United States News Digest
Omaha Shooter: I'll 'Beat Cho's High Score'
Dec. 7 (EIRNS)Nineteen-year-old Robert Hawkins, who shot and killed eight people and wounded five others before shooting himself Dec. 6 at a crowded shopping mall in Omaha, Neb., posted this blog less than an hour and a half before his shooting rampage: "Later today, I'm going to bring my rifle to Von Maur department store at the Westroads Mall, in Omaha, Nebraska to try to beat Cho's high score. I'm going out in style."
The referral is to last April, when computer gamer Seung Hui Cho shot to death 31 and wounded 15 at Virginia Tech University, before shooting himself. Possibly Hawkins saw himself in some computer-game competition with the dead Cho. Cho played Microsoft's "Counterstrike" computer game, which rewards successful "kills" with points. Police discovered the blog on Hawkins' computer, according to Action 3 news in Omaha.
Today, new developments point to the fact that Hawkins was not a "loner" but part of Rupert Murdoch's MySpace "family." Police in Bellevue, Neb., Hawkins' hometown, arrested a friend of his, 17-year-old David Hurwitz, for making "terrorist threats," according to Associated Press Dec. 6. He threatened to kill a teenage girl for making offensive remarks about Hawkins. All this was recorded on MySpace. Police found a rifle and two shotguns at Hurwitz's houseweapons he had access to, said Bellevue's police chief.
Republicans Huddle with Blackwater, as Blackwater Loses a Protector
Dec. 7 (EIRNS)State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard resigned today, in disgrace. Howard had been responsible for overseeing Blackwater USA's operations in Iraq, even as he lied to Congress that his brother "Buzzy" Krongard was not a member of Blackwater's advisory board.
The issue of the privatization of U.S. military operations, as epitomized by Blackwater, was the subject of testimony earlier in the day, at a Senate Democratic Policy Committee hearing. Witnesses discussed private contracting fraud in Iraq, and the dangers which face whistle-blowers, with Blackwater a principal target of the testimony. In opening the hearings, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) charged that Blackwater's operations in Iraq involved one of "the most staggering amounts of contract fraud" in the history of the United States, running into "billions and billions of dollars."
In his opening statement, Virginia Sen. Jim Webb (D) raised the more fundamental issue: the repercussions of the rise of this "quasi-military apparatus" of private military contractors over the past 20 years, which threatens the relationship between government and the military which Americans had defended in prior days. It is "stunning" how little time has been paid to this by Congress, Webb said, and such hearings must provide a catalyst for new laws.
Blackwater's friends in Congress are scrambling. The Capitol daily The Hill on Dec. 6 published an e-mail from the House Republican Study Committee (RSC), announcing it had invited Blackwater chief Erik Prince for a private meeting. The RSC "members-only" e-mail complained that Prince's "company has been under intense scrutiny by Congress, government agencies, and the media regarding contracts and actions in Iraq. Not only has Mr. Prince personally been targeted by partisan warfare repeatedly over the past months, but the use of contracting throughout the government has been under attack by this Congress." A GOP aide told The Hill that Rep. Patrick McHenry (N.C), Mike Pence (Ind.), and Jeb Hensarling (Texas) initiated the meeting.
Lieberman Fronts for Video-Game Industry
Dec. 6 (EIRNS)At a Washington press conference on Dec. 4, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) announced the "12th Annual Video Game Report Card" published by the National Institute on Media and Family, a non-profit organization. Since the killings at Columbine High School in 1999, Lieberman has played a duplicitous role of, on the one hand, criticizing the video-game industry, while on the other, seeing that video gaming has grown into the largest "entertainment" enterprise in the United States.
The purpose of the "report card" is to inform parents on how the video-game industry and retailers are performing in meeting the requirements set by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), established by Congress in 1994. The rating system is supposed to protect children.
The results of even their own survey, however, show that children are not being "protected." Of a sample of 1,360 children, over half of those 8-12 year-olds were able to buy or rent "M-rated" (for Mature) games intended for 17-year-olds and up. These include "Grand Theft Auto," "Halo 2," and "Scarface."
At the press conference, Lieberman praised Microsoft, saying, "All new consoles are now being produced with parental controls. Obviously, the parents have to decide to use those controls, but they're there. And Microsoft recently added tools for parents to set time limits for the times when their children could be playing the games."
Lieberman continued: "And a thank you to the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, which embarked on this education campaign, including creating and distributing public service announcements in an effort to prod parents to understand and pay attention to the rating system."
State and Local Governments Turn 'SIV Positive'
Dec. 5 (EIRNS)The list of state and local governments that have revealed themselves to be "SIV Positive"that is, have used their investment-fund monies to buy toxic and failing Structured Investment Vehicle (SIVs) financial paperis growing. This infectious condition may imperil these governments' financial survival, and engender, as the case of Florida shows, the slashing of vital services.
Here is a review those states with the most advanced symptoms of the disease:
* Orange County, Calif.the fifth-most-populous county in the United Statesrevealed that its Extended Fund had invested $460 million, or 20%, of the Fund's total $2.3 billion investment, into SIVs. Beyond the Fund, the County has another $837 million invested in radioactive SIVs.
It should be recalled that in 1994, Orange County became the first county in 60 years to go bankrupt, when its portfolio of derivatives exploded, losing $1.6 billion. It shut down critical services across the board. This may be in the offing again.
* The Dec. 5 Boston Globe, in an article titled "Volatile Holdings Part of State Fund," reported that the Massachusetts Municipal Depository Trust, which holds total assets of $5.6 billion, had invested $134 million "in volatile 'structured investment vehicles.' " The MMDT fund is an investment pool meant as a place for state and municipal entities to place their monies until they need them to pay bills.
* The Dec. 5 The Day, published in Connecticut, reports that officials overseeing the state's $5 billion Short-Term Investment Fund (STIF), "might soon have to dip into their reserves for the first time in the fund's 35-year history, to keep cities and towns from losing their money." The STIF had invested $100 million in the London-headquartered Cheyne SIV (pronounced Che-ney), which has gone spectacularly bust.
* In Florida, indispensable services are on the verge of being closed. The state's Local Government Investment Pool had invested billions of dollars into SIVs, and the fund had been frozen since Nov. 29, after it suffered a run on its funds that cut the $27 billion pool almost in half, to $14 billion. The Dec. 5 Wall Street Journal reported that the chief financial officer for the Jefferson County school district, which has $4.1 million in the state's frozen fund, said that he had to stop payment on checks of $500,000 to vendors last week so that teachers could be paid. Meanwhile, a whopping 95% of the Clay County Utility Authority's cash is invested in the Florida-run investment fund. "We're very concerned about the possibility of defaulting on some contracts that are already in place," said the chief operating officer. This could cause curtailment of electricity supply.
LaRouche: Is Cheney Out to Fill BAE Reserves?
Dec. 2 (EIRNS)In an interview published in the December issue of Fortune magazine, Vice President Dick Cheney is fixated on "preparing for a strategic oil crisis," by demanding a massive appropriation in the 2008 budget to pour millions more barrels of oil (at almost $100 a barrel) into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Who will benefit? asked Lyndon LaRouche. "Are these actually BAE reserves?"
It's about time Americans, and others, realized that Cheney is actually a British agent, LaRouche added. He's on the other side. His strategic and economic policies are playing out the British script to destroy the United States, and benefit the fortunes of the British-Saudi intelligence network identified with the British defense firm BAE Systems, of oil-for-arms fame.