FUBAR

Army paid millions in bonuses to corrupt contractor

The U.S. Army paid "tens of millions of dollars in bonuses" to KBR Inc, its biggest contractor in Iraq, even after it concluded the firm’s electrical work had put U.S. soldiers at risk, according to a source close to a U.S. congressional investigation.

The Senate Democratic Policy Committee plans to hold a hearing on Wednesday to examine KBR’s operations in Iraq, and question why the Army rewarded the Houston-based company.

Federal pension agency has record deficits

In an ominous setback, the government agency that insures the pensions of 44 million Americans has amassed a record $33.5 billion deficit — triple what it was just six months ago.

The bleak financial snapshot, in a report obtained by The Associated Press, raises new fears that a federal bailout eventually will be needed for the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. The beleaguered agency is being saddled with the underfunded pension plans of companies going bankrupt in the worst economic slump since the Great Depression.

Activists want probe of insurers

Activists backing President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul are asking the Justice Department to open a wide-ranging investigation of what they say is monopoly-like power in the hands of major insurers.

The move by Health Care for America Now has consequences for the debate on Capitol Hill, since health insurers have been working closely with lawmakers to find a compromise that would expand coverage and curb costs.

Banks look for new ways to screw customers

As Congress gets ready to crack down on banks for raising fees and increasing interest rates on credit cards, the banks will look for new ways to extract money from cash-strapped consumers.

So they are looking to screw over their best customers.

Contractions of a bad economy

Capitalism is said to be governed by cycles of creative destruction, and last week the cycle rolled over nearly 2,000 GM and Chrysler car dealers.

Time to be honest about torture

Readers who e-mail me about torture sometimes submit these two seemingly contradictory propositions: (1) Water boarding isn’t torture; and (2) without water boarding, the United States would have suffered a second visitation of 9/11.

I wonder if there’s a way of eradicating the first proposition altogether. I’m guessing that most people who argue that waterboarding isn’t torture have never experienced it. Rather than undertaking the experiment myself, I’d prefer to rely on my imagination, which tells me that waterboarding is a horrifying ordeal.

Morality, torture and the law

Barbarism and the law collide in war. Armed conflict is inherently terribly destructive. The law is a vital tool for mitigating the most brutal aspects of war. Both dimensions are present in the intensely politicized debate in Washington about torture.

Anti-war Democrats have pressed for release of classified information. Republican counterattacks include accusations that Democrats were fully briefed on use of waterboarding on prisoners during the Bush administration. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denies this.

Obama faces calls for Gitmo closing delay

Top lawmakers on Sunday urged President Barack Obama to delay his January deadline to shut the Guantanamo Bay prison, arguing more time was needed to resolve complex issues vexing the closure.

"I think we ought to leave Guantanamo open. It’s a 200 million dollar state-of-the-art facility. No one has ever escaped from there," argued Republican minority Senate leader Mitch McConnell.

CIA on Pelosi: She’s lying

The CIA director strongly rejected accusations the agency had misled US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about alleged torture of detainees amid a political uproar over the conduct of the "war on terror."

"Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and our values," spy agency chief Leon Panetta said in a statement to Central Intelligence Agency employees.

The Democrats’ risky focus on torture

Barack Obama warned Democrats in Congress against making a partisan cause out of the Bush administration’s harsh interrogation tactics.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is ignoring him — loudly — and the party, from the president on down, may pay the price.

So far, it’s Pelosi who’s suffered the greatest harm.