Audit: Defense Dept. Can’t Account for $2 Billion of Iraq Funds

Jan 30, 2012, 9:22 am EST

Our troops may have finally pulled out of Iraq, but that doesn’t mean the end of our troubles in the nation. Audits from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an agency created to oversee rebuilding in Iraq, states that the U.S. Defense Department can’t account for $2 billion given to Iraq projects and that they have not provided Iraq with a complete list of projects funded by the U.S.

However, it’s not likely that the missing funds have been misplaced or stolen. The audits indicate that records tracking payments and expenses went missing, particularly during the start of the Iraq war, when government was understandably unstable and less concerned with records.

The inspector general also lays blame for discrepancies on the U.S. government, who only reported projects to Iraq that cost more than $250,000. Designed to help focus the country’s limited resources on key U.S.-backed projects, the inspector general stated that it made Iraq’s reconstruction planning more complicated and ignored less expensive projects that might still be more important to the country. Read 

Romney Outspending Gingrich 5-1 On Florida TV Ads

Jan 27, 2012, 1:08 pm EST

Mitt Romney’s money advantage seems to be rearing its green head in Florida finally. Reports have the former Massachusetts governor outspending former House Speaker Newt Gingrich 5-1 on television ads, news that comes alongside recent polls putting Romney up 9 points on Gingrich.

Gingrich’s campaign has spent about $1.1 million in the Sunshine State, while a Gingrich-aligned Super PAC has spent about $2.1 million on TV advertising, for a total of around $3.2 million. Romney’s campaign, on the other hand, has spent about $6.7 million on TV ads, while his Super PAC has chipped in an additional $8.8 million, for a grand total of about $15.5 million spent.

If you’re looking for figures on Ron Paul and Rick Santorum’s TV spending, well, don’t. Both candidates have sworn off television advertising in Florida. Santorum has apparently focused on other advertising mediums, while Paul has not been advertising — or campaigning — in the state at all. When asked why Santorum hadn’t fielded TV ads, an adviser for the campaign responded astutely. Read 

Another Obama-Backed Green Energy Company Goes Bankrupt

Jan 27, 2012, 11:22 am EST

Clean energy appears to be a harder sell to Wall Street than Main Street. Ener1, the parent company of a electric car battery maker that received a $118 million grant from the Obama administration, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy yesterday.

Ener1 received the grant in 2009 from the Energy Department, and Vice President Joe Biden visited the company’s new battery plant in Indiana last year. It is the third company, after Solyndra Inc. and Beacon Power, to file for bankruptcy after a grant, a loan, or a loan guarantee from the government as part of the stimulus package.

While Solyndra’s collapse, and the revelation that the administration hurried approval of its $528 million loan, have been a black eye on Obama’s attempts to push clean energy, an Energy Department spokesperson indicated that the department still had confidence in the company in spite of the bankruptcy filing. They said that company restructuring would not affect work at the Indiana plant, that they did not anticipate jobs being lost as a result of the bankruptcy, and that additional private investment in the company “demonstrates that the technology has merit.” Read 

VP Marco Rubio: Will He or Won’t He?

Jan 27, 2012, 9:43 am EST
VP Marco Rubio: Will He or Won’t He?

With the state of Florida currently in the spotlight as the GOP presidential primaries continue, perhaps it’s no surprise that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has been on center stage as well. But the additional attention being paid to Rubio might not all be smoke and mirrors.

Serious consideration has been given to Rubio, a Cuban-American and rising star in the Republican Party, for a vice presidential nod. Although Rubio has denied interest in the position, that hasn’t stopped pundits from putting his name forward as a potential candidate.

While Rubio has yet to endorse a GOP presidential candidate, he has still been making his presence felt in the Sunshine State. When Newt Gingrich ran an ad in Spanish claiming that Mitt Romney was the most anti-immigration candidate in the election, Rubio said the ad was “inaccurate” and “inflammatory.” The ad was pulled soon after, although Gingrich’s campaign claims this was merely part of ad rotation for the campaign. Read 

Global Financial Professionals Warm Up to Barack Obama

Jan 27, 2012, 8:53 am EST

Although President Barack Obama is having a hard time getting even half of Americans to approve of the job he is doing as president, the global financial community is feeling better about his policies as they relate to the investment climate in the U.S. According to the most recent Bloomberg Global Poll (a quarterly poll of Bloomberg’s customers worldwide — traders, analysts and bankers), 40% of respondents said they were “optimistic” about Obama’s policies. This is a stark improvement from the September poll (just 3 months ago), when only 24% felt optimistic.

Even more encouraging news for the president is the dramatically improved view of the U.S. economy among financial professionals. In September, only 10% of Bloomberg’s customers said that the U.S. economy was improving. This week’s data shows that 50% of respondents now believe the economy is improving. Even more striking: in September, 60% of respondents believed that the U.S. economy was deteriorating, compared to only 16% in January.

Although almost half of these financial insiders are not giving credit to the Obama administration for America’s recovery (49% say he does not deserve credit), the vast majority– 72% — expect that Obama will be re-elected. Read 

School Lunches Receive First Major Overhaul In 15 Years

Jan 26, 2012, 12:49 pm EST

New guidelines implemented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture will reduce sodium, increase the amount of whole grains, and provide a wider selection of fruits and vegetables for school lunches. The school lunch changes — seen as the biggest change in the standards in 15 years — were announced yesterday by First Lady Michelle Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and celebrity chef Rachael Ray at an elementary school in Alexandria, Va.

The announcement comes as a compromise over plans from last year to go even further in changing school lunches. The draft of the previous plan wanted to cut the number of servings of potatoes to two times a week and not allow tomato paste on pizza to be classified as a vegetable, changes that were strenuously protested by potato growers and producers of frozen pizzas for schools.

Even without those changes, the new rules will radically change school lunches. For the first time, meals will have a calorie cap based on age. Most trans fats would be banned, sodium would be decreased in meals over a 10-year period, plain milk would be required to be low-fat and flavored milk would have to be fat-free. Read 

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