From American Progress:
The Justice Department announced guidelines Monday to prevent "conflict-of-interest accusations" that followed its steering of a major private contract to John Ashcroft. U.S. attorneys now will require "approval from senior officials" at the Justice Department for such agreements.
House Democrats "are readying a proposal that would reject" immunity for telecom companies that participated in the administration's warrantless wiretapping program after 9/11. Instead, "the tentative proposal would give the federal courts special authorization to hear classified evidence and decide whether the phone companies should be held liable."
"Struggling to save their homes from foreclosure," increasing numbers of "Americans are raiding their 401(k) retirement accounts to pay their bills -- and getting slammed with taxes and penalties in the process."
"Iraqis are avidly watching the 2008 U.S. election race, searching for signs of policy change under a new president and prospects for U.S. troop withdrawals from their country." "I do not care if the president is a man or a woman, what really matters is the change of American policy towards Iraq," said Muhenad Sahib, a university professor from Basra.
Iraqis state that during the era of Saddam Hussein, "they had one of the highest proportion of female drivers in the Middle East." NPR notes, however, that the "U.S. invasion of Iraq changed all that, between bad traffic, aggressive convoys, and radical insurgents." Fewer women now drive and â€œlament a loss of mobility and freedom."
House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) questioned Blackwater's classification of its workers as â€œindependent contractors" rather than employees yesterday. The designation has given Blackwater "$144 million in contracts set aside for small businesses and to avoid paying as much as $50 million in withholding taxes under State Department contracts."
"Unions at the Environmental Protection Agency have pulled out of a long-standing partnership with management," saying Administrator Stephen Johnson "and other top managers have ignored the advice of unionized workers and the agency's own principles of scientific integrity."
Congress will put aside politics this week to mark the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq.
"Thursday's congressional 'remembrance' ceremony will recognize the 'five years of service' and sacrifices made by troops and families affected by the war, according to a letter" signed by leaders in both parties. The ceremony was suggested by Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) office.
In Iraq, two bomb attacks killed eight U.S. soldiers yesterday as well as an Iraqi interpreter. Four soldiers and another interpreter were also wounded. The suicide bombing in Baghdad, which killed five soldiers, "was the deadliest single attack on American soldiers in the capital since the height of the troop buildup here last summer."
And finally: Last week, Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) were "walking to the subway trains from a vote when Thune, with his gazelle-like stride, suddenly broke into a sprint to catch a train headed for Dirksen." Roberts shouted, "You'll never make it." Indeed, the doors "snapped shut" just as Thune reached the train. Roberts, 71, said with a sigh, "I know. These young guys think they can zip right in."