Democratic Congress: A High Pork Diet

A report from the Center for Investigative Reporting exposes the hypocrisy of Democratic claims that the $463.5-billion spending bill they passed in February was “earmark-free,” or free of any specific pork-barrel project money for their home states. But within days of the bill passing, Democrats deluged federal agencies to fund their pet projects directly, according to the report. In fact, documents show that agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Commerce received 122 spending requests from 52 senators and 205 representatives in January through April — exactly when Democrats were reaping the publicity benefits of their “earmark-free” appropriations policy. Congressmen say these requests differ from earmarks because agencies can “just say no,” but experts say the agencies, already dependent on Congress to fund their budgets, are likely to feel pressure to accede to them. Source:
“Lawmakers try to save their earmarks”
Los Angeles Times, July 10, 2007

Trade Bolsters Myanmar Junta

Another birthday of imprisoned dissident Daw Aung Sung Suu Kyi has come and gone, and the plight of Burma slips again to the back burners of the highest-profile international press. But dig into local and regional media, and you’ll find a wealth of coverage of the repressive junta that took control of Burma and renamed it Myanmar in 1989. More than a million refugees have fled the country since the coup, many to India and Bangladesh, where dissidents publish newspapers and Web sites about their homeland. Inter Press Service reports that forced labor on a mass scale persists despite agreements with the International Labor Organization to monitor and register complaints directly within the country. The agreements have fallen by the wayside since an internal coup replaced the ruling military faction with another, less accommodating group.

Conflict of Interest Claims Follow Feinstein

Senator Dianne Feinstein has resigned as chair of the Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee, where she served from 2001 to 2005. California’s Metroactive newspaper claims she resigned after it revealed that she awarded billions of dollars in construction projects to two defense contractors owned by her husband, Richard C. Blum. Feinstein has profited directly from large investments in the companies, the newspaper reports, and did not recuse herself from discussions of company contract bids despite being warned by a top legal adviser of possible conflicts of interest. Sources:
“Feinstein Resigns”
Metroactive (CA), March 21-27, 2007
“Senator Feinstein’s Iraq Conflict”
Metroactive (CA), January 24-30, 2007
“Feinstein’s Office Denies Conflict of Interest Charges”
CyberCast News Service, April 4, 2007

Mexico Corruption, U.S. Weapons Deepen Drug War Toll

President Felipe Calderon’s war on drugs will fail unless the United States cracks down on arms sales to drug smugglers, Mexican officials say. Not only do drug cartels get the majority of their weapons from U.S. dealers — they also net between $10 and $30 billion a year in sales to American drug users. That cash buys more arms used to attack Mexican police and politicians, the Associated Press reports. Calderon’s drug fight is also complicated by corrupt officials. Last week, an American jury convicted Ricardo Gonzalez Camacho, a Mexican police officer, of smuggling 55 pounds of cocaine into the United States.