Sunday, July 30, 2006

NYT: "Audit Finds U.S. Hid Cost of Iraq Projects" (James Glanz)

The State Department agency in charge of $1.4 billion in reconstruction money in Iraq used an accounting shell game to hide ballooning cost overruns on its projects there and knowingly withheld information on schedule delays from Congress, a federal audit released late Friday has found.
The agency hid construction overruns by listing them as overhead or administrative costs, according to the audit, written by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent office that reports to Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department.
Called the United States Agency for International Development, or A.I.D., the agency administers foreign aid projects around the world. It has been working in Iraq on reconstruction since shortly after the 2003 invasion.

[. . .]
The United States Embassy in Baghdad referred questions about the audit to the State Department in Washington, where a spokesman, Justin Higgins, said Saturday, "We have not yet had a chance to fully review this report, but certainly will consider it carefully, as we do all the findings of the inspector general."

The above is from James Glanz' "Audit Finds U.S. Hid Cost of Iraq Projects" in this morning's New York Times and, of course, the State Department hasn't had time to review the report -- Condi's had gigs. That requires not just performance time and warm up time ahead of the performance, it also requires practice time. America just needs to decide whether they want a functioning State Department or Condi Live!

You can't have both. They're full time jobs and she's one person. So before someone rains on her parade, they need to ask themselves if they're willing to give the musical genius that is Condi? She can't be jamming and hitting the stage while also being bothered with reports and audits.

And excuse me, but the Times has been known to review out of town (NYC) performances before. Would it have killed the arts department to provided a review of the musical stylings of Condi?

(The above, my comments -- not the Glanz excert -- was sarcasm. And I'll probably come back in to this entry later and link to Isaiah's latest The World Today Just Nuts that will go up shortly because it's on the same topic.)

From Edward Wong's "Pentagon Extends Tour for 4,000 Troops, Increasing Number in Iraq:"

The 172nd Stryker Brigade was deployed to Mosul in August 2005. The brigade had been preparing to return to its home base, Fort Wainwright, Alaska, when the Pentagon ordered a tour extension.
Many military officials have said that asking soldiers to serve more than a year at a time in Iraq grinds away at morale and motivation. That effect is one of the reasons the Marines usually do six- or seven-month tours here rather than a full year, which the Army prefers. In the spring of 2004, morale plummeted among soldiers of the First Armored Division when they were asked to stay beyond their yearlong tour in order to quell a Shiite uprising.

Wong notes that the prediction (experts and analysts) is that there will "be no significant troop pullout before the year’s end" and also notes that reports (from the US military) differ on the numbers from the 172nd Stryker Brigade -- an official press release by the military states 3,700 but a general has told him it is 3,500 members of the 172nd Stryker Brigade that just got told their August departures have been pulled and they'll be remaining in Iraq "for up to four months".

In "Relentless Sectarian Violence in Baghdad Stalks Its Victims Even at the Morgues," Kirk Semple takes a look the ones who remain. Your loved one's missing. Have they been imprisoned in an Abu Ghraib, have they been kidnapped, have they been killed? Where do you go? The morgues. Semple writes that some Sunnis no longer feel safe going to the central morgue in Baghdad because Shi'ite armed groups are staking it out and there have been reports of killings and kidnappings. Official denials are issued and Semple notes this:

In May, about a dozen Sunni relatives from Tarmiya, northeast of Baghdad, drove to the morgue to look for two cousins who had been kidnapped two weeks earlier. Mindful of the reports that Sunnis had been attacked there, the family had decided to travel in a large group for protection.
But at the front gate, the relatives were surrounded by five carloads of gunmen, said a family member, who only allowed publication of his first name, Thaer, out of fear for his safety. "They asked us to lie on the ground," he said in a recent interview here. "They checked our ID's, looked at our names."
The gunmen, who Thaer said he suspected were from the Mahdi Army, plucked two men from the group and took them away. The rest of the family fled without entering the morgue.
The family paid a hefty ransom for the release of those two men, but never found the two kidnapped cousins.

Where's Ruth, grabbing time for a rewrite (one she wanted to do, she phoned that she was rewriting before I read the report). In terms of The Third Estate Sunday Review, I was asked if we could note an op-ed there. (Not from the Times.) It is both uninformed and insulting. I didn't read it when I said we could probably work it in (due to the topic of the op-ed -- the broad category under which it would be filed). We were moving along relatively quick and then Ava read the op-ed. We called back about it because we hated it and were told pretty much everyone hates it. We had thought we'd be reviewing Grey's Anatomy but went with Primetime instead and the op-ed actually can fall into the TV review section so as soon as we're both ready, we're going back in to the TV review and adding that on. (The friend noting it thought I'd get that it was offensive right away and would have had I read it earlier. I thought, by the topic, it would be a social issue worthy of note. That's not the case.) (This may go up before The Third Estate Sunday Review does. I'm doing this entry while we're on a break and intending to post after we finish the editorial. If it does go up first, it means we're running behind on the editorial. If you see links near the end to new content at The Third Estate Sunday Review, this entry obviously posted after.)

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