3 Canadians accuse U.S. border guards of ‘molestation’

WARNING: This story contains disturbing detaails

By Steven Bull and Ron Charles
March 13, 2012

Three Canadian women filed lawsuits Tuesday alleging “sexual molestation” by American female border guards at the Canada-U.S. border near Windsor, Ont.

Two separate lawsuits were filed, one involving two women travelling together and the other by a woman travelling separately who alleged incidents at the Ambassador Bridge and the Windsor-Detroit tunnel.

Including a similar lawsuit filed by a Stratford, Ont., woman in February 2011, there are now at least four Canadian women accusing border agents of sexual assault at the Canada-U.S. crossing, according to the lawyer for all three cases, Tom Wienner.

“These were not pat-downs or limited personal searches, these were clearly in the nature of sexual molestation,” the Rochester, Mich.-based lawyer told CBC News.

‘Very degrading and humiliating’

Leslie Ingratta, of Windsor, Ont., told CBC News she was heading into Detroit for a shopping trip in January 2011 when she was taken aside for further questioning.

The female U.S. border guards ordered her into a back room, closed the door, and one proceeded to search her body so aggressively she felt violated, she said.

“They went under my bra, fondled my breasts and then began to go down. Pretty much did the same,” Ingratta said.

In between searches, Ingratta went back into the waiting area, she said.

“At one point I was crying,” Ingratta told CBC News. “I had people turning around and looking and, you know, making faces like ‘Oh my God, what did she do?’ So very degrading and humiliating, it was a horrible experience.”

Stratford, Ont.-woman files $500K lawsuit

In February 2011, Loretta Van Beek, of Stratford, Ont., filed a $500,000 lawsuit against two female border guards in Detroit. She was travelling to Savannah, Ga., where she owns a small vacation home, when she was pulled over by customs agents at the Ambassador Bridge.

Van Beek, 46, told CBC News she was sent to secondary inspection when customs officers discovered a few raspberries she had forgotten to declare.

She was questioned for more than an hour, then she was marched into a holding cell by two female agents. She was ordered to remove her shirt and stand spread-eagled against the wall.

“She was squeezing my nipples, etc., for a very long time, unnecessary attention,” Van Beek told CBC News in February last year. “It was sexual — using her fingertips, not back of hand like you would expect.”

Van Beek also claims the guard shoved her hand inside her genital area.

“It was deviant behaviour by the officer, no other explanation,” Van Beek said.

The third case also involves U.S. border agents at the Ambassador Bridge just three days before Van Beek was stopped and searched there.

Two Canadian women with visas allowing them to work and study in the U.S. say they were subjected to an invasive and unnecssary body search while crossing to attend a concert in Detroit. One of the two women was eight months pregnant at the time.

Their joint lawsuit claims a female border agent thrust her finger inside each plaintiff’s anus and vagina. The lawsuit also claims that a female border agent fondled each plaintiff’s bare breasts in a prolonged and deliberate manner.

The two women did not want to be interviewed by CBC News.

Constitutional rights violated: lawyer

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has refused to comment.

Wienner said the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects anyone — regardless of citizenship — from unreasonable personal searches.

“In the case of the four women who have now filed lawsuits, we believe all of them have had their constitutional rights violated,” he said.

The number of allegations suggests more than a handful of rogue officers were involved, he added.

There is a clear difference between a pat-down, and a limited personal search, and the experiences these women are describing, Wienner added.

“These were not searches, these were essentially assaults … unnecessary, completely inappropriate and outrageous searches these women say they were subjected to at the border.” Source

Video is also at the Source

Welcome to the New America. What did Obama say, “We Can Do It”.

Well they are doing something and it’s not very nice.

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Outrage grows over ‘Stop Kony’ campaign

“Canada”Trouble in Toryland: their Dirty Tricks catalogue Part Two

“Canada”Trouble in Toryland: their Dirty Tricks catalogue

Bush considering ‘orderly’ auto bankruptcy

By Jennifer Loven
December 18 2008

WASHINGTON

The Bush administration is looking at “orderly” bankruptcy as a possible way to deal with the desperately ailing U.S. auto industry, the White House said today as carmakers readied more plant closings and a half million Americans filed new jobless claims.

With General Motors, Chrysler and the rest of Detroit anxiously holding its breath and waiting for a federal rescue, White House press secretary Dana Perino said, “There’s an orderly way to do bankruptcies that provides for more of a soft landing. I think that’s what we would be talking about.”

President George W. Bush, asked about an auto bailout, said he hadn’t decided what he would do but didn’t want to leave a mess for Barack Obama, who takes office a month from Saturday.

Bush, like Perino, spoke of the idea of bankruptcies orchestrated by the federal government as a possible way to go — without committing to it.

“Under normal circumstances, no question bankruptcy court is the best way to work through credit and debt and restructuring,” he said during a speech and question-and-answer session at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank. “These aren’t normal circumstances. That’s the problem.”

Perino said the White House was “very close” to a decision — though she wouldn’t give a timetable. She emphasized there were still several possible approaches to assisting the automakers, including short-term loans from the Treasury Department’s $700 billion Wall Street bailout program.

The Big Three automakers said anew that bankruptcy wasn’t the answer, as did an official of the United Auto Workers who called the idea unworkable and even dangerous. GM said a report that it and Chrysler had restarted talks to combine was untrue.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Capitol Hill that grim new unemployment data heightened the urgency for the administration “to prevent the imminent insolvency of the domestic auto industry.”

The California Democrat said Bush has the legal authority to act now, and should attach the accountability standards that were included in a $14 billion House-passed and Bush-supported carmaker bailout that died in the Senate last week. That plan would have given the government, through a Bush-appointed “car czar,” veto power over major business decisions at any auto company that received federal loans.

Pelosi spoke after the government announced that initial claims for unemployment benefits totaled a seasonally adjusted 554,000 last week.

The comments in Washington came a day after Chrysler announced it was closing all its North American manufacturing plants for at least a month as it, General Motors and Ford Motor await word on government action. General Motors also has been closing plants, and it and Chrysler have said they might not have enough money to pay their bills in a matter of weeks.

Prices of GM and Ford stocks were down sharply today after the remarks out of the White House. Ford, unlike General Motors and Chrysler, is not seeking billions in federal bailout loans, but a collapse of the other two could hurt Ford as well.

Alan Reuther, the United Auto Workers’ legislative director, said the union urged the administration during a meeting this week to follow the provisions included in the House-passed auto aid bill.

Congressional aides in both parties who have been closely following the discussions suggested the talk of bankruptcy could be a tactic to extract more hefty concessions from the companies and union in exchange for granting short-term loans from Treasury’s financial industry rescue fund.

Perino said one factor preventing an announcement of action by the administration is that discussions continue with the various sides that would have to sign on to a managed bankruptcy — entities such as labor and equity holders in addition to the companies themselves.

A senior administration official said the talks between Bush officials and the Big Three and their stakeholders amount to information-gathering, not negotiating.

The White House has repeatedly emphasized its opposition to “disorderly bankruptcy” — presumably a Chapter 7 filing that would effectively shut down a company and require liquidation of assets. That has left on the table the possibility of forcing one or more automakers into a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which allows a firm to keep operating while under a court’s purview.

Harlan Platt, who teaches corporate turnarounds at Northeastern University in Boston, said the government may be waiting for an offer of an ownership stake in the companies, much as it received in return for capital plowed into banks. “You really have to ask the question: If this is good enough for Wall Street, why isn’t it good enough for Detroit?” he said.

Today, spokesmen for Chrysler, GM and Ford generally referred to their previous comments that bankruptcy was not a workable solution. The car companies argue that no one would buy a vehicle from a bankrupt company for fear that the company might not be around to honor warranties.

“We continue to work with the administration to find a solution to this liquidity crisis,” said GM spokesman Tony Cervone.

Chrysler spokeswoman Shawn Morgan noted previous statements against bankruptcy by CEO Robert Nardelli. Financing for even a prepackaged bankruptcy would be difficult to get in the current tight credit market, Chrysler has said.

The National Automobile Dealers Association also spoke out against bankruptcy for car companies “in any way shape or form, orderly or disorderly, prepackaged or unpackaged, managed or unmanaged,” said spokesman Bailey Wood.

Bush said the auto industry is “obviously very fragile” and he is worried about what an out-and-out collapse without Washington involvement “would do to the psychology” of the markets.

“There still is a lot of uncertainty,” he said.

At the same time, the president said anew that he is worried about “putting good money after bad,” meaning taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be used to prop up companies that can’t survive the long term.

He revealed one other consideration — that Obama will become president in just over a month.

“I thought about what it would be like for me to become president during this period. I believe that good policy is not to dump him a major catastrophe on his first day in office,” Bush said.

———

Writers Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Ken Thomas in Washington and Tom Krisher in Detroit contributed to this story.

Source

Auto workers rally in Jackson

Canadian Governments willing to help Auto Industry

Auto jobs are also being affected abroad as well.

Workers protest massive wave of job cuts

Billions here, billions there: A look at where it’s going

Billions here, billions there: A look at where it’s going

November 24 2008

Wars. Bailouts. Unemployment aid. Automakers. Washington has opened the tap on big spending and money is gushing down the pipeline.

The national debt now stands at $10.6 trillion, compared with about $5.7 trillion in 2000 before George W. Bush took office. Buckle up, because that figure is going to climb.

Here’s where some of the big bucks are going:

Iraq war Various estimates put the total cost of the military operation since 2003 at about $600 billion.

Bailout — The Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), signed on Oct. 3, provides $700 billion in financial relief. Of that amount, the Treasury Department has committed about $270 billion in cash injections for banks and another $40 billion for the insurer American International Group.

Economic stimulusEarlier this year, Bush signed into law a $168 billion stimulus package that included rebates for households and tax breaks for businesses. President-elect Barack Obama is preparing another stimulus plan, and Democratic lawmakers say they expect the package could total between $500 billion and $700 billion.

Detroit General Motors, Ford, Chrysler and their suppliers have been authorized $25 billion by Congress to retool their assembly lines for making more fuel-efficient cars. Now, the Big Three want an additional $25 billion to ensure they will have the funds to operate through spring. Congress could act on it in December.

Housing In July, Bush signed a housing bill that included $300 billion in new loan authority for the government to guarantee cheaper mortgages for troubled homeowners. In September, the Treasury took over mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, pledging up to $200 billion to back their assets.

Jobless aid Congress last week approved an extension of up to three months for expiring unemployment benefits. The cost is nearly $6 billion.

Federal Reserve In the past year the Fed has increased its lending and purchases of debt by $900 billion, to almost $2.2 trillion.

The federal deficitIt’s the difference between what the government received from taxes and other revenue and what it spent. In fiscal 2008, which ended Sept. 30, the budget deficit was $455 billion, quite a difference from 2007’s $161.5 billion. Just one month into fiscal 2009, the budget deficit had already reached $232 billion, including $115 billion going directly on the deficit ledger for bank stock purchases as part of the financial bailout. The deficit for fiscal 2009 could reach $1 trillion.

Source

Millionaires reap farm payments; Nobody checking incomes

Investigators say the problem will get worse

By LARRY MARGASAK
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON — A sports team owner, a financial firm executive and residents of Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia were among 2,702 millionaire recipients of farm payments from 2003 to 2006 — and it’s not even clear they were legitimate farmers, congressional investigators reported Monday.

They probably were ineligible, but the Agriculture Department can’t confirm that, since officials never checked their incomes, the Government Accountability Office said.

The Agriculture Department cried foul: It said the investigators had access to Internal Revenue Service information on individuals that the department is not permitted to see.

John Johnson, deputy administrator in the department’s Farm Service Agency, said officials there are in touch with the IRS to devise a system for including tax information in its sampling program to determine eligibility.

He added that 2,702 recipients cited by the GAO was a small percentage of the 1.8 million recipients of farm payments from 2003 through 2006.

The investigators said the problem will only get worse, because the payments they cited covered only the 2002 farm bill subsidies.

The 2008 farm legislation has provisions that could allow even more people to receive improper payments without effective checks, they said.

There are three main types of payments: direct subsidies based on a farmer’s production history; countercyclical payments that kick in when prices are low and disappear when they recover; and a loan program that allows repayment in money or crops.

The 2002 farm bill required an income test for the first time.

An individual or farm entity was ineligible if average adjusted gross income exceeded $2.5 million over three years — unless 75 percent or more of that income came from farming, ranching and forestry.

According to the report, the 2,702 recipients exceeded the $2.5 million and got less than 75 percent of their income from these activities.

The payments to them totaled more than $49 million.

“USDA has relied principally on individuals’ one-time self-certifications that they do not exceed income eligibility caps, and their commitment that they will notify USDA of any changes that cause them to exceed these caps,” the GAO said.

The report said Agriculture field offices have been able to request that recipients submit tax returns for review.

But the administrator in charge of the payment programs, Teresa Lasseter, told the GAO, “Requiring three years of tax returns initially from over 2 million program participants was not a viable option or cost-effective alternative.”

The GAO said 78 percent of the recipients resided in or near a metropolitan area, while the remaining 22 percent resided in large towns, small towns and rural areas.

Further, the investigators said the Agriculture Department should have known that 87 of the 2,702 recipients were ineligible because it had noted in its own databases that they exceeded the income caps.

The GAO said it was prevented by law from identifying individuals cited in its report, but the investigators offered these examples of likely improper payments:

A founder and former executive of an insurance company received more than $300,000 in farm program payments in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 that should have been subject to the income limits.

An individual with ownership interest in a professional sports franchise received more than $200,000 for those same years that should have been barred by the income limits.

A person residing outside the United States received more than $80,000 for 2003, 2005 and 2006 on the basis of the individual’s ownership interest in two farming entities.

A top executive of a major financial services firm received more than $60,000 in farm program payments in 2003.

A former executive of a technology company received about $20,000 in years 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 that were covered by the income limits.

This individual also received more than $900,000 in farm program payments that were not subject to those limitations.

The investigators also found nine recipients resided outside the United States — in Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom, for example.

The remainder resided in 49 of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands.

Five states — Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois and Texas — accounted for 36 percent of the recipients and 43 percent of the $49.4 million in farm program payments.

Source

We must also remember that $2.3 Trillion they admitted to losing on September 10, the day before 9/11 still hasn’t been found either.

One has to wonder how much money, has been lost in other areas as well?

“Accountability” is not something the Bush Administration took to seriously.

Bush accountability is gone: just a reminder

June 7, 2007

Somebody owes me a Diet Coke.

That’s what was at stake in a wager a gentleman and I made over dinner at a restaurant in Baton Rouge. He had asked if I didn’t agree that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, then, as now, under fire in the scandal over the alleged politically motivated firing of nine U.S. attorneys, would soon be forced to step down. I said no. He said Gonzales would not last six weeks. We made a bet on it.

This was 11 weeks ago. Gonzales, of course, is still in office. In fact, President Bush last month reiterated his support for his embattled friend, who faces a possible Senate no-confidence vote later this month.

I wish I could say that in wagering on Gonzales’ political survival, I relied upon some insider knowledge, some astute reading of the tea leaves based on long years of watching the political scene. Truth is, what I relied on is a belief in the utter shamelessness of George W. Bush’s administration.

No, Team Bush does not own the patent on shamelessness. Some of us thought it bespoke an alarming imperviousness to embarrassment when Bill Clinton, caught lying about being serviced by a young intern in the Oval Office, chose to brazen his way through the resulting furor rather than resign.

But if the Bush people did not invent shamelessness, they have refined it to a level that once seemed impossible. So much so that this shamelessness, this indifference to perception, this abysmal lack of what Thomas Jefferson called “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind” may prove to be the administration’s defining characteristic, its calling card in matters both grand and small. Granted, shamelessness will have to battle hubris and incompetence to earn that distinction, but still …

No administration in living memory has shown Team Bush’s ability to reverse itself so blithely, to deny the obvious so serenely, to ignore precedent, propriety and responsibility with such placid unconcern for consequences or public perception.

Weapons of mass destruction not found where you once guaranteed they would be? Pretend you invaded Iraq for other reasons.

“Stay the course” proving an ever more threadbare strategy? Deny it was ever your strategy at all.

FEMA director presides over a botched disaster relief effort that costs hundreds of American lives? Praise him for doing “a heckuva job.”

CIA director presides over intelligence gathering failures that cost thousands of American lives? Give him a Medal of Freedom.

And so on.

If you’re looking for accountability, you’re looking in the wrong White House. Or as Bush once put it, “We had an accountability moment, and that’s called the 2004 elections.” In other words, if you win the election you can do whatever you want and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

So I am not surprised that, despite growing evidence he allowed the Justice Department to become a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party, Alberto Gonzales still has a job with the federal government. To be honest, I am more surprised that Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and former FEMA chief Michael Brown do not.

And ain’t that a kick in the head? We have reached a pass where one is almost shocked to see people held to answer for scandal and ineptitude. Where one is taken aback at the notion that failure carries a price. And where tough talk and a “What, me worry?” smugness now routinely pass for iron resolve and moral clarity.

If you had told me in 2001 that this would be the state of things six years later, I’d have laughed in your face.

I’d have lost a lot of Diet Cokes on that.

Source

GAO: Labor Dept. Misled Congress

By Carol D. Leonnig

November 25, 2008

The Labor Department gave Congress inaccurate and unreliable numbers that understated the expense of contracting out its employees’ work to private firms, according to a Government Accountability Office report released yesterday.

The department’s decisions in allowing contractors to compete for bureaucrats’ work — known as “competitive sourcing” — also demoralized workers, according to most of the 60 agency employees interviewed by the GAO.

“DOL’s savings reports are not reliable: a sample of three reports contained inaccuracies, and others used projections when actual numbers were available, which sometimes resulted in overstated savings,” the GAO report said. “Because of these and other weaknesses, DOL is hindered in its ability to determine if services are being provided more efficiently as a result of competitive sourcing.”

Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao began having some agency workers compete for their jobs in 2004, but since then few employees have actually lost their jobs and had their pay cut as a result of the privatizing effort, GAO found. Of the 314 federal workers who had a job change as a result of competitions with private firms, 263, or 84 percent, were either reassigned to positions with the same title and pay or were promoted. Of the 16 workers who were demoted, 14 kept their same professional grade or pay.

Twenty-two employees were demoted or laid off, and all were African American. An additional 29 employees left voluntarily.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), chairmen of their chambers’ appropriations subcommittees with jurisdiction over the Labor Department, asked for the report and urged Congress not to fund the competition program until the GAO provided the answers. They issued a statement yesterday saying the review documented “the negative impact the Bush Administration’s failed policies have had” on the agency.

“Under the direction of this White House, the Department of Labor has increasingly attempted to move work performed by Federal employees to private contractors” and, in so doing, hurt workers’ morale and “grossly overstated savings,” they wrote. “We look forward to working with the Obama Administration to strengthen the Department of Labor as it undertakes the critical missions of making sure our workplaces are safe; protecting employee pensions, health benefits and rights; and providing workers with the skills they need to compete successfully in the 21st century economy.”

Patrick Pizzella, an assistant secretary who oversees competitive sourcing, told the GAO in a letter last month that the department agrees tracking costs and performance more systematically would give the agency a more accurate picture of the usefulness of competitive sourcing. “As the GAO report indicates, DOL has made progress developing a system to assess the performance of winning service providers in our competitive sourcing program, and DOL’s competitions rarely resulted in lost jobs or salary reductions for DOL employees,” he said yesterday.

Pizzella said the Office of Management and Budget does not require that fuller counting; the GAO urged the OMB to require agencies to do so.
Source

Will the lies ever end?

Senate to take up auto bailout on Monday

By John Crawley and Donna Smith

WASHINGTON

November 14 2008

The U.S. Senate plans to take up a $25 billion bailout bill for distressed domestic automakers on Monday, but it remains unclear if proponents can muster the support necessary to pass the legislation.

Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said on Friday that he “plans to press forward” with emergency aid to automakers and a plan to extend unemployment insurance, even though Republican backing is not assured.

Reid plans to begin debate on Monday and hopes the Senate will conduct procedural votes early in the week.

It will be difficult for Democrats to push through an auto bailout if minority Republicans object and throw up procedural roadblocks.

In a letter to Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Reid said the legislation was needed to protect millions of workers “at risk from the possible collapse” of carmakers and companies that depend on their business.

General Motors Corp, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler LLC are furiously lobbying for $25 billion in immediate bailout money to help them survive the industry’s worst financial crisis.

Analysts have warned that any government assistance, which they say is imperative for GM to survive through early 2009, would come at a significant cost to existing shareholders.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat and a leading architect of bailout strategy, told CNBC that failure of one or more of the domestic automakers would rock the nation’s manufacturing economy, already reeling from downsizing.

“What is being talked about now is bankruptcy,” Stabenow said.

GM, Ford and Chrysler have all said Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring is not an option.

On Thursday, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, said he did not see enough support in the Senate to approve any auto bailout now and would be hesitant to bring it up if there was a chance of failure.

Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, said in an interview on MSNBC that a bailout would not help.

“It’s going to be money down a rat hole,” he said.

Detroit needs a plan and new models to reverse its sinking fortunes, he said.

Leaders in the House of Representatives have been working to craft legislation that would allow the Treasury Department to extend emergency assistance to Detroit under its $700 billion rescue program for the financial industry.

In return, the government likely would take an equity stake in the automakers and impose conditions, including limits on executive compensation.

The House would take up a bailout bill if it first clears the Senate. Congress is only expected to meet for a matter of days during its post-election session and will not reconvene until early January.

The White House does not favor using the Treasury’s rescue program to help automakers or other industries outside the financial sector.

Bush administration officials point to other steps Congress could take to help Detroit, including amendments to $25 billion of factory retooling loans approved in September to help the industry make more fuel-efficient cars.

Automakers do not favor that approach, saying the retooling assistance has too many strings attached and will be needed later anyway.

Auto bailout hearings are scheduled for Tuesday in the Senate and Wednesday in the House. The chief executives of GM, Chrysler and Ford are expected to testify.

(Editing by John Wallace)

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