Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted Monday on a raft of corruption charges, ensuring a trip back to prison for the notoriously scandal-ridden politician. Jurors convicted Kilpatrick on charges including racketeering and conspiracy, following a five-month trial that detailed how he accepted bribes, rigged contracts, and ran a “private profit machine” while in office until fall 2008. Among the most damning allegations: he used a nonprofit fund that was supposed to benefit Detroit’s most in-need residents to pay for his own yoga lessons, golf clubs, and camp for his children.
From the Detroit Free Press:
Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his friend Bobby Ferguson removed their suit coats. Then their ties and jewelry came off in U.S. District Court this afternoon. Kilpatrick handed his driver’s license to his mother. The men, who were now handcuffed, were led out of the courtroom shortly after U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds ordered them into federal custody pending sentencing on racketeering and bribery and extortion convictions handed down earlier today in the public corruption case.
"Stay strong," Kilpatrick tells sobbing family members as he's handcuffed, led away.
Wasting no time at all, here's Walmart's statement issued in response to Monday evening's New York Times article about allegations of corruption in Mexico: The above video statement can be attributed to David Tovar, Vice President, Walmart Corporate Communications.
If Mr. Tovar looks a little...well, frazzled, it's probably because Wal-Mart ended their internal investigation in Mexico back in 2006. Why? Well, because they found out "things" according to the NYT report, and they never bothered to notify Mexican authorities, or anyone else for that matter. The NYT picked up where Wal-Mart left off in 2006.
Wal-Mart longed to build in Elda Pineda’s alfalfa field. It was an ideal location, just off this town’s bustling main entrance and barely a mile from its ancient pyramids, which draw tourists from around the world. With its usual precision, Wal-Mart calculated it would attract 250 customers an hour if only it could put a store in Mrs. Pineda’s field.
One major obstacle stood in Wal-Mart’s way.
After years of study, the town’s elected leaders had just approved a new zoning map. The leaders wanted to limit growth near the pyramids, and they considered the town’s main entrance too congested already. As a result, the 2003 zoning map prohibited commercial development on Mrs. Pineda’s field, seemingly dooming Wal-Mart’s hopes.
But 30 miles away in Mexico City, at the headquarters of Wal-Mart de Mexico, executives were not about to be thwarted by an unfavorable zoning decision. Instead, records and interviews show, they decided to undo the damage with one well-placed $52,000 bribe.
The plan was simple. The zoning map would not become law until it was published in a government newspaper. So Wal-Mart de Mexico arranged to bribe an official to change the map before it was sent to the newspaper, records and interviews show. Sure enough, when the map was published, the zoning for Mrs. Pineda’s field was redrawn to allow Wal-Mart’s store.
But it doesn't end there. Documents obtained by the NYT identified 19 store sites across Mexico were targeted with bribes; bribe payments with dates that coincide with critical permits being issued. The locations and conditions themselves are an abomination.
"Thanks to eight bribe payments totaling $341,000, for example, Wal-Mart built a Sam’s Club in one of Mexico City’s most densely populated neighborhoods, near the Basílica de Guadalupe, without a construction license, or an environmental permit, or an urban impact assessment, or even a traffic permit."
"A vast refrigerated distribution center in an environmentally fragile flood basin north of Mexico City, in an area where electricity was so scarce that many smaller developers were turned away."
Here in the U.S., Wal-Mart leaves a legacy of employees who are forced to live below the poverty level, and depend on Food Stamps and government healthcare programs, along with the eyesore big box stores cluttering up cities and countryside alike.
In Mexico, the legacy impacts the nation's very history and environment, even the safety of its' citizens, just as other countries suffer the deadly sweatshops.
And yes,the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the federal law that makes it a crime for American corporations or their subsidiaries to bribe foreign officials. Mexican authorities and Congressional Democrats have also begun investigations.
The following video features the pyramids in Mexico. A sight to behold, now with a nearby Wal-Mart store. The pyramids of Teotihuacan were the crowning achievement of the Toltecs. Even now, they still attract worshipers on special days. On the eve of the equinox, over a million people make the pilgrimage to Teotihuacan. They come from all over to celebrate the arrival of Spring, honour their ancestors and enjoy the big party. "It's a beautiful moment, taking the energy from the beginning of Spring," enthuses one pilgrim.
Community activist Sheila Tyson of Birmingham says that those hit hardest - the poor - by a county sewer rate hike in Jefferson County are near a breaking point."These people are going to end up rioting about this," she says. "If they let this stuff happen they are going to get the biggest riot the South has ever seen. Over this sewer business. I can see it coming."
In one of the poorest districts of Jefferson County's largest city, Birmingham, a father of four who asked to remain anonymous, is now one of many in the area whose home has a portable toilet next to it.Residents are saving money by purchasing drums of water from nearby gas stations, and then paying a sanitation company $14 a month for waste removal.
"Most people who live here are on social security," he said.
"They can't spend this kind of money on sewerage. It's just outrageous. It's too high.
"I pay my sewerage bill, then I'm going to slack on my groceries. Then what am I going to eat?"
Sewerage rates and water rates, which are levied on drinkable water, vary widely across the United States.
But they are generally rising faster than inflation as cities are forced by federal government to replace worn-out sewerage facilities.
The two rates have been combined into a single bill in Jefferson County, which has increased by 329% over the past 15 years, making it among the highest in America, as the county has struggled to service the mountain of debt it took on to pay for a new sewer system.
The sewage system was supposed to cost $300 million. However, since the project began in 1996, costs have risen to $3.1 billion after various problems and a series of bond and derivatives deals fell through in 2008.
And don't be stunned, but corrupt Wall Street bankers and politicians were involved. JP Morgan Securities along with two of its former directors have been fined (Not arrested, just fined.) for attempting to bribe county employees and politicians in an effort to win business financing for the sewer project.
JP Morgan Securities and two of its former directors have been fined for trying to bribe to Jefferson County employees and politicians in a bid to win business financing for the sewer project. Six former Jefferson County commissioners have been found guilty of accepting bribes, along with 15 other state officials.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Thomas B. Bennett has decided to withhold his decision until after Christmas, although he said "he was inclined to allow the case to go forward to allow a faster route for appeals, which are certain to come no matter which way he decides."
While this is held up in court appeals by greedy bankers, people in Alabama are using bottled water for bathing and cooking, and using outdoor portable toilets rather than the too-expensive-to-flush models inside their own homes.