Featured Story

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
Latest News

Top Stories

  • 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
  • Another Federal Judge Urges an End to America’s “Madness of Mass Incarceration”

    Monday, June 27, 2016
    “Why this love affair in this country with lengthy incarceration, to our great embarrassment as a civilized nation?” he asked. He confessed to wanting to “scream out in frustration, sadness and anger” at being forced by Congress to impose mandatory sentences on many defendants. He said most criminals are “not evil incarnate” but rather act out of “weakness, need, sometimes desperation. So many...are without schooling, skills, hope or direction, and no term of years is going to change that.”   read more

Unusual News

  • 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
  • Hawaii Passes Criminal-Monitoring Gun Law Said to Be First of Its Kind in U.S.

    Saturday, June 25, 2016
    Rap Back is a service of the FBI that provides continuous criminal-record monitoring for law-enforcement. When a Hawaii firearm owner is arrested for a criminal offense anywhere in the country, the service alerts county police departments in Hawaii. Law enforcement then will be able to evaluate whether that gun owner may continue to legally possess firearms. "This system will better enable our law enforcement agencies to ensure the security of all Hawaii residents and visitors," said Gov. Ige.   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

  • 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
  • Agriculture Dept. Broke the Law by Discreetly Allowing Organic Farmers to Use Compost with Synthetic Chemicals

    Tuesday, June 28, 2016
    Environmental groups accused the USDA of violating the law by issuing a rule change to its organic standard that allowed organic farmers to use compost with synthetic chemicals without notifying the public. Before the rule change was issued, national organic food regulations banned synthetic substances in compost unless they were on an approved list. "It was more than a slap on the wrist to have [it] remanded," said CFS's Van Saun. "Now it remains to be seen what USDA will do with this."   read more
  • Are College SAT Tests Gender-Biased Against Females?

    Tuesday, June 28, 2016
    The concerns are fueling a debate in the industry over whether the test items were sufficiently vetted for gender bias, and whether the exam was unfair to female students. The two item posed what some test-prep experts considered a textbook example of “stereotype threat.” When people are reminded during a test of a negative stereotype about their race or sex, psychologists say, it creates a kind of test anxiety that leads them to underperform.   read more

U.S. and the World

  • 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
  • Afghanistan’s Taliban, Not Terrorists, Are Now Main Target of Heavy U.S. Drone Strikes

    Monday, June 27, 2016
    The investigation revealed that more than 200 strikes, most by drones, have been conducted to defend ground forces battling a rising insurgency, despite the fact that combat missions came to an end in 2014. These strikes represent more than 60% of all US airstrikes in the country. This suggests the US has been drawn quietly yet significantly into fighting the Taliban-led insurgency. Washington has appeared to make its airwar against the Taliban official by relaxing its rules in Afghanistan.   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

Featured Story

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
Latest News

Top Stories

  • 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
  • Another Federal Judge Urges an End to America’s “Madness of Mass Incarceration”

    Monday, June 27, 2016
    “Why this love affair in this country with lengthy incarceration, to our great embarrassment as a civilized nation?” he asked. He confessed to wanting to “scream out in frustration, sadness and anger” at being forced by Congress to impose mandatory sentences on many defendants. He said most criminals are “not evil incarnate” but rather act out of “weakness, need, sometimes desperation. So many...are without schooling, skills, hope or direction, and no term of years is going to change that.”   read more

Unusual News

  • 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
  • Hawaii Passes Criminal-Monitoring Gun Law Said to Be First of Its Kind in U.S.

    Saturday, June 25, 2016
    Rap Back is a service of the FBI that provides continuous criminal-record monitoring for law-enforcement. When a Hawaii firearm owner is arrested for a criminal offense anywhere in the country, the service alerts county police departments in Hawaii. Law enforcement then will be able to evaluate whether that gun owner may continue to legally possess firearms. "This system will better enable our law enforcement agencies to ensure the security of all Hawaii residents and visitors," said Gov. Ige.   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

  • 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
  • Agriculture Dept. Broke the Law by Discreetly Allowing Organic Farmers to Use Compost with Synthetic Chemicals

    Tuesday, June 28, 2016
    Environmental groups accused the USDA of violating the law by issuing a rule change to its organic standard that allowed organic farmers to use compost with synthetic chemicals without notifying the public. Before the rule change was issued, national organic food regulations banned synthetic substances in compost unless they were on an approved list. "It was more than a slap on the wrist to have [it] remanded," said CFS's Van Saun. "Now it remains to be seen what USDA will do with this."   read more
  • Are College SAT Tests Gender-Biased Against Females?

    Tuesday, June 28, 2016
    The concerns are fueling a debate in the industry over whether the test items were sufficiently vetted for gender bias, and whether the exam was unfair to female students. The two item posed what some test-prep experts considered a textbook example of “stereotype threat.” When people are reminded during a test of a negative stereotype about their race or sex, psychologists say, it creates a kind of test anxiety that leads them to underperform.   read more

U.S. and the World

  • 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
  • Afghanistan’s Taliban, Not Terrorists, Are Now Main Target of Heavy U.S. Drone Strikes

    Monday, June 27, 2016
    The investigation revealed that more than 200 strikes, most by drones, have been conducted to defend ground forces battling a rising insurgency, despite the fact that combat missions came to an end in 2014. These strikes represent more than 60% of all US airstrikes in the country. This suggests the US has been drawn quietly yet significantly into fighting the Taliban-led insurgency. Washington has appeared to make its airwar against the Taliban official by relaxing its rules in Afghanistan.   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