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FACT-CHECKED: Hannity Causing Immediate Harm To Consumers

8:01 pm in Uncategorized by amerigus

No amount of fact-checking by the media, consumer groups and the public affect Hannity’s assault on the US public interest

In a galling display of disregard for the public interest, Sean Hannity has been broadcasting provably false information on radio and TV about the Affordable Care Act. Salon’sInside the Fox News lie machine: I fact-checked Sean Hannity on Obamacare” uncovered how he distorted the stories of three couples to imply that they were worse off under Obamacare’s new rules. In fact, the couples are now able to get more coverage for less money, but Hannity did not retract his report.

By last night, Hannity’s lies were corrected on the Rachel Maddow Show, in the Washington Post, Politico, Huffington Post, CNN (VIDEO), The Ed Show (VIDEO), and many other outlets. Hannity refuses to address any of the coverage calling him out for deceit.

But now Consumer Reports has also chimed in, correcting statements made by Hannity, The Hill and bloggers on Breitbart.com as “not true.” Consumer Reports advised shoppers the best time to enroll in Obamacare was a few weeks off, while expected delays and glitches at HealthCare.gov are ironed out. Hannity took this out-of-context, squealing “Consumer Reports, Ann, they’re telling people, ‘stay away from the website!’” in a segment to Ann Coulter, when just the opposite was true. Consumer Reports has unequivocally endorsed the exchange as the best place to purchase health care.

Hannity’s misinformation forced the nation’s leading consumer reporting experts to release a statement correcting the record so Americans can get accurate advice for purchasing healthcare policies. How is this connected to the Tea Party “scorch everything” campaign we just witnessed? Read on …

Continuing The Anti-Obamacare Shutdown Madness

During recent weeks, Hannity’s guests Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, John Boehner, Paul Ryan and Rand Paul have expounded on the ways Obamacare was going to kill jobs, trying to justify a shutdown that cost our economy an estimated $24 billion and 120,000 jobs. These same Republican leaders could have offered any number of jobs bills that would sail through both houses in a heartbeat if they really cared about boosting employment – the stalled transportation bill is one of the more immediate examples

But they could also have modified Obamacare to ensure employers wouldn’t excise staff, if they so desired. The very idea that the ACA will cost jobs is an admission that it doesn’t go far enough to ensure employers don’t penalize workers in offering health coverage.

But just hours after the shutdown failed to do anything and was overwhelmingly blamed on Republicans, Hannity threw his own guests under the bus, saying it was time for the House leadership to be replaced!

Is It Legal To Lie On The Air?

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Rachel Maddow: Iraq WMD Fraud Exposé Will Cause “Political Upset”

11:37 am in Uncategorized by amerigus

Rachel Maddow - Caricature

Rachel Maddow - Caricature

Rachel Maddow is looking to ruffle feathers, going where Obama or Congress wouldn’t dare to tread, in publicizing the “deceptions” of the Bush Iraq Team which launched a long and costly war.

Because of a ten year mainstream media whitewash, it’s been generally accepted that “mistakes” resulted in a war that claimed over 4,800 US troops. But this week, MSNBC will rock the boat, suggesting false pretenses took us to war, meaning the nation should start debating consequences.

Rachel Maddow is teasing there will be great “political upset” when the documentary Hubris: The Selling of The Iraq War airs on Monday Feb. 18.

If proven deliberate, the Iraq WMD intel debacle could constitute domestic and international war crimes. Someone must have had a long fight behind the scenes to get this controversy on the air because most of the facts have been readily available for years through indie media, articles (and even in drips and drabs on MSNBC). A book version of Hubris was co-authored by David Corn and Michael Isikoff in 2007.

Perhaps most striking is the way most media has ignored Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, a top level Bush administration insider who has offered to testify directly against Dick Cheney and others. So what actionable allegations will Maddow present?

Plamegate was just one WMD related scandal resulting in conviction. Scooter Libby lied to investigators, taking the fall for Vice President Cheney before having his sentence commuted by President Bush. But that story is old, so what’s new, what’s different?

Running With Curveball’s Lies
The saga of ‘Curveball’ also creeped out into US media in fits and starts. If networks truly wanted ratings or public trust, they’d have fought over blockbuster exclusives showing how the Iraq war was built on shameful lies. But we saw the opposite – a reluctance to report basic facts about the sole “eyewitness” claiming to be an “Iraqi chemical engineer”.

Curveball (aka Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi) was the main reason given for the US invasion of Iraq. In truth, the Iraqi exile had no bio-weapons knowledge, but fed claims about mobile labs to the BND (German intelligence) knowing the Bush administration was itching for war.

Officials within the BND, CIA and DIA all surmised Curveball was lying. These dissents were somehow “lost in the shuffle”, the supposed honest “mistake” that gave us the war. But there are plenty of whistleblowers saying otherwise and even naming names, if the media and Congress should begin to listen.

MSNBC has promoted this TV special with a graphic showing Iraq Team principals Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice dramatically walking down a Texas dirt path. But Colin Powell isn’t in the shot. This means MSNBC may be editorially sympathetic to Powell’s point of view. They will include interviews with Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell’s Chief of Staff.

Powell’s former sideman has been blowing the whistle since 2005, even offering to testify against Cheney, Tenet and deputy CIA director John McGlaughlin, claiming the Office of the Vice President breached protocol, making agents within the CIA do Cheney’s bidding.

We’ll hear Secretary Powell did doubt Curveball and the White House. Wilkerson described these reservations on PBS in 2006, which put Powell in the position of either outing Cheney and the Iraq Team who set him up, or keeping his mouth shut to protect them. Hiding his own skeletons, Powell did not speak out, rolling over for the “hoax” that ruined his career.

Col. Wilkerson has admitted he personally brought graphic artists to the White House to “sex up” the WMD diagrams Powell would use, based off cocktail napkin drawings made as Curveball received expert coaching. Wilkerson has always said he would take responsibility for his part in the charade.

But then in 2011, another Wilkerson interview with Amy Goodman and Glenn Greenwald brought more disturbing revelations to light. Just as the US stood on the brink of war, Powell rejected Scooter Libby’s 50-page report, calling it “bullshit” as he threw it into the trash.

Col. Wilkerson said his boss sent word he would refuse to sign off on the WMD evidence. But within an hour, George Tenet unveiled “compelling” new evidence tying Iraq to the 9/11 attacks. Powell was told of a new link between Saddam and bin Laden, a high-level al Qaeda terrorist had admitted everything. This was the clincher for Powell, who would go out to make the fateful speeches to Congress and the UN that would sanction the war and destroy his credibility.

Beating Lies Out Of “The Libyan”
Powell wasn’t told for over a year that it was actually a Libyan detainee named Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi who was tortured and punched in the face for 15 minutes in a secret Cairo “rendition” site, before agreeing yes, he had witnessed a meeting between Iraqi officials and al Qaeda.

But al-Libi recanted everything, admitting he lied to save his life. By 2009, al-Libi was found dead in a Libyan prison cell after human rights attorneys took an interest in him. But the CIA knew al-Libi made it up long before, according to a classified report filed way back in August 2002. The FBI officials who first aprehended al-Libi also believed he had lied, but they were dismissed from the case in a turf dispute.

The lead torturer was Egyptian intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, a strong ally in George Tenet’s off-the-books rendition program, later appointed vice-president of Egypt by Hosni Mubarak. Suleiman continued relations with Leon Panetta through the Obama years, dying mysteriously in a US hospital last July along with a wealth of secrets.

Will Maddow’s special show how illegal torture, rendition and secret alliances with dictatorships gave us the crucial lies that steamrolled all resistance to the Iraq War? And if so, why didn’t MSNBC air these reports as they first broke? Why now? What’s changed?

Maddow Unmuzzled?
It’s possible Rachel Maddow may have pushed for more latitude in a new contract. The timing suggests Maddow and other MSNBC staff were given a longer leash after Obama’s re-election, a bold move leftward for the network. MSNBC has also made headlines for regularly topping the ratings of Fox News and Sean Hannity, with Maddow making gains in key demographics. Also completed just last week was full transfer of MSNBC parent NBCUniversal, away from GE, who has defense interests, to Comcast, the media and communications colossus.

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Walmart CEOs Concealed Evidence of Foreign Bribery Scandal

9:36 pm in Uncategorized by amerigus

walmartbribes

Share this image freely to alert shoppers of the Low Cost of Corruption

Each Black Friday the TV news leads off with stories about Walmart, from the jaw-dropping discounts to the deaths by trampling. This year, we’ve been hearing about coordinated strikes, walk-outs and protests as Walmart workers have begun to resent the depths of their corporate exploitation.

But we don’t hear about the corruption probe of Walmart’s foreign expansion as multiple bribery allegations widen. Walmart is the biggest retailer in known history, employing one million US workers and making $3.63 billion in profits just in the most recent quarter.

Obviously, a business this size will hold a lot of sway in media where they are regular advertisers. Maybe that’s why we’re not hearing about a global bribery scandal which could lead to perp walks, but so far, is going acutely unreported.

Kudos to the Boston Globe for updating the story that David Barstow broke on the front page of the New York Times last April. In brief, it explained how Walmart had systematically bribed officials to fast-track expansion in Mexico.
When a 10 year Walmart official blew the whistle, an internal investigation ordered by Walmart’s top executives buried the affair for some seven years. How? They simply made a guy involved in the bribery allegations responsible for the investigation. Not surprisingly, he found no wrongdoing. Management even promoted the chief executive of the Mexican division to vice chairman.

This alleged cover-up implicates senior management including two CEOs who knew – or should have known – their financial records showed tens of millions in payments for local “gestores,” Mexican officials who greased the wheels in obtaining permits, zoning approvals and environmental waivers. Cutting through bureaucratic red tape, Walmart’s explosive growth “south of the border” quickly made them also Mexico’s largest private employer with over 2,000 new stores opening in 12 years.

The SEC and DOJ are finally taking an interest, but Walmart was able to get way out in front of US law enforcement to conduct another round of internal “investigations” of their own books. Records that could have been seized and subpoenaed after the 4/22/12 NY Times bombshell are being “prepared” by Walmart internal compliance which includes 300 lawyers and accountants, a noted former FBI official and SEC prosecutions experts. Walmart spent $100 million so far, and has been accused already of stonewalling and stalling.

To remind the reader (in the public interest) a bribe made to a foreign official is a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

TV anchors from Sean Hannity to Rachel Maddow and everyone in between has spiked this major story as it rages in the financial and print press. Walmart just admitted last week that they are aware of the Mexican FCPA allegations in official filings.

Walmart knows their holiday shoppers must be insulated from bad PR. But as this progressed, their own “new” investigators found the same model for rapid expansion was used in Brazil, China and India where hundreds of stores opened and many more were in planning.

It’s no secret that bribes are common in the developing world, but US companies are bound to strict federal laws. The Securities and Exchange Commission just last week published fresh, clear cut guidelines for interpreting the FCPA to spell out what constitutes an illegal bribe. Walmart’s admissions came one day later. It’s almost as if the SEC knew the NYT piece was going to cause a legal shitstorm and fired the first shot.

The two legal teams are now positioned for a battle pitting the US government versus the richest family in the US, literally. But the whole thing might be a big kabuki dance — the Obama administration has little appetite for criminal prosecution, settling the vast majority of corporate FCPA cases without charging principals.Already red-faced for squelching the evidence once, Walmart is this time pledging new oversight and background checks for intermediaries. They have suspended a handful of workers from their India division, but they will likely try to protect top management.This could be vigorously pursued were there the will to, because current CEO Michael Duke and former CEO Lee Scott both signed documents affirming any evidence suggesting potential fraud was disclosed. As last week’s disclosures show, not so much.

It’s not how or when Obama/Holder will react but IF

Barstow’s bombshell describes a wealth of first-hand evidence that points squarely to upper management, drunk with greed as foreign expansion boomed. But similar cases involving Tyson Foods, Halliburton and Siemens did not result in jail sentences for individuals, instead were settled via secretly negotiated fines in “deferred prosecution” agreements.

These became chic when the Bush administration was convinced by lobbyists that bad outcomes in criminal probes hurt innocent investors and employees. Walmart has given millions to lobbyists like the US Chamber of Commerce and Cato Institute in order to further weaken the FCPA, even as they are being investigated.

This conflict caught the attention of Congressional Democrats Henry Waxman and Elijah Cummings who demanded an investigation, but any action been blocked by the Republican majority led by committee chair Rep. Darrel Issa. The late Senator Arlen Specter, who ditched the GOP, fought this practice in Senate hearings, noting “fines are added to the cost of doing business … going to jail is what works to deter crime.” Waxman and Cummings also claim to have obtained documents suggesting Walmart’s foreign bribery scheme included tax evasion and money laundering but Walmart won’t answer to those rabble-rousers. Sigh.

Per the NY Times’ “Lots of Bribes, but Little Jail Time,” Walmart took note as Tyson’s top execs escaped criminal charges for bribing Mexican officials, and simply decided to sweep their own scandal under the rug. When Obama lined his incoming cabinet with Wall Street attorneys, little changed.

Thus, it is already predicted President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and a (now leaderless) SEC will let Walmart’s CEOs skate without criminal prosecution. The current administration is expected to continue to ‘sell justice‘, and our nation’s #1 employer, knowing Obama always needs to pad jobs numbers, is likely to play hardball.

walmartization-nyc-sm

We reported last April that Walmart’s goal of 20% market penetration nationwide is bad news for Main Street USA, small business owners and taxpayers. Areas that welcomed Walmart saw net job losses and lost wages as supermarkets, local shops and smaller retailers were displaced. Area profits were funnelled out as local tax bases got drained by the millions to provide healthcare and welfare checks for Walmart worker families.

Walmart is known to have coached associates to apply for government aid such as food stamps, WIC or Section 8 housing subsidies. Walmart’s “poverty wages” force taxpayers to pay an extra $3.6 billion per year in welfare and Medicaid to make up the difference. Walmart takes in profits over $15 billion per year to it’s Arkansas headquarters.

NYC was able to fend off Walmart’s latest lobbying, advertising and “charity” blitz, but Chicago was breeched after Alderwoman Emma Mitts became Walmart’s latest political acquisition, saying “we” when referring to the company in a TV interview.

The reasons to boycott Walmart are many, but the worst is knowing Obama would sell another get-out-of-jail card even after this evidence is out of the toothpaste tube . Walmart’s executives scoff at the law because money makes it go away.

What could change this eventuality would be massive public outcry, but until this widening, deepening bribery scandal is covered in the “news”, it will be another slow-motion travesty of justice. Happy holidays.