Thursday, June 22, 2017

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Ay caramba Trump!

Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, in an interview on Sunday, elaborated on his agency’s plans to step up arrests and deportations of illegal immigrants.

He said that previously, it would have been highly unlikely for the Obama administration to deport anyone for lower-level offenses. Most deportations, under the previous administration have been due to high-profile crimes such as murder and rape.

During the interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd, Kelly suggested that the threshold for deportation will be much lower this time around.

“Can you give me an example of somebody that wasn’t deported before that you’re deporting now?” Todd asked.

Kelly responded, “Well, someone, as an example, with multiple DUIs — even a single DUI, depending on other aspects, would get you into the system.”

Before that question, the host asked Secretary Kelly if the definition of a “criminal” has changed under President Trump.

“It is fair to say the definition of ‘criminal’ has not changed,” Kelly replied. “But where on the spectrum of criminality we operate has changed.”

His comments come just a few days after US Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited the southwestern border and announced to the Border Patrol agents that the nation is now stepping into a “a new era” of immigration and customs enforcement.

“For those that continue to seek improper and illegal entry into this country, be forewarned: This is a new era,” Sessions said. “This is the Trump era. The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws and the catch-and-release practices of the past are over.”

Sessions also instructed federal attorneys, on Tuesday, to prosecute anyone who harbors illegal immigrants. He urged prosecutors to prioritize those who are involved in protecting or transporting three or more people living in the country illegally, and also those who protect violent offenders.

However, during the interview, the DHS chief made it quite clear that the shift in immigration law is not to create a harsh climate for immigrants but instead about upholding the law.

“You’ve got to remember, there’s a legal justice system in place,” Kelly said. “The law deports people. Secretary Kelly doesn’t. [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] doesn’t. It’s the United States criminal justice system — or the justice system — that deports people.”

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Hey boss, come look at this!

With workers who reportedly drink, watch porn, and smoke marijuana at work, the Environmental Protection Agency has been perforated with employee misconduct.

For EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who is now looking forward to layoff at least 25 percent of the 15,000 employees at the government agency, inspector general reports from the past few years detailing the employee misconduct could serve as ammunition.

According to the US government’s own calculations, when it was on the verge of a shutdown back in 2013, only 6.5 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s employees are “essential.”

The most infamous case regarding misconduct at the EPA was of an official who earned up to $120,000 excluding performance bonuses after being caught watching porn at work, for almost six hours a day.

EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation reportedly had a geologist who admitted to downloading over 7,000 porn files on an agency server. He even admitted to masturbating at work. However, in return, he received paid leave for nearly two years after being caught red-handed.

The inspector general reported to Congress last year that this was not the only such incident at the agency. Another employee was suspended days after confessing that he had “watched pornography regularly at work for the past several years.” The inspector elaborated that this employee’s punishment was that he could no longer telework or “attach any unauthorized external drive devices to a government computer.”

EPA has also been found to employ convicted child molesters. This includes an employee who was paid $55,000 by the EPA, to retire, because his employers could not fire him.

Several other EPA employees have been caught drinking and growing marijuana at work. In 2015, an employee was arrested for attempting to bring “three grams of marijuana and two marijuana pipes through the security checkpoint at an Internal Revenue Service facility in Denver, Colorado.” The inspector general further said that the employee only received a conviction of 20 hours of community service, a $2,500 fine and a 21-day suspension.

After discovering that another EPA employee had a “marijuana growing operation in her residence,” she was only placed on a seven-month administrative leave before retiring in 2014.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s mission is to curtail EPA’s workforce by 25 percent and cut its budget down to $5.7 billion.

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Crime

Spurring heated debates all over, California’s law enforcement policies, which have led to decreasing arrest rates and early prison releases, are being blamed for the sharp surge in crime rates.

In a recent report, Fox News stated that a large majority are now blaming the liberal law enforcement policies for the surge in crime. The program was designed to decrease the number of individuals imprisoned while ensuring the safety of the people; however, critics are pointing to the numbers to show that the program is ineffective at keeping people safe and quite effective at reducing the number of inmates.

“The most recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice show violent crime rates in some California cities has increased by over 50 percent,” said Michele Hanisee, president of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys.  “If you look at the national data, our violent crime rates are going up faster than the rest of the nation. So why?”

Police officials and prosecutors have an explanation though; a number of prison reform measures, which reduce the state prison population by 20,000 inmates, by making certain felonies misdemeanors and liberating non-violent offenders earlier than usual. Assembly Bill 109, which saved California around $100 million, saw the transfer of 60,000 felony parole violators a year from state prison to county control. However, some believe that it did cause a lot of trouble.

The number of arrests has also fallen drastically in California, but the cause is believed to be much murkier than the one for plummeting imprisonments.

The Los Angeles Times reported that arrests by the LAPD fell by 25% in two years from 2013 to 2015. Although the reason behind the trend is still unclear, similar decreases were observed throughout the state. What is considered to be the lowest arrests recorded in about 50 years, the California attorney general’s office reported that arrests fell to 1.1 million in 2015 from 1.5 million in 2006.

Some give credit to the latest police policies that focus on preventing crime rather than waiting for it to happen then arrest perpetrators. Meanwhile, others believe that officers’ morale is considerably low as a result of liberal law enforcement policies and the national debate on police tactics.

However, despite the promise to decrease the cycle of crime through liberal law enforcement policies, crime is on the rise in the state. A 2015 report from the Public Policy Institute of California indicates that property crime rose by 6.6% while violent crime was up by 6.6%. This surge in crime rates was noted for a large number of counties.

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Corruption Case

Defense attorneys say that the FBI’s use of a staff member to then-Rep Aaron Schock (R-Ill), as an informant could make the prosecution’s case against him much more complicated than previously thought.

In new court filings, lawyers argue that the staffer working at Aaron Schock’s office secretly provided investigators with a trove of credit card receipts, emails, and several other documents that violated the former congressman’s constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizures. The former congressman was indicted with 24 counts last year, and his trial is set to begin this summer.

Lawyers called the use of the informant, in the latest court filings, troubling, and said that it puts a question mark on provisions that mandate a separation between various government branches.

“It threatens the core architecture of our system of government. It’s not something that people should gloss over here,” said Steve Ross, the co-leader of the congressional investigations practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

Details about how investigation officials gathered information against Schock were made public for the first time after the court filing from Schock’s attorneys last week. In the filing, they asked for more information about how authorities engaged the informant who recorded private conversations and took documents from the lawmaker’s office in Peoria, Illinois.

The informant is reported to have taken several documents from the office, including travel receipts, office purchases invoices, and credit card statements of Schock’s personal American Express account. He also gave content from another staffer’s email account, to the FBI.

“Let’s address the overall feel of it, this kind of thing is very unusual — it’s very unusual to use someone on congressional staff to act in an undercover capacity at all, much less to have them pilfering documents,” Solomon L. Wisenberg, the co-chair of the white collar practice at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough.

The audio recordings from the informant, acquired by the defense attorneys through the court discovery process, reportedly contain conversations between Schock’s staff and the attorney representing them, in addition to attempts made to “deliberately elicit attorney-client privileged information.”

The informant, who worked in Schock’s district office, but is not named in the court documents, had been subpoenaed in the government investigation. According to the court filing, he was the first person to be interviewed by the investigators.

However, prosecutors have said that they don’t intend on using some information obtained from the information, in the trial.

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resigns

On Monday, April 10, 2017, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley resigned from office after pleading guilty to two counts of violation of campaign finance rules.

“I can no longer allow my family, my dear friends, my dedicated staff and cabinet to be subjected to consequences that my past actions have brought upon them,” he said at a press conference on Monday afternoon.

“Though I have committed myself to working to improve the lives of the people of our state, there have been times that I have let you and our people down, and I’m sorry for that.”

Bentley’s resignation comes in the wake of allegations that he abused his position and authority as the head of the state to cover up an affair with a former assistant, Rebekah Mason.

However, a plea deal was reached on Monday, requiring Bentley to resign, serve one year of probation, perform 100 hours of community service, lose more than $36,000 in his campaign accounts and repay almost $9000 that his campaign spent on Mason’s legal fees.

Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey (R) was sworn in as the Governor of Alabama a little later after Bentley’s resignation. Ivey, who is 72 years old, is only the second female governor Alabama has had, after Dem. Lurleen Wallace who served as the governor for 15 months between 1967 and 1968.

“Today is both a dark day in Alabama, but yet also, it’s one of opportunity,” Ivey said after her swearing-in ceremony.

“The Ivey administration will be open, it will be transparent and it will be honest,” she assured.

Alabama’s GOP members have been calling for Bentley’s resignation since the news of the scandalous phone call between him and his aide, caught on tape, broke. In the telephone conversation recorded on tape, Bentley can be heard admitting his love for Mason and goes on to describe putting his hands on her breasts.

“Baby, let me know what I am going to do when I start locking the door,” Bentley says to Mason during the conversation. “If we are going to do what we did the other day, we are going to have to start locking the door.”

Dianne Bentley, the governor’s ex-wife, filed for divorce in 2015, after 50 years of marriage. She had recorded the call in 2014 to see if her husband was having an extra-marital affair. Furthermore, the text messages Bentley exchanged with Mason on his state-issued iPhone appeared on the iPad that he had given to his wife, which was synced with his phone and was also a state-issued device.

While Bentley admitted to the telephone conversation with Mason, he denied allegations that he had been involved in a physical relationship. Mason had immediately resigned after the recording surfaced.

 

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Karma will eventually catch up with health insurance pigs.

According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation report, average premium for the silver plan of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) will rise by 19 percent if the government fails to fund the program’s cost-sharing subsidies.

The Affordable Care Act used cost-sharing subsidies as a means to curtail the cost of out-of-pocket expenses for low-income households by reimbursing insurance providers.

Ways and Means, and Energy and Commerce, the two House committees investigating the source of the funding for the subsidies, said they were unconstitutional. They found that the Obama administration had been funding the program without permanent adoption from the Congress. They also filed a lawsuit challenging the payments.

“With a legal appeal pending, the federal government and Congress are in a position to choose whether to continue reimbursing insurers for their cost,” Kaiser said.

The report states that if the government fails to fund the program through cost-sharing subsidies, premiums will rise significantly; from 9 percent in North Dakota to 27 percent in Mississippi.

“The analysis—based on cost-sharing subsidy payments and benchmark premiums in federal marketplace states in 2016, the most recent data available—finds that the estimated premium increase for silver plans would be higher (21%) in states that did not expand Medicaid under the ACA than in states that expanded Medicaid (15%),” the report notes.

“Cost-sharing subsidies are generally higher in states that have not expanded Medicaid because they have a larger share of enrollees with incomes from 100% to 150% of the poverty level, who get the biggest cost-sharing reductions.”

There are currently around 7.1 million Americans who receive these types of payments, accounting for almost 58 percent of the people who chose an Obamacare plan in 2017.

Additionally, it has been noted that these potential premium hikes would come after the Obama administration’s announcement in 2016 that premiums would increase by approximately 22 percent in 2017, after several insurers faced heavy losses.

President Donald Trump and several other Congressional Republicans have also repeatedly warned that Obamacare will ultimately collapse due to its own shortcomings, if it isn’t repealed soon enough.
With that said, health insurance providers continue to experience soaring profits. In February, one of the largest insurance providers, Aetna, doubled it’s quarterly cash dividends and announced a $3.3 billion share buyback. The company generated $2.3 billion in net income in 2016.

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missile attack

US forces launched a missile strike in Syria Thursday night, responding to a chemical attack earlier this week. Officials believe the use of chemical weapons on a rebel-controlled village in northern Syria was perpetrated by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The missile strike on airfields, which reportedly killed seven people, was ordered by President Trump, a day after he said that his view of President Assad had changed vastly because of the use of chemical weapons.

“Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched,” Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

“It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” the president said. “There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons.”

American warships launched at least 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles, targeting the Shayrat airfield, near the city of Homs, where the chemical attack is believed to have originated from, the Pentagon reported. Targeting aircrafts, petroleum and logistical storage, shelters, ammunition bunkers, radars and air defense systems at the airfield, the missiles were launched at 8:40 PM Washington time, which was early Friday morning in Syria, the Pentagon announced in a statement.

The missile strike marks a dramatic intensification of US involvement in Syria. Being the first direct American assault on Assad’s forces, it is the most significant military action of the new administration under Trump’s presidency.

The Pentagon further said that initial reports suggest that the missile strike “severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat Airfield, reducing the Syrian Government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons.”

Russia was quick to condemn the strike as an “act of aggression.” Russian officials claimed that the attacks could endanger anti-terrorist military cooperation with the US in Syria.

However, the Pentagon clarified; saying it had been in contact with Russia, allowing to protect its forces in Syria.

“Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike using the established deconfliction line,” Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said in a statement. “U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield.”

According to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russian President Vladimir Putin was not directly notified.

Syrian armed forces said on state television, that seven people were killed in the missile attack and nine others were wounded.

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Leaking

After serving as the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond for 13 years, Jeffrey Lacker resigned abruptly after confessing that he leaked confidential information to an analyst of a financial firm in 2013. Since his resignation, he has been questioned by several law enforcement agencies, including the FBI.

“I crossed the line to confirming information that should have remained confidential,” Lacker wrote in a statement he issued through his lawyer, on Tuesday. His lawyer confirmed that the investigation is now complete and no charges are expected to be filed against Lacker.

“It’s a tragedy, it’s sad,” says Richard Fisher, former head of the Dallas Fed bank who served alongside Lacker. “I never dreamed Jeff Lacker would have done what he says he has done.”

Jeffrey Lacker admitted to have leaked information in 2012, when the Fed was taking extraordinary steps to allow the US economy to recover after the financial crisis of 2008. The Fed’s every move was being monitored closely by investors around the globe, who were trying to profit by finding out the specifics of the Fed’s actions.

The Fed made a decision to buy more bonds in September 2012, in order to pump more money into the economy and try to boost growth. This policy is known as quantitative easing three, or QE 3 in short. At that time, Lacker was the only person who voted against QE 3.

Lacker admits that he spoke with an analyst at Medley Global Advisors, an economic advisory firm based in New York. He shared details with the analyst on October 2, two days before the details of the Fed’s September meeting were released to the public.

According to an investigation later conducted by ProPublica, Medley Global send a report its clients, primarily hedge funds, with intricate details about the types of bonds the Fed had decided to buy. The report by Medley was sent a day before the Fed released details to the general public.

“I deeply regret the role I may have played in confirming this confidential information and in its dissemination to Medley’s subscribers,” Lacker wrote in his statement.

The Federal Bank of Richmond is one of the 12 branches of America’s central bank. Vice president Mark Mullinix is now the acting head of the Richmond Fed.

The Federal Reserve also released a statement saying that is fully committed to maintaining the security of confidential information. It reassured that the officials at the central bank “cooperated fully with the independent law enforcement investigation into an unauthorized disclosure in 2012.”

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This little guy is there excuse.

Wildlife conservation groups are collaborating with a federal government agency to halt construction of the southern border wall by fudging science to claim that unimpeded trans-border corridors are essential to an “endangered species” with 99% of its population in Mexico. Under the plan, large areas of Arizona and New Mexico would be prohibited from erecting a border wall so that jaguars—which don’t even occupy the area—can roam back and forth between the two countries. More than ¾ million acres in Arizona and New Mexico would be designated as critical habitat for jaguars under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), which specifically states that critical habitat can only be designated for the United States.

Judicial Watch obtained records from Arizona’s Game and Fish Department, local governments and one of the biologists fighting the effort to designate the area a “critical habitat” for jaguars. It’s been a years-long battle that started in 2012 when the Obama administration relaxed ESA requirements to make designation of critical habitat easer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). This includes lowering scientific standards and essentially caving in to leftist groups. The result, according to biologist and attorney Dennis Parker, is more restrictions on private property, grazing, mineral exploration and development not to mention national security. Furthermore, no scientifically verifiable record of jaguar breeding exists in the area and only lone, transient male jaguars are occasionally and peripherally occurrent, Parker said. In a document addressed to USFWS, Arizona’s Game and Fish Department states that “habitat essential to the conservation of the jaguar does not exist in either Arizona or New Mexico under any scientifically credible definition of that term.”

One of the world’s leading big cat experts, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, confirms that less than one percent of the jaguar habitat in the world is in the United States and that there’s nothing about the lands in the southwest U.S. that make them critical to the continued survival of the jaguar as a species. The renowned wildlife ecologist heads a nonprofit devoted to the conservation of 38 wild cat species and their ecosystems. Jaguars are among them and two Arizona municipalities—the city of Sierra Vista and Cochise County—that will be heavily impacted by the proposed federal measure are citing Rabinowitz’s work to halt the problematic jaguar recovery plan. Rabinowitz refers to the federal plan as “little more than smoke and mirrors” that uses assumption and speculation as fact to justify “defining critical habitat in the Unites States for a species which simply does not live in the United States and has not resided there as a population for at least half a century.” Furthermore, Rabinowitz says the jaguar south of the border is doing quite well and has genetic connectivity through designated landscape corridors.

If USFWS makes its scientifically flawed jaguar recovery plan an official agency policy it will cost American taxpayers some $607 million in the next five decades, records show. In a recent document to USFWS a coalition of counties and cities in Arizona and New Mexico as well as the Pima Natural Conservation District, remind the federal agency about the faulty science behind the proposed jaguar recovery plan. The group refers to it as the “radical departure from sound science, policy, Endangered Species Act interpretation and the clear and present danger to national and citizen security.” In this case, the ESA is being used to further a political agenda, Parker insists, adding that the supposed need for unimpeded trans-border corridors is based on opinion and value-laden beliefs rather than scientific information as the ESA actually requires. “All this junk science will become enshrined as science for the jaguar,” Parker said, adding that if USFWS adapts the jaguar recovery play as a policy it will affect everything from interstate highway travel to border security.

USFWS already determined years ago that no jurisdiction in the United States contains the features essential for the conservation of jaguars that required special management considerations and protection from the agency. “Because there are no areas or features essential to the conservation of the jaguar in the United States that meet the definition of critical habitat, designation of critical habitat for the jaguar is not beneficial,” the agency stated in a 2006 Federal Register notice. Nothing has changed to make that assessment any less factual, biologists interviewed by Judicial Watch affirm. They assure that land essential to the species is located south of the International Border between the United States and Mexico.

Two of the groups colluding with the feds to enact the jaguar recovery plan are the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife. The Center for Biological Diversity denounces “large-scale construction of walls and other infrastructure that disrupt lives and divide the landscape” along the southern border. Defenders of Wildlife is currently pushing to introduce up to 250 jaguars to Arizona in response to the construction of a border wall. The group is the force behind the government’s jaguar recovery plan and asserts it’s critical to “maintain movement corridors” between the U.S. and Mexico. To make its case, Defenders of Wildlife claims that two male jaguars, dubbed Macho B and El Jefe, have recently wandered into the mountains of southern Arizona and New Mexico. “Natural reappearances like these lend new urgency for actions to re-establish a reproducing population of jaguars that includes contiguous habitat in both the United States and Mexico,” the group says.

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Maybe they think we already built the wall.

The head of the Department of Homeland Security reported that recorded illegal Mexican border crossings plummeted by almost 72 percent since December, to mark the lowest monthly figure in over 17 years, this March. The number of people caught crossing the border illegally fell to 12,000, last month.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said that the sharp decline in arrests is “no accident” and gave credit to Trump’s approach towards illegal immigration. He reported the figures in written testimony to a Senate committee ahead of an appearance on Wednesday.

The Washington Times also reported that former Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar, on Tuesday, told the Senate Homeland Security Committee that arrests declined 67 percent in March.

“This administration has said we’re going to address illegal immigration,” he told senators. “ICE has started working in the interior, unlike other times. So that message resonates.”

Several commentators credited President Donald Trump’s tough stance on immigration throughout the 2016 presidential campaign as the primary reason for the decline.

“Pat & Stu,” a radio show, discussed on Wednesday, that the decline in illegal border crossings could be temporary while Mexicans wait to see how US policies on immigration change under the new administration, before risking illegal entry. However, like many others, the hosts were quite pleased with the progress on curtailing the influx of illegal immigrants.

“The tough talk, I think, is a good short term thing here. And look, that’s better than what we’ve had; there’s no doubt about that. That goes back to not only the previous president but the one before that, and almost everybody else, really. I mean even if you go back to Reagan, this was his big problem issue for a lot of conservatives. So we’ll see what happens. We’ll see if the rhetoric matches up to the actions, which we have not seen yet,” Stu said.

While the Trump administration has not yet changed anything with regards to border patrolling, President Trump’s tough stance on immigration, including his plans to build a wall, and increased efforts to arrest illegal immigrants already living in the country are believed to have acted as deterrents.

However, it’s unclear if the decline in the number of illegal crossings will continue. The number of people caught trying to illegal cross the border into the US typically increases as the weather begins to warm, but arrests during the generally slower winter months were quite high than in previous years, so it is possible that many migrants rushed to the border before Trump took charge of the White House.

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