Portal

  • 86 Firearm Deaths a Day in U.S.; 60% are Suicides

    Saturday, December 20, 2014
    “Suicide is far more common than homicide and its rate is increasing,” Garen Wintemute of U.C. Davis wrote in his new study. “The homicide rate is decreasing.” He also noted that firearm violence is a “large and costly public health problem in the United States for which the mortality rate has remained unchanged for more than a decade.” Even when the homicide rate was far higher than now, it was outpaced by the suicide rate, according to the study.   read more
  • The 3 Ambassador Nominees who have Waited the Longest for Confirmation are all Black

    Saturday, December 20, 2014
    All three are also considered political, rather than career Foreign Service, appointments. John Estrada, President Barack Obama’s choice for Trinidad and Tobago, has waited the longest of anyone: 504 days. He is a former Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, the highest-ranking enlisted Marine, and a native Trinidadian. After leaving the service, he worked at Lockheed Martin as a senior manager.   read more
  • Satanic Temple Invokes Supreme Court Ruling to Force Display at Florida Capitol Building

    Saturday, December 20, 2014
    When the Satanists wanted to put up an angel being consumed by flames, the state Department of Management Services rejected the display, saying it was too offensive. The unholy rollers claim Florida is denying them their constitutional rights under the First Amendment, citing the 1994 Supreme Court decision in Rosenberger v. University of Virginia, the upshot of which was the government cannot selectively choose from among religious-based efforts.   read more
  • El Salvador’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Francisco Altschul?

    Saturday, December 20, 2014
    In March 2009, for the first time, an FMLN candidate, Mauricio Funes, was elected president of El Salvador. Four months later, Altschul was appointed chargé d’affaires at the embassy of El Salvador in Washington, D.C., and eight months after that, he moved up to ambassador. He served until 2013, when he was replaced by Ruben Zamora. In August 2014, Zamora was moved to the United Nations in New York and Altschul was brought back as ambassador in Washington.   read more
  • Researchers Sue for Release of 60-Year-Old Documents on Organized Crime

    Saturday, December 20, 2014
    In 1950, a special commission convened by California Governor Earl Warren completed publication of four groundbreaking reports on the growing threat of organized crime in the state. When researchers recently sought access to the material, they were told the documents were sealed and unavailable until 2028 because of confidentiality concerns.   read more

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Top Stories

  • Gov. Cuomo Bans Fracking in New York

    Friday, December 19, 2014
    State health officials said that until more studies can be performed, it was necessary to stop fracking because of the risks it poses to residents’ water supplies. The decision comes in the wake of state environmental and health reports that concluded New York citizens would be placed at risk by continued fracking operations. “We cannot afford to make a mistake,” said acting state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker. “The potential risks are too great. In fact, they are not fully known.”   read more
  • 9 American Insiders Who Opposed Bush Torture Program

    Thursday, December 18, 2014
    The ACLU has honored nine officials who took a stand against torture of U.S. detainees. Air Force Colonel Morris Davis, who was chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay from 2005 to 2007, advocated for a policy barring the use of evidence obtained through torture. His effort failed, and when Pentagon General Counsel William Haynes became Haynes’ boss, he resigned. “The guy who said waterboarding is A-OK, I was not going to take orders from. I quit,” Davis reportedly said.   read more
  • Army Claims it’s too Dangerous to Clean Up Radioactive Weapons Test Site in Indiana

    Wednesday, December 17, 2014
    More than 160,000 pounds of depleted uranium projectiles and millions of artillery shells were left, unexploded, at the firing range. The Army, however, is showing no signs of cleaning up the mess. In fact, it's asking the NRC to allow them to halt environmental testing of the area. Some local residents worry that the radioactive materials will spread during rains. “The Army never thought much about the future,” said Mike Moore. “No thought was given that you've ruined this land forever.”   read more

Unusual News

  • Virginia Legislator will Continue to Serve While Spending Nights in Jail for Sex with a Minor

    Wednesday, December 17, 2014
    Morrissey was allowed to enter into a work-release program, which permits him to continue his duties as a public official. He is allowed to drive his own car between the jail house and his legislative office. And if he doesn’t show up at the jail? “We understand that the legislature can run late into the night; but we will know where he is,” Henrico County Sheriff Michael Wade told the Dispatch. A monitoring device has been secured to Morrissey’s ankle.   read more
  • Navy Unveils Laser “Ray Gun”

    Sunday, December 14, 2014
    The skills needed to operate this deadly weapon are familiar to many young sailors. The controller “looks a lot like a game controller, Xbox, PS4 or whatever.” Klunder added, “Any of you that can do Xbox or PS4, you’ll be good with this.” One advantage of this system to the Navy is cost. Firing a missile costs about $2 million, while the laser can do some of the same jobs for about 59 cents—the cost of electricity.   read more
  • Left-Handed Workers make 10-12% Less than Right-Handed Workers

    Sunday, December 14, 2014
    As if there weren’t already enough insults out there to frustrate a left-handed person (scissors, computer mouses, the whole handwriting thing, etc), it turns out being left-hand dominant costs you earnings too. A new study (pdf) shows people who are right-handed make more money than lefties. The difference averages out to about 10% to 12%.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • Social Security Administration Still Collecting Debts from Children of Overpaid Recipients Despite Promising to Stop

    Thursday, December 18, 2014
    Acting SSA commissioner Carolyn Colvin publicly said the collection efforts would end, but the collections have continued. Some who were reimbursed for the refunds they never received have said the SSA turned around and came after them again for the overpayments. At least five of these individuals are now suing the agency to halt the practice once and for all. The agency’s actions have stirred up members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.   read more
  • NASA Spent $349 Million for a Useless Lab Tower for a Project that had Already been Cancelled

    Wednesday, December 17, 2014
    The tower “is evidence of a breakdown at NASA, which used to be a glorious symbol of what an American bureaucracy could achieve," wrote the Post's David Fahrenthold. "In the Space Race days of the 1960s, the agency was given a clear, galvanizing mission: reach the moon within the decade. In less than seven, NASA got it done. Now, NASA has become a symbol of something else: what happens to a big bureaucracy after its sense of mission starts to fade.”   read more
  • For the First Time, Congress Allocates Money to Protect Battlefields from Revolutionary War and War of 1812

    Wednesday, December 17, 2014
    More than 200 years after the fact, Congress has finally decided to spend money on preserving battlefields from some of the most critical wars in American history. In a first, lawmakers have expanded the federal matching grants program that until now only supported landmarks from the Civil War. Now the Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program will also be able to accept requests to fund and preserve battlefields from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.   read more

Controversies

  • Obama Bans Oil Drilling in Alaskan Bay that Produces 40% of Wild-Caught Seafood in U.S.

    Friday, December 19, 2014
    Obama’s executive move protects a region that provides 40% of the nation’s wild-caught seafood and which supports up to $2 billion in commercial fishing every year. Bristol Bay is the natural habitat for numerous endangered species, including walruses, seals, sea otters, seals, and several species of whales. “It’s something that’s too precious for us just to be putting out to the highest bidder,” Obama said in announcing his decision. Environmental groups lauded the move.   read more
  • Federal Grand Jury Indicts Owners of Chemical Company that Contaminated West Virginia Water

    Friday, December 19, 2014
    Freedom declared bankruptcy after the accident in which 10,000 gallons of the industrial chemical MCHM leaked into the nearby Elk River. The toxic chemicals broke through an aging tank in the plant, which is on the river bank upstream from the county’s municipal water intake. “A survey by two state agencies and the [CDC] later concluded that a fifth of the area’s households that were surveyed had individuals who experienced symptoms consistent with exposure to the chemical,” said the Times.   read more
  • Education Dept. Approves Sale of Failing For-Profit Colleges to Debt Collection Company

    Friday, December 19, 2014
    Corinthian Colleges, described as “one of the most abusive and deceptive for-profit college companies” in the country, was on its way to going out of business when student loan collector ECMC said it wanted to buy it. Officials in the U.S. Department of Education approved the deal in which ECMC will pay $24 million for 56 campuses operating under the names Everest and WyoTech. David Halperin says that ECMC stepping in to assume control of the schools is a “terrible mistake.”   read more

U.S. and the World

  • The Other Torture Report: U.S. Taught Torture Techniques to Brazil Dictatorship

    Monday, December 15, 2014
    More than 300 Brazilians came to the School of the Americas, located at Fort Benning, Georgia, where instructors “recommended interrogation techniques like torture, execution, blackmail and arresting the relatives of those being questioned,” according to a Pentagon manual released in 1996. Among their victims was Dilma Rousseff, who was a political activist in the 1960s and is now Brazil’s president.   read more
  • Are U.S. Torturers Above the Law?

    Friday, December 12, 2014
    The U.S. is obligated under the International Convention on Torture to investigate any U.S. citizen accused of torturing someone, and the U.N. high commissioner for human rights said he welcomes the prosecution of CIA personnel who either ordered or carried out the torture against detainees. “The convention lets no one off the hook — neither the torturers themselves, nor the policy-makers, nor the public officials who define the policy or give the orders,” said the commissioner.   read more
  • Taliban Using Jihadist Textbooks…Supplied by the U.S.

    Wednesday, December 10, 2014
    As part of the U.S. campaign to undermine Soviet control over Afghanistan, USAID provided school books in local Afghan languages that taught children how to become jihadists. The books are “filled with talk of jihad and featured drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines, [and] have served since then as the Afghan school system’s core curriculum,” said the Post in 2002. Not only did many of the books survive, but the Taliban is reprinting the books to help those who want to destroy the U.S.   read more

Appointments and Resignations

  • Armenia’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Tigran Sargsyan?

    Monday, December 15, 2014
    Sargsyan was selected as prime minister in April 2008 and was reappointed in 2012 and 2013. At first he was not a member of any political party, but he later joined the Republican Party of Armenia. In 2011, Sargsyan survived a financial crisis in his country when the inflation rate hit 9.4%, sending thousands of Armenians into poverty. Sargsyan was pushed out as prime minister in April 2014 when a pension reform plan he championed was found to be illegal under Armenian law.   read more
  • Bangladesh’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Mohammed Ziauddin?

    Sunday, December 14, 2014
    In May 2000, Ziauddin was appointed ambassador to Italy with concurrent credentialing to Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina. He was also his country’s representative to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Program and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. After that assignment, Ziauddin served as an ambassador-at-large for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina until being named to the Washington post.   read more
  • Estonia’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Eerik Marmei?

    Sunday, December 14, 2014
    Marmei was transferred to his country’s Washington embassy in 2000 as charge d’affaires. While there, he took a familiarization flight in a Blackhawk helicopter assigned to the Maryland National Guard. The craft had an emergency and was forced to land in the infield at Pimlico race track—a half hour before post time.   read more

Domestic Policy/Agency of the Day

  • National Council on Disability

    An independent federal agency, the National Council on Disability (NCD) is made up of 15 members, appointed by the President, whose objective is to promote policies, programs, and practices that provide equal opportunities for individuals w...   more

Domestic Policy Divisions

Go to Department

Foreign Policy/Nation of the Day

  • El Salvador

    Despite its small size, El Salvador has been a big target for American foreign policy over the past four decades. For much of its modern history, the country has had to endure the rein of military juntas and right-wing governments, most of whom ha...   more

Nations

Meet Your Government

  • English, Charles

    Charles L. English began serving as US Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina in September 2007. English received a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and studied international economics at the graduate level at New York University.    E...   more

Blog

  • My Sister Died of an Overdose of Prescription Painkillers

    After four years of being President Barack Obama’s “drug czar,” Gil Kerlikowske suddenly discovered the prescription drug death crisis. By this time, prescription drug overdoses had become the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., surpass...   more
  • 86 Firearm Deaths a Day in U.S.; 60% are Suicides

    Saturday, December 20, 2014
    “Suicide is far more common than homicide and its rate is increasing,” Garen Wintemute of U.C. Davis wrote in his new study. “The homicide rate is decreasing.” He also noted that firearm violence is a “large and costly public health problem in the United States for which the mortality rate has remained unchanged for more than a decade.” Even when the homicide rate was far higher than now, it was outpaced by the suicide rate, according to the study.   read more
  • The 3 Ambassador Nominees who have Waited the Longest for Confirmation are all Black

    Saturday, December 20, 2014
    All three are also considered political, rather than career Foreign Service, appointments. John Estrada, President Barack Obama’s choice for Trinidad and Tobago, has waited the longest of anyone: 504 days. He is a former Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, the highest-ranking enlisted Marine, and a native Trinidadian. After leaving the service, he worked at Lockheed Martin as a senior manager.   read more
  • Satanic Temple Invokes Supreme Court Ruling to Force Display at Florida Capitol Building

    Saturday, December 20, 2014
    When the Satanists wanted to put up an angel being consumed by flames, the state Department of Management Services rejected the display, saying it was too offensive. The unholy rollers claim Florida is denying them their constitutional rights under the First Amendment, citing the 1994 Supreme Court decision in Rosenberger v. University of Virginia, the upshot of which was the government cannot selectively choose from among religious-based efforts.   read more
  • El Salvador’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Francisco Altschul?

    Saturday, December 20, 2014
    In March 2009, for the first time, an FMLN candidate, Mauricio Funes, was elected president of El Salvador. Four months later, Altschul was appointed chargé d’affaires at the embassy of El Salvador in Washington, D.C., and eight months after that, he moved up to ambassador. He served until 2013, when he was replaced by Ruben Zamora. In August 2014, Zamora was moved to the United Nations in New York and Altschul was brought back as ambassador in Washington.   read more
  • Researchers Sue for Release of 60-Year-Old Documents on Organized Crime

    Saturday, December 20, 2014
    In 1950, a special commission convened by California Governor Earl Warren completed publication of four groundbreaking reports on the growing threat of organized crime in the state. When researchers recently sought access to the material, they were told the documents were sealed and unavailable until 2028 because of confidentiality concerns.   read more

Top Stories

  • Gov. Cuomo Bans Fracking in New York

    Friday, December 19, 2014
    State health officials said that until more studies can be performed, it was necessary to stop fracking because of the risks it poses to residents’ water supplies. The decision comes in the wake of state environmental and health reports that concluded New York citizens would be placed at risk by continued fracking operations. “We cannot afford to make a mistake,” said acting state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker. “The potential risks are too great. In fact, they are not fully known.”   read more
  • 9 American Insiders Who Opposed Bush Torture Program

    Thursday, December 18, 2014
    The ACLU has honored nine officials who took a stand against torture of U.S. detainees. Air Force Colonel Morris Davis, who was chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay from 2005 to 2007, advocated for a policy barring the use of evidence obtained through torture. His effort failed, and when Pentagon General Counsel William Haynes became Haynes’ boss, he resigned. “The guy who said waterboarding is A-OK, I was not going to take orders from. I quit,” Davis reportedly said.   read more
  • Army Claims it’s too Dangerous to Clean Up Radioactive Weapons Test Site in Indiana

    Wednesday, December 17, 2014
    More than 160,000 pounds of depleted uranium projectiles and millions of artillery shells were left, unexploded, at the firing range. The Army, however, is showing no signs of cleaning up the mess. In fact, it's asking the NRC to allow them to halt environmental testing of the area. Some local residents worry that the radioactive materials will spread during rains. “The Army never thought much about the future,” said Mike Moore. “No thought was given that you've ruined this land forever.”   read more

Unusual News

  • Virginia Legislator will Continue to Serve While Spending Nights in Jail for Sex with a Minor

    Wednesday, December 17, 2014
    Morrissey was allowed to enter into a work-release program, which permits him to continue his duties as a public official. He is allowed to drive his own car between the jail house and his legislative office. And if he doesn’t show up at the jail? “We understand that the legislature can run late into the night; but we will know where he is,” Henrico County Sheriff Michael Wade told the Dispatch. A monitoring device has been secured to Morrissey’s ankle.   read more
  • Navy Unveils Laser “Ray Gun”

    Sunday, December 14, 2014
    The skills needed to operate this deadly weapon are familiar to many young sailors. The controller “looks a lot like a game controller, Xbox, PS4 or whatever.” Klunder added, “Any of you that can do Xbox or PS4, you’ll be good with this.” One advantage of this system to the Navy is cost. Firing a missile costs about $2 million, while the laser can do some of the same jobs for about 59 cents—the cost of electricity.   read more
  • Left-Handed Workers make 10-12% Less than Right-Handed Workers

    Sunday, December 14, 2014
    As if there weren’t already enough insults out there to frustrate a left-handed person (scissors, computer mouses, the whole handwriting thing, etc), it turns out being left-hand dominant costs you earnings too. A new study (pdf) shows people who are right-handed make more money than lefties. The difference averages out to about 10% to 12%.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • Social Security Administration Still Collecting Debts from Children of Overpaid Recipients Despite Promising to Stop

    Thursday, December 18, 2014
    Acting SSA commissioner Carolyn Colvin publicly said the collection efforts would end, but the collections have continued. Some who were reimbursed for the refunds they never received have said the SSA turned around and came after them again for the overpayments. At least five of these individuals are now suing the agency to halt the practice once and for all. The agency’s actions have stirred up members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.   read more
  • NASA Spent $349 Million for a Useless Lab Tower for a Project that had Already been Cancelled

    Wednesday, December 17, 2014
    The tower “is evidence of a breakdown at NASA, which used to be a glorious symbol of what an American bureaucracy could achieve," wrote the Post's David Fahrenthold. "In the Space Race days of the 1960s, the agency was given a clear, galvanizing mission: reach the moon within the decade. In less than seven, NASA got it done. Now, NASA has become a symbol of something else: what happens to a big bureaucracy after its sense of mission starts to fade.”   read more
  • For the First Time, Congress Allocates Money to Protect Battlefields from Revolutionary War and War of 1812

    Wednesday, December 17, 2014
    More than 200 years after the fact, Congress has finally decided to spend money on preserving battlefields from some of the most critical wars in American history. In a first, lawmakers have expanded the federal matching grants program that until now only supported landmarks from the Civil War. Now the Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program will also be able to accept requests to fund and preserve battlefields from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.   read more

Controversies

  • Obama Bans Oil Drilling in Alaskan Bay that Produces 40% of Wild-Caught Seafood in U.S.

    Friday, December 19, 2014
    Obama’s executive move protects a region that provides 40% of the nation’s wild-caught seafood and which supports up to $2 billion in commercial fishing every year. Bristol Bay is the natural habitat for numerous endangered species, including walruses, seals, sea otters, seals, and several species of whales. “It’s something that’s too precious for us just to be putting out to the highest bidder,” Obama said in announcing his decision. Environmental groups lauded the move.   read more
  • Federal Grand Jury Indicts Owners of Chemical Company that Contaminated West Virginia Water

    Friday, December 19, 2014
    Freedom declared bankruptcy after the accident in which 10,000 gallons of the industrial chemical MCHM leaked into the nearby Elk River. The toxic chemicals broke through an aging tank in the plant, which is on the river bank upstream from the county’s municipal water intake. “A survey by two state agencies and the [CDC] later concluded that a fifth of the area’s households that were surveyed had individuals who experienced symptoms consistent with exposure to the chemical,” said the Times.   read more
  • Education Dept. Approves Sale of Failing For-Profit Colleges to Debt Collection Company

    Friday, December 19, 2014
    Corinthian Colleges, described as “one of the most abusive and deceptive for-profit college companies” in the country, was on its way to going out of business when student loan collector ECMC said it wanted to buy it. Officials in the U.S. Department of Education approved the deal in which ECMC will pay $24 million for 56 campuses operating under the names Everest and WyoTech. David Halperin says that ECMC stepping in to assume control of the schools is a “terrible mistake.”   read more

U.S. and the World

  • The Other Torture Report: U.S. Taught Torture Techniques to Brazil Dictatorship

    Monday, December 15, 2014
    More than 300 Brazilians came to the School of the Americas, located at Fort Benning, Georgia, where instructors “recommended interrogation techniques like torture, execution, blackmail and arresting the relatives of those being questioned,” according to a Pentagon manual released in 1996. Among their victims was Dilma Rousseff, who was a political activist in the 1960s and is now Brazil’s president.   read more
  • Are U.S. Torturers Above the Law?

    Friday, December 12, 2014
    The U.S. is obligated under the International Convention on Torture to investigate any U.S. citizen accused of torturing someone, and the U.N. high commissioner for human rights said he welcomes the prosecution of CIA personnel who either ordered or carried out the torture against detainees. “The convention lets no one off the hook — neither the torturers themselves, nor the policy-makers, nor the public officials who define the policy or give the orders,” said the commissioner.   read more
  • Taliban Using Jihadist Textbooks…Supplied by the U.S.

    Wednesday, December 10, 2014
    As part of the U.S. campaign to undermine Soviet control over Afghanistan, USAID provided school books in local Afghan languages that taught children how to become jihadists. The books are “filled with talk of jihad and featured drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines, [and] have served since then as the Afghan school system’s core curriculum,” said the Post in 2002. Not only did many of the books survive, but the Taliban is reprinting the books to help those who want to destroy the U.S.   read more

Appointments and Resignations

  • Armenia’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Tigran Sargsyan?

    Monday, December 15, 2014
    Sargsyan was selected as prime minister in April 2008 and was reappointed in 2012 and 2013. At first he was not a member of any political party, but he later joined the Republican Party of Armenia. In 2011, Sargsyan survived a financial crisis in his country when the inflation rate hit 9.4%, sending thousands of Armenians into poverty. Sargsyan was pushed out as prime minister in April 2014 when a pension reform plan he championed was found to be illegal under Armenian law.   read more
  • Bangladesh’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Mohammed Ziauddin?

    Sunday, December 14, 2014
    In May 2000, Ziauddin was appointed ambassador to Italy with concurrent credentialing to Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina. He was also his country’s representative to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Program and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. After that assignment, Ziauddin served as an ambassador-at-large for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina until being named to the Washington post.   read more
  • Estonia’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Eerik Marmei?

    Sunday, December 14, 2014
    Marmei was transferred to his country’s Washington embassy in 2000 as charge d’affaires. While there, he took a familiarization flight in a Blackhawk helicopter assigned to the Maryland National Guard. The craft had an emergency and was forced to land in the infield at Pimlico race track—a half hour before post time.   read more

Domestic Policy/Agency of the Day

  • Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)

    The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), formerly known as the Federal Power Commission (FPC, est. 1920), is the federal agency responsible for regulating the transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil. It has jurisdiction over s...   more

Domestic Policy Divisions

Go to Department

Foreign Policy/Nation of the Day

  • Trinidad and Tobago

    Trinidad and Tobago is a two-island nation in the West Indies, located near the coast of Venezuela. Originally settled more than 7,000 years ago, the two islands were populated by people migrating from South America and other surrounding island...   more

Nations

Meet Your Government

  • Beck, Colin

    Colin David Beck became ambassador of the Solomon Islands to the United States on March 31, 2004. He is also his nation’s representative to the United Nations. Beck received a bachelor’s degree in administration and political science from the Univ...   more

Blog

  • My Sister Died of an Overdose of Prescription Painkillers

    After four years of being President Barack Obama’s “drug czar,” Gil Kerlikowske suddenly discovered the prescription drug death crisis. By this time, prescription drug overdoses had become the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., surpass...   more

PHOTO GALLERY

Get Smart Phone Meets Smartphone Click the photo for larger view Get Smart Phone Meets Smartphone