Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Randy Cunningham out of prison

Duke Cunningham released to halfway house

Dec. 12, 2012
Greg Moran

SAN DIEGO — Former Republican Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who has been in federal prison since admitting to taking bribes, has been transferred to a halfway house in New Orleans for the final few months of his prison term.

Cunningham, 71, was transferred from the federal prison in Tucson, Ariz., on Dec. 5, according to Edmond Ross, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Cunningham, who was from Rancho Santa Fe, was sentenced in 2006 to eight years and four months in prison, and has spent the majority of his term at the Tucson prison.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion in 2005. He admitted taking more than $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors, in return for using his congressional power to steer federal contracts to their companies.

Cunningham is scheduled to be released entirely from federal custody in June. His transfer to a halfway house is common for federal inmates who are close to their release date, Ross said.

“It’s meant to serve as a bridge between the individual being in prison and transitioning back into the community,” he said.

Halfway houses generally have much greater liberty for inmates than prisons. No walls or fences confine inmates, and they are able to go out into the community during the day, with permission of the staff, to seek work, go to counseling or other approved activities.

Ross said inmates are generally not accompanied when they go out into the community but are monitored by staff required to be accountable for all of the time they spend away from the facility.

There are curfews, rules and work requirements while staying at the halfway house. Cunningham could stay there up until his release date in June, or perhaps be released earlier and put on home detention.

In a letter in May to U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns, who sentenced the former congressman, Cunningham said he planned to live in a remote cabin in Arkansas when he is free. He asked the judge from San Diego to restore his rights to carry a gun so he cold hunt, but Burns said he could not do that.

His plan to live in Arkansas near his mother and brother could explain why he was assigned to a halfway home in New Orleans, Ross said. Typically the bureau tries to place inmates close to where they will live after their release.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index for 2012

I agree with Cristoph Wilcke that the perceived increase in corruption after the "Arab Spring" might be caused by people simply having higher standards and being more willing to judge public servants.

Newly Released Index Finds Perceived Corruption Increased After 'Arab Spring'
December 05, 2012

As demonstrations continue to rage in Cairo, nearing almost two years after the revolution's onset, perceived corruption in Egypt and neighboring countries has worsened, according to a newly-released index.

Transparency International's (TI) 2012 Corruption Perceptions index ranks countries from 0 to 100 based on perceived levels of public sector corruption — 100 meaning no perceived corruption. Egypt dropped six places and now ranks 118th out of 176 countries.

Following Mubarak's downfall and Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, hopes were high. But now, after Morsi's power grab yielding him near absolute power and a controversial draft constitution in the works, anger has once again consumed Cairo's streets.

"We know that frustration about corruption brought people out onto the streets in the Arab world," TI's Middle East and North Africa director, Cristoph Wilcke, told Reuters. A democratic transition has not easily come to Egypt. Morsi is now facing allegations similar to those that toppled Mubarak's regime, and protesters are now demanding Morsi be held accountable and step down.

"As far as we can tell, very little has happened on the ground ... as far as putting in place systems that we know work to prevent corruption," Wilcke said.

Syria, currently engulfed by bloodshed, fell 15 places in the index to 144th. Tunisia fell two places, now ranking 75th, and Morocco fell eight slots to 88th out of 176 countries. While the numbers across the board look bleak for the region, Libya climbed eight places to 160th, following the Libyan civil war that ended last October, a hopeful sign for the rest of the region.

In comparison, the United States ranks 19 on the list, just below the United Kingdom. Israel takes 39th, and Cuba ranks 58, following Jordan, which has recently seen an uptick in protests. Greece, where protests over unemployment and corruption have been exploding since 2010, ranks at 94, the same as Colombia and India. Somalia is perceived as the most corrupt country in the world.

Around 78 percent of the Middle East and North Africa is perceived as corrupt – though it's not the lowest on the corruption totem pole, compared to 95 percent of Eastern Europe and Central Asia seen as corrupt, and 90 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa. (See here for a series of interactive infographics).

While the effects of the Arab Spring have yet to fully surface, and the transition to true democracy is far from over, Wilcke stressed that a worsening in Middle Eastern countries' rankings may merely be a result of people acknowledging and addressing the issue of corruption, not necessarily because corruption is increasing. "It's not possible to change things over night," he said...