Portal

  • FCC Puts U.S. Cell Phone Routing System in Hands of European Firm despite Security Warnings

    Tuesday, July 26, 2016
    Intelligence officials have expressed concern that handing the contract to a foreign-owned company could leave the system more vulnerable to an attack. Evidence emerged several months ago that Telcordia had improperly used a number of foreign nationals, including a Chinese citizen, to do computer coding for early work on the system. Only “vetted U.S. citizens” were supposed to work on the project. As a result, the FCC forced the firm to scrap the work it had done and start over.   read more
  • EPA Targets Airplane Emissions

    Tuesday, July 26, 2016
    In February, the U.N. proposed new emissions standards for international flights that would require an average 4% reduction in fuel consumption during the cruising phase of flight. This was met with criticism from environmentalists who felt the standards did not go far enough. They have also debated findings from studies cited by the U.N. and the EPA, which state that aviation accounts for less than two percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Activists have argued that it's actually about 5%.   read more
  • Former Tennessee Dam Workers Claim Toxic Coal Ash Caused Illnesses

    Tuesday, July 26, 2016
    His vision grew dull, his head dizzy. Within months, he experienced a cough so persistent that it left him gasping for breath. By 2012, he was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung ailment. When he began coughing up blood, he suspected a connection to his work. Now, workers are stepping forward and filing lawsuits targeting specific ash sites. More than a half-dozen such cases have surfaced around the country in the past three years.   read more
  • Guantánamo Judge Accused of Secretly Allowing Destruction of CIA “Black Site” Prison Evidence

    Tuesday, July 26, 2016
    Allegations of evidence destruction have swirled around the case since May. The defense team believes the government removed some fixtures from a room in the CIA prison used for torture, but did not entirely destroy the structure. The prosecution has offered photographs and diagrams as a substitute for the top secret evidence, the report said, noting that prosecutors have apparently not revealed the identity of the nation housing the prison to preserve foreign relations.   read more
  • Republican and Democratic Lawmakers Speak in Different Languages

    Tuesday, July 26, 2016
    Perhaps what the researchers found is evidence of a technological advance in political communication, of both parties exerting more partisan discipline in keeping all their members using the same language. But even if it’s just communications strategy that’s driving the polarization of language, it still matters. In a world of complex challenges, it’s hard to come up with constructive solutions when the decision-makers can’t even agree on what words to use in talking about them.   read more

PHOTO GALLERY

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

Top Stories

  • Payday Loan Regulation May Leave Some in the Lurch

    Monday, July 25, 2016
    The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is poised to adopt strict new national rules that will curtail payday lending. These will limit the number of loans that can be taken in quick succession and will force companies to check that their borrowers have the means to repay them. But lenders — and even some consumer advocates who favor stronger regulation — are grappling with the uncomfortable question of what will happen to customers if a financial lifeline that they rely on is cut off.   read more
  • Pentagon Revises Rules on Dealing With Journalists

    Sunday, July 24, 2016
    The Pentagon has revised its Law of War guidelines to remove wording that could permit U.S. military commanders to treat war correspondents as “unprivileged belligerents” if they think the journalists are sympathizing or cooperating with enemy forces. The amended manual, published on Friday, also drops wording that equated journalism with spying. These and other changes were made in response to complaints by news organizations.   read more
  • Three Charged in Billion-Dollar Medicare Fraud Scheme

    Saturday, July 23, 2016
    Three people have been charged in an unprecedented $1 billion health care fraud scam, accused of using dozens of Miami nursing homes to bilk the taxpayer-funded Medicare and Medicaid programs. Authorities said Philip Esformes, who ran 30 nursing homes and assisted living facilities, joined with two conspirators and a complex network of corrupt doctors and hospitals to refer thousands of patients to their facilities even though the patients did not qualify for the services.   read more

Unusual News

  • Government Scientists Want Volunteers to Submit Genetic, Lifestyle Information

    Monday, July 25, 2016
    Government scientists are seeking 1 million volunteers willing to share the innermost secrets of their genes and daily lives as part of an ambitious 10-year research project to understand the causes and cures of disease. Those selected will be asked to provide a detailed medical history and blood samples so researchers can extract DNA. They will also be asked to report information about themselves — including their age, race, income, education, sexual orientation and gender identity.   read more
  • Woodstock Producers Say Republicans Stole Their Logo for Convention

    Sunday, July 24, 2016
    The presenters of the iconic Woodstock Music Festival, noticing a similarity between its original logo and the one plastered around Cleveland for the RNC, are calling on the Republican Party to adopt changes to its platform that come in line with the festival’s message.   read more
  • Colorado Town May Have THC in Water Supply

    Saturday, July 23, 2016
    Officials announced Thursday that some field tests had found THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, in the water in Hugo, Colorado, but they were awaiting the results of more definitive laboratory tests Friday which would also tell how much THC is in the water, if its presence is confirmed. State health officials say it’s too soon to know whether THC in the water would intoxicate people who drink it. Experts doubt adding raw pot to water would make it intoxicating.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • Customs to Pay Nearly Half-Million Dollars in Body Cavity Search Settlement

    Saturday, July 23, 2016
    U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has agreed to pay a woman $475,000 to settle claims that she was subjected to a “humiliating and demeaning” illegal body cavity search at an El Paso border crossing. The unidentified woman sued several border patrol officers, the University Medical Center of El Paso and the El Paso County Hospital District in Federal Court in December 2013.   read more
  • Taxpayers Subsidize Junk Food

    Wednesday, July 20, 2016
    While government recommends people fill their plates with fruits and veggies to help prevent obesity, only a fraction of its subsidies support the production of fresh produce. The vast majority of subsidies go instead to commodity crops that are processed into many of the foods that are linked to the obesity crisis. “The subsidies damage our country’s health and increase the medical costs that will ultimately need to be paid to treat the effects of the obesity epidemic,” said a USPIRG report.   read more
  • State Laws Target Life Insurance Companies that Soak Up Money Earmarked for Beneficiaries

    Friday, July 15, 2016
    State actions are forcing companies to locate heirs and pay them the money they are owed. The laws follow years-long audits and multi-state investigations of the top 40 insurance companies that revealed many of them held on to benefits, even when they knew the person insured had died. "This is something that shocked me," said Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, whose office pushed for legislation. "We think it's important that the last wishes of the deceased are honored."   read more

Controversies

  • Illinois Puts Restrictions on Use of Cell Phone Trackers

    Monday, July 25, 2016
    A new Illinois law limits how police can use devices that cast a wide net in gathering cellphone data and are at the center of a lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department. The technology, a cell site simulator, is perhaps best known by the brand name Stingray. It gathers phone-usage data on targets of criminal investigations, but it also gathers data on other cellphones — hundreds or even thousands of them — in the area.   read more
  • Virginia Court Overrules Felons’ Restoration of Voting Rights

    Monday, July 25, 2016
    A divided Virginia Supreme Court on Friday set aside Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive order restoring the voting rights of more than 200,000 felons, siding with the GOP lawmakers who argued the governor’s action was unconstitutional. In a 4-3 decision, the Supreme Court of Virginia ordered the state to cancel the registrations of the more than 11,000 felons who have signed up to vote since McAuliffe issued his executive order in April.   read more
  • Federal Regulators Don’t Release Information on Many Health Provider Breaches

    Monday, July 25, 2016
    Thousands of times a year, the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services resolves complaints about possible violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) quietly, outside public view. It sends letters reminding providers of their legal obligations, advising them on how to fix purported problems, and, sometimes, prodding them to make voluntary changes. Case closed.   read more

U.S. and the World

  • Guantánamo Defense Attorney Wants Tribunal Site Tested for Toxic Chemicals

    Sunday, July 24, 2016
    A 9/11 defender told a military judge Thursday he can find no other example that mirrors the Guantánamo war court — an abandoned airfield tainted by fuel spills and toxic chemicals transformed into a court. “This is weird,” Air Force Capt. Michael Schwartz, the senior defense attorney for suspected 9/11 plotter Walid bin Attash, said of his request for the court to fund a toxicology expert to determine if the court is safe to work in.   read more
  • U.S. Military Urges Release of Guantánamo Detainee Who Wrote Bestselling Book Detailing Abuse

    Thursday, July 21, 2016
    Slahi was subjected to interrogation approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Slahi wrote of extensive sleep deprivation, beatings, dousings with ice water, and of being shackled in a freezing cell. He denied involvement with terrorism and was never charged with a crime. He was accused of working on chemical and biological weapons for Al Qaeda, but documents showed that intelligence officials decided he “was probably misidentified” and had merely been a bookkeeper and translator.   read more
  • Wall Street Profits from Tax Avoidance Deals that Harm Danish Taxpayers

    Friday, July 15, 2016
    Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and other banks have profited for years by arranging short-term loans of stock in Danish companies, a maneuver that has deprived Denmark of substantial tax revenues. With the banks’ help, stock owners avoid paying Danish authorities the dividend taxes they would otherwise owe. The lost revenue is significant: It equals roughly 1.1% of the budget deficit of the Danish government last year, or about 70 Danish crowns ($10) for each resident.   read more

Appointments and Resignations

  • Paraguay’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Germán Rojas?

    Sunday, July 17, 2016
    With the 2013 election of Horacio Cartes as Paraguay’s president, Rojas was made Minister of Finance. His tenure there was seen as successful, with Rojas being named Finance Minister of the Year in 2014 for his stewardship of the country’s finances. He was also made chairman of the boards of governors of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Rojas left the ministry in early 2015, saying it was for personal reasons, but more likely because of differences with Cartes over tax reforms.   read more
  • Austria’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Wolfgang Waldner?

    Saturday, July 16, 2016
    He joined the Foreign Service in 1981 and his first U.S. assignment came in 1983, when he was named cultural attaché at the embassy in Washington. Waldner then served briefly as personal secretary to Foreign Minister Alois Mock before being named in 1988 to lead the Austrian Cultural Institute in New York, a post he held until 1999. Waldner did take time out to work on the successful 1992 and 1998 presidential campaigns of Thomas Klestil.   read more
  • Fiji’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Naivakarurubalavu Solo Mara?

    Sunday, July 10, 2016
    Mara was sent overseas again in 2008 as counselor in the Fiji embassy in Brussels, but returned home the following year to become the ministry’s Permanent Secretary. In 2011, Mara was made High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, with concurrent responsibilities as ambassador to Germany, Denmark, Israel, Ireland and the Holy See.   read more

Domestic Policy/Agency of the Day

  • Office of Science

    Located within the Department of Energy, the Office of Science is one of the federal government’s largest distributors of research money for science exploration. The office supports research in areas ranging from high-energy physics to nanoscie...   more

Domestic Policy Divisions

Go to Department

Foreign Policy/Nation of the Day

  • Ecuador

    Over the last decade, Ecuador has been Latin America’s “basket case,” going through economic meltdowns and seven different presidents, three of whom were ousted by coups. The country tied its currency to the US dollar in 2000 to control runaway in...   more

Nations

Meet Your Government

  • Nematov, llhom

    Ilhom Nematov has served as Uzbekistan’s ambassador to the United States since February 2010.   Born on May 1, 1952, Nematov graduated from Fergana Polytechnic Institute in 1973. He holds a PhD in economics.   From 1973 to 1978,...   more

Blog

  • Irving Wallace: 100th Birthday

    On March 19, 2016, the popular novelist Irving Wallace—my father—would have turned 100 years old. Instead of honoring my father by presenting a review of his achievements and recalling what a generous, warm-hearted person he was and how much enjoy...   more
  • FCC Puts U.S. Cell Phone Routing System in Hands of European Firm despite Security Warnings

    Tuesday, July 26, 2016
    Intelligence officials have expressed concern that handing the contract to a foreign-owned company could leave the system more vulnerable to an attack. Evidence emerged several months ago that Telcordia had improperly used a number of foreign nationals, including a Chinese citizen, to do computer coding for early work on the system. Only “vetted U.S. citizens” were supposed to work on the project. As a result, the FCC forced the firm to scrap the work it had done and start over.   read more
  • EPA Targets Airplane Emissions

    Tuesday, July 26, 2016
    In February, the U.N. proposed new emissions standards for international flights that would require an average 4% reduction in fuel consumption during the cruising phase of flight. This was met with criticism from environmentalists who felt the standards did not go far enough. They have also debated findings from studies cited by the U.N. and the EPA, which state that aviation accounts for less than two percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Activists have argued that it's actually about 5%.   read more
  • Former Tennessee Dam Workers Claim Toxic Coal Ash Caused Illnesses

    Tuesday, July 26, 2016
    His vision grew dull, his head dizzy. Within months, he experienced a cough so persistent that it left him gasping for breath. By 2012, he was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung ailment. When he began coughing up blood, he suspected a connection to his work. Now, workers are stepping forward and filing lawsuits targeting specific ash sites. More than a half-dozen such cases have surfaced around the country in the past three years.   read more
  • Guantánamo Judge Accused of Secretly Allowing Destruction of CIA “Black Site” Prison Evidence

    Tuesday, July 26, 2016
    Allegations of evidence destruction have swirled around the case since May. The defense team believes the government removed some fixtures from a room in the CIA prison used for torture, but did not entirely destroy the structure. The prosecution has offered photographs and diagrams as a substitute for the top secret evidence, the report said, noting that prosecutors have apparently not revealed the identity of the nation housing the prison to preserve foreign relations.   read more
  • Republican and Democratic Lawmakers Speak in Different Languages

    Tuesday, July 26, 2016
    Perhaps what the researchers found is evidence of a technological advance in political communication, of both parties exerting more partisan discipline in keeping all their members using the same language. But even if it’s just communications strategy that’s driving the polarization of language, it still matters. In a world of complex challenges, it’s hard to come up with constructive solutions when the decision-makers can’t even agree on what words to use in talking about them.   read more

Top Stories

  • Payday Loan Regulation May Leave Some in the Lurch

    Monday, July 25, 2016
    The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is poised to adopt strict new national rules that will curtail payday lending. These will limit the number of loans that can be taken in quick succession and will force companies to check that their borrowers have the means to repay them. But lenders — and even some consumer advocates who favor stronger regulation — are grappling with the uncomfortable question of what will happen to customers if a financial lifeline that they rely on is cut off.   read more
  • Pentagon Revises Rules on Dealing With Journalists

    Sunday, July 24, 2016
    The Pentagon has revised its Law of War guidelines to remove wording that could permit U.S. military commanders to treat war correspondents as “unprivileged belligerents” if they think the journalists are sympathizing or cooperating with enemy forces. The amended manual, published on Friday, also drops wording that equated journalism with spying. These and other changes were made in response to complaints by news organizations.   read more
  • Three Charged in Billion-Dollar Medicare Fraud Scheme

    Saturday, July 23, 2016
    Three people have been charged in an unprecedented $1 billion health care fraud scam, accused of using dozens of Miami nursing homes to bilk the taxpayer-funded Medicare and Medicaid programs. Authorities said Philip Esformes, who ran 30 nursing homes and assisted living facilities, joined with two conspirators and a complex network of corrupt doctors and hospitals to refer thousands of patients to their facilities even though the patients did not qualify for the services.   read more

Unusual News

  • Government Scientists Want Volunteers to Submit Genetic, Lifestyle Information

    Monday, July 25, 2016
    Government scientists are seeking 1 million volunteers willing to share the innermost secrets of their genes and daily lives as part of an ambitious 10-year research project to understand the causes and cures of disease. Those selected will be asked to provide a detailed medical history and blood samples so researchers can extract DNA. They will also be asked to report information about themselves — including their age, race, income, education, sexual orientation and gender identity.   read more
  • Woodstock Producers Say Republicans Stole Their Logo for Convention

    Sunday, July 24, 2016
    The presenters of the iconic Woodstock Music Festival, noticing a similarity between its original logo and the one plastered around Cleveland for the RNC, are calling on the Republican Party to adopt changes to its platform that come in line with the festival’s message.   read more
  • Colorado Town May Have THC in Water Supply

    Saturday, July 23, 2016
    Officials announced Thursday that some field tests had found THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, in the water in Hugo, Colorado, but they were awaiting the results of more definitive laboratory tests Friday which would also tell how much THC is in the water, if its presence is confirmed. State health officials say it’s too soon to know whether THC in the water would intoxicate people who drink it. Experts doubt adding raw pot to water would make it intoxicating.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • Customs to Pay Nearly Half-Million Dollars in Body Cavity Search Settlement

    Saturday, July 23, 2016
    U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has agreed to pay a woman $475,000 to settle claims that she was subjected to a “humiliating and demeaning” illegal body cavity search at an El Paso border crossing. The unidentified woman sued several border patrol officers, the University Medical Center of El Paso and the El Paso County Hospital District in Federal Court in December 2013.   read more
  • Taxpayers Subsidize Junk Food

    Wednesday, July 20, 2016
    While government recommends people fill their plates with fruits and veggies to help prevent obesity, only a fraction of its subsidies support the production of fresh produce. The vast majority of subsidies go instead to commodity crops that are processed into many of the foods that are linked to the obesity crisis. “The subsidies damage our country’s health and increase the medical costs that will ultimately need to be paid to treat the effects of the obesity epidemic,” said a USPIRG report.   read more
  • State Laws Target Life Insurance Companies that Soak Up Money Earmarked for Beneficiaries

    Friday, July 15, 2016
    State actions are forcing companies to locate heirs and pay them the money they are owed. The laws follow years-long audits and multi-state investigations of the top 40 insurance companies that revealed many of them held on to benefits, even when they knew the person insured had died. "This is something that shocked me," said Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, whose office pushed for legislation. "We think it's important that the last wishes of the deceased are honored."   read more

Controversies

  • Illinois Puts Restrictions on Use of Cell Phone Trackers

    Monday, July 25, 2016
    A new Illinois law limits how police can use devices that cast a wide net in gathering cellphone data and are at the center of a lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department. The technology, a cell site simulator, is perhaps best known by the brand name Stingray. It gathers phone-usage data on targets of criminal investigations, but it also gathers data on other cellphones — hundreds or even thousands of them — in the area.   read more
  • Virginia Court Overrules Felons’ Restoration of Voting Rights

    Monday, July 25, 2016
    A divided Virginia Supreme Court on Friday set aside Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive order restoring the voting rights of more than 200,000 felons, siding with the GOP lawmakers who argued the governor’s action was unconstitutional. In a 4-3 decision, the Supreme Court of Virginia ordered the state to cancel the registrations of the more than 11,000 felons who have signed up to vote since McAuliffe issued his executive order in April.   read more
  • Federal Regulators Don’t Release Information on Many Health Provider Breaches

    Monday, July 25, 2016
    Thousands of times a year, the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services resolves complaints about possible violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) quietly, outside public view. It sends letters reminding providers of their legal obligations, advising them on how to fix purported problems, and, sometimes, prodding them to make voluntary changes. Case closed.   read more

U.S. and the World

  • Guantánamo Defense Attorney Wants Tribunal Site Tested for Toxic Chemicals

    Sunday, July 24, 2016
    A 9/11 defender told a military judge Thursday he can find no other example that mirrors the Guantánamo war court — an abandoned airfield tainted by fuel spills and toxic chemicals transformed into a court. “This is weird,” Air Force Capt. Michael Schwartz, the senior defense attorney for suspected 9/11 plotter Walid bin Attash, said of his request for the court to fund a toxicology expert to determine if the court is safe to work in.   read more
  • U.S. Military Urges Release of Guantánamo Detainee Who Wrote Bestselling Book Detailing Abuse

    Thursday, July 21, 2016
    Slahi was subjected to interrogation approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Slahi wrote of extensive sleep deprivation, beatings, dousings with ice water, and of being shackled in a freezing cell. He denied involvement with terrorism and was never charged with a crime. He was accused of working on chemical and biological weapons for Al Qaeda, but documents showed that intelligence officials decided he “was probably misidentified” and had merely been a bookkeeper and translator.   read more
  • Wall Street Profits from Tax Avoidance Deals that Harm Danish Taxpayers

    Friday, July 15, 2016
    Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and other banks have profited for years by arranging short-term loans of stock in Danish companies, a maneuver that has deprived Denmark of substantial tax revenues. With the banks’ help, stock owners avoid paying Danish authorities the dividend taxes they would otherwise owe. The lost revenue is significant: It equals roughly 1.1% of the budget deficit of the Danish government last year, or about 70 Danish crowns ($10) for each resident.   read more

Appointments and Resignations

  • Paraguay’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Germán Rojas?

    Sunday, July 17, 2016
    With the 2013 election of Horacio Cartes as Paraguay’s president, Rojas was made Minister of Finance. His tenure there was seen as successful, with Rojas being named Finance Minister of the Year in 2014 for his stewardship of the country’s finances. He was also made chairman of the boards of governors of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Rojas left the ministry in early 2015, saying it was for personal reasons, but more likely because of differences with Cartes over tax reforms.   read more
  • Austria’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Wolfgang Waldner?

    Saturday, July 16, 2016
    He joined the Foreign Service in 1981 and his first U.S. assignment came in 1983, when he was named cultural attaché at the embassy in Washington. Waldner then served briefly as personal secretary to Foreign Minister Alois Mock before being named in 1988 to lead the Austrian Cultural Institute in New York, a post he held until 1999. Waldner did take time out to work on the successful 1992 and 1998 presidential campaigns of Thomas Klestil.   read more
  • Fiji’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Naivakarurubalavu Solo Mara?

    Sunday, July 10, 2016
    Mara was sent overseas again in 2008 as counselor in the Fiji embassy in Brussels, but returned home the following year to become the ministry’s Permanent Secretary. In 2011, Mara was made High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, with concurrent responsibilities as ambassador to Germany, Denmark, Israel, Ireland and the Holy See.   read more

Domestic Policy/Agency of the Day

  • Department of Labor

    The Department of Labor (DOL) is in charge of programs and laws that cover all facets of employment and work affecting 125 million workers and 10 million businesses. DOL administers federal labor laws covering workers’ rights to safe and health...   more

Domestic Policy Divisions

Go to Department

Foreign Policy/Nation of the Day

  • Portugal

    Located on the Iberian Peninsula in Western Europe, Portugal was once a great sea-faring country with colonies spread across the globe, including Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Säo Tomé, Brazil and East Timor. But the 20th centu...   more

Nations

Meet Your Government

  • Johnson, David

     A native of Georgia, David T. Johnson has served since October 2007 as the assistant secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. In this capacity, Johnson oversees the Andean Counterdrug Initiative.   Johnso...   more

Blog

  • Irving Wallace: 100th Birthday

    On March 19, 2016, the popular novelist Irving Wallace—my father—would have turned 100 years old. Instead of honoring my father by presenting a review of his achievements and recalling what a generous, warm-hearted person he was and how much enjoy...   more

PHOTO GALLERY

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