12-06-2019  12:24 am   •   PDX Weather    •   SEA weather  
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NORTHWEST NEWS

Black Food Professionals See Opportunities to “Scale Up” in School Cafeterias and on Store Shelves

Two Portland women are addressing disparities in the local food scene with Ethiopian and Haitian flavors, ingredients

Portland Fire Chief Sara Boone Climbing Historic Ladders

In 1995, Boone was the first African American woman hired by Portland Fire & Rescue; this year she became its first African American Chief

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November Holiday Travel at PDX Brings More Comfort, Convenience and Furry Friends

If you’ve not been to Portland International Airport in a few months, you’re in for some surprises.

NEWS BRIEFS

Conservation Breakthrough for Endangered Butterfly

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Artist Talk with 13-year-old Local to be Held This Tuesday, Nov. 26

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Man who 'freaked out’ on plane, forced landing pleads guilty

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Owners of Thai restaurant chain get prison for tax fraud

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Missouri fires football coach Barry Odom after 4 seasons

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri fired football coach Barry Odom on Saturday, ending the four-year stay of a respected former player who took over a program in disarray but could never get the Tigers over the hump in the brutal SEC.The Tigers finished 6-6 and 3-5 in the conference after...

Powell, Missouri snap 5-game skid with win over Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — In a game started by third- and fifth-string quarterbacks, the outcome was decided by one of their backups. It was appropriate enough for Arkansas and Missouri, two teams facing their longest losing streaks in decades.Fayetteville High School graduate Taylor Powell...

OPINION

Will You Answer the Call for Moral Revival?

In embracing and expanding the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Revs. Barber and Theoharis have asked Presidential candidates to consider a debate that focuses exclusively on poverty ...

What I’m Thankful For This Season

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Congressional Black Caucus Members Visit U.S.-Mexico Border: “Mistreatment of Black Immigrants is Another ‘Stain on America’”

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Portland, I'm Ready

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AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Kansas judge accused of bigotry, profanities in courthouse

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A foul-mouthed Kansas judge accused of bigotry and racism who cursed at courthouse employees so often that a trial clerk kept a “swear journal” documenting his obscene outbursts is facing complaints that his conduct violates the central judicial canons of...

Buttigieg backs black leaders after Indiana event disrupted

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Panel calls for Virginia to purge dozens of old racist laws

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ENTERTAINMENT

Timberlake apologizes to wife for ‘strong lapse in judgment’

NEW YORK (AP) — Justin Timberlake has publicly apologized to his actress-wife Jessica Biel days after he was seen holding hands with the co-star of his upcoming movie.The pop star and actor wrote Wednesday on Instagram that he prefers to “stay away from gossip as much as I can, but...

Veteran producer of 'WarGames,' 'Blue Bloods," dies at 85

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'Once Upon a Time,' 'Portrait' top AP's 2019 best films list

Associated Press Film Writers Lindsey Bahr and Jake Coyle name their choices for the best films of 2019.LINDSEY BAHR1. “Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood": Quentin Tarantino’s movie business fairy tale, featuring all-time performances from two of our great living movie stars, and the...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

Mitchell Trubisky helps Bears beat Cowboys 31-24

CHICAGO (AP) — Mitchell Trubisky and the Chicago Bears appear to be hitting their stride, even if it might...

R. Kelly charged with paying bribe before marrying Aaliyah

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Chase with stolen UPS truck ends with shootout, 4 dead

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Paris police arrest scores amid strike over pension reform

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Greta Thunberg reaches Madrid for climate activists' march

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Young and old march in unity, fear at French pension change

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McMenamins
Richard Lardner the Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. has lost billions of dollars to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan and stands to repeat that in future wars without big changes in how the government awards and manages contracts for battlefield support and reconstruction projects, independent investigators said Wednesday.

The Wartime Contracting Commission urged Congress and the Obama administration to quickly put in place its recommendations to overhaul the contracting process and increase accountability. The commission even suggested that the joint House-Senate debt reduction committee take a close look at the proposals.

"What you're asking for is more of the same," said Dov Zakheim, a commission member and the Pentagon comptroller during President George W. Bush's first term. "More waste. More fraud. More abuse."

The bipartisan commission, created by Congress in 2008, estimated that at least $31 billion and as much as $60 billion has been lost in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade due to lax oversight of contractors, poor planning, inadequate competition and corruption. "I personally believe that the number is much, much closer to $60 billion," Zakheim said.

Yet new legislation incorporating the changes could prove difficult with Republicans and Democrats divided over the best way to reduce the deficit.

Several of the proposals would require new spending, the commission acknowledged, and that would be a hard sell in an election year when reducing the size of government is a priority for many. Other proposals would cost little or simply require money to be shifted from one account to another, the panel said.

"If these recommendations are not implemented, there ought to be a Hall of Shame," said Michael Thibault, co-chairman of the commission. "There's an opportunity at hand."

The commission's 15 recommendations include creating an inspector general to monitor war zone contracting and operations, appointing a senior government official to improve planning and coordination among federal agencies, reducing the use of private security companies, and carefully monitoring contractor performance.

Massachusetts Rep. John Tierney, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform national security subcommittee, said Wednesday that the commission's findings are "alarming." Tierney said he plans to introduce legislation next week to create the inspector general's post.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., chairwoman of the Senate's contracting oversight subcommittee, said she plans to prepare legislation based upon the commission's recommendations.

The commission's report said contracting waste in Afghanistan and Iraq could grow as U.S. support for reconstruction projects and programs wanes. That would leave the countries to bear the long-term costs of sustaining the schools, medical clinics, barracks, roads and power plants already built with American money.

Overall, the commission said spending on contracts and grants to support U.S. operations is expected to exceed $206 billion by the end of the 2011 budget year. Based on its investigation, the commission said contracting waste in Afghanistan ranged from 10 percent to 20 percent of the $206 billion total. Fraud during the same period ran between 5 percent and 9 percent of the total, the report said. Fraud includes bribery, kickbacks, bid rigging and defective products, according to the commission.

"It is disgusting to think that nearly a third of the billions and billions we spent on contracting was wasted or used for fraud," McCaskill said.

Styled after the Truman Committee, which examined World War II spending six decades ago, the commission had broad authority to examine military support contracts, reconstruction projects and private security companies. But the law creating the commission set this September as the end of its work, even as contractors continue their heavy support of U.S. operations in the war zones.

Security, transportation, food preparation and delivery, and much more are now handled by the private sector. At the same time, the officials responsible for monitoring contractor performance have been overwhelmed by increasing reliance on private companies.

"We are far more reliant on contractors than we ever were," said commission member Charles Tiefer, a professor of government contracting at the University of Baltimore Law School. "We always bought munitions from them. But we didn't used to buy much in the way of services from them."

The commission cited numerous examples of waste, including a $360 million U.S.-financed agricultural development program in Afghanistan. The effort began as a $60 million project in 2009 to distribute vouchers for wheat seed and fertilizer in drought-stricken areas of northern Afghanistan. The program expanded into the south and east. Soon the U.S. was spending a $1 million a day on the program, creating an environment ripe for waste and abuse, the commission said.

"Paying villagers for what they used to do voluntarily destroyed local initiatives and diverted project goods into Pakistan for resale," the commission said.

The Afghan insurgency's second largest funding source after the illegal drug trade is the diversion of money from U.S.-backed construction projects and transportation contracts, according to the commission. But the report does not say how much money has been funneled to the insurgency. The money typically is lost when insurgents and warlords threaten Afghan subcontractors with violence unless they pay for protection, according to the report.

The Associated Press reported this month that U.S. military authorities in Kabul believe $360 million has ended up in the hands of the Taliban, criminals and power brokers with ties to both.

The military said only a small percentage of the $360 million has been garnered by the Taliban and insurgent groups. Most of the money was lost to profiteering, bribery and extortion by criminals and power brokers.

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Online:

Commission on Wartime Contracting: http://www.wartimecontracting.gov/

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