Portal

  • Obama Signs Expansion of Freedom of Information Act

    Friday, July 01, 2016
    President Barack Obama signed into law Thursday measures to give the public greater access to government documents and records under the nearly half-century-old Freedom of Information Act. The new law will require federal agencies to consider releasing records under a “presumption of openness” standard, instead of presuming that the information is secret. Supporters say the shift will make it harder for agencies to withhold information.   read more
  • Federal Government Allowed 1,200 Gulf of Mexico Fracking Operations

    Friday, July 01, 2016
    Federal regulators quietly gave the green light to more than 1,200 oil company fracking operations in the Gulf of Mexico between 2010 and 2014, according to documents environmentalists obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. At least 630 wells were fracked along the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama during that four-year period, and more than 76 billion gallons in fracking waste were dumped into the Gulf in 2014 alone, the documents show.   read more
  • Portland Police Chief Resigns After Pulling a “Cheney”

    Friday, July 01, 2016
    Portland’s police chief resigned Monday, two months after he shot a friend during a hunting trip and allegedly told sheriff’s deputies that the friend had shot himself. Police Chief Larry O’Dea was on a camping trip in Harney County on April 21 when he shot his friend, Robert Dempsey, in the lower back. O’Dea, Dempsey and two other retired Portland police officers were reportedly shooting ground squirrels.   read more
  • North Carolina to Spend Half a Million Dollars Defending LGBT Discrimination

    Friday, July 01, 2016
    North Carolina lawmakers took steps Thursday to set aside a half-million dollars for the legal defense of a law limiting protections for LGBT people as a judge sought to streamline a cluster of lawsuits it has inspired. Republicans showed no appetite to change the provision requiring transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate in schools, universities and many other public buildings.   read more
  • Border Patrol Agents Cleared in Shooting Deaths

    Friday, July 01, 2016
    U.S. Customs and Border Protection found that employees acted properly when they fired guns in four incidents dating back to 2012 — including two that left two people dead. The reviews are the board’s first under its mandate to review uses of lethal force and other serious incidents once federal, state and local prosecutors decline to pursue criminal charges. It has opened investigations into 14 other cases.   read more

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Top Stories

  • European Court Told CIA Paid Romanian Government Millions to Host Secret Prisons

    Thursday, June 30, 2016
    The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) paid Romania “millions of dollars” to host secret prisons, a rights lawyer said Wednesday as the European Court of Human Rights heard accusations that Romania allowed the agency to torture terrorism suspects in a secret renditions program under President George W. Bush.   read more
  • U.S. Abortion Rights Reaffirmed as Supreme Court Calls Texas Clinic Closings Illegal

    Wednesday, June 29, 2016
    Monday’s 5-3 ruling, striking down strict regulations on Texas abortion clinics, is the court’s most significant abortion ruling in more than 20 years and likely to reverberate well beyond the state’s borders. Justice Breyer rejected arguments that the Texas law was needed to safeguard women, saying the state had “no significant health-related [abortion] problem for the new law to cure.” He added that states may not unduly burden the ability of women to exercise their rights under Roe.   read more
  • C.I.A. Weapons used to Kill Americans in Jordan

    Tuesday, June 28, 2016
    The theft, involving millions of dollars of weapons, highlights the messy, unplanned consequences of programs to arm and train rebels — the kind of program the C.I.A. and Pentagon have conducted for decades. The theft and resale of the arms have led to a flood of new weapons available on the black arms market. A disparate collection of groups, including criminal networks and rural Jordanian tribes, use the arms bazaars to build their arsenals.   read more

Unusual News

  • GOP Congressman Wants Action on Tainted Water—Now That It’s Found in the Capitol

    Thursday, June 30, 2016
    Congressional officials have found lead in the drinking water of a House office buildings. The office of the Architect of the Capitol informed lawmakers Tuesday that lead levels in the drinking water of the Cannon Building “are slightly above the EPA standard.” Republican Rep. Dennis Ross dashed off an irate letter to House officials on Wednesday demanding to know how much lead is in the water and asking for free tests to measure lead in the people who’ve been drinking the water.   read more
  • Should Prices of Low-Cost Vaccines Be Raised to Prevent Shortages?

    Wednesday, June 29, 2016
    A $30,000 price tag for cancer drug therapy that extends life only a few weeks is understandably alarming. But a $2,000 price tag for all childhood vaccines — credited with eradicating smallpox, preventing a million or more cases of other diseases and averting thousands of deaths each year — is a bargain. In fact, the price of childhood vaccines may be too low for our own good because it contributes to shortages.   read more
  • Syrian Refugee Welcomed to Germany Finds $166,000 in Cupboard and Turns it in to Police

    Wednesday, June 29, 2016
    Police in the German town of Minden say a 25-year-old man who arrived last year as a refugee is their "hero of the day" after he found some 150,000 euros ($166,095) — and handed it to authorities. The unidentified Syrian man discovered the money in a cupboard he had been given by a charitable organization.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • Globetrotting Supreme Court Justices Disclose Privately Paid Travel

    Friday, June 24, 2016
    Justice Scalia was an enthusiastic traveler, taking more than 250 privately funded trips from 2004 to 2014. A few weeks before he died, he visited Singapore and Hong Kong. Justice Stephen G. Breyer was the most active traveler last year, taking 19 paid trips, including three to London and two to Paris. The trips were partly to promote his book “The Court and the World,” which was published last year. Justice Sonia Sotomayor was next, with 16 paid trips, but to less exotic places.   read more
  • Munitions Contractor Can Seek Site Cleanup Costs From Federal Government

    Wednesday, June 15, 2016
    A defense contractor responsible for cleaning up pollution at a facility where most munitions manufacturing was done under contracts with the U.S. military can seek cost recovery from the government, the Ninth Circuit ruled Monday. In 2013, Whittaker filed its own lawsuit under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, seeking recovery from the United States for expenses Whittaker incurred since the 1980s investigating and cleaning the Bermite site.   read more
  • House Votes to Give Itself an Increase in Office Expenses

    Sunday, June 12, 2016
    House lawmakers Friday passed legislation to increase their office budgets for the first time in years but again deny themselves a pay raise of their own. The additional money for staff salaries and other office expenses is aimed in large part at retaining staff aides, who are often 20-somethings who struggle to make ends meet in Washington, where rents have skyrocketed and opportunities outside of Congress often pay more than Capitol Hill jobs.   read more

Controversies

  • Bank Fined for Discriminating Against Minority Customers in Tennessee

    Thursday, June 30, 2016
    BancorpSouth deliberately avoided building branches in minority neighborhoods in Memphis, Tennessee from at least 2011 to 2013. The bank also denied more loans to African Americans and other minorities when compared to neighborhoods with smaller minority populations, the Justice Department and CFPB said Wednesday, and minorities who were approved for loans were given higher interest rates when compared to non-minorities.   read more
  • Cleveland to Allow Expanded Convention Protests After ACLU Suit

    Thursday, June 30, 2016
    The city of Cleveland agreed Wednesday to allow protests closer to the site of the Republican National Convention, approving rule changes that increases the amount of space demonstrators can occupy and allows for longer events. A federal judge ruled last week that Cleveland’s regulations on protests and marches during the convention infringed on the right of free expression and ordered city officials and the ACLU to negotiate new rules.   read more
  • Judge Behind Louisiana “Debtor’s Prison” Agrees to 75-Day Break from Harsh Rulings against Poor Defendants

    Wednesday, June 29, 2016
    The organization filed a lawsuit accusing Black of sending poor defendants to jail when they can't pay fines and charging them a questionable "extension fee" to avoid jail time. It's the latest of a series of legal challenges across the country to a system that opponents say criminalizes being poor. For the next 75 days, the judge has agreed to stop charging the $50 extension fee the group had objected to as well as some other fees and to stop jailing people who can't pay fines and fees.   read more

U.S. and the World

  • EU to Allow Sale of Roundup Herbicide an Extra 18 Months

    Thursday, June 30, 2016
    The European Commission said Wednesday that it has no choice but to extend approval of the herbicide glyphosate through 2017, after EU member states failed to either approve or ban the chemical. The European Union’s current approval of glyphosate was set to expire on June 30. However, a lack of consensus left the commission with a single choice as the EU’s executive body: extend glyphosate’s license for another 18 months in hopes that the member states will make a unified decision.   read more
  • Lawsuit against U.S. Health Agency Alleges Religious Charities it Funds Deny Health Options to Raped Refugee Girls

    Wednesday, June 29, 2016
    Religious charities get millions of dollars of federal money to detain young, unaccompanied immigrants but deny them health services even if they have been raped, and punish them for asking for reproductive health care, claims the ACLU. The lawsuit tells of four young pregnant women, two of whom were raped on their journey to the U.S.. They were unable to get contraception or abortion through their detainers and had to be transferred to different states, away from the few friends they had.   read more
  • Central American Refugees’ Lives Put at Risk by U.S.-Financed Program for their Interception and Deportation by Mexico

    Tuesday, June 28, 2016
    Obama and Peña Nieto have cooperated to intercept desperate Central American refugees in Mexico before they can reach the U.S. border. These refugees are then typically deported to their home countries — which can be a death sentence. In effect, we have pressured and bribed Mexico to do our dirty work, detaining and deporting people fleeing gangs in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. This solved a political crisis that Obama faced, but it betrays some of the world’s most vulnerable people.   read more

Appointments and Resignations

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Haris Hrle?

    Sunday, June 26, 2016
    In 2005, Hrle moved to the embassy in Vienna, Austria and served as chargé d’affaires, becoming ambassador in 2008. While he was in charge there, a Bosnian general, Jovan Divjak, who had been accused of war crimes by Serbia, was arrested in Vienna. Divjak was eventually released without being extradited to Serbia. Hrle returned home in 2011 to work in the ministry’s office of public relations. In 2013, he was made ambassador to Saudi Arabia with responsibility for Oman and Yemen as well.   read more
  • Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Ralph Thomas?

    Saturday, June 25, 2016
    Thomas worked at the Bank of New York for 22 years, eventually serving as vice president and regional manager. Beginning in 2004, he worked independently in the banking industry. He took time out in 2007 to run for parliament in Jamaica. He was the candidate of the People’s National Party, but lost. In 2010 he returned to the University of the West Indies as a senior teaching fellow in the Mona School of Business and Management. Thomas was tapped in 2013 to be Jamaica’s ambassador to China.   read more
  • The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is François Balumuene?

    Sunday, June 19, 2016
    Balumuene served in 2000 as diplomatic and administrative assistant to the deputy commissioner general of the Government for MONUC Affairs, in charge of finance, logistics and foreign policy for the UN peacekeeping effort in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Later that year, he was made chargé d’affaires at the embassy to South Africa in Pretoria. In 2003, Balumuene was sent to India as his country’s ambassador. He then became dean of New Delhi’s diplomatic corps.   read more

Domestic Policy/Agency of the Day

  • Counterintelligence Field Activity

    A highly secret office located within the Department of Defense (DoD), the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) was charged with protecting US military personnel and facilities against spying and acts of terrorism. Information regarding CI...   more

Domestic Policy Divisions

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Foreign Policy/Nation of the Day

  • Cambodia

    Cambodia has spent the past 40 years coping with war and internal strife. A former French colony, Cambodia enjoyed little of its independence gained in 1953 before the United States war in Vietnam caused considerable upheaval for most of Southeast...   more

Nations

Meet Your Government

  • Sturgell, Robert

    Bobby Sturgell has served as FAA’s deputy administrator since 2003. In September 2007, he was elevated to acting administrator.   A native of Southern Maryland, Sturgell is a 1982 graduate of the US Naval Academy and a 1992 graduate of the Unive...   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
  • Obama Signs Expansion of Freedom of Information Act

    Friday, July 01, 2016
    President Barack Obama signed into law Thursday measures to give the public greater access to government documents and records under the nearly half-century-old Freedom of Information Act. The new law will require federal agencies to consider releasing records under a “presumption of openness” standard, instead of presuming that the information is secret. Supporters say the shift will make it harder for agencies to withhold information.   read more
  • Federal Government Allowed 1,200 Gulf of Mexico Fracking Operations

    Friday, July 01, 2016
    Federal regulators quietly gave the green light to more than 1,200 oil company fracking operations in the Gulf of Mexico between 2010 and 2014, according to documents environmentalists obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. At least 630 wells were fracked along the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama during that four-year period, and more than 76 billion gallons in fracking waste were dumped into the Gulf in 2014 alone, the documents show.   read more
  • Portland Police Chief Resigns After Pulling a “Cheney”

    Friday, July 01, 2016
    Portland’s police chief resigned Monday, two months after he shot a friend during a hunting trip and allegedly told sheriff’s deputies that the friend had shot himself. Police Chief Larry O’Dea was on a camping trip in Harney County on April 21 when he shot his friend, Robert Dempsey, in the lower back. O’Dea, Dempsey and two other retired Portland police officers were reportedly shooting ground squirrels.   read more
  • North Carolina to Spend Half a Million Dollars Defending LGBT Discrimination

    Friday, July 01, 2016
    North Carolina lawmakers took steps Thursday to set aside a half-million dollars for the legal defense of a law limiting protections for LGBT people as a judge sought to streamline a cluster of lawsuits it has inspired. Republicans showed no appetite to change the provision requiring transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate in schools, universities and many other public buildings.   read more
  • Border Patrol Agents Cleared in Shooting Deaths

    Friday, July 01, 2016
    U.S. Customs and Border Protection found that employees acted properly when they fired guns in four incidents dating back to 2012 — including two that left two people dead. The reviews are the board’s first under its mandate to review uses of lethal force and other serious incidents once federal, state and local prosecutors decline to pursue criminal charges. It has opened investigations into 14 other cases.   read more

Top Stories

  • European Court Told CIA Paid Romanian Government Millions to Host Secret Prisons

    Thursday, June 30, 2016
    The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) paid Romania “millions of dollars” to host secret prisons, a rights lawyer said Wednesday as the European Court of Human Rights heard accusations that Romania allowed the agency to torture terrorism suspects in a secret renditions program under President George W. Bush.   read more
  • U.S. Abortion Rights Reaffirmed as Supreme Court Calls Texas Clinic Closings Illegal

    Wednesday, June 29, 2016
    Monday’s 5-3 ruling, striking down strict regulations on Texas abortion clinics, is the court’s most significant abortion ruling in more than 20 years and likely to reverberate well beyond the state’s borders. Justice Breyer rejected arguments that the Texas law was needed to safeguard women, saying the state had “no significant health-related [abortion] problem for the new law to cure.” He added that states may not unduly burden the ability of women to exercise their rights under Roe.   read more
  • C.I.A. Weapons used to Kill Americans in Jordan

    Tuesday, June 28, 2016
    The theft, involving millions of dollars of weapons, highlights the messy, unplanned consequences of programs to arm and train rebels — the kind of program the C.I.A. and Pentagon have conducted for decades. The theft and resale of the arms have led to a flood of new weapons available on the black arms market. A disparate collection of groups, including criminal networks and rural Jordanian tribes, use the arms bazaars to build their arsenals.   read more

Unusual News

  • GOP Congressman Wants Action on Tainted Water—Now That It’s Found in the Capitol

    Thursday, June 30, 2016
    Congressional officials have found lead in the drinking water of a House office buildings. The office of the Architect of the Capitol informed lawmakers Tuesday that lead levels in the drinking water of the Cannon Building “are slightly above the EPA standard.” Republican Rep. Dennis Ross dashed off an irate letter to House officials on Wednesday demanding to know how much lead is in the water and asking for free tests to measure lead in the people who’ve been drinking the water.   read more
  • Should Prices of Low-Cost Vaccines Be Raised to Prevent Shortages?

    Wednesday, June 29, 2016
    A $30,000 price tag for cancer drug therapy that extends life only a few weeks is understandably alarming. But a $2,000 price tag for all childhood vaccines — credited with eradicating smallpox, preventing a million or more cases of other diseases and averting thousands of deaths each year — is a bargain. In fact, the price of childhood vaccines may be too low for our own good because it contributes to shortages.   read more
  • Syrian Refugee Welcomed to Germany Finds $166,000 in Cupboard and Turns it in to Police

    Wednesday, June 29, 2016
    Police in the German town of Minden say a 25-year-old man who arrived last year as a refugee is their "hero of the day" after he found some 150,000 euros ($166,095) — and handed it to authorities. The unidentified Syrian man discovered the money in a cupboard he had been given by a charitable organization.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • Globetrotting Supreme Court Justices Disclose Privately Paid Travel

    Friday, June 24, 2016
    Justice Scalia was an enthusiastic traveler, taking more than 250 privately funded trips from 2004 to 2014. A few weeks before he died, he visited Singapore and Hong Kong. Justice Stephen G. Breyer was the most active traveler last year, taking 19 paid trips, including three to London and two to Paris. The trips were partly to promote his book “The Court and the World,” which was published last year. Justice Sonia Sotomayor was next, with 16 paid trips, but to less exotic places.   read more
  • Munitions Contractor Can Seek Site Cleanup Costs From Federal Government

    Wednesday, June 15, 2016
    A defense contractor responsible for cleaning up pollution at a facility where most munitions manufacturing was done under contracts with the U.S. military can seek cost recovery from the government, the Ninth Circuit ruled Monday. In 2013, Whittaker filed its own lawsuit under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, seeking recovery from the United States for expenses Whittaker incurred since the 1980s investigating and cleaning the Bermite site.   read more
  • House Votes to Give Itself an Increase in Office Expenses

    Sunday, June 12, 2016
    House lawmakers Friday passed legislation to increase their office budgets for the first time in years but again deny themselves a pay raise of their own. The additional money for staff salaries and other office expenses is aimed in large part at retaining staff aides, who are often 20-somethings who struggle to make ends meet in Washington, where rents have skyrocketed and opportunities outside of Congress often pay more than Capitol Hill jobs.   read more

Controversies

  • Bank Fined for Discriminating Against Minority Customers in Tennessee

    Thursday, June 30, 2016
    BancorpSouth deliberately avoided building branches in minority neighborhoods in Memphis, Tennessee from at least 2011 to 2013. The bank also denied more loans to African Americans and other minorities when compared to neighborhoods with smaller minority populations, the Justice Department and CFPB said Wednesday, and minorities who were approved for loans were given higher interest rates when compared to non-minorities.   read more
  • Cleveland to Allow Expanded Convention Protests After ACLU Suit

    Thursday, June 30, 2016
    The city of Cleveland agreed Wednesday to allow protests closer to the site of the Republican National Convention, approving rule changes that increases the amount of space demonstrators can occupy and allows for longer events. A federal judge ruled last week that Cleveland’s regulations on protests and marches during the convention infringed on the right of free expression and ordered city officials and the ACLU to negotiate new rules.   read more
  • Judge Behind Louisiana “Debtor’s Prison” Agrees to 75-Day Break from Harsh Rulings against Poor Defendants

    Wednesday, June 29, 2016
    The organization filed a lawsuit accusing Black of sending poor defendants to jail when they can't pay fines and charging them a questionable "extension fee" to avoid jail time. It's the latest of a series of legal challenges across the country to a system that opponents say criminalizes being poor. For the next 75 days, the judge has agreed to stop charging the $50 extension fee the group had objected to as well as some other fees and to stop jailing people who can't pay fines and fees.   read more

U.S. and the World

  • EU to Allow Sale of Roundup Herbicide an Extra 18 Months

    Thursday, June 30, 2016
    The European Commission said Wednesday that it has no choice but to extend approval of the herbicide glyphosate through 2017, after EU member states failed to either approve or ban the chemical. The European Union’s current approval of glyphosate was set to expire on June 30. However, a lack of consensus left the commission with a single choice as the EU’s executive body: extend glyphosate’s license for another 18 months in hopes that the member states will make a unified decision.   read more
  • Lawsuit against U.S. Health Agency Alleges Religious Charities it Funds Deny Health Options to Raped Refugee Girls

    Wednesday, June 29, 2016
    Religious charities get millions of dollars of federal money to detain young, unaccompanied immigrants but deny them health services even if they have been raped, and punish them for asking for reproductive health care, claims the ACLU. The lawsuit tells of four young pregnant women, two of whom were raped on their journey to the U.S.. They were unable to get contraception or abortion through their detainers and had to be transferred to different states, away from the few friends they had.   read more
  • Central American Refugees’ Lives Put at Risk by U.S.-Financed Program for their Interception and Deportation by Mexico

    Tuesday, June 28, 2016
    Obama and Peña Nieto have cooperated to intercept desperate Central American refugees in Mexico before they can reach the U.S. border. These refugees are then typically deported to their home countries — which can be a death sentence. In effect, we have pressured and bribed Mexico to do our dirty work, detaining and deporting people fleeing gangs in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. This solved a political crisis that Obama faced, but it betrays some of the world’s most vulnerable people.   read more

Appointments and Resignations

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Haris Hrle?

    Sunday, June 26, 2016
    In 2005, Hrle moved to the embassy in Vienna, Austria and served as chargé d’affaires, becoming ambassador in 2008. While he was in charge there, a Bosnian general, Jovan Divjak, who had been accused of war crimes by Serbia, was arrested in Vienna. Divjak was eventually released without being extradited to Serbia. Hrle returned home in 2011 to work in the ministry’s office of public relations. In 2013, he was made ambassador to Saudi Arabia with responsibility for Oman and Yemen as well.   read more
  • Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Ralph Thomas?

    Saturday, June 25, 2016
    Thomas worked at the Bank of New York for 22 years, eventually serving as vice president and regional manager. Beginning in 2004, he worked independently in the banking industry. He took time out in 2007 to run for parliament in Jamaica. He was the candidate of the People’s National Party, but lost. In 2010 he returned to the University of the West Indies as a senior teaching fellow in the Mona School of Business and Management. Thomas was tapped in 2013 to be Jamaica’s ambassador to China.   read more
  • The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is François Balumuene?

    Sunday, June 19, 2016
    Balumuene served in 2000 as diplomatic and administrative assistant to the deputy commissioner general of the Government for MONUC Affairs, in charge of finance, logistics and foreign policy for the UN peacekeeping effort in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Later that year, he was made chargé d’affaires at the embassy to South Africa in Pretoria. In 2003, Balumuene was sent to India as his country’s ambassador. He then became dean of New Delhi’s diplomatic corps.   read more

Domestic Policy/Agency of the Day

  • Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation

    The Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation is a Federal government entity that maintains, operates, and works to increase utilization of the two United States Seaway locks located in Massena, New York, and the U.S. portion of the St. Law...   more

Domestic Policy Divisions

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Foreign Policy/Nation of the Day

  • Kiribati

    This central Pacific island nation provides an interesting trivia item for geography buffs who actually know how to pronounce its name correctly (the “ti” makes the “s” sound). Kiribati covers such a vast area of the Pacific Ocean that it includes...   more

Nations

Meet Your Government

  • Suleymanov, Elin

    The former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, located in the Caucasus Mountains west of the Caspian Sea, south of Russia and north of Iran, has sent a new ambassador to the U.S. Elin Suleymanov is quite familiar with the U.S., having lived here ten ye...   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