Friday, October 30, 2009


A defense contractor that supplied vehicle parts for the Iraqi army sought reimbursements from the U.S. military far in excess of the cost of the items, according to a new report by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.
The contractor, Aecom Government Services, charged $237 for a vehicle side mirror that was supposed to cost $14.88, according to the report. The company also submitted invoices to the U.S. military in Iraq seeking reimbursements of $196.50 for a bag of 10 washers that was supposed to cost $1.22, $10 for a fuse that should have cost 45 cents and $210 for an inner tube that was supposed to cost $24.09.

The above is the opening to Walter Pincus' "Audit finds that Iraq contractor overcharged for repair parts" (Washington Post). Okay, so we know Pincus and James Glanz (New York Times) dig around and read reports. Here's the big question: What does the Commission on War Time Contracting do? They tick time down really well. They run out the clock very good. (There next 'hearing' is scheduled for November 2nd. We may or may not attend.) They really do nothing and, more and more, it appears that's exactly why they were created. Again, their next 'hearing' is November 2nd. They've really accomplished nothing thus far.

In that regard, they're a lot like the Iraqi government or 'government' which still can't pass an election law. In today's New York Times, Timothy Williams reports:

On Thursday, the Iraqi Parliament failed again to approve a law to govern national elections scheduled for January. The session was canceled for lack of a quorum after Kurdish members boycotted it to protest a proposal for voting rules in Kirkuk, a disputed province in northern Iraq. Kirkuk, which sits atop billions of barrels of oil, is claimed by Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens.
Under Saddam Hussein, many Kurds were driven out of the area and replaced by Arabs, a process that was reversed after the United States invasion. The proposal calls for combining the 2004 and 2009 voter registration rolls, but the Kurds say Arabs would be overrepresented under this plan.
The election law issue was further complicated Thursday when Hamdia al-Hussaini, a member of the Independent High Electoral Commission, which oversees elections here, said the 2004 voter rolls were severely flawed.
Mrs. Hussaini said election officials had sought to use 2004 registration information during the 2005 parliamentary elections, but quickly determined that the war had rendered the data useless.

But let's not paint too bleak a picture. While failing to meet the deadline on the election law, they've wasted everyone's time with other 'issues.' Oliver August (Times of London) reports:

The Iraqi Government has banned alcohol in Baghdad’s heavily fortified green zone, home to foreign embassies and some legendary drunken parties in recent years.
Sales of drink are to be banned from Sunday, The Times has learnt, and Iraqi military patrols are already confiscating booze wherever they find it. "It is a new rule from the Prime Minister," said an Iraqi army officer at a green zone checkpoint. "Alcohol cannot be sold or transported. If you want to bring a gift for someone, get a Pepsi."

Nouri's already banned cigarette smoking now booze. What a fun boy he must be. Someone send him a copy of Grease and cue up Stockard Channing's "Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee." In more news of what they 'focus' on instead of addressing what's needed, it's time to launch another verbal attack on Syria. Alsumaria reports:

Accusations are pointed back against Syria on account of black Sunday bombings which reminds of gory Wednesday attacks.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hosheyar Zebari accused Syria of involvement in the attacks.
Iraqi Government has "very solid, concrete evidence" that the attack was carried out by Baathist supporters of the former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, accusing Syria of harboring the perpetrators of some of the most devastating attacks.

Patrick Martin (Globe & Mail) explores the continued tensions between Baghdad and the KRG:

In Baghdad, Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, perhaps preparing to run on an anti-Kurd platform of his own in January's election, has repeatedly criticized the idea of muhasasa and even questioned the nature of federalism, declaring that a central authority was the most important thing.
An outraged Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, accused the Prime Minister of seeking to restore dictatorship.
High emotions are like sparks in a tinderbox such as Ninewa, where some of the country's most violent Sunni extremists hide out.
Driven there from Anbar province to the south, and enjoying the more-or-less open Syrian border, the extremists have proliferated.

TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (check local listings for times and for other dates if it doesn't air on your PBS station tonight):

Home to a worldwide summit on climate change in early December, Denmark is setting a global example in creating clean power, storing it, and using it responsibly. Their reliance on wind power to produce electricity without contributing to global warming is well known, but now they're looking to drive the point home with electric cars. To do this, they've partnered with social entrepreneur Shai Agassi and his company Better Place.
This week, NOW investigates how the Danish government and Better Place are working together to put electric cars into the hands of as many Danish families as possible. The idea is still having trouble getting out of the garage here in America, but Denmark could be an inspiration.
Will so much green enthusiasm bring about a "Copenhagen Protocol"?

Washington Week also begins airing tonight on many PBS stations and sitting around the table with Gwen this week are Ceci Connolly (Washington Post), John Dickerson (Slate and CBS News), Marilyn Serafini (National Journal) and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers).
Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Karen Czarnecki, Melinda Henneberger, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Genevieve Wood to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

H1N1 Vaccine
Scott Pelley reports on the manufacture, distribution and safety of the H1N1 flu vaccine. | Watch Video

How does a foreigner jump the line in America for a life-saving liver transplant? It might be because he is a high-ranking member of Japan's mafia, known as the Yakuza, whose criminal influence is worldwide. Lara Logan reports.

The Movie Pirates
They are the bane of Hollywood: criminals who copy films - sometimes before the movies even reach the theater - and distribute them illegally on the Internet, costing Hollywood billions in lost revenue. Lesley Stahl reports.

60 Minutes, this Sunday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Radio notes. Today on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, Diane discusses domestic news and issues in the first hour with panelists Dante Chinni (Christian Science Monitor), Chris Cillizza (Washington Post) and Sheryl Gay Stolberg (New York Times). For the second hour, Diane addresses international news and issues with panelists Tom Gjelten (NPR), Elise Labott (CNN) and Jonathan S. Landay (McClatchy Newspapers). The Diane Rehm Show begins airing on most NPR stations and streaming live online at 10:00 a.m. EST.

The heartbeat went out of our house
The rhythm went out of our romance
But in life that happens and you just have to remember to breathe . . .

That's from Carly Simon's "Coming Around Again" as redone on her latest album, Never Been Gone. Thursday she was on NPR's Talk Of The Nation and discussed a variety of topics including singing with Lucy Simon in the Simon Sisters and, more recently, on the phone. In terms of revisiting ten of her classic songs for the new album, Carly observes, "Yes, it was a very interesting kind of synergy between the old and the new." To hear her segment with host Neal Conan click here and note NPR online has paired it up with her 2008 concert which you can also stream. Click here to watch Carly on Monday's Good Morning America (ABC). Carly Simon appeared on NBC's Today Show yesterday and performed "You Belong To Me."

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