Domestic Policy

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  Europeans Make Inroads In The U.S. Military MarketJuly 31, 2006 09:34 Last month's selection of Eurocopter, a subsidiary of the European aerospace consortium EADS, to supply more than 322 light helicopters to the U.S. Army was the first major penetration of the American military helicopter market by a European defense company. And it represents a major shift in Pentagon procurement policies.

European helicopter executives are now gearing up for a major push to win a crown jewel of current global helicopter deals — the U.S. Air Force's CSAR-X rescue helicopter program. The contract, valued at $8 billion to $10 billion, is due to be awarded by the end of the year.

Although Italy's AgustaWestland, a unit of Rome-based Finmeccanica, celebrated winning the contract to make the VHX U.S. presidential helicopter with an enhanced version of its Merlin last year, the deal was for only 19 aircraft.

Industry analysts said that the Army's light utility helicopter deal was a more important one for European companies to win because it would result in their products ending up in day-to-day use with the largest operator of helicopters in NATO.

  More Dirty Politics: Republicans Tie Minimum Wage To Estate Tax EliminationJuly 28, 2006 11:33 Congress would pass an increase in the minimum wage before leaving Washington for vacation, but only as part of a package rolling back taxes on the heirs of multimillionaires, a Senate leadership aide said Friday.

The GOP package would also contain a popular package of expiring tax breaks, including a research and development credit for businesses, and deductions for college tuition and state sales taxes.

The wage would increase from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour, phased in over the next two years, the aide said.

The maneuver is aimed at defusing the wage hike as a campaign issue for Democrats while using its popularity to spur enactment of the Republican Party's long-sought goal of permanently cutting taxes on millionaires' estates.
  A President, Not A KingJuly 26, 2006 09:04 In five and a half years in office, President George W. Bush has lodged more "signing statements" — or challenges to provisions of laws passed by Congress — than all 42 previous presidents combined.

Numbers don't lie. Bush is overusing a tool relied on occasionally throughout history to lay down legal objections in case of subsequent court challenges and to instruct agencies how to execute new laws. The imperial president has a more pernicious approach. He uses signing statements to expand his powers and cherry-pick laws he likes — or doesn't like. The president must be reined in because his actions display a disregard for the Constitution's system of checks and balances.

No president, Republican or Democrat, should be allowed to expand his powers by mere assertion, at the expense of the Congress, the courts and the American public.

A new study by a bipartisan panel of the American Bar Association shows Bush regularly relies on signing statements to get around laws not to his liking. One most notable example was a statement aimed at nullifying a ban on torture passed by Congress.
  American Bar Association Criticizes Bush's Challenges To LegislationJuly 25, 2006 09:00 An American Bar Association report released on Monday has strongly criticized President Bush's "signing statements" that assert his right to by pass laws passed by Congress.

The ABA says Bush has challenged provisions of laws than all previous presidents put together. The group believes such a practice is a major threat to the Constitution's system of checks and balances. It has urged Congress to introduce a legislation that would allow the court to review these "signing statements."

A report published by The Washington Post on Monday quotes the ABA president, Michael S. Greco, as saying, "The president is indicating that he will not either enforce part or the entirety of congressional bills,"
  Deadly Nuke Rods Piling Up In CAJuly 24, 2006 21:16 Thousands of tons of deadly radioactive rods of spent nuclear fuel and waste have accumulated at three California nuclear power plants because the federal government has failed to open a permanent nuclear burial site in Nevada that was supposed to be ready eight years ago.

And the delay is only getting worse: Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that the nuclear dump site won't open until 2017 -- almost two decades past the original 1998 inauguration target and five years beyond the most recent scheduled opening date.

The latest delay climaxes a yearlong debacle at the Yucca Mountain Project in Nevada -- a debacle during which staff scientists were suspected of fraud, federal investigators blasted the project's management, and project officials announced plans to revamp the operation and redesign the burial site. On July 14, according to news reports, officials said they'd lay off up to 500 employees as part of the planned reorganization.

The Energy Department estimated in 2001 that the facility would cost $60 billion. But in February, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman admitted at a conference of nuclear power industrialists that there's no trustworthy cost estimate.

  Evangelical = Republican PoliticsJuly 17, 2006 15:13 Evangelical Christians, the fastest-growing faith-based group in the US which played a pivotal role in tilting the scales in President George W. Bush's favor in the last presidential election, are increasing bringing religion into politics.

"I appreciate the fact that the church is politically involved," said Kyle Hatfield, a 30-year-old father of two who believes the separation of church and state has gone too far.

"It was not our forefathers' intention to prevent churches from being involved," he told Reuters.

Lisa Sexton, 42, a Bible school volunteer, agreed.

"Christians stepped back too far. I prayed in school but my kids can't pray in school," she said.
  Halliburton's Fleecing Ends -- Or Does It?July 17, 2006 15:12 I wonder how many customers McDonald's Corp. would keep if instead of including a Coke with a Happy Meal, as the menu promised, the company charged for it twice.

That's what Halliburton Co. did to Uncle Sam, billing $45 for soda by the case and billing for it again when served by the glass at meals.

It's all part of the cost-plus, no-bid life of Halliburton and its subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown & Root, the sole source of just about everything the U.S. Army needs to supply troops in Iraq. For three years, the U.S. government kept paying double for soda and many other things with nary a complaint.

  Autism, Mercury, And PoliticsJuly 13, 2006 09:11 MOUNTING EVIDENCE suggests that Thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative in children's vaccines, may be responsible for the exponential growth of autism, attention deficit disorder, speech delays, and other childhood neurological disorders now epidemic in the United States.

Prior to 1989, American infants generally received three vaccinations (polio, measles-mumps-rubella, and diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis). In the early 1990s, public health officials dramatically increased the number of Thimerosal-containing vaccinations without considering the cumulative impact of the mercury load on developing brains.

In a 1991 memo, Dr. Maurice Hilleman, one of the fathers of Merck's vaccination programs, warned his bosses that 6-month-old children administered the shots on schedule would suffer mercury exposures 87 times the government safety standards. He recommended that Thimerosal be discontinued and complained that the US Food and Drug Administration, which has a notoriously close relationship with the pharmaceutical industry, could not be counted on to take appropriate action as its European counterparts had. Merck ignored Hilleman's warning, and for eight years government officials added seven more shots for children containing Thimerosal.
  Bush Hails New Numbers On EconomyJuly 12, 2006 10:04 Has the president forgotten that ANY budget deficit means that our national debt is still growing? How can he he proud of the fact that our national debt is growing again this year by $300 billion, even though that is less than the $450 billion originally projected? And he claims his policies are working...

The administration's budget analysts say the budget deficit will be about 30 percent lower than anticipated just six months ago.

President Bush says it is good news.

"Our original projection for this year's budget deficit was $423 billion. That was a projection. That is what we thought was going to happen. That is what we sent up to the Congress, here is what we think. Today's report from OMB tells us that this year's deficit will actually come in at about $296 billion," said Mr. Bush.

The president invited Congressional allies and other supporters to the White House for a bit of an economic pep talk. He said the deficit is down because his policy of tax cuts has stimulated economic growth.
  Colorado Lawmakers Pass Strict Illegal Immigration LawsJuly 11, 2006 12:44 State lawmakers adjourned their five-day special session late Monday after approving the last of a bipartisan package of bills Democrats called the toughest in the nation in dealing with illegal immigration, which would force 1 million people receiving state or federal aid in Colorado to verify their citizenship.

The cornerstone measure, supported by Republican Gov. Bill Owens, would deny most non-emergency state benefits to illegal immigrants 18 years old and older, forcing people to prove legal residency in Colorado when applying for benefits or renewing their eligibility.

Senators voted 22-13 on the bill, with four Democrats joining Republicans in voting no and eight Republicans joining Democrats in voting yes. Representatives voted 48-15 in favor.
  Cheney's Halliburton Paradigm For FraudJuly 07, 2006 22:32 The evidence that the Office of the Vice President was directly involved in arranging government contracts with his former company, Halliburton, is now undeniable: A new report issued by Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, "Dollars, Not Sense: Government Contracting Under the Bush Administration," documents that Halliburton, the company run by Dick Cheney before he appointed himself Vice President, is, in fact, the paradigm for the wholesale privatizing, by government contract, of entire chunks of what are properly the activities of the U.S. government itself.

Just days before Waxman's report was released in June, Judicial Watch released e-mails from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, that it had acquired through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, showing that the oil reconstruction contract (known as RIO, for Restore Iraqi Oil) that Halliburton was awarded just before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, was coordinated with the Office of the Vice President, contrary to the assertions of Cheney himself, as well as numerous other Bush Administration and Pentagon officials.

Reinforcing the case against Cheney, was an April 2003 episode of the CBS-TV program "60 Minutes," in which the chief counsel of the Army Corps of Engineers attempted to deflect repeated questions about the role of Cheney in awarding the RIO contract to Halliburton.