mull, an international product manager for Cutter at the time, said no one at the company had ordered him to sell the unheated concentrate as a way of avoiding a write-off. "If I had reason to personally believe, let alone the company" that any of the material was highly infectious, "we wouldn't have sent it out," he said.

Mr. Mull, who now works for another blood-product company, added, "I wasn't the shipping person, but I would still be the person in charge of queueing it up."

Bayer, which is based in Germany, said in its statement that an overall plasma shortage in 1985 had kept Cutter from making more heated medicine. But Cutter may actually have contributed to that shortage � by using some its limited plasma supplies to continue making the old product.

Bayer's response also emphasized that some countries were slow to approve its new product. For example, Bayer said "procedural requirements" imposed by Taiwan had delayed its "ability to apply for registration" and had led to other delays as well.

But an official at Taiwan's health department, Hsu Chien-wen, said recently that Cutter had not applied for permission to sell the new, safer medicine until July 1985, about a year and a half after it began doing so in the United States.

In one case, records show, Cutter officials even discussed trying to delay Japan's approval of heated concentrate so the company could shed stocks of the older product. Bayer said Cutter did not act on that idea.

Officials from the three other American-based companies that continued to sell unheated concentrate � Armour Pharmaceutical, Baxter International and Alpha Therapeutic � either declined to be interviewed or denied wrongdoing, in some cases citing the same reasons Bayer did for its decisions.

Still, what is not in dispute is that by the spring of 1985, few researchers doubted the connection between AIDS and unheated concentrate. The previous October, the federal Centers for Disease Control, using a prototype H.I.V. test, had reported that 74 percent of hemophiliacs who used unheated concentrate had tested positive for H.I.V. In the same report, the agency said a study done with Cutter had shown that heat treatment rendered the virus "undetectable."

(Bayer said no one knew "definitively" that its heat treatment killed the AIDS virus until eight months later.)

By May 1985, as the AIDS scare reached hemophiliacs in Hong Kong, Cutter's distributor there placed an urgent call to Cutter headquarters, records show. Sounding distraught, he told of an impending medical emergency. Hemophiliacs were frightened. Children were being infected with H.I.V. Parents were hysterical. Couldn't the company send the new, safer product?

Cutter replied that most of the new medicine was going to the United States and Europe, and that there was not enough left for Hong Kong, though a small amount was available for the "most vocal patients."

Dr. Chan Tai-kwong, who treated hemophiliacs at Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong, said doctors asked Cutter's distributor for the heated concentrate but could not get it; 40 percent of his patients were H.I.V.- positive, Dr. Chan said.

Dr. Patrick Yuen, who worked at another hospital, gave a similar account. "The local distributor asked us to keep using it," he said. "They said not to be afraid."

Even so, Cutter knew the market for the older medicine had all but dried up.

"It appears there are no longer any markets in the Far East where we can expect to sell substantial quantities of nonheat-treated," a Cutter official wrote in May 1985. Bayer said Cutter stopped shipping unheated concentrate in July 1985.

Later, in the early 1990's, two members of a Hong Kong government commission that concluded the tragedy could not have been avoided, expressed concern when told of the internal Cutter documents. Dr. Yuen, a member of the panel, said Cutter failed to warn doctors and hemophiliacs in Hong Kong about the dangers of unheated concentrate. "It should tell the whole world, not just Europe and America," he said.

Bayer also said Cutter did fully inform foreign customers about the heated product. And Bayer said it took more than a year to get Hong Kong's approval to sell it. But Dr. Cindy Lai, assistant director of Hong Kong's health department, said that in the 1980's Cutter needed only to get an import license. "It normally took one week," she said.

The delay harmed more than just the hemophiliacs, said Mrs. Li, the mother of the young hemophiliac who died of AIDS in 1993. Infected with a terrible and still mysterious disease, hemophiliacs were often shunned by family, friends and employers.

"It was the immoral drug company that caused some families to fall apart," she said. "They blamed and tortured each other. It was better to die than to live."

The Message Gap
Many Slow to Hear of the Problems

Today, in the Internet age, vast amounts of the most up-to-the-minute medical information are available at the click of a mouse. News moved less efficiently in 1985.

In Taiwan, Dr. Shen Ming-ching, who ran the country's largest clinic for hemophiliacs, recalled in a recent interview that it was not until he traveled to the United States for a conference in July 1985 that he learned for certain that heat treatment killed H.I.V. Upon returning home, he said, he immediately insisted that Taiwan authorities stop importing the old concentrate.

For his efforts on behalf of the hemophiliacs in Taiwan, Dr. Shen said, the government gave him a certificate and "a beautiful medal." As for the hemophiliacs themselves, 44 of Dr. Shen's patients got AIDS, including a 2-year-old. He said 23 had died.

None of the Taiwan patients interviewed by The Times said they knew that Cutter had begun selling the safer medicine in the United States in early 1984.

One Taiwan patient who received Cutter's old concentrate was Lee Ching-chang. Mr. Lee said he got his first concentrate in November 1983 at age 22, and continued receiving the unheated type into 1985.

Mr. Lee said he tested positive for H.I.V. in 1986. "I am bitterly angry," he said. Mr. Lee said he was too sick to work.

Six other hemophiliacs with H.I.V. or their families spoke to The Times about despair, discrimination, job loss or in some cases thoughts of suicide. Mr. Lee was the only hemophiliac with H.I.V. willing to be photographed.

Tang Fu-kuo helps AIDS patients in Taiwan. "I cannot tell myself that it's just history; let's forget it," Mr. Tang said. "Nobody wants to acknowledge fault."

Friday, May 16, 2003

I OWN A 2-WHEELED VEHICLE!!

Yep, it's true. After months of looking, I finally found a two-wheeled vehicle that was younger than my old car but within my price range. And to top that, I have my motorcycle permit as well - it's been one busy day! Here are some pics with my new vehicle:
(click each pic to see the full pictures!)

MATRIX RELOADED (2003)

The Matrix Reloaded (Widescreen Edition)Entertaining? Sure. In a raw FX and/or MST3K kind of way.
Technically any good? Script - no chance. FX - sure - they were great, but who cares about FX when the people in them aren't terribly interesting?
How did I feel as the credits rolled? Disappointed. Like the first Matrix movie, I wanted to like it - but also like the first Matrix movie, I just didn't.
Final Rating? SAM

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

I WROTE! YAY!

Wow, what a difference five months makes. I wrote more than 2500 pages last year, between a bunch of novels and a couple of screenplays and since January 1, I've been about as prolific as a fruitfly. So, I'm always happy to sneak in some writing here and there and tonight I did exactly that. So, let's see, since January 1, 2003, I've written about ten pages in my wannabe anime project, and twenty pages in my first sitting on my new screenplay, seven pages last week on my new screenplay and another nine tonight, so YAY!!

At this rate, I think I can round it out to a 90 pager and I'm at page 42 right now. So, that's kind of the halfway point. Now that I think about it, though, I think the story is much closer to the climax than that. Well, maybe it will still be a short film after all... knowing me and my longwindedness, I could probably cut stuff out and make it a 30 minute short. We'll just have to see...

And now, I'm going to go watch the episode of Ghost In The Shell Stand Alone Complex that I downloaded today - YESSS!!!

Batou

Monday, May 12, 2003

ANOTHER WEEKEND BLOWN BY...

Wow - never enough time, but I did a lot this weekend. Mostly I spent way too smegging much money. We blew close to $70 on groceries on Friday (which is fine, I mean, we gotta eat, right?) then we stopped by Toys R Us and splurged on some new Lego and some rechargable batteries ($20) - hey, I needed the rechargables for my PDA and I haven't bought a toy in months. I got the new Star Wars Mini-Legos - very cool little guys.

Then Saturday we spent too much money seeing a (really kick ass good) movie and eating out afterward (probably $30-$40 all told), then Sunday we played miniature golf ($6 per person) then we ate out again ($20).

The good news is, we had a great time at everything we did this weekend.

Who needs money, anyway?

Sunday, May 11, 2003

NO WMD FOR YOU MR. PRESIDENT?

Check it out, on May 11, 2003, the Washington Post reported that the part of the USMil whose job it was to find Weapons of Mass Destruction has decided to pack up and go home after several weeks of looking but not finding any Weapons of Mass Destruction inside of Iraq.

READ IT AND WEEP, MR. BUSH!

Even if there is proof that Saddam and Osama are old golf buddies it doesn't mean squat since Saddam has nothing to give Osama, which means that the whole reason for the USUK forces to go into Iraq (to find WMD that could be passed on to Al Qeda) is for nothing. So, a couple hundred USUK soldiers die, many more are wounded and close to 3000 Iraqi civilians die (not to mention the Iraqi military dead) just so the USMil could find that Iraq was no threat to the safety and security of anyone but it's own people.

Certainly, Saddam Hussein being out of control of Iraq is a good thing, but it's come at the cost of American credibility around the world. The USGov has broken the UN Charter and has been caught lying to the world time and again. The cost of this will take many, many years to determine. And a question that should be asked is: Couldn't we have helped the Iraqi people to get their own freedom?

Check out the Washington Post article.

From WashingtonPost.Com:

Frustrated, U.S. Arms Team to Leave Iraq


Task Force Unable To Find Any Weapons

By Barton Gellman

Washington Post Staff Writer


Sunday, May 11, 2003; Page A01


BAGHDAD -- The group directing all known U.S. search efforts for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is winding down operations without finding proof that President Saddam Hussein kept clandestine stocks of outlawed arms, according to participants.

The 75th Exploitation Task Force, as the group is formally known, has been described from the start as the principal component of the U.S. plan to discover and display forbidden Iraqi weapons. The group's departure, expected next month, marks a milestone in frustration for a major declared objective of the war.

Leaders of Task Force 75's diverse staff -- biologists, chemists, arms treaty enforcers, nuclear operators, computer and document experts, and special forces troops -- arrived with high hopes of early success. They said they expected to find what Secretary of State Colin L. Powell described at the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 5 -- hundreds of tons of biological and chemical agents, missiles and rockets to deliver the agents, and evidence of an ongoing program to build a nuclear bomb.

Scores of fruitless missions broke that confidence, many task force members said in interviews.

Army Col. Richard McPhee, who will close down the task force next month, said he took seriously U.S. intelligence warnings on the eve of war that Hussein had given "release authority" to subordinates in command of chemical weapons. "We didn't have all these people in [protective] suits" for nothing, he said. But if Iraq thought of using such weapons, "there had to have been something to use. And we haven't found it. . . . Books will be written on that in the intelligence community for a long time."

Army Col. Robert Smith, who leads the site assessment teams from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, said task force leaders no longer "think we're going to find chemical rounds sitting next to a gun." He added, "That's what we came here for, but we're past that."

Motivated and accomplished in their fields, task force members found themselves lacking vital tools. They consistently found targets identified by Washington to be inaccurate, looted and burned, or both. Leaders and members of five of the task force's eight teams, and some senior officers guiding them, said the weapons hunters were going through the motions now to "check the blocks" on a prewar list.

U.S. Central Command began the war with a list of 19 top weapons sites. Only two remain to be searched. Another list enumerated 68 top "non-WMD sites," without known links to special weapons but judged to have the potential to offer clues. Of those, the tally at midweek showed 45 surveyed without success.

Task Force 75's experience, and its impending dissolution after seven weeks in action, square poorly with assertions in Washington that the search has barely begun.

In his declaration of victory aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, President Bush said, "We've begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons, and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated." Stephen A. Cambone, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday that U.S. forces had surveyed only 70 of the roughly 600 potential weapons facilities on the "integrated master site list" prepared by U.S. intelligence agencies before the war.

But here on the front lines of the search, the focus is on a smaller number of high-priority sites, and the results are uniformly disappointing, participants said.

"Why are we doing any planned targets?" Army Chief Warrant Officer Richard L. Gonzales, leader of Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha, said in disgust to a colleague during last Sunday's nightly report of weapons sites and survey results. "Answer me that. We know they're empty."

Survey teams have combed laboratories and munitions plants, bunkers and distilleries, bakeries and vaccine factories, file cabinets and holes in the ground where tipsters advised them to dig. Most of the assignments came with classified "target folders" describing U.S. intelligence leads. Others, known as the "ad hocs," came to the task force's attention by way of plausible human sources on the ground.

The hunt will continue under a new Iraq Survey Group, which the Bush administration has said is a larger team. But the organizers are drawing down their weapons staffs for lack of work, and adding expertise for other missions.

Interviews and documents describing the transition from Task Force 75 to the new group show that site survey teams, the advance scouts of the arms search, will reduce from six to two their complement of experts in missile technology and biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. A little-known nuclear special operations group from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, called the Direct Support Team, has already sent home a third of its original complement, and plans to cut the remaining team by half.

"We thought we would be much more gainfully employed, or intensively employed, than we were," said Navy Cmdr. David Beckett, who directs special nuclear programs for the team.

State-of-the-art biological and chemical labs, shrunk to fit standard cargo containers, came equipped with enough supplies to run thousands of tests using DNA fingerprinting and mass spectrometry. They have been called upon no more than a few dozen times, none with a confirmed hit. The labs' director, who asked not to be identified, said some of his scientists were also going home.

Even the sharpest skeptics do not rule out that the hunt may eventually find evidence of banned weapons. The most significant unknown is what U.S. interrogators are learning from senior Iraqi scientists, military industrial managers and Iraqi government leaders now in custody. If the nonconventional arms exist, some of them ought to know. Publicly, the Bush administration has declined to discuss what the captured Iraqis are saying. In private, U.S. officials provide conflicting reports, with some hinting at important disclosures. Cambone also said U.S. forces have seized "troves of documents" and are "surveying them, triaging them" for clues.

At former presidential palaces in the Baghdad area, where Task Force 75 will soon hand control to the Iraq Survey Group, leaders and team members refer to the covert operators as "secret squirrels." If they are making important progress, it has not led to "actionable" targets, according to McPhee and other task force members.

McPhee, an artillery brigade commander from Oklahoma who was assigned to the task force five months ago, reflected on the weapons hunt as the sun set outside his improvised sleeping quarters, a cot and mosquito net set down in the wreckage of a marble palace annex. He smoked a cigar, but without the peace of mind he said the evening ritual usually brings.

"My unit has not found chemical weapons," he said. "That's a fact. And I'm 47 years old, having a birthday in one of Saddam Hussein's palaces on a lake in the middle of Baghdad. It's surreal. The whole thing is surreal.

"Am I convinced that what we did in this fight was viable? I tell you from the bottom of my heart: We stopped Saddam Hussein in his WMD programs," he said, using the abbreviation for weapons of mass destruction. "Do I know where they are? I wish I did . . . but we will find them. Or not. I don't know. I'm being honest here."

Later in the conversation, he flung the unfinished cigar into the lake with somewhat more force than required.

Team members explain their disappointing results, in part, as a consequence of a slow advance. Cautious ground commanders sometimes held weapons hunters away from the front, they said, and the task force had no helicopters of its own.

"My personal feeling is we waited too long and stayed too far back," said Christopher Kowal, an expert in computer forensics who worked for Mobile Exploitation Team Charlie until last week.

'The Bear Wasn't There'

But two other factors -- erroneous intelligence and poor site security -- dealt the severest blows to the hunt, according to leaders and team members at every level.

Some information known in Washington, such as inventories of nuclear sites under supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, did not reach the teams assigned to visit them. But what the U.S. government did not know mattered more than what it did know. Intelligence agencies had a far less accurate picture of Iraq's weapons program than participants believed at the outset of their search, they recalled.

"We came to bear country, we came loaded for bear and we found out the bear wasn't here," said a Defense Intelligence Agency officer here who asked not to be identified by name. "The indications and warnings were there. The assessments were solid."

"Okay, that paradigm didn't exist," he added. "The question before was, where are Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons? What is the question now? That is what we are trying to sort out."

One thing analysts must reconsider, he said, is: "What was the nature of the threat?"

By far the greatest impediment to the weapons hunt, participants said, was widespread looting of Iraq's government and industrial facilities. At nearly every top-tier "sensitive site" the searchers reached, intruders had sacked and burned the evidence that weapons hunters had counted on sifting. As recently as last Tuesday, nearly a month after Hussein's fall from power, soldiers under the Army's V Corps command had secured only 44 of the 85 top potential weapons sites in the Baghdad area and 153 of the 372 considered most important to rebuilding Iraq's government and economy.

McPhee saw early in the war that the looters were stripping his targets before he could check them. He cut the planning cycle for new missions -- the time between first notice and launch -- from 96 to 24 hours. "What we found," he said, was that "as the maneuver units hit a target they had to move on, even 24 hours was too slow. By the time we got there, a lot of things were gone."

Short and powerfully built, McPhee has spent his adult life as a combat officer. He calls his soldiers "bubbas" and worries about their mail. "It ain't good" that suspect sites are unprotected, he said, but he refused to criticize fighting units who left evidence unguarded.

"You've got two corps commanders being told, 'Get to Baghdad,' and, oh, by the way, 'When you run across sensitive sites, you have to secure them,' " he said. "Do you secure all those sites, or do you get to Baghdad? You've got limited force structure and you've got 20 missions."

A low point came when looters destroyed what was meant to be McPhee's headquarters in the Iraqi capital. The 101st Airborne Division had used the complex, a munitions factory called the Al Qadisiyah State Establishment, before rolling north to Mosul. When a reporter came calling, looking for Task Force 75, looters were busily stripping it clean. They later set it ablaze.

An Altered Mission

The search teams arrived in Iraq "looking for the smoking gun," Smith said, and now the mission is more diffuse -- general intelligence-gathering on subjects ranging from crimes against humanity and prisoners of war to Hussein's links with terrorists.

At the peak of the effort, all four mobile exploitation teams were devoted nearly full time to weapons of mass destruction. By late last month, two of the four had turned to other questions. This week, MET Alpha, Gonzales's team, also left the hunt, at least temporarily. It parted with its chemical and biological experts, added linguists and document exploiters and recast itself as an intelligence team. It will search for weapons if leads turn up, but lately it has focused on Iraqi covert operations abroad and the theft of Jewish antiquities.

The stymied hunt baffles search team leaders. To a person, those interviewed during a weeklong visit to the task force said they believed in the mission and the Bush administration accusations that prompted it.

Yet "smoking gun" is now a term of dark irony here. Maj. Kenneth Deal, executive officer of one site survey team, called out the words in mock triumph when he found a page of Arabic text at a former Baath Party recreation center last week. It was torn from a translated edition of A.J.P. Taylor's history, "The Struggle for Mastery in Europe." At a "battle update brief" last week, amid confusion over the whereabouts of a British laboratory in transit from Talil Air Base, McPhee deadpanned to his staff: "I haven't a clue where the WMD is, but we can find this lab."

Among the sites already visited from Central Command's top 19 are an underground facility at North Tikrit Hospital, an unconventional training camp at Salman Pak, Samarra East Airport, the headquarters of the Military Industrialization Commission, the Baghdad Research Complex, a storage site for surface-to-surface missiles in Taji, the Amiriyah Serum and Vaccine Institute, a munitions assembly plant in Iskandariyah and an underground bunker at the Abu Ghurayb Palace.

The bunker, toured several days later by a reporter, withstood the palace's destruction by at least two satellite-guided bombs. The bombs left six-foot holes in the reinforced concrete palace roof, driving the steel reinforcing rods downward in a pattern that resembled tentacles. The subsequent detonation turned great marble rooms into rubble.

But the bunker, tunneled deep below a ground-floor kitchen, remained unscathed. The tunnel dropped straight down and then leveled to horizontal, forming corridors that extend most of the breadth of the palace. Richly decorated living quarters were arranged along a series of L-shaped bends, each protected by three angled blast doors. The doors weighed perhaps a ton.

In a climate-control room, chemical weapons filters and carbon dioxide scrubbers protected the air and an overpressure blast valve stood ready to vent the lethal shock waves of an explosion. And a decontamination shower stood under an alarm panel designed to flash the message "Gas-Gaz."

"Is it evidence of weapons of mass destruction?" asked Deal. "No. It's probably evidence of paranoia."

"I don't think we'll find anything," said Army Capt. Tom Baird, one of two deputy operations officers under McPhee. "What I see is a lot of stuff destroyed." The Defense Intelligence Agency officer, describing a "sort of a lull period" in the search, said that whatever may have been at the target sites is now "dispersed to the wind."

All last week, McPhee drilled his staff on speeding the transition. The Iraq Survey Group should have all the help it needs, he said, to take control of the hunt. He is determined, subordinates said, to set the stage for success after he departs. And he does not want to leave his soldiers behind if their successors can be trained in time.

"I see them as Aladdin's carpet," McPhee told his staff. "Ticket home."

Saturday, May 10, 2003

ANIMATRIX

Entertaining? Definitely.
Technically any good? This is an anthology, so some of it was awesome while other bits, not so much. Kind of felt like the ones that the Wachowski Brothers had more influence on were the worst while the ones without them as involved were the better ones.
How did I feel as the credits rolled? More satisfied than I felt at the end of the original Matrix movie, that's for sure. Seriously, there are some very cool shorts in this collection.
Final Rating?RTV (Just rent it, though - I definitely didn't feel like I needed to watch it again...)

Friday, May 9, 2003

ThePete.Com's 911 Memorial Page

Shortly after the horrible events of September 11, 2001, ThePete.Com hosted a special 911 Memorial page. It featured a screencapture of a webcam page that displayed pictures grabbed from a webcam located in a window of one of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers. It was simply a black image. The page also featured webcams from around New York City and Washington DC as well as articles covering the horrible day. Also included was a disturbing album cover from a New York City hip-hop group that depicted them activating bombs inside the Twin Towers.

In the following weeks, the memorial page was expanded to include more articles, pictures and video clips of the second plane impacting. Some of the pictures included a two tarot cards that bare an eerie resemblance to the events of 911, some pictures of where Osama was parodically believed to be at the time. The 911 Memorial section was to expand again with a third page featuring articles and pictures regarding The War Against Terror and Afghanistan, but as news became just too frequent, those plans were abandon in favor of developing the thenewsblog page.

Visit Visit The 911 Memorial page at ThePete.com

If you want to link to/borrow/steal any of the images, articles or clips, please provide a link back to the 911 page or at the very least my site. Please don't steal bandwidth, images or files from me. Thank you.

Wednesday, May 7, 2003

MUST... BEND... TO SOCIETY'S... WILL!

I was thinking about this last night while visiting one of the alternative news forums I like to visit. A post made by someone else commented on how if we're not careful we, here in the US, could end up in a very oppressive country a la Nazi Germany. Then I realized, we do live in an oppressive society.

Check it out:

1) Most of us have at least 100 channels of TV to watch, but how many times have we all said "there's just nothing on TV right now"? The big businesses are deciding for us what we will watch on the virtue of assumption. They assume we'll watch some shows and won't watch others, yet, how do they know for sure? They don't - they just program whatever is the safest thing to program and we have no choice but to accept what they offer us or don't watch anything.

2) Rent videos? Buy your own videos and watch those? Sure, that's an option, but even movies these days are providing a much more slimmed down variety for us. Again, big businesses decide what is most likely to sell tickets well, as opposed to what will be interesting or new. As a writer trying to make it in Hollywood myself, I feel this pressure to be bland and safe in the stuff I write. My urge is to write exciting, thought provoking stories, but then I feel like no Hollywood producer would buy them. Sure, there are the exceptions, but so far my scripts have been them. And neither have anyone else's. I can't remember the last movie that really challenged me.

3) Last night, I was channel surfing and actually found something on to watch. Bill Maher (who's HBO show recently went on hiatus) was guesting on Chris Matthew's show on MSNBC. I find Bill Maher one of the rare voices of difference on TV so I watched. He took a question from the audience. A young woman asked about how the Bush 43 administration has been using a climate of fear to control the American people and then suggested that Bush knew about 911 before it happened. Now, I'm not saying he did know, I'm not saying he didn't, but Maher's reaction was pretty lame. He basically slammed her, claiming it was a crack pot theory and a "scurilous" accusation and that he wouldn't dignify that with a response. (too late!) What kind of society do we live in where simple discussion of what may or may not have happened is slammed? His comments were unfair and close-minded. Again, I'm not saying Bush did know, but let's be civil.

4) Thanks to things like the above, I feel like I can't suggest certain things, wonder about certain things because of I don't know what. All I know is I'm concerned for what will happen if I start spouting off any of my own "crack pot" ideas, not just about 911 but about anything else. I'm not talking about raping puppies here, but I do feel that some of my ideas are so "out there" compared to mainstream society, that, well, I don't know what. I just feel this pressure to keep this stuff to myself.

It may not be Nazi Germany, but if that's not oppression, I don't know what is.

Monday, May 5, 2003

X-WEEKEND'S OVER!!!

jeanhandcu (26k image)Guess what I saw this weekend? Hell, guess what EVERYONE saw this weekend?

ASIDE from the second good X-Men movie, I had a hit and miss-rest of the weekend. TheFiancee was at a funeral on the east coast for Thursday through Saturday, so I watched a buttload of Ghost In The Shell Stand Alone Complex episodes (an excellent anime series from Japan) only to discover that I was missing an episode. I then spent way too much time trying to get the episode. Never having gotten it, I gave up by finishing episode 10. 10 30 minute shows in a row - if I can't speak Japanese by now, I don't think I ever will!

After that, I looked around for more two wheeled vehicles to buy. No luck there. I started to watch Anger Management but then twenty minutes into it I decided it sucked and stopped watching it. After that, I added some cool features to the site, including the ability to email or print each entry either on ThePete.Com's main page or on the KnowTHIS page. Pretty cool, HUH?

I also spent way too much time on the dodgy script that runs my new forum. It works, mostly, but it still has a few bugs. But please sign up - I plan on working out all the kinks as soon as I can.

Then Saturday night we saw the 1:30am show of X-2: X-MEN UNITED. Identity we watched Sunday night. That one surprised me - which is rare. Oh and also look for my friend TheChad's review of Phone Booth. Okay, that's it for now. I hope to update TheBeauty later today, wish me luck! Here's another X-Men 2 pic to go out with, enjoy:

jeanandstorm (45k image)
click for a bigger image! (same goes with the pic at the top!)

X-2 : X-MEN UNITED (2003)

X2 - X-Men United (Widescreen Edition)Entertaining? Hell, YES.
Technically any good? A bit cluttered and weak in some places, but not enough to really care about or to harm the enjoyment of the movie. See it - I'm pretty sure you'll be glad you did.How did I feel as the credits rolled? Excited for X-3!!
Final Rating? GSN

IDENTITY (2003)

IdentityEntertaining? Yeah, more than I expected.
Technically any good? Really good use of suspense and confusion. Not really that insulting. The only lame bits come in if you get nitpicky about the climax which you will NOT figure out and the very last bit of the film.
How did I feel as the credits rolled? Reasonably satisfied. The twist was genuinely surprising and new, while the film sort of undoes itself at the last moment, I still can say I enjoyed it.
Final Rating? SIYL (good for a scary date movie)

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN IT TAKES FEWER EUROS TO BUY MORE US DOLLARS?

What happens when it takes fewer Euros to buy more US Dollars? Simple, but worrisome for Americans: the value of the US Dollar goes down. This also shakes investor confidence in the USD and potentially will drive investors to the Euro since it's doing remarkably well for it's age against the USD. At the time of this writing, a single Euro was worth just under $1.13. That may not seem like much, but consider the amount of money that circulates in the world today. Billions flow from one bank account to another in many, many currencies all day long, even while we sleep. Those extra thirteen cents add up - fast and this shortcoming should be of concern to everyone in America.

In a nutshell, here's why: America rules the planet. No, it's true - America rules the planet with it's money. OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) sells oil only in what are commonly called PetroDollars. These are actually US Dollars set aside specifically to be sold to other countries or companies who want to buy oil. Think of them like Amazon gift certificates but you can use them at Barnes & Noble online. The catch is, these gift certificates do represent American money. And if the US Dollar continues to lose value, OPEC may consider switching to a stronger currency to do business. Then, all that money that was being bought from the US will no longer be and the American economy will take a major hit. And when the US economy goes down, it doesn't go down alone...

Follow this link to see what the Euro is worth against the USD right now and everyday and when you see something like this: "1 USD = 1.12 Euros" instead of the other way around, you'll know the USD is back in good shape. This is because it will take more Euros to equal one USD.

US NUKES AGAINST AXIS OF EVIL? IT'S BEEN THOUGHT ABOUT

Back in March of 2002, the LA Times reported that the Bush 43 Administration has drawn up a plan to use nuclear weapons against members of the Axis of Evil and other countries. This list consists of China, Russia, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Libya and Syria. This paints a disturbing picture - one that describes George W. Bush as fearing threats from all of these countries despite the fact that none have levelled overt threats against the US. Iraq is now out of the picture, and North Korea's saber rattling is well documented, but generally hasn't seemed like an issue of much concern for the Bush 43 Administration.

Still, the plan was drawn up and luckily, has not been used yet. Let's all hope it stays that way.

Read an abstract of the LA Times from March of 2002. You can also buy the entire thing for just $2.50...

Or, read CNN's coverage of this same situation.

From LATimes.com

U.S. Works Up Plan for Using Nuclear Arms Military:

Administration, in a secret report, calls for a strategy against at least seven nations: China, Russia, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Libya and Syria.

By PAUL RICHTER, Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration has directed the military to prepare contingency plans to use nuclear weapons against at least seven countries and to build smaller nuclear weapons for use in certain battlefield situations, according to a classified Pentagon report obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

The secret report, which was provided to Congress on Jan. 8, says the Pentagon needs to be prepared to use nuclear weapons against China, Russia, Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya and Syria. It says the weapons could be used in three types of situations: against targets able to withstand nonnuclear attack; in retaliation for attack with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons; or "in the event of surprising military developments."

A copy of the report was obtained by defense analyst and Times contributor William Arkin. His column on the contents appears in Sunday's editions.

Officials have long acknowledged that they had detailed nuclear plans for an attack on Russia. However, this "Nuclear Posture Review" apparently marks the first time that an official list of potential target countries has come to light, analysts said. Some predicted the disclosure would set off strong reactions from governments of the target countries.

"This is dynamite," said Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear arms expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. "I can imagine what these countries are going to be saying at the U.N." Arms control advocates said the report's directives on development of smaller nuclear weapons could signal that the Bush administration is more willing to overlook a long-standing taboo against the use of nuclear weapons except as a last resort. They warned that such moves could dangerously destabilize the world by encouraging other countries to believe that they, too, should develop weapons.

"They're trying desperately to find new uses for nuclear weapons, when their uses should be limited to deterrence," said John Isaacs, president of the Council for a Livable World. "This is very, very dangerous talk . . . Dr. Strangelove is clearly still alive in the Pentagon."

But some conservative analysts insisted that the Pentagon must prepare for all possible contingencies, especially now, when dozens of countries, and some terrorist groups, are engaged in secret weapon development programs.

They argued that smaller weapons have an important deterrent role because many aggressors might not believe that the U.S. forces would use multi-kiloton weapons that would wreak devastation on surrounding territory and friendly populations.

"We need to have a credible deterrence against regimes involved in international terrorism and development of weapons of mass destruction," said Jack Spencer, a defense analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington. He said the contents of the report did not surprise him and represent "the right way to develop a nuclear posture for a post-Cold War world."

A spokesman for the Pentagon, Richard McGraw, declined to comment because the document is classified.

Congress requested the reassessment of the U.S. nuclear posture in September 2000. The last such review was conducted in 1994 by the Clinton administration. The new report, signed by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, is now being used by the U.S. Strategic Command to prepare a nuclear war plan.

Bush administration officials have publicly provided only sketchy details of the nuclear review. They have publicly emphasized the parts of the policy suggesting that the administration wants to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons.

Since the Clinton administration's review is also classified, no specific contrast can be drawn. However, analysts portrayed this report as representing a break with earlier policy.

U.S. policymakers have generally indicated that the United States would not use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear states unless they were allied with nuclear powers. They have left some ambiguity about whether the United States would use nuclear weapons in retaliation after strikes with chemical or nuclear weapons.

The report says the Pentagon should be prepared to use nuclear weapons in an Arab-Israeli conflict, in a war between China and Taiwan, or in an attack from North Korea on the south. They might also become necessary in an attack by Iraq on Israel or another neighbor, it said.

The report says Russia is no longer officially an "enemy." Yet it acknowledges that the huge Russian arsenal, which includes about 6,000 deployed warheads and perhaps 10,000 smaller "theater" nuclear weapons, remains of concern.

Pentagon officials have said publicly that they were studying the need to develop theater nuclear weapons, designed for use against specific targets on a battlefield, but had not committed themselves to that course.

Officials have often spoken of the advantages of using nuclear weapons to destroy the deep tunnel and cave complexes that many regimes have been building, especially since the Persian Gulf War of 1991. Nuclear weapons give off powerful shock waves that can crush structures deep in the Earth, they point out.

Officials argue that large nuclear arms have so many destructive side effects, from blast to heat and radiation, that they become "self-deterring." They contend the Pentagon needs "full spectrum deterrence"--that is, a full range of weapons that potential enemies believe might be used against them.

The Pentagon was actively involved in planning for use of tactical nuclear weapons as recently as the 1970s. But it has moved away from them in the last two decades.

Analysts said the report's reference to "surprising military developments" referred to the Pentagon's fears that a rogue regime or terrorist group might suddenly unleash a wholly unknown weapon that was difficult to counter with the conventional U.S. arsenal.

The administration has proposed cutting the offensive nuclear arsenal by about two-thirds, to between 1,700 and 2,200 missiles, within 10 years. Officials have also said they want to use precision guided conventional munitions in some missions that might have previously been accomplished with nuclear arms.

But critics said the report contradicts suggestions the Bush administration wants to cut the nuclear role.

"This clearly makes nuclear weapons a tool for fighting a war, rather than deterring them," said Cirincione.


From CNN.com:

Report: Nuclear weapons policy review names potential targets

March 9, 2002 Posted: 12:59 PM EST (1759 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration listed seven countries as possible targets for nuclear attacks in a military contingency plan, according to a report provided to Congress in January, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

The classified Pentagon information says nuclear weapons could be used against Libya, Syria, China, Russia, Iran, Iraq and North Korea in certain situations, the Times said.

Nuclear targeting discussions have been a part of U.S. military strategy for some time, but analysts told CNN that the Times list, if accurate, would be the first official one to come to light.

According to the Times report, nuclear weapons could be used against targets able to withstand non-nuclear attack, in retaliation for attacks by nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, or "in the event of surprising military developments."

President Bush also has directed the military to build smaller nuclear weapons for use in some instances, the Times reports.

Arms-control advocates told the Times that the development of smaller nuclear weapons may signal that the Bush administration is leaning toward overlooking a long-standing policy against the use of nuclear weapons except as a last resort.

Conservative observers have said they believe the U.S. military should be prepared to use nuclear weapons if necessary. Others believe any plans for possible nuclear attacks will have destabilizing global effects.

There was no response on the newspaper's report from the Pentagon or the White House, and no indication if the copy of the report obtained by the Times was a final or a draft version. The report, a congressionally mandated "nuclear posture review," is conducted every six years.

Pentagon officials briefing reporters on the review in January indicated a lessening reliance on the massive stockpiles of nuclear weapons as a deterrent to attack.

They said that findings called for increasing reliance on precision-guided weapons to deter attacks.

They said the classified nuclear posture review showed that because of improvements in precision-guided weaponry -- as demonstrated in the Afghan war -- the U.S. military can now rely more on powerful, highly accurate conventional bombs and missiles.

Increased missile threat predicted
Also in January, the U.S. intelligence community issued a report projecting that before 2015, the United States most likely would face intercontinental ballistic missile threats from North Korea, Iran and possibly Iraq, barring significant changes in their politics.

Bush named those three nations as an "axis of evil" during his State of the Union address earlier this year.

The unclassified report by the National Intelligence Council also predicted that Chinese ballistic missile forces would increase sevenfold by 2015, rising to between 75 and 100 warheads deployed.

Pentagon officials said the classified review showed that because of improvements in precision-guided weaponry -- as demonstrated in the Afghan war -- the U.S. military can now rely more on powerful, highly accurate conventional bombs and missiles to deter an enemy strike.

J.D. Crouch, assistant secretary of defense for International Security Policy, said in January that the end of the Cold War and the improving relationship with Russia made the change in strategy possible, but that it was also guided by an analysis of potential future threats to national security.

Crouch said many of the nuclear warheads the administration planned to remove from operational deployment would not be destroyed, but would be kept in an "active stockpile," which some future president could redeploy in the event of a major nuclear threat to this country.

President Bush has said he wants to reduce the U.S. arsenal of deployed nuclear weapons from more than 6,000 to between 1,700 and 2,200.

QUICK PRIMER ON WHY (JEB) BUSH SHOULDN'T RUN IN 2008 PT.1

Lots of folks aren't thinking this far ahead, but it's probably important to do just that. After all, George H.W. Bush was President, now George W. Bush is in the White House and his little brother Jeb is in the Governor's mansion down in Florida. Since George W. Bush will probably win a second term since the Democrat Party has all but disbanded, we can safely assume that barring a horrible, fatal accident, Jeb Bush will run for President of the United States in 2008. This is the first of many artilces here at thenewsblog that will detail just why Jeb Bush should not be allowed to inhabit the Oval Office.

Back in 1992, Stephen Rizzo wrote an article for MotherJones.com (sans the .com back then, of course) detailing the various shady dealings of the senior President Bush's offspring. Check it out, according to the article:

thepete20030505c (5k image)1)Along with Cuban-American real estate developer Armando Codina (see image to the right), Jeb took out a loan from a S&L that would later fail. Federal regulators, apparently wanting to avoid any boat rocking with then Vice-President George HW Bush, decided to reappraise the building that was bought with the loan. The building, it was determined, had lost a significant amount of value and said regulators decided that Jeb and Codina should only have to pay back $500,000 of the original $4.56 million loan.

2) Jeb worked for Camilo Padreda a man accused (but never convicted) of embezzlement and paying off a Dade County politician and was also some sort of CIA operative and veteran of the Bay of Pigs debacle. Padreda used government funds to build office space in Miami (an area already conspicuous for it's bounty of available office space) and then hired Jeb to help find tenants for the building.

Their major tenant was International Medical Centers (an HMO) run by Miguel Recarey a Florida man with known ties to the Miami Mafia, the CIA and possibly even the KGB. Jeb (who was hired by Recarey as a real-estate consultant) used his influence with the office of Health and Human Services to get IMC a waiver that would allow them dodge a number of HHS rules governing how many Medicare patients they were allowed to handle. Thanks to Jeb, Recarey could stack his HMO with Medicare patients, from there, he defrauded the Medicare System and was found by HHS special agent Leon Weinstein to be overcharging, false invoicing and outright embezzling. When Weisntein blew the whistle and his superiors ignored him and his evidence. He finally turned to two Congressmen who initiated hearings into the situation. As of 1992, nothing had been resolved - the HHS stepped in and took Weinstein off the case.

3) Coincidentally, Recarey (seen to the left) had already been brought up on bribery charges and just after his conviction, the IRS just happened to expedite a $2.2 million tax refund. He took the money and left the country. While Jeb was never directly implicated in doing anything shady beyond the influence peddling, the actions of Jeb's business partners does call into question his credibility. Find out how bad the FBI wants Recarey back in custody.

thepete20030505e (13k image)4)Remember IMC, Miguel Recarey's HMO? Remember that it rented most of the space in Camilo Padreda's HUD-funded building? Both Recarey and Padreda hired Jeb for real-estate-related purposes. However, according to the Mother Jones article, IMC might have also been involved in laundrying money for the whole Iran/Contra thing. Jeb apparently acted as courier in one instance and a CIA operative told the Wall Street Journal in 1987 that he had attended meetings at IMC headquarters in Miami with contra leader Adolfo Calero.

So, at the very least, Jeb is guilty of neglegance. How do you let all this stuff go on, right underneath your nose? That and the fact that he was willing to peddle influence for these guys without making sure they were not criminals. As an October 2002 Miami Herald article explains, Tom Feeney (Jeb's running mate in the 1994 governor's race in Florida) once said about Bush, "The only documented allegations come down to the fact that he did business with people that turned out later to be deadbeats and crooks."

And considering how Jeb's older brother, George co-owned at least one business with Osama Bin Laden's brother and Jeb's father used to be pals with Saddam Hussein, how accidental can any relationship Jeb has with criminals be?

Read about George W.'s business dealings with Salem Bin Laden.

Read the original 1992 article by Stephen Rizzo at Mother Jones.

From AmericanFreePress.net:

Bush & Bin Laden - George W. Bush Had Ties to Billionaire bin Laden Brood

The unexplained death of Salem, Osama bin Laden's oldest brother, in 1988, brought to an abrupt end a long and intriguing relationship between President Bush and the head of the bin Laden family fortune.
By Roger Miller

The world now associates the bin Laden name with Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect be hind the terror atrocities of Sept. 11. As President George W. Bush leads an intense international manhunt for Osama, few Americans realize that Osama's eldest brother, Salem, was one of Bush's first business partners.

A photograph from 1971 has surfaced and been printed in English papers showing Osama, age 14, and his brother Salem, age 19, enjoying a summer holiday at the Astoria Hotel in Falun, Sweden. Christina Akerblad, the hotel owner, told the Daily Mail, "They were beautiful boys, so elegantly dressed. Everybody loved them."

Osama embraced Islamic fundamentalism and is now the world's most wanted man. "Salem went on to become a business partner of the man who is leading the hunt for his brother," the Daily Mail's Peter Allen said. "In the 1970s, he and George W. Bush were founders of the Arbusto Energy oil company in Mr. Bush's home state of Texas."

President Bush and the bin Laden family have been connected through dubious business deals since 1977, when Salem, the head of the bin Laden family business, one of the biggest construction companies in the world, invested in Bush's start-up oil company, Arbusto Energy, Inc.

James R. Bath, a friend and neighbor, was used to funnel money from Osama bin Laden's brother, Salem bin Laden, to set up George W. Bush in the oil business, according to The Wall Street Journal and other reputable sources.

Through a tangled web of Saudi multi-millionaires, Texas oilmen, and the infamous Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Bush was financially linked with the bin Laden family until Salem met an untimely end in a freak flying accident near San Antonio in 1988.

The infamous BCCI was shut down in 1991 with some $10 billion in losses.

In June 1977, George W. Bush formed his own oil drilling company, Arbusto Energy, in Midland, Tex.

"Arbusto" actually means "shrub" in Spanish, but the Bush family interpreted it as "bush".
Salem bin Laden, a close friend of the Saudi King Fahd had "invested heavily in Bush's first business venture," according to The Daily Mail (U.K.).

Arbusto later became Bush Exploration, when Bush's father became vice president. As the company neared financial collapse in September 1984, it was merged with Spectrum 7 Energy Corp. in an effort to stay afloat.

The 50 investors who propped up the Bush company with $4.7 million were "mainly friends of my uncle" who "did pretty good" in Bush's words, although they lost most of the money they invested in the company. Jon Bush, George's uncle, raised money for Arbusto from political supporters of the Reagan-Bush administration.

"These were all the Bushs' pals," family friend Russell Reynolds told the Dallas Morning News in 1998. "This is the A-Team."

The "A-Team" limited partners contributed $4.67 million to various Bush funds through 1984 but got only $1.55 million back in profit distributions, and $3.9 million in tax write-offs.

William DeWitt and Mercer Reynolds, two staunch Reagan-Bush supporters, owned Spectrum 7.

Despite his poor track record, the owners made Bush president of the company and gave him 13.6 percent of the parent company's stock.
surprise deal

As the hard times continued, Spectrum merged with Harken Energy in 1986. In 1990, Harken received a contract from the government of Bahrain to drill for offshore oil although Harken Energy had never drilled a well overseas or anywhere in water.

"Knowledgeable oil company sources believe that the Bahrain oil concession was indeed an oblique favor to the president of the United States but say that Saudi Arabia (home of bin Laden) was behind the decision," according to The Outlaw Bank: A Wild Ride Into the Secret Heart of the BCCI, by Jonathan Beaty and S.C. Gwynne.

It raised oil-industry eyebrows when the Persian Gulf state announced it had chosen tiny Harken to explore an offshore site for gas and oil. Bahrain officials said they had no idea President Bush's son was associated with Harken, a claim oil-industry sources ridicule.
The Bahrain deal was brokered in part by Arkansas investment banker David Edwards, one of Bill Clinton's closest friends. The Bahrain oil project resulted in two dry holes and Harken energy abandoned the project.

Two months before Iraq invaded Kuwait, on June 20, 1990, the younger Bush sold two-thirds of his Harken stock, 212,140 shares at $4 a share-for a total of $848,560.
"That was $318,430 more than it was worth," Dr. Arthur F. Ide, author of George W. Bush: Portrait of a Compassionate Conservative, said. "George W. broke the law to do this since the transaction was an insider stock sale."

Eight days later, Harken finished the second quarter with losses of $23 million and the stock went "into a nosedive" losing 75 percent of its value, finishing the year at a little over $1 a share.

"Like his father who made his fortune in the oil business with the money of others, George W. founded Arbusto with the financial backing of investors, including James R. Bath," said the late James Howard Hatfield, author of a "controversial biography," Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Mak ing of an American President.

Hatfield, 43, was found dead of an apparent prescription drug overdose in a hotel room in Springdale, Ark. on July 18, 2001. Police declined to investigate.

Bath became friends with George W. during their days together in the Texas Air National Guard. Bath "confided that he was an original investor in George Bush Jr.'s oil exploration company," according to The Outlaw Bank.

Bath found investors for Arbusto and "made his fortune" by investing the money of two BCCI-connected Saudi sheiks, Khalid bin Mahfouz and Salem bin Laden. Mahfouz was one of the richest men in the world and a controlling shareholder in BCCI.

Bill White, a former real estate business partner of Bath, said: "He had put up $50,000 to help George, Jr., get started in oil business" at a time when "Bath had no substantial money of his own," according to The Outlaw Bank.

Bath received a 5 percent interest in two Arbusto-related limited partnerships controlled by Bush, although Bush told The Houston Post in 1990 that he had "never done any business" with Bath. However, Bush said Bath was "a lot of fun."

Bath told White that he was in the CIA and that "he had been recruited by George Bush himself in 1976 when Bush was director of the agency . . . he said Bush wanted him involved with the Arabs, and to get into the aviation business."

White contends that the Saudis were using Bath and their huge financial resources to influence U.S. policy during the Reagan and Bush administrations, according to the Houston Chronicle of June 4, 1992. Such representation by Bath would require that he be registered as a foreign agent with the Department of Justice, which he was not.

Shortly after Bush's father was appointed director of the CIA, Salem bin Laden appointed Bath as his business representative in Texas. According to The Houston Chronicle, Salem bin Laden, heir to one of the largest building companies in the Middle East, signed a trust agreement appointing Bath as his Houston representative in 1976.

In 1978 Bath purchased Houston Gulf Airport on behalf of Salem bin Laden. When bin Laden died in 1988, his interest in the airfield passed to bin Mahfouz.

There was also a political aspect to Salem bin Laden's financial activities, which played a role in U.S. operations in the Middle East and Central America during the 1980s,
according to Public Broadcasting's Frontline report.

As head of Binladen Brothers Construction (now the Binladen Group), a company that later helped build U.S. airfields during Operation Desert Storm, bin Laden was close to King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and "a good friend of the U.S. government," a San Antonio attorney, Wayne Fagan, who represented Salem bin Laden from 1982 to 1988, told the San Antonio Express-News.

When the family patriarch, Sheik Mohammed bin Laden, died in 1968, he left an industrial and financial empire and a progeny of 54 sons and daughters, the fruit of a number of wives. In 1972, Salem bin Laden, the oldest son, took over the estate as his father's successor, with the assistance of several brothers.

With over 40,000 employees, the Bin Laden Group is represented in the major cities of Saudi Arabia and the Arab capitals of Beirut, Cairo, Amman, and Dubai. The company builds highways, housing units, factories, hangars, and military bases, some of which are part of the U.S.-Saudi "Peace Shield" agreement.

The story of the Bush involvement with bin Laden and the BCCI scandal involves "trails that branched, crossed one another, or came to unexpected dead ends," according to The Outlaw Bank.

FREAK ACCIDENT

Salem bin Laden came to an "unexpected dead end" in a Texas pasture, 11 years after investing in Arbusto, when the ultralight aircraft he was flying crashed into power lines near San Antonio on Memorial Day, 1988.

On the morning of May 29, 1988, almost immediately after takeoff, Salem bin Laden's aircraft struck and became entangled in power lines 150 feet high before plunging to the ground.

"He was a very experienced pilot. He was a good pilot. We just can't understand why he decided to go right instead of left," recalled airstrip owner and former Marine Earl May field, who cradled bin Laden, bleeding from the ears.

That day, bin Laden took off in a southeasterly direction into the wind. He surprised onlookers by turning west to ward power lines less than a quarter-mile away.

"Nobody could figure out why he tried to fly over the power lines," said Gerry Auerbach, 77, of New Braunfels, a retired pilot.

Bin Laden had more than 15,000 hours of flight experience.

The police report concluded "freak accident."

From MotherJones.com:

Bush Family Value$

The Bush clan's family business
by Stephen Pizzo
September/October 1992

In 1991, President Bush bristled at a flurry of news accounts that questioned the business ethics of three of his sons. "The media ought to be ashamed of itself for what they're doing," Bush complained. "They [the boys] have a right to make a living, and their relationships are appropriate," added a White House spokeswoman in June 1992.

Since George Bush has raised "family values" as a campaign issue repeatedly, though, it seems only fair to take a look at his own family. A computer search showed that over the past five years stories have periodically surfaced chronicling the individual business antics of the president's sons -- each riding comfortably through life in the slipstream of his father's growing power and influence.

Although a handful of good reporters for the New York Times, LA Times, Village Voice, and Wall Street Journal have diligently been digging through business records for months, something has been missing: an overview that "connects the dots" in the myriad deals that have been examined, making it clear that cashing in on influence has become a pattern of behavior extending through the first family.

Instead of criticizing reporters, the president might more wisely begin listening to those in government who have watched his sons with mounting worry. A year ago, I sat across a desk from a Secret Service agent who had been assigned to Bush-family security. I rattled off the names of a half-dozen questionable characters who had found their way into business deals with the Bush boys. How had these characters been allowed to get even close to the president's sons?

The agent slumped back in his chair and sighed. "We warn them," he said in a whisper. "But that's all we can do. We can't stop these kids from associating with someone they want to be with. All we can do after warning them is to sweep these guys with metal detectors when they come around."

What follows is a sourcebook of concerns about the president's three sons.

George W. Bush, Jr.

None of George Bush's offspring is more his father's son than George W. Bush. George Jr., or "Shrub" as Molly Ivins refers to him, began his own Texas oil career in the mid-1970s when he formed Bush Exploration. Like the business dealings of his brothers, George's company was not a success, and it was rescued in 1983 by another oil company, Spectrum 7, run by several staunch and well-heeled Reagan-Bush supporters. But by mid-1986, a soft oil market found Spectrum also near bankruptcy.

Many oil companies went belly-up during that time. But Spectrum had one asset the others lacked -- the son of the vice-president. Rescue came in 1986 in the form of Harken Energy, just in the nick of time. Harken absorbed Spectrum, and, in the process, Junior got $600,000 worth of Harken stock in return for his Spectrum shares. He also won a lucrative consulting contract and stock options. In all, the deal would put well over $1 million in his pocket over the next few years -- even though Harken itself lost millions.

Harken Energy was formed in l973 by two oilmen who would benefit from a successful covert effort to destabilize Australia's Labor Party government (which had attempted to shut out foreign oil exploration). A decade later, Harken was sold to a new investment group headed by New York attorney Alan G. Quasha, a partner in the firm of Quasha, Wessely & Schneider. Quasha's father, a powerful attorney in the Philippines, had been a staunch supporter of then-president Ferdinand Marcos. William Quasha had also given legal advice to two top officials of the notorious Nugan Hand Bank in Australia, a CIA operation.

After the sale of Harken Energy in 1983, Alan Quasha became a director and chairman of the board. Under Quasha, Harken suddenly absorbed Junior's struggling Spectrum 7 in 1986. The merger immediately opened a financial horn of plenty and reversed Junior's fortunes. But like his brother Jeb, Junior seemed unconcerned about the characters who were becoming his benefactors. Harken's $25 million stock offering in 1987, for example, was underwritten by a Little Rock, Arkansas, brokerage house, Stephens, Inc., which placed the Harken stock offering with the London subsidiary of Union Bank -- a bank that had surfaced in the scandal that resulted in the downfall of the Australian Labor government in 1976 and, later, in the Nugan Hand Bank scandal. (It was also Union Bank, according to congressional hearings on international money laundering, that helped the now-notorious Bank of Credit and Commerce International skirt Panamanian money-laundering laws by flying cash out of the country in private jets, and that was used by Ferdinand Marcos to stash 325 tons of Philippine gold around the world.)

Stephens, Inc., also helped introduce the BCCI virus into US banking in 1978 when it arranged the sale of Bert Lance's National Bank of Georgia to BCCI front man Ghaith Pharoan. (The head of Stephens, Inc., Jackson Stephens, is a member of President Bush's exclusive "Team 100," a group of 249 wealthy individuals who have contributed at least $100,000 each to the GOP's presidential-campaign committee.)

If any of these associations raised questions in the mind of George Bush, Jr., he had little incentive to voice them. Besides getting Harken stock through the deal, Junior was paid $80,000 a year as a consultant (until 1989, when his wages were increased to $120,000; recently they were reduced to $45,000). He was also allowed to borrow $180,375 from the company at very low interest rates. In 1989 and 1990, according to the company's Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Harken's board "forgave" $341,000 in loans to its executives. In addition, Junior took advantage of the company's ultraliberal executive stock purchase plan, which allowed him to buy Harken stock at 40 percent below market value.

Such lavish executive compensation would suggest a company doing quite well indeed. But in reality, Harken had little going for itself. One Wall Street analyst called Harken's web of insider stock deals and mounting debt "a lot of jiggery-pokery." Harken was not making money and could not have continued into 1990 without at least some means of convincing lenders and investors that the company would soon find a lot of oil.

Suddenly, in January 1990, Harken Energy became the talk of the Texas oil industry. The company with no offshore-oil-drilling experience beat out a more-established international conglomerate, Amoco, in bagging the exclusive contract to drill in a promising new offshore oil field for the Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain. The deal had been arranged for Harken by two former Stephens, Inc., brokers. A company insider claims the president's son did not initiate the deal -- but feels that his presence in the firm helped with the Bahrainis. "Hell, that's why he's on the damn board," the insider says. "...You say, 'By the way, the president's son sits on our board.' You use that. There's nothing wrong with that."

Junior has told acquaintances conflicting stories about his own involvement in the deal. He first claimed that he had "recused" himself from the deal; "George said he left the room when Bahrain was being discussed 'because we can't even have the appearance of having anything to do with the government.' He was into a big rant about how unfair it was to be the president's son. He said, 'I was so scrupulous I was never in the room when it was discussed.'"

Junior alternately claimed, to reporters for the Wall Street Journal and D Magazine, that he had opposed the arrangement. But the company insider says, to the contrary, that Junior was excited about the Bahrain deal. "Like any member of the board, he was thrilled," the associate says. "His attitude was, 'Holy shit, what a great deal!'"

Through the Bahrain deal, the ties between BCCI and Harken Energy grew tighter. Sheikh Khalifah, the prime minister of Bahrain and brother of the emir, was also a shareholder in BCCI -- and it was Khalifah who played the key role in selecting Harken for the job. Sheikh Abdullah Bakhsh, in turn, was a business associate of BCCI front man Ghaith Pharoan; he bought a chunk of Harken's stock and placed his representative, Talat Othman, on Harken Energy's board of directors.

Did Junior or any of the other Harken Energy executives trade on the Bush name in these speculative business deals? None of the principals will answer questions. But this much is known: after the Harken-Bahrain deal was settled, Othman was added to the list of fifteen Arabs who met with President George Bush and National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft three times in 1990 -- once just two days after Iraq invaded Kuwait -- while serving on Harken's board of directors.

The promise of hitting it big in the oil-rich gulf was certainly critical for Harken. News of the Bahrain deal kept investors buying stock and lenders making loans. Still, Harken had nowhere near the capital required for such a large offshore operation halfway around the world. This required real money. But not to worry: The billionaire Bass brothers stepped up to the plate and said they'd be happy to underwrite the cost of the drilling in return for a piece of the action. (Robert Bass is a member of President Bush's Team 100; he and other Bass family members have contributed $226,000 to George, Sr.'s, cause since 1988.)

But even well-heeled friends like the Bass brothers could not protect Harken from the troubles of the world. Just four months after the Bahrain deal was sealed, storm clouds developed over the gulf region, threatening the oil-exploration deal. In May 1990, the U.S. State Department sent a chilling but still classified report to Scowcroft. The report warned that Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was out of control and was threatening his neighbors:

May 16, 1990
SECRET
Attached is a paper containing a list of options for responding to recent actions and statements by the Government of Iraq. ...We ask that you pass this paper to Robert Gates [CIA] for his review.

Under "options" the memo suggested:
Ban Oil Purchases: The largest benefit Iraq receives from the US is through our oil purchases...
PRO -- A total ban on oil purchases would have some short-term impact.
CON -- Such action might also have an impact on US Oil prices.

Oil companies had learned, during the years of the long Iran-Iraq war, that trouble in the gulf hurts companies with oil interests because, for one thing, at the first sound of a rifle shot in the gulf region, Lloyds of London jacks up insurance rates on oil tankers and company installations. The "wartime" rates are very high and cut deeply into company profits and investor confidence. If things really get out of hand, pipelines are destroyed and waterways are mined.

The secret memo augured ill for Harken's fledgling venture. To compound matters, that same month, Harken's own financial advisers at Smith Barney produced a hand-wringing report voicing alarm at the company's rapidly deteriorating financial condition. (A former company official told Mother Jones that Harken owed more than $150 million to banks and other creditors at the time.) Since Harken wasn't producing anything, it was hard to find a revenue stream, unless you count the river of fees, stock options, and salaries running into the pockets of Junior and other top Harken executives. Junior, as a member of Harken's restructuring committee, could not have been ignorant of the report, since the board had met in May and worked directly with the Smith Barney consultants.

In June 1990, Junior suddenly unloaded the bulk of his Harken stock -- 212,140 shares -- for a tidy $848,560. A former business associate says that Junior's motivation was his desire to buy an expensive new house in Dallas, for which he wanted to pay cash. The June 1990 transaction was an insider stock sale, and security laws required that it be reported no later than July 10, 1990. But Junior filed no such report, at least not then.

Then, in August, Iraqi troops marched into Kuwait, and Harken shares plummeted 25 percent. Junior would have lost $212,140 if he'd waited to sell his shares until then. Still, he didn't file his SEC disclosure until seven months later, in March 1991 -- well after U.S. troops had finished fighting and the gulf war had moved off the front pages. Harken stock rebounded briefly, but quickly collapsed again.

Were government secrets discussed, directly or indirectly, that would have given Harken Energy a leg up in exploiting the Bahrain deal? The White House won't say. If Junior traded on exclusive, nonpublic, insider information, he committed a gross violation of SEC rules. Taken together, the company's critical need for success in its Bahraini deal and a possible oil embargo to be imposed by his father provided Junior with strong motivation to bail out of Harken stock before the public discovered either piece of news. (SEC spokesman John Heine says he is unaware of any enforcement action pending.)

The folks at Harken Energy weren't the only ones in Texas taking care of Junior during the 1980s. He was appointed the managing partner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, even though his partnership contribution was only a fraction of the team's purchase price. Among those coughing up the money to buy the Rangers were William DeWitt and Mercer Reynolds, major contributors to the president's campaign who had also been in on the rescue of Junior's oil company.

Junior doesn't deny that being a Bush has helped him become a millionaire. "I recognize what my talents are and what my weaknesses are," he told Texas reporters last year. "I don't get hung up on it. Being George Bush's son has its pluses and minuses in some people's minds. In my thinking, it's a plus."

Junior might have been thinking that among the minuses were questions about his role at Harken. As this article was being prepared -- and in the midst of extensive interviewing of former and current Harken business associates -- Junior announced a six-month leave of absence as a consultant and member of the Harken board. His role in the presidential campaign, the statement said, precluded Junior's active involvement at Harken through the remainder of 1992.

In any case, Junior is stepping away from a company in deep trouble. Harken stock is trading near its all-time low. Recently, test wells in Bahrain turned up dry and the company has not produced anything else. "Harken is not hard to understand -- it's easy," says Charles Strain, an energy-company analyst in Houston. "The company has only one real asset -- its Bahrain contract. If that field turns out to be dry, Harken's stock is worth, at the most, 25 cents a share. If they hit it big over there, the stock could be worth $30 to $40 dollars a share. It's a pure crapshoot."

John Ellis ("Jeb") Bush

After graduating from Texas University, Jeb Bush served a short apprenticeship at the Venezuelan branch of Texas Commerce Bank in Caracas before settling in Miami, in 1980, to work on his father's unsuccessful primary bid against Ronald Reagan. Campaigning for Dad was hardly a paying job. But Jeb was about to learn that being one of George Bush's sons means never having to circulate a r�sum�.

In the next few years, financial support flowed to Jeb through Miami's right-wing Cuban community. Republican party politics and a series of business scandals -- including Medicaid fraud and shady S&L deals -- were inextricably intertwined. A former federal prosecutor told MJ that, when he looked into Jeb's lucrative business dealings with a now-fugitive Cuban, he considered two possibilities -- Jeb was either crooked or stupid. At the time, he concluded Jeb was merely stupid.

Jeb and Armando Codina
Shortly after arriving in Miami, Jeb was hired by Cuban-American developer Armando Codina to work at his Miami development company as an agent leasing office space. A couple of years later, Jeb and Codina became business partners, and in 1985 they purchased an office building in a deal partly financed by a savings and loan that later failed.

The $4.56 million loan, from Broward Federal Savings in Sunrise, Florida, was granted in such a way that neither Codina's nor Bush's name appeared on the loan papers as the borrowers. A third man, J. Edward Houston, borrowed the $4.56 million from Broward and then re-lent it to the Bush partnership. When federal regulators closed Broward Savings in 1988, they found the loan, which had been secured by the Bush partnership, in default.

As Jeb's father was finishing his second term as vice-president and running for the presidency, federal regulators had two options: to get Jeb Bush and his partner to repay the loan, or to foreclose on their office building. But regulators came up with a third solution. After reappraising the building, regulators decided it wasn't worth as much as was owed for it. The regulators reduced the amount owed by Bush and his partner from $4.56 million to just $500,000. The pair paid that amount and were allowed to keep their office building. Taxpayers picked up the tab for the unpaid $4 million.

After the Broward Savings deal was revealed, Jeb described himself and his partner as "victims of circumstances."

Jeb and Camilo Padrera
By 1984, Jeb had been made chairman of the Dade County Republican party, and it was as Republican party chief that he nuzzled up to con man Camilo Padreda. Padreda was serving as Dade County GOP finance chairman and had raised money for the party from Miami's Cuban community. (He had also been a counterintelligence officer for deposed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.) Padreda made his living as a developer who specialized in deals with the corrupt Department of Housing and Urban Development. In 1986, he hired Jeb as the leasing agent for a vacant commercial-office building, which Padreda had built with $1.4 million in federal loans -- loans approved by HUD officials, oddly enough, even though they knew there was already a glut of vacant office space in Miami.

Like so many of those who would attach themselves to the Bush sons over the years, Padreda brought some hefty luggage with him. In 1982, four years before teaming up with Jeb, Padreda, along with another right-wing Cuban exile, Hernandez Cartaya, was indicted and accused of looting Jefferson Savings and Loan Association in McAllen, Texas. The federal indictment charged that the pair had embezzled over $500,000 from the thrift. (Cartaya was also charged with drug smuggling, money laundering, and gun running.) But the Jefferson Savings case would never go to trial.

Soon after the indictment, FBI officials got a call from someone at the CIA warning the agents that Cartaya was one of their own -- a veteran of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion -- according to a prosecutor who worked on the case. In short order, the charges against Padreda were dropped and the charges against Cartaya were reduced to a single count of tax evasion. (Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerome Sanford was furious and filed a demand with the CIA, under the Freedom of Information Act, for all documents relating to the agency's interference in his case. The CIA, citing national-security reasons, denied Sanford's request.)

In 1989, Houston Post reporter Pete Brewton wrote about Jefferson Savings and Cartaya in a series of stories alleging that CIA operatives and contractors had systematically misused at least twenty-six savings and loans during the 1980s as part of a secret program to fund illegal "off-the-shelf" covert operations, particularly those aiding the Nicaraguan contras. (CIA officials denied the charge, but admitted to the House intelligence Committee in 1990 that former CIA operatives had been working at four of the S&Ls named in Brewton's article. A CIA spokesman claimed that agency operatives had done nothing illegal.)

The Jefferson Savings affair occurred four years before Jeb Bush met Padreda, and it is possible he missed earlier reports. But he could hardly have passed over the next batch of stories involving Padreda's questionable practices, because they were spread across the front pages of Miami's papers in 1985, just months before the two teamed up. These stories, in Jeb's hometown paper, alleged that Padreda had improperly influenced a local politician -- the Dade County manager, to be precise, who'd been made a secret partner when Padreda ran into trouble getting a parcel of land rezoned. The property was promptly rezoned, and the county official made a quick $127,000 profit when Padreda, in turn, "sold" it to an offshore Padreda partnership. That partnership was controlled from Panama by a fugitive Miami attorney, who had already been indicted for laundering drug money. (The official resigned, but Padreda was not charged in the case.)

Yet the 1985 scandal did not seem to lessen Jeb's enthusiasm for Camilo Padreda. Jeb enthusiastically accepted the task of finding tenants for Padreda's empty HUD-financed office building. Padreda, the government officials involved, and Jeb all refused to answer questions about the scandal. But of allegations that Padreda engaged in illegal behavior, there remains no doubt. In 1989, he pleaded guilty to charges that he defrauded HUD of millions of dollars during the 1980s.

Jeb and Miguel Recarey
With Miami awash in empty office space in 1986, it was no small event when bagged International Medical Centers as a key tenant for Padreda's HUD-financed building. IMC, which leased nearly all the space in Padreda's vacant building, was at the time one of the nation's fastest-growing health-maintenance organizations (HMO) and had become the largest recipient of federal Medicare funds.

IMC was run by Cuban-American Miguel Recarey, a character with a host of idiosyncrasies. He carried a 9-mm Heckler & Koch semiautomatic pistol under his suit coat and kept a small arsenal of AR-15 and Uzi assault rifles at his Miami estate, where his bedroom was protected by bullet-proof windows and a steel door. It apparently wasn't his enemies Recarey feared so much as his friends. He had a long-standing relationship with Miami Mafia godfather Santo Trafficante, Jr., and had participated in the illfated, CIA-inspired mob assassination plot against Fidel Castro in the early 1960s. (Associates of Recarey add that Trafficante was the money behind Recarey's business ventures.)

Recarey's brother, Jorge, also had ties to the CIA. So it was no surprise that IMC crawled with former spooks. Employee r�sum�s were studded with references to the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Cuban Intelligence agency; there was even a fellow who claimed to have been a KGB agent, An agent with the U.S. Office of Labor Racketeering in Miami would later describe IMC as a company in which "a criminal enterprise interfaced with intelligence operations."

Recarey also surrounded himself with those who could influence the political system. He hired Jeb Bush as IMC's "real-estate consultant." Though Jeb would never close a single real-estate deal, his contract called for him to earn up to $250,000 (he actually received $75,000). Jeb's real value to Recarey was not in real estate but in his help in facilitating the largest HMO Medicare fraud in U.S. history.

Jeb phoned top Health and Human Services officials in Washington in 1985 to lobby for a special exemption from HHS rules for IMC. This highly unusual waiver was critical to Recarey's scam. Without it, the company would have been limited to a Medicare patient load of 50 percent. The balance of IMC's patients would have had to be private -- that is, paying -- customers. Recarey preferred the steady flow of federal Medicare money to the thought of actually running a real HMO. Former HHS chief of staff McClain Haddow (who later became a paid consultant to IMC) testified in 1987 Jeb that directly phoned then-HHS secretary Margaret Heckler and that it was that call that swung the decision to approve IMCs waiver.

Jeb admits lobbying HHS for the waiver, but denies talking to Secretary Heckler -- and denies as well the charge that his call won the HHS exemption. "I just asked that IMC get a fair hearing," said later. After the IMC scandal broke in 1987, Heckler left the country, having been appointed U.S. ambassador to Ireland, a post she held until 1989. (Heckler is now a private citizen living in Virginia. We left a detailed message with her secretary, outlining our questions, but she declined to respond.)

In any case, the highly unusual waiver by federal officials allowed IMCs Medicare patient load to swell -- to 80 percent -- and the money poured in. At its height in 1986, IMC was collecting over $30 million a month in Medicare payments; in all, the company would collect $1 billion from Medicare. (Jeb would not discuss the IMC affair with Mother Jones. But in an opinion piece he wrote for the Miami Herald last May, he insisted that he had worked hard for IMC, looking for real-estate deals, and had earned his $75,000 in commissions. While acknowledging making a telephone call to one of Heckler's assistants on IMC Is behalf, he claimed the waiver was not granted on his account. The allegation of a connection, Jeb wrote, "is unfair and untrue.")

Despite Jeb's involvement, trouble began brewing for IMC when a low-level HHS special agent in Miami, Leon Weinstein, discovered that Recarey was defrauding Medicare through overcharges, false invoicing, and outright embezzlement. Weinstein had been following Recarey's activities since 1977, and as early as 1983 he believed he had enough information to put together a case. However, he found his HHS superiors less than receptive; they took no action on Weinstein's information.

But Weinstein kept digging and in 1986 renewed his investigation of Recarey and IMC -- and again his HHS superiors blocked the probe. "Washington just refused to pursue my evidence," Weinstein, now retired, told Mother Jones last spring. "And they made it perfectly clear that I was not to pursue IMC. When I did, they threatened me and threatened my job."

Weinstein dug in his heels. "I had them this time. I told my superiors I would fight this time because I had nothing to fear. I had just reached retirement age. They immediately backtracked," he says. Weinstein was allowed to continue his investigation -- though HHS still took no formal action against Recarey. Eventually Weinstein turned to Congressmen Barney Frank (D-NY) and Pete Stark (D-CA) with his information, sparking congressional hearings into the scandal.

Had it been up to HHS, Recarey would still be running his Medicare racket. But by chance, the now-disbanded U.S. Miami Organized Crime Strike Force was also investigating Recarey. (Recarey was bribing union officials in order to get them to sign workers up as patients at IMC, apparently so that IMC could meet its reduced non-Medicare patient requirements of 20 percent.) "We didn't know anything about the HHS investigation," former Organized Crime Strike Force special attorney Joe DeMaria says. "Recarey was bribing union officials.... But HHS never contacted us or told us anything."

Before Recarey's trial on bribery charges began, DeMaria's investigators also caught Recarey using his former spooks to wiretap IMC employees in an effort to discover who was talking to federal agents. DeMaria had Recarey indicted a second time, for the illegal listening devices. During Recarey's trial on the bribery charge, a lawyer who handled the bribe money testified that the money IMC gave him was not bribe money but "commissions" he had earned while doing work for the company. "See, that commission thing was Recarey's MO. They didn't call them bribes, they called them commissions," DeMaria explains.

After he was convicted, Recarey resigned from IMC and was immediately replaced by John Ward. (Ward had been law partner to Reagan-Bush campaign manager John Sears. And Sears had also been a lobbyist for IMC.) But Recarey's Medicare scam would never get to a public courtroom airing. Before his trial on the wiretap charge, Recarey skipped the country. His getaway was remarkable: just in time for his flight, the normally tight-fisted IRS expedited a $2.2 million income-tax refund, which Recarey claimed he had coming.

The tax refund was a windfall for Recarey. "Yeah, that was his getaway money," says a former IRS investigator who worked in the Miami office at the time but asked not to be named. "Though there is a special IRS procedure to expedite tax refunds for companies in financial distress, I don't think you can overlook the possibility that there was influence from the administration."

Recarey's last act before becoming a fugitive was an attempt to wire $30,000 into the bank account of Washington consultant and lobbyist Nick Panuzio -- whose partner was then managing George Bush's 1988 presidential campaign. (The wire transfer failed only because, in his haste, Recarey had gotten Panuzio's account number wrong.) It was only after Recarey was safely out of the country that the U.S. attorney in Miami -- a political appointee -- filed formal charges of Medicare fraud against him.

Whistle-blower Leon Weinstein retired in disgust from HHS and tried to get the IMC case before a judge by filing a Qui Tam suit. Such suits allow a private citizen to sue to recover money for the government in return for a share of any settlement. In his case, Weinstein named IMC and Recarey as defendants. But HHS continued to fight Weinstein, first challenging his right to bring such a suit and later accusing him of stealing HHS documents before leaving his job. When the courts supported Weinstein, HHS then stepped in, took over his lawsuit, and shouldered him out. The case remains in the courts and is still unresolved.

HHS officials now pursuing the litigation claim that Recarey defrauded the Medicare system of at least $12 million. Leon Weinstein says the government is lowballing the loss and that Recarey's take from his IMC scam could easily be many times that figure.

Since skipping Miami in 1987, Recarey has been living comfortably in Caracas, Venezuela. Thomas Holladay, the consul general of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, told Mother Jones that officials there were aware of Recarey's presence and had formally requested his extradition. "We made a formal request for his extradition," Consul General Holladay says. "But we can't do anything until the Venezuelans turn him over to us, and they have not done that." The conversation then ended abruptly. "You know, I'm really not supposed to be talking to you about this," Holladay says.

In May, following inquiries from Mother Jones, Congressman Pete Stark, who sits on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, wrote to both the Department of Justice and the Venezuelan ambassador in Washington, demanding an explanation for six years of inaction on the Recarey case.

Jeb and the Contras
The fact that Recarey is living free in Caracas rather than in shackles at Fort Leavenworth could well be a result of the role IMC may have played in Oliver North's secret contra-supply network. Though members of the House Intelligence Committee claimed they found no reason to believe that Recarey was using IMC's Medicare facilities and funds to aid the contras, the evidence that IMC was involved remains compelling. In 1985, the same year that Jeb Bush was dialing for dollars to HHS officials for IMC, Jeb also hand-carried a letter from Guatemalan physician Dr. Mario Castejon to the White House -- directly to his father's office in the Executive Office Building. Dr. Castejon's letter to Vice President Bush requested U.S. medical aid for the contras. George Bush penned a note back to the doctor, referring him to Lt. Col. Oliver North -- whose pro-contra activities the president now claims he knew little about.

An entry in North's diary reads:
22-Jan-85
Medical Support System for wounded FDN in Miami -- HMO in Miami has oked to help all WIA [wounded in action] ... Felix Rodriguez.

(Rodriguez was a former CIA official who advised Vice-President Bush's national-security adviser, Donald Gregg, currently U.S. ambassador to South Korea.)

Veteran CIA operative Jose Basulto told the Wall Street Journal in 1987 that he had personally attended meetings at IMC headquarters in Miami along with contra leader Adolfo Calero and Felix Rodriguez. Basulto also said that he had personally brought sick and wounded contras to IMC hospitals in Miami, where they received free medical treatment. Former HHS agent Leon Weinstein is not surprised that Recarey has not been returned to the United States. "My investigation," Weinstein says, "led me to conclude that there may have been a deliberate attempt to obstruct justice...because Recarey, his hospital, and his clinics were treating wounded contras from Nicaragua...and part of the $30 million a month he was given by the government to treat Medicare patients was used to set up field hospitals for the contras."

Jeb and "Manny" Diaz
Manuel C. Diaz, another Jeb Bush business associate, runs a commercial nursery with headquarters in Homestead, Florida. Manny Diaz's previous business sidekick, Charles Keating, Jr., is now sitting in a California prison. But during Keating's days at the helm of the $6 billion Lincoln Savings, Diaz became a Keating insider, confidant, and beneficiary. For example, in 1987, as federal regulators closed in on his crumbling empire, Keating instructed his attorneys to transfer a large chunk of prime Phoenix real estate to Diaz, for just $1. And right before filing for personal bankruptcy, Keating transferred his $2 million mansion on the island of Cat Cay in the Bahamas to Diaz.

At the same time Diaz was palling around with Keating, Jeb, then serving as Florida's secretary of commerce, arranged a private meeting for Diaz with Florida's Republican governor Bob Martinez. Promptly afterward, Diaz Farms landed a lucrative, $1.72 million, state-highway-landscaping contract -- despite the fact that Diaz had little prior highway-landscaping experience. This raised howls of protest and charges of political influence-peddling from other contractors. But state officials explained that the extraordinary speed in issuing the contract had occurred because the state was anxious to spruce up 113 miles of freeway for the coming visit of the pope.

Did Jeb know about Diaz's business association with Charles Keating? Did he have reason to believe Diaz was qualified for the Florida highway contract that he helped Diaz land? These are the kinds of detailed questions that the Florida chairman of the Bush re-election campaign refuses to answer.

Neil Bush

In the March/April issue of Mother Jones, I detailed Neil Bush's activities and therefore only sketch his involvement here. Neil served as a director of Silverado Banking, Savings and Loan in Denver, Colorado, from 1985 until 1988. During that time, the now-dead thrift made over $200 million in loans to Neil's two partners in JNB Exploration, Neil's abysmally unsuccessful oil company. Silverado's failure was due at least in part to the fact that Neil's two partners welshed on $132 million in loans.

Federal regulators determined that, while Silverado was pumping loans to Neil's two associates, Neil was completely dependent on the two men for his income. The failure of Silverado -- its closure delayed until after the 1988 election -- cost taxpayers about $1 billion. After almost two years of hand-wringing had passed, an expert hired by regulators declared that Neil suffered from an "ethical disability," and he was required to pay a $50,000 fine for his ethical lapses at Silverado. Neil's estimated $250,000 in legal bills generated by the scandal are reportedly being paid for him by a banking-industry lobbyist who is fighting to get banks deregulated.

After Silverado failed, Neil started a new oil company, Apex Energy. This time, his money came from a $2.35 million loan through a Small Business Administration program, a loan arranged by an old family friend. When news of this reached the press in March 1991, the SBA discovered that the companies through which the loan was approved were technically insolvent, and it gave them up to thirty months to "self-liquidate." This meant that Apex would have to repay its SBA-guaranteed loans. Neil took this as his cue to move on, and he left Apex -- and its debts -- for others to worry about. If Apex Energy can't be sold for more than it owes, the SBA, and ultimately the taxpayers, will be stuck with the difference. The last time we checked, Apex's only known asset was an oil lease, which the company had purchased from Neil for $150,000 before he bailed out. That means taxpayers could get stiffed for another $2.2 million as a result of Neil Bush's wheeling and dealing. The public won't learn the precise outcome until later this year, though. The SBA allowed thirty months for liquidation of the SBA investment in Apex, putting the resolution date just past the 1992 general election.



President George Bush claims that only a return to traditional family values can cure the "poverty of spirit" that plagues places like our decaying inner cities. But after a closer look, particularly at his adult children, one cannot help but wonder about the values that matter to his own family.

Bush says he is proud of his sons. One of them rented himself out to a crooked developer who scammed HUD and helped pry millions out of Medicare to fuel a giant health-care scam. A second may have profited from an insider stock transaction in a gulf oil deal at the very time that U.S. soldiers were dying to make that region safe for oil. And the third son ran a savings and loan into the ground while shoveling millions of its taxpayer-backed dollars into the pockets of two deadbeat partners.

When President Bush speaks of the lack of family values he, of course, is referring to broken marriages, single mothers, and inner-city kids who join gangs and sell dope. But are these the only villains -- or the most important ones -- responsible for the shredded social fabric? What about well-to-do white boys who trade on family connections, welsh on loans, run with con men, and leave financial ruin in their wake as they line their own pockets? What about grown men, with access to the most powerful public office in the land, who participate in scandal but show no remorse for any of it -- and who take no responsibility for the consequences of their own actions?

It's certainly reasonable for candidate Bush to engage the public in a discussion of family values, to use his office as a bully pulpit on modern morals. But what of George Bush's inability or unwillingness to grasp the crisis of values festering within his own family? The pattern of behavior by the president's three sons raises questions -- about them and their father. These issues have yet to get the prime-time exposure of fictional Murphy Brown's fictional fatherless child.

Stephen Pizzo is author of Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans.

Research assistance by Peter Willmert and Chris Rosch�.