Study: Occupied Baghdad is least livable city on planet

The Iraq war is still being touted by Washington and the Pentagon as a war for progress and stability in the region. A study released May 26, however, reveals a radically different reality.

The Mercer Quality of Living Survey ranked Baghdad last in a list of “most livable cities.” The study took into account political, economic, ecological, social and cultural factors.

The result is not surprising considering the devastation brought on by the U.S.-led invasion. Sewage treatment plants, factories, schools, hospitals, and museums have been destroyed. As a result, Iraqi citizens now have scarce access to water and electricity.

The demolition of infrastructure is an important tactic in imperialist war and helps explain why the study found that, “A lack of security and stability continue to have a negative impact on Baghdad’s quality of living.”

The only benefactors from the occupation have been big corporations like BP, who got access to the giant Rumaila oil field. The citizens of Iraq continue to pay with their lives.

Marine Corps Major accused of taking reconstruction funds

OCEANSIDE, Calif. – A Marine Corps fighter pilot accused of stealing $440,000 in Iraq reconstruction funds turned himself in on Monday, federal officials said.

Maj. Mark R. Fuller, 42, of Yuma, Ariz., is facing 22 counts under an indictment issued by a federal grand jury, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Phoenix. An arrest warrant was issued for Fuller, who appeared before a federal judge Monday and “was released on his own recognizance,” said Special Agent James McCormick, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Federal prosecutors charge that Fuller took cash earmarked for the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, or CERP, and made 91 cash deposits totaling more than $440,000 into bank accounts with Navy Federal Credit Union, Bank of America and Chase Bank from October 2005 to April 2006. Each deposit was less than $10,000, the threshold at which federal law requires banks to report cash deposits.

While he was in Iraq in 2005, Fuller was assigned as a project purchasing officer with 5th Civil Affairs Group, officials said.

Fuller is an F-5 pilot assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 401, the Corps’ aggressor squadron based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, said Gunnery Sgt. Bill Lisbon, an air station spokesman.

The case stems from an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction, officials said.

Former DA investigator sentenced to probation

A former investigator in the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office was sentenced to probation Thursday for accessing criminal rap sheets in a law enforcement database for his personal benefit and that of his friends and colleagues.

Christopher Cardoza, 46, was sentenced to three years probation and 420 hours of community service by Judge Kyle Brodie in San Bernardino Superior Court. He is also responsible for $7,762 in restitution.

Defense lawyer James Vincent Reiss said the case brought against Cardoza had political overtones and that prosecutors sought to make an example out of his client.

“I think it’s an appropriate resolution for a case that in our mind is being brought out of spite,” Reiss said.

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US army captain convicted of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars allocated to humanitarian work

Michael Dung Nguyen, 28, was sentenced to 30 months in prison on Monday after pleading guilty to theft and money laundering charges in December.

The Oregon man, a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, admitted to stealing more than $690,000 from Commander’s Emergency Response Program funds entrusted to him. The currency was intended as payment for security contracts as well as humanitarian relief and reconstruction programs.

US District Judge Ancer Lee Haggerty also ordered Nguyen to undergo mental health treatment and serve three years of supervised release after his term in jail.

The convict is also required to pay back $200,000 he spent on luxurious cars and other items in an attempt to hide the embezzled money.
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Brain shuts off in response to healer’s prayer

WHEN we fall under the spell of a charismatic figure, areas of the brain responsible for skepticism and vigilance become less active. That’s the finding of a study which looked at people’s response to prayers spoken by someone purportedly possessing divine healing powers.

To identify the brain processes underlying the influence of charismatic individuals, Uffe Schjødt of Aarhus University in Denmark and colleagues turned to Pentecostal Christians, who believe that some people have divinely inspired powers of healing, wisdom and prophecy.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Schjødt and his colleagues scanned the brains of 20 Pentecostalists and 20 non-believers while playing them recorded prayers. The volunteers were told that six of the prayers were read by a non-Christian, six by an ordinary Christian and six by a healer. In fact, all were read by ordinary Christians.

Only in the devout volunteers did the brain activity monitored by the researchers change in response to the prayers. Parts of the prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortices, which play key roles in vigilance and skepticism when judging the truth and importance of what people say, were deactivated when the subjects listened to a supposed healer. Activity diminished to a lesser extent when the speaker was supposedly a normal Christian (Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsq023).

Schjødt says that this explains why certain individuals can gain influence over others, and concludes that their ability to do so depends heavily on preconceived notions of their authority and trustworthiness.

It’s not clear whether the results extend beyond religious leaders, but Schjødt speculates that brain regions may be deactivated in a similar way in response to doctors, parents and politicians.

US confronts its reputation abroad

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Captain investigated

See also:   iepolitics: SB County: Update on Sheriff’s training records investigation

Criminal charges are being reviewed for a retired San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department captain accused of falsifying certifications to raise his salary and selling doctored training records to other employees.

Details of the alleged scheme have not been released. The captain, whose wife works at the sheriff’s training academy, has not been identified because it is a personnel matter.

Sheriff Rod Hoops said he launched an investigation after first learning of the allegations in September. When the captain was confronted, he chose to retire and pay back roughly $16,000 rather than be placed on administrative leave.

The possible corruption has shamed many within the department and raised concerns of a cover-up, which Hoops has denied.

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