The Hightower Report

Corporate Creeps Bilk the Elderly; and Al Qaeda Banks on Bush


AL QAEDA BANKS ON BUSH

Poor George W. Except for his cohort, "Buckshot" Cheney, no one really likes his Iraq policy – not the generals, not the troops dying for it, not the people of Iraq, not his fellow Republicans, and certainly not the American public.

But wait – there is one group that is ecstatic about what he's doing there: al Qaeda! Yes, Osama bin Laden's network of terrorists. Remember him? He's responsible for the 9/11 attack on the U.S., and Bush himself promised in 2001 to "smoke him out." But then George, Buckshot, and Rummy decided to forget him and divert our military to Iraq, so bin Laden is still on the loose.

To get Congress and the public to accept their nonsensical detour, the Bushites claimed that al Qaeda had a presence in Iraq. That turns out to have been another of their little fibs, but guess what? Thanks to Bush's invasion and occupation of this Muslim nation, al Qaeda now has a great big presence there. Its members have been able to recruit thousands of mostly young men to go to Iraq and fight the Bushites' imperialist ambitions. In fact, Iraq has now become al Qaeda's top recruiting ground! Indeed, al Qaeda now exports war-tested veterans from Iraq to train anti-American forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Thanks, George!

Battling Bush has turned Iraq into a cash cow for al Qaeda's whole terrorist network, energizing donors from all across the Middle East. Add in ransoms from their kidnappings of wealthy Iraqis, and al Qaeda is generating so much money in Iraq that it can, not only keep fighting our troops there, but also export funds to other al Qaeda pockets. The CIA has learned that even Osama bin Laden's core command is being financed by payments coming from its Iraq franchise. As one American counterterrorism official concedes, "Iraq has been a moneymaker for them."

Ironic, huh?


CORPORATE CREEPS BILK THE ELDERLY

We've seen plenty of disgusting corporate behavior in our country – but surely there's an unfathomably hot part of hell being reserved for the participants in a recent telemarketing scheme to steal the life savings of old folks.

This is not a scam run by small-time hucksters, but by supposedly legitimate businesses, including database giant infoUSA and Wachovia, our country's fourth-largest bank. It's also a scam that's abetted by an outrageous national banking rule.

infoUSA is a list broker that sells dossiers on millions of old folks to telemarketing companies, charging 8.5 cents per name. According to the Federal Trade Commission, infoUSA advertises its lists under such enticing titles as "suffering seniors" (those with Alzheimer's or cancer) and "astroluck" (people who enter sweepstakes contests). One list assured buyers: "These people are gullible."

Among those buying the lists were criminal companies posing as Social Security or insurance workers. They called up old folks and talked them into revealing their bank account numbers. Then, under that outrageous banking rule I mentioned, they were able to create unsigned checks and drain the victims' accounts! The companies targeted the old and sick because such people are often confused or afraid to question bank statements.

The scam only works if the criminals can find a bank to keep cashing unsigned checks. The FTC says Wachovia is such a bank, having accepted $142 million worth of these unauthorized withdrawals, collecting millions of dollars in check-cashing fees.

Were Wachovia and infoUSA duped, too, taking money without realizing they were dealing with scam artists? Hardly. FTC investigators say executives of both corporations were warned numerous times that they were involved in ongoing crimes – yet they did nothing … except keep taking their share of the money.

Even hell might not accept these greed-headed creeps!

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

telemarketing, infoUSA, Wachovia, suffering senors, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Iraq, al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden

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