US special forces veteran links General Petraeus to torture in Iraq




A 15-month investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic reveals how US colonel James Steele, a veteran of American proxy wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua, played a key role in training and overseeing US-funded special police commandos who ran a network of torture centres in Iraq. Another special forces veteran, retired Colonel James Coffman, worked with Steele and reported directly to General David Petraeus, who had been sent into Iraq to organise the Iraqi security services.

• This is an edited version of a longer film. Watch our full-length film investigation about James Steele

Your librul media

Of course, I’m pissed off that Obama just won’t let go of his Grand Bargain, but I’m also pissed off at the Times reporter who wrote this:

With sequestration in place, the two sides now have agreed over two years to nearly $4 trillion in deficit reduction through 2023, with about 80 percent from spending cuts and the rest from higher taxes on the wealthy. Virtually no savings come from Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, the entitlement programs whose growth is driving projections of unsustainable debt as the population ages and medical costs increase. And revenues are insufficient to support the size of government.

See what they just did there? They lumped Social Security in with Medicare and Medicaid, they didn’t mention the alternative solutions proposed by progressives, and they said we don’t have enough money to support government. Even though we have a fiat currency.

Why oh why can’t we have a better media?

Occupy Philadelphia acquitted

I’m pretty darned happy about this:

A Common Pleas Court jury today acquitted 12 Occupy Philadelphia demonstrators arrested in a 2011 sit-in in a Wells Fargo Bank branch in Center City.

The jury of 10 women and two men deliberated a total of about 13 hours since Friday before it returned, shortly before noon, to announce the verdicts: not guilty of conspiracy and defiant trespass against each of the 12 protesters.

The 12 – one woman and 11 men – were arrested Nov. 18, 2011 when they staged a sit-in inside the Wells Fargo branch at 17th and Market Streets. The protesters said they wanted to call attention to what they called Wells Fargo’s “racist predatory lending” policies that caused a disproportionately large number of home foreclosures in African American neighborhoods.

“If this jury has found us innocent then it must mean that Wells Fargo is guilty,” said an elated 71-year-old Willard R. Johnson, one of the 12 on trial.

Last July, Wells Fargo, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, agreed to pay $175 million to settle allegations by the U.S. Justice Department that independent brokers originating its loans charged higher fees and rates to minority borrowers than they did to white borrowers with similar credit risks.

The arrests occurred during a season of Occupy encampments and demonstrations in Center City but the Wells Fargo protest – a confrontation between free-speech and private property rights – was the first in which Occupy protesters were convicted of a crime.

Last June, Municipal Court President Judge Marsha H. Neifield found all guilty of the trespass charge and fined each $500 plus court costs.

Under Philadelphia court rules, people found guilty in Municipal Court have the right to a new trial in Common Pleas Court.

This time, Judge Nina N. Wright Padilla asked all 12 to approach so she could shake their hands.

“I hope you continue your work in a law-abiding way,” said Padilla. “I must say you are the most affable group of defendants I’ve ever come across.”

The current trial began Feb. 25 with seven lawyers representing the 12 free of charge. The defense argued that the sit-in was protected by the First Amendment’s free-speech guarantee. They also contended the protest served a “greater good” for society that outweighed the trespass charge.

Deja vu

Via Zero Hedge. Aren’t you glad we broke up the big banks, reinstated the rule against banks owning insurance companies, tightened up on their banking practices, and threw the crooks in jail so they wouldn’t dream of crashing the economy again?

Oh, wait:

First we got GM subprime interest-free car loans, then we got subprime ABS securitizations, then we got soaring student loan defaults and delinquencies, then we got the opportunity to sell and short student loan exposure, and now, finally, the credit bubble is complete as FastFunds Financial Corporation is proud to announce that it has acquired exclusive mortgage servicing rights for an “Innovative New Mortgage Product.”

Why is it so innovative? Because it requires no credit verification, no credit history, no docs and needs no personal guarantees. In other words, it is the very worst of the worst lending practices we saw in 2006: the NINJA.

But there is a twist: “all that is required to qualify for a mortgage loan is qualifying for a life insurance policy, a down payment that usually amounts to 10% of the purchase price and verification that the borrower has the financial ability to pay the monthly payments.

“In other words: buy life insurance, get a subprime, no doc mortgage for free.Ye olde days are truly back.

From the FastFund credit bubble peak press release:

NET LIFE is a development stage enterprise that has developed and is offering an innovative new mortgage product that is not based on credit history (no doc) or personal guarantees. It is only secured by the underlying collateral and a life insurance policy on the borrower. Therefore, all that is required to qualify for a mortgage loan is qualifying for a life insurance policy, a down payment that usually amounts to 10% of the purchase price and verification that the borrower has the financial ability to pay the monthly payments. NET LIFE believes this mortgage product will be attractive to a wide spectrum of potential borrowers including:

  • first time homebuyers;
  • borrowers who have experienced prior financial difficulties such as foreclosures, bankruptcies, late payments or credit problems; are presently employed and whose current income would qualify for a mortgage loan; but who couldn’t otherwise qualify; and
  • borrowers who may wish to bypass the traditional paperwork involved in the typical underwriting process but who would otherwise qualify.

Since its formation in 2012, NET LIFE has completed development of its mortgage product and conducted testing via a limited number of successful closings. NET LIFE is now developing plans for a national launch of its product line.”We are excited to be on the forefront of launching this exciting new product and especially being on the servicing side where we can gain substantial benefit without the risk associated with traditional mortgage underwriting,” stated Barry Hollander, acting Chief Executive Officer of FastFunds.

Prosperity gospel for me, but not for thee

Isn’t that nice:

According to an investigation by the NWITimes.com, a paper covering northwestern Indiana, the judge presiding over the foreclosure proceedings told attorneys in court, “When I saw some of the expenditures being made in this church when there was a mortgage not being paid, I was astounded.” NWITimes reports that even as the church owed close to $100,000 a month in mortgage payments (not to mention mortgage payments on condos the church claimed to use for visiting clergy, and other unspecified bills in excess of half a million dollars), Munsey and his wife Melodye raked in “$2.9 million in total compensation from 2008 through 2011 from organizations connected to Family Christian Center, IRS records show.” In all, “The church annually spent $3.5 million in leadership compensation and had a $900,000 budget for travel and meals, a $500,000 housing allowance and $500,000 for jet fuel and other expenditures, according to the transcript. In 2010, the church paid $1 million for property in Illinois, the transcript states.” There’s more: an IRS investigation and tax liens, for starters. You can read the whole investigative story, for which Munsey declined to be interviewed,  here.

Count me as not astounded—well, not surprised, anyway. This is an old story in the prosperity gospel world. Lavish spending, compensation through a web of for-profit and non-profit entities connected with a church—these are only some of the factors that provoked a Senate Finance Committee investigation, launched by Sen. Chuck Grassley, in 2007. The investigation took more than three years but ultimately  produced nothing in terms of government oversight. Instead, after pressure from the religious right, the Committee opted for “self-reform” within churches. How has that worked out?

Middle class

Now synonymous with anxiety:

Mid-wage occupations such as office managers and truck drivers accounted for 60% of the job losses during the recession, but only 22% of the gains during the recovery, according to a National Employment Law Project analysis of Labor Department data. Low-wagepositions, on the other hand, soared 58%.

Uncertainty and insecurity are weighing down the middle class, even those who haven’t had a break in employment. More than 40% of those surveyed in a recent Rutgers University study said they were “very concerned” about job security.

They’re also not very optimistic about the near future. Fewer than one-third believe that economic conditions will improve next year, and an equal number think they will get worse, according to the Rutgers survey, conducted by the university’s Heldrich Center for Workforce Development. Only 19% believe that job, career and employment opportunities will be better for the next generation.

The survey’s title sums it up: “Diminished Lives and Futures: A Portrait of America in the Great-Recession Era.”

Dan Heiden of Eagan, Minn., embodies that life. Before 2007, the union supermarket worker owned an apartment and socked away funds in the bank and in a retirement account.

Then the store cut his hours.

“The economy tanked,” said Heiden, who now works no more than 30 hours a week. “They aren’t hiring full-time any more because they can pay less.”

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