More waste and fraud in Iraq

A defense contractor hired to repair combat equipment routinely failed to do the job right and then charged the government millions of dollars for the extra work needed to get the gear ready for battle in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a newly released audit.

Overall, the contractor’s employees at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait worked about 188,000 additional hours to fix Humvees, heavy transporters and fighting vehicles that allegedly were mended but flunked a military inspection, the Government Accountability Office said.

The Jose Padilla debacle

The Bush administration’s case against alleged dirty bomber Jose Padilla has sputtered to an inglorious close.

Padilla, you’ll remember, was supposed to be the leader, as the U.S. attorney general himself announced, of “an unfolding terrorist plot against the United States” that featured radioactive dirty bombs and exploding apartment buildings.

Progress for Islamic women

Saudi Arabian women are enjoying new freedoms. Reuters recently reported that, “Saudi authorities, breaking with religious codes that require women to be accompanied by a male guardian, have decided to allow women to stay in hotels on their own.”

The emperor has no brains

So it begins. Earlier this month, our emperor — a man so upbeat that he could fall down a manhole and be glad in the gloom that he didn’t wear his sunglasses — admitted that the economic situation has developed not necessarily to our advantage, or words to that effect.

Yes, that is true. Worldwide stock markets are in turmoil and Wall Street has its own convulsions. The housing market is so moribund it has a tag attached to its toes. The subprime mortgage mess hangs like a dead albatross around the necks of everyone, but especially poor people losing their homes.

Fanatics and madmen

Adolf Hitler was evil and perhaps a madman. But throughout history, there have been many evil madmen in many corners of the Earth. Few have attracted millions of passionate followers; fewer still have conquered Europe and committed genocide. So what made Hitler different and — for a time — effective?

The one stop election

Tired of the presidential campaign already? All those candidates, the incessant debates and speeches, the position papers, the partisan bickering, the uncertainty of it all?

You might want to give Cuba a try. Those Cubans know how to put on a seamless election.

There’s no campaigning, only one party and, to really streamline the process, only one pre-approved candidate for each district. And it’s all over in one day.

Mixed messages from Iraq

The U.S. military worried Sunday about “mixed messages” from Iran, listing a dramatic drop in Iranian-made weapons reaching Iraq but no reduction in the training and financing of Shiite militants.

The report card further muddles U.S.-Iranian relations as Washington ratchets up its anti-Tehran rhetoric in the shadow of a recent intelligence report that the Islamic Republic halted a nuclear weapons program four years ago.

A second suicide bombing in two days, meanwhile, killed six people in Anbar province, birthplace of the Sunni movement against al-Qaida in Iraq that has been a major factor in a recent downturn in nationwide violence.

Is true meaning of King’s legacy lost?

Nearly 40 years after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., some say his legacy is being frozen in a moment in time that ignores the full complexity of the man and his message.

“Everyone knows — even the smallest kid knows about Martin Luther King — can say his most famous moment was that ‘I have a dream’ speech,” said Henry Louis Taylor Jr., professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Buffalo. “No one can go further than one sentence. All we know is that this guy had a dream. We don’t know what that dream was.”

King was working on anti-poverty and anti-war issues at the time of his death. He had spoken out against the Vietnam War and was in Memphis when he was killed in April 1968 in support of striking sanitation workers.

Johnny comes homeless

Peter Mohan traces the path from the Iraqi battlefield to this lifeless conference room, where he sits in a kilt and a Camp Kill Yourself T-shirt and calmly describes how he became a sad cliche: a homeless veteran.

There was a happy homecoming, but then an accident — car crash, broken collarbone. And then a move east, close to his wife’s new job but away from his best friends.

More lies about troop levels in Iraq

Look beneath the Bush Administration spin on planned troop drawdowns for the failed Iraq war and you will find the truth about U.S. presence in that civil war-torn country: American troops will be there for the next decade.

Or probably longer.

While Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told reporters that plans to reduce U.S. troop presence in Iraq “remain on track” he hedged by saying “further withdrawals will depend the readiness” of the country’s army.