Did Food Giants Get Fat On Iraq Contracts?

U.S. soldiers enjoy Christmas dinner at their camp in Baghdad International Airport, Iraq
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Somebody appeared to be getting fat from the contracts between America's prominent food companies and the U.S. military in Iraq, according to today's Wall Street Journal, and it wasn't the troops.

Investigators from the Justice and Defense departments are looking into deals that Perdue Farms Inc., Sara Lee Corp., ConAgra Foods and other U.S. companies made to supply the military, according to people involved with the inquiry who spoke with the paper.

And lest anyone think the revolving door lobbying culture is constrained to Congress and K Street, here's the trickiest part: The companies made the deals with the help of former U.S. military procurement officials they hired as consultants or executives.

The inquiry is focused on whether the food companies overcharged the Amry's primary food contractor in the war zone, a Kuwaiti firm called Public Warehousing Co. The probe is also asking whether Public Warehousing had its hand in the cookie jar as well by pocketing refunds it got from the suppliers.

The Journal got a peek at the hundreds of pages of court documents, emails, spreadsheets and military files involved in the probe, and offered up this morsel as an example: Records show that Sara Lee paid 5 percent of the purchase prices back to Public Warehousing for meat and bakery orders to feed the troops. The agreement was negotiated by a Sara Lee executive who formerly served as a chief warrant officer in the Army.

Public Warehousing, which receives over $1 billion a year from the U.S. government to feed troops in Iraq and Kuwait, denies wrongdoing. The company attributes its high food prices to the cost of doing business in a war zone.

Public Radio Station Causes Furor By Rejecting Planned Parenthood Gift

It's that time of year again, when the air turns crisp, the leaves turn colorful, and the public radio airwaves turn themselves over to begging for money.

Normally, as the saying goes, beggars can't be choosers, but the New York Times reports that this year one station in Pittsburgh gave choosing a try, with some disastrous PR results.

In the middle of its fall fund drive, WDUQ 90.5 FM stopped running underwriting messages from Planned Parenthood and returned its $5,000 donation after the station's license holder, Duquesne University, decided the organization was "not aligned with our Catholic identity," the paper reports.

The decision has sparked a heated public debate - which, the paper notes, Planned Parenthood has encouraged - over whether the station's news content is independent and, ultimately, whether the station should separate itself from Duquesne, which founded it 58 years ago.

The spots were written with the help of the station's staff and didn't mention the abortion services that Planned Parenthood provides. One said: "Support for DUQ comes from Planned Parenthood, providing comprehensive sexuality eduction, including lessons on abstinence. Planned Parenthood: The mission is prevention."

However, after they went on the air, the president of the Catholic university got two calls of concert about the spots, one from a member of his cabinet and another from a university supporter. The spots were pulled, and now Planned Parenthood is launching advocacy attack.

"Our concern is that we didn't realize to be an underwriter that you have to agree with Catholic doctrine," said Kimberlee Evert, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania. "And it raises another question of whether this should be where NPR is housed."

Global Warming Shakes Up Field Of Republican Candidates

Al Gore may not be getting as much bounce from his inconveniently truthful Nobel Prize as some Democrats hoped, but the New York Times reports that global warming is beginning to shake up the field of Republican presidential contenders in surprising ways.

Possibly the most surprising turn of events is that all the major GOP candidates admit global warming is real and requires action - a radical shift from a decade ago, when the Senate voted 95 to 0, to oppose any international climate treaty that could hurt the American economy or excused China from responsibility.

Among the major GOP contenders, John McCain has the strongest track record on tackling climate change. Ever since holding a Senate hearing on the issue in 2001, he's been a convert to the notion that carbon emissions were warming the planet, and supports cap-and-trade policy to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gasses.

A handy chart shows how this stance measures up against other candidates like Giuliani, who says global warming's a threat but focuses more on energy independence as a national security issue, or Mitt Romney, who still questions the human effects on climate change.

But the most memorable part of the article is the box of the chart under Fred Thompson. The occasional actor poked fun at global warming on the Paul Harvey Show in April, saying, "Some people think that our planet is suffering from a fever. Now scientists are telling us that Mars is experiencing its own planetary warming ... Maybe Mars got its fever from earth. If so I guess Jupiter's got the same cold."

Although the Times says he's recently changed his tune to admit "climate change is real," the box underneath his "plan" to tackle the challenge said, in telling contrast to the other candidates, "He does not have a stated position."

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