Friday, April 28, 2017
Featured posts

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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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Skipper! Turn the boat around!

A new report from Defense News states the a US aircraft carrier was actually sailing away from the Sea of Japan when the White House announced that it was headed for that location, last week,

In what the White House claimed to be a move to act as a deterrent to North Korea’s recent missile tests and provocations, the US Navy announced on April 09, that the Carl Vinson Strike Group will not make its regularly scheduled trip to Australia and instead, head towards the western Pacific Ocean.

However, The New York Times noted on Tuesday, that the Navy posted a picture dated April 15, showing the strike group in the Sunda Strait, an area thousands of miles away from North Korea off the coast of Indonesia.

At the time, comments from administration officials and spokesmen seemed to contradict each other over the exact reason the strike group was sent towards the Korean Peninsula. During a White House press briefing last week, Sean Spicer, when asked about the decision to send the strike force to North Korea, claimed the move to be a deterrent.

“A carrier group is several things. The forward deployment is deterrence, presence. It’s prudent. But it does a lot of things. It ensures our — we have the strategic capabilities, and it gives the president options in the region,” he said.

“But I think when you see a carrier group steaming into an area like that, the forward presence of that is clearly, through almost every instance, a huge deterrence. So I think it serves multiple capabilities.

Meanwhile, on another press briefing the same day, Defense Secretary James Mattis warned against assuming any “specific reason” for the move.

“There’s not a specific demand signal or specific reason we are sending her up there,” Mattis said of the Vinson.

“She’s stationed there in the western Pacific for a reason. She operates freely up and down the Pacific, and she’s just on her way up there because that’s where we thought it was most prudent to have her at this time.”

The Carl Vinson Strike group is now headed for the Korean Peninsula and will reach the area by the end of the month, the Defense Department told the Times.

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The Fox takedown.

Bill O’Reilly’s attorney released a statement yesterday, accusing “far-left” groups for running a smear campaign against the TV presenter. He further said that he will be revealing evidence of his claims soon.

“Bill O’Reilly has been subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America,” attorney Marc Kasowitz’s statement read.

The statement seems to refer to the allegations of sexual harassment against Bill O’Reilly, who’s been on a vacation from his show, this week. O’Reilly has been blitzed by protestors and several social media campaigns that have forced his show, “The O’Reilly Factor” to lose over a dozen advertisers already.

“This law firm has uncovered evidence that the smear campaign is being orchestrated by far-left organizations bent on destroying O’Reilly for political and financial reasons,” it concluded. “That evidence will be put forth shortly and it is irrefutable.”

However, the statement contained no evidence of the claim it made.

A number of sources have claimed that Fox News and O’Reilly are already discussing his potential exit from the major cable TV network.

The current campaign to get rid of O’Reilly started after an investigation by The New York Times found at least five women who claimed to have been victims of sexual harassment by O’Reilly. According to the New York Times, the amount paid out to these women, in exchange for their silence and an agreement to not pursue litigation, totaled to around $13 million.

In response to the allegations, O’Reilly admitted that he has on occasions “put to rest any controversies” in order to protect his family, in a statement on his website.

“Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity. In my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline.

But most importantly, I’m a father who cares deeply for my children and who would do anything to avoid hurting them in any way. And so I have put to rest any controversies to spare my children.

The worst part of my job is being a target for those who would harm me and my employer, the Fox News Channel. Those of us in the arena are constantly at risk, as are our families and children. My primary efforts will continue to be to put forth an honest TV program and to protect those close to me.”

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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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Sessions

Urging prosecutors to crack down on undocumented immigrants who are known criminals, on Tuesday, the Department of Justice instructed employees to step up “criminal immigration enforcement.”

In a speech to Customs and Border Protection, along the US-Mexico border, in Nogales, Arizona, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department will add 50 immigration judges this year, and 75 in the next year.

“We mean international criminal organizations that turn cities and suburbs into war zones, that rape and kill innocent civilians, and who profit by smuggling poison and other human beings across our borders. Depravity and violence are their calling cards, including brutal machete attacks, even beheadings,” Sessions said. “They threaten the very integrity of our nations and our hemisphere. It is here on this sliver of land, on this border, where we first take our stand. It is a direct threat to our legal system and to our peace and prosperity.”

Sessions had planned to say “where we first take our stand against this filth,” but slightly strayed from his prepared speech. His line quickly spread on social media. However, it is not uncommon for Sessions to go through his speeches as planned.

“In this fight, I am here to tell you, the brave men and women of the Customs and Border Protection: We hear you. We hear your concerns. We have your back. Under the president’s leadership and guided by his executive orders, we will secure this border and bring the full weight of both the immigration courts and the federal enforcement and prosecutor to combat this attack on our national security and our sovereignty,” he said.

During the speech, Sessions said that he has directed federal prosecutors to “consider for prosecution” any crimes including the harboring or transferring of undocumented immigrants. Among other offenses included in the directive for prosecution are assault on a law enforcement officer, aggravated identity theft, and document fraud.

Sessions announced that any undocumented immigrants who enter the US illegally, after being removed will be “referred for felony prosecution.”

Furthermore, the attorney general said that the department’s focus under this administration would be to secure the border, dismantle drug cartels and prosecute criminal undocumented workers.

“We will deploy a multifaceted approach.  We are going to interdict your drugs on the way into this country, your money on the way out, and investigate and prosecute your trafficking networks to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.

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Lois Lerner
Will they find anything this time?

Rep. Kevin Brady and Rep. Peter Roskam asked the Justice Department recently to take a look at new evidence against former senior executive of IRS Lois G. Lerner to determine whether charges should be filed against her for targeting Tea Party groups and misplacing key evidence in the case.

An investigation by the Obama administration cleared Ms. Lerner, but the two top Republicans say there are several questions on how that probe was run, and that a fresh look at the case by the Trump administration’s Justice Department is clearly needed.

“Taxpayers deserve to know that the DOJ’s previous evaluation was not tainted by politics,” the congressmen wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

However, Ms. Lerner’s lawyer, William Taylor, claimed she was adequately cleared of all charges in the previous investigation.

“Ms. Lerner did not violate any laws. There is no evidence that she did and no new investigation will change that reality,” he wrote in an email to The Washington Times on Wednesday.

The IRS’ targeting scheme came under the spotlight almost four years ago, when Ms. Lerner, looking to escape bad news from an investigation by the inspector general, planted a question at a conference, revealing that the agency had indeed, been scrutinizing conservative groups.

The IRS leadership had repeatedly refuted any claims of such targeting in responses to Congress’ questioning.

While her exact role remains unclear, Ms. Lerner was a key figure in the probe.

Republicans claim that she helped plan the targeting. They even released emails showing hostility towards the GOP and other conservative groups. However, the Obama administration, in addition to clearing her of any wrongdoings, said she was in reality, trying to help fix things from the inside, and was actually the first official to realize what the agency was doing was not right.

 

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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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nuclear war

Democratic Rep. David Cicilline has claimed President Donald Trump is risking nuclear war with North Korea, authorizing a missile strike on a Syrian airbase and using the MOAB (mother of all bombs) in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, to bump up his own popularity.

Rep. Cicilline, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, believes that any preemptive strike against North Korea could lead to a war, and even more, a nuclear war.

“A preemptive strike, if it were to happen, is likely to ignite a very serious conflict, a war, and maybe even a nuclear war,” Cicilline said to MSNBC’s Ali Velshi. “It would expose American troops on the [Korean] peninsula to tremendous danger … The appropriate course is to really to reduce the rhetoric and try to de-escalate this and continue to use all the levers of diplomatic-economic power to try to achieve the right results here. And obviously, a preemptive strike has tremendously serious consequences that may well ignite a very significant war … This is very serious. I think what we have to be sure is that the president understands the implications of this kind of military action.”

Cicilline told Velshi that he “fears” Trump wouldn’t mind risking a nuclear war just to improve his popularity.

“What I fear is, [Trump] sort of got a political bump, he got a political bump from the Syria airstrike [and] the mother of all bombs strike in Afghanistan,” Cicilline said. “And we don’t want the president to be making decisions where he just sort of thinks more bombs are the way to build up his popularity, but rather they’re making decisions based on the national security interests of the United States and the long-term safety and security of the American people.”

Ever since Trump became the president, Cicilline has been one of the harshest critics of his administration and its decisions.

Earlier this year, in February, Cicilline said that the Trump presidency is similar to the Netflix science fiction TV show, “Stranger Things.”

“Like the main characters in ‘Stranger Things,’ we are now stuck in the Upside Down,” Cicilline said. “Right is wrong, up is down, black is white.”

The Upside Down is portrayed as a petrifying mirror-image of the real world, in the show, where monsters are shown to roam free and kill innocent people.

Elaborating on his reference to the TV show, Cicilline said, “This is not a TV show. This is real life. We have a president unlike any we have ever known. And like Mike, Dustin, Lucas and Eleven, we must remain focused on the task at hand and hold this administration accountable so we can escape from our own version of the Upside Down.”

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Democratic Party

The left camp’s anti-Trump front has split over Trump’s airstrikes on Syria, clearly dividing establishment Democrats into antiwar progressives shocked over the possibility of greater involvement in the Middle East and those who applauded the military action.

Dem Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who contended for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, broke out with the party’s leadership by vocally opposing President Donald Trump’s military action in Syria.

“What can we say about somebody who gases men, women and children in his own country? It is disgusting beyond words,” Mr. Sanders said, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“But what we have got to do is be smart and figure out what is the rational solution. Is putting 50 missiles into Syria going to solve that problem?” he said. “At the end of the day, in my view, we’ve got to learn about the failure of our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, not repeat them.”

His message differed from that of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who said the military action was “a proportional response to the regime’s use of chemical weapons,” and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, who praised Trump’s decision as “the right thing to do.”

Rep. Henry Cuellar, Texas Democrat, remarked regarding last week’s missile strike, “no authorization was needed at all. But if he escalates, then it might be something he needs to talk to Congress [about].”

“What he [Mr. Trump] did was appropriate,” Mr. Cuellar said. “Like all Americans, I was horrified by what he [Mr. Assad] did to his own people.”

However, at the other end, Massachusetts Democrat Sen. Edward J. Markey warned that the military action could end up in “a quagmire for the United States for a generation that we would regret.”

He said they needed a “comprehensive debate on the floor of the United States House and Senate.” He added that he would still be a strong opponent of military action even under those conditions.

“I would not vote to allow him to do it. But the least the American people would be entitled to is that full debate,” Mr. Markey said.

Left-wing protestors staged demonstrations against the military action at several protests in major US cities over the weekend. However, that wasn’t quite supported by Mr. Cuellar. “Whether it was President Obama or President Trump, we want to be supportive of our commander in chief,” he said.

 

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lawsuit

First Lady Melania Trump triumphed in her lawsuit against the Daily Mail for writing a scandalous story she says was completely false. Trump will be paid about $2.9 in damages by the news outlet. The settlement was announced in a joint statement from rump’s lawyers and the Daily Mail.

The story, albeit false, was published back in August 2016, and claimed that the former model had also previously worked as an escort. The Daily Mail later retracted the story and issued an apology when Melania filed a lawsuit in September, claiming damages worth $150 million. The lawsuit was later moved from Maryland to New York.

“We accept that these allegations about Mrs. Trump are not true and we retract and withdraw them. We apologize to Mrs. Trump for any distress that our publication caused her,” a statement from the Daily Mail said.

Melania Trump also filed a lawsuit against the Daily Mail in the UK. The settlement disclosed on Wednesday, settles all her claims against the publication regarding the false story.

While the Daily Mail is a tabloid newspaper in Britain, it also has a significant readership in the US with its digital publication.

The first lady also tweeted statements of apologies from other publications and news outlets that had published the story in August, after she filed the lawsuit.

“Yesterday, Aug. 21, 2016, we published a story sourced from multiple outlets about Melania Trump’s past employment,” the Bipartisan Report’s statement said.  “After publishing, it was brought to our attention that many of the statements made by sources were not fully confirmed by audio or video tape and are therefore hearsay. Aside from the facts not being 100 percent accurate, we deeply regret reporting on a story of such a ‘low brow’ nature.”

The Inquisitr also penned an apology to Mrs. Trump, “While Inquisitr writers did not generate said rumors, which alleged Melania Trump previously earned money as an escort, the writer in question was not diligent in fact-checking or maintaining a healthy distance between innuendo and fact.”

Melania Trump has often been a target of slurs and accusations from the left. The rapper Bow Wow, in March, made a shockingly offensive threat to the first lady.

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