Featured Story

Phone Routing Firm Recruits Ex-Homeland Chief to Sound Alarm on U.S. Security in Bid to Hold Onto Federal Contract

Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Every day, hundreds of millions of phone calls and texts are routed throughout North America by an obscure federal office operated by a private telecommunications company. This operation has gone largely unnoticed but a potential change in contractor has set off a debate in Washington. Michael Chertoff, a former Secretary of Homeland Security, has been brought in as a hired gun by Neustar to lobby for it to keep the job as “air traffic controller for the nation’s phone system.”   read more
Latest News

Top Stories

  • Hollywood Companies Win FAA Approval for First Commercial Use of Drones in U.S.

    Monday, September 29, 2014
    Six companies have won permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to use drones in the filming of movies in the United States. It’s the first time drones have been approved for use outside wilderness areas in Alaska.The Motion Picture Association of American led the lobbying effort.   read more
  • Most Americans Clueless about Gap between CEO Pay and Employee Pay

    Sunday, September 28, 2014
    People around the world were surveyed on what they thought the gap between worker and CEO pay was, and what they thought the gap should be. Americans responded in 2012 that they thought bosses made 30 times what the average worker made, and that the ratio should ideally be 7 to 1. The actual ratio of CEO to worker pay was 354 to 1. Those of other nationalities had similar gaps between their ideal ratio and the ratio they thought existed.   read more
  • Judge Says FDA Took “Prohibited Actions” against Whistleblowers, but Dismisses Email Spying Lawsuit against the Agency

    Saturday, September 27, 2014
    Judge Reggie B. Walton dismissed the complaint by FDA scientists who claimed the agency violated their constitutional rights by reading their emails questioning the safety of medical equipment. Walton decided the case couldn't proceed because the plaintiffs didn't first follow administrative remedies. But Walton conceded that "the plaintiffs have alleged no shortage of facts establishing that the defendants took...[prohibited] actions" against the whistleblowers.   read more

Unusual News

  • VA Records Show Veteran Rescheduled Appointment after he Died

    Friday, September 26, 2014
    Either the Department of Veterans Affairs has again demonstrated some shady record keeping or it has a zombie problem on its hands. According to VA records, former Marine Jordan Buisman rescheduled his medical appointment four days after he died. He died of seizure disorder, the condition for which he sought treatment 24 days before the appointment. “I’m extremely troubled to hear reports that [VA] records may have been doctored. This is an unacceptable tragedy,” said Senator Al Franken.   read more
  • One Cop in Charge of 461 Sex Offenders

    Tuesday, September 23, 2014
    Officer Chris Poncia has 461 people in his case file, all the sex offenders in Providence. His beat includes 175 Level 2 and 3 offenders, who are classified this way because they’re considered likely to commit sex crimes again. Poncia is unique among his peers in Rhode Island, which has about 1,600 sex offenders. He is the only cop in the state who does nothing but patrol the sex offender beat.   read more
  • Florida Sheriffs Used SWAT-Style Attack to Enforce Barbershop License

    Saturday, September 20, 2014
    “With some team members dressed in ballistic vests and masks, and with guns drawn, the deputies rushed into their target destinations, handcuffed the stunned occupants—and demanded to see their barbers’ licenses,” the court wrote. The raid was one of several deputies carried out against minority-owned barbershops and salons in 2010.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • CDC Funds Group that Helps Hollywood Present Health and Health Insurance Issues Accurately

    Wednesday, September 24, 2014
    When television writers or screenwriters need some expert advice for a medical storyline, they turn to Hollywood, Health, and Society, a private group of experts funded by the federal government’s leading health research agency. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides up to half a million dollars a year to Hollywood, Health, and Society, which has been advising the entertainment industry for 13 years.   read more
  • California Pensions to Dump $4 Billion Hedge Fund Investments; Rockefeller Charity Drops Oil

    Tuesday, September 23, 2014
    The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) has decided to divest its investment portfolio of all hedge funds, a total of 24 plus six “funds of funds.” The total comes out to about $4 billion out of CalPERS’ total assets of $300 billion. The amount may not be that significant compared to the overall investing CalPERS does, but the pension fund’s sheer size makes any decision noticeable among investors.   read more
  • Secret Donors have Spent more than $60 Million on Current Election Campaign

    Monday, September 22, 2014
    Nonprofit groups that aren’t supposed to have politics as their primary purpose have reportedly put $63 million into ads and other efforts to influence the outcome of the 2014 midterm races, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), which tracks electoral spending. Mother Jones’ Andy Kroll pointed out that this amount nearly matches the $69 million in dark money that was spent during the entire 2008 presidential campaign.   read more

Controversies

  • No Counsel, Convictions or Trials for Longtime Mississippi Jail Inmates

    Monday, September 29, 2014
    At least one Mississippi jurisdiction, Scott County, routinely keeps prisoners for months and sometimes more than a year at time without indicting them or providing legal counsel. That’s why the American Civil Liberties Union and the MacArthur Justice Center are suing the county alleging inmates’ constitutional rights are being violated by being “indefinitely detained” and “indefinitely denied counsel.”   read more
  • D.C. Passes Strict—and Unwanted—Gun Law Allowing Concealed Firearms

    Monday, September 29, 2014
    The Washington D.C. city council voted last Tuesday to establish a permitting process for carrying concealed firearms. It came as a result of a federal judge declaring the District’s laws forbidding civilians to carry weapons unconstitutional because of a 2008 Supreme Court ruling on the subject.   read more
  • Judge Criticizes Customs and Border Protection for Deporting 4-Year-Old U.S. Citizen

    Sunday, September 28, 2014
    Emily Ruiz was 4 years old in 2011 when she went to Guatemala with her grandfather. Their flight home to New York was diverted to Washington. Emily cleared immigration, but officers found irregularities in her grandfather’s papers.Eventually the two were deported to Guatemala. In a suit Emily's father filed, the government is accused of claims of claims of false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence.   read more

U.S. and the World

Appointments and Resignations

  • U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda: Who Is Erica Barks-Ruggles?

    Monday, September 29, 2014
    In 2005, Barks-Ruggles was named deputy assistant Secretary of state for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. While in that post, she focused on Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel and Palestinian affairs, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon. In 2008, Barks-Ruggles was asked by her superiors to tone down a report on human rights in North Korea, removing words such as “repressive” and “regime.”   read more
  • U.S. Ambassador to Slovenia: Who Is Brent Hartley?

    Sunday, September 28, 2014
    In 2010 he was made director for European Security and Political Affairs and in 2012 Hartley was named deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs with responsibility for Nordic, Baltic and Central European countries. Some of his duties there have entailed testifying to Congress on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Hungarian anti-Semitism and anti-Romani trends.   read more
  • U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau: Who Is James P. Zumwalt?

    Sunday, September 28, 2014
    Zumwalt went back to Tokyo in 2008 as deputy chief of mission, serving as chargé d’affaires for a time during 2009. While there, he wrote a blog for the embassy website focusing on Japanese culture and other issues. In 2012, Zumwalt was back in Washington as deputy assistant secretary of state for Japan and Korea, a post he held until his nomination to be ambassador.   read more

Featured Story

Phone Routing Firm Recruits Ex-Homeland Chief to Sound Alarm on U.S. Security in Bid to Hold Onto Federal Contract

Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Every day, hundreds of millions of phone calls and texts are routed throughout North America by an obscure federal office operated by a private telecommunications company. This operation has gone largely unnoticed but a potential change in contractor has set off a debate in Washington. Michael Chertoff, a former Secretary of Homeland Security, has been brought in as a hired gun by Neustar to lobby for it to keep the job as “air traffic controller for the nation’s phone system.”   read more
Latest News

Top Stories

  • Hollywood Companies Win FAA Approval for First Commercial Use of Drones in U.S.

    Monday, September 29, 2014
    Six companies have won permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to use drones in the filming of movies in the United States. It’s the first time drones have been approved for use outside wilderness areas in Alaska.The Motion Picture Association of American led the lobbying effort.   read more
  • Most Americans Clueless about Gap between CEO Pay and Employee Pay

    Sunday, September 28, 2014
    People around the world were surveyed on what they thought the gap between worker and CEO pay was, and what they thought the gap should be. Americans responded in 2012 that they thought bosses made 30 times what the average worker made, and that the ratio should ideally be 7 to 1. The actual ratio of CEO to worker pay was 354 to 1. Those of other nationalities had similar gaps between their ideal ratio and the ratio they thought existed.   read more
  • Judge Says FDA Took “Prohibited Actions” against Whistleblowers, but Dismisses Email Spying Lawsuit against the Agency

    Saturday, September 27, 2014
    Judge Reggie B. Walton dismissed the complaint by FDA scientists who claimed the agency violated their constitutional rights by reading their emails questioning the safety of medical equipment. Walton decided the case couldn't proceed because the plaintiffs didn't first follow administrative remedies. But Walton conceded that "the plaintiffs have alleged no shortage of facts establishing that the defendants took...[prohibited] actions" against the whistleblowers.   read more

Unusual News

  • VA Records Show Veteran Rescheduled Appointment after he Died

    Friday, September 26, 2014
    Either the Department of Veterans Affairs has again demonstrated some shady record keeping or it has a zombie problem on its hands. According to VA records, former Marine Jordan Buisman rescheduled his medical appointment four days after he died. He died of seizure disorder, the condition for which he sought treatment 24 days before the appointment. “I’m extremely troubled to hear reports that [VA] records may have been doctored. This is an unacceptable tragedy,” said Senator Al Franken.   read more
  • One Cop in Charge of 461 Sex Offenders

    Tuesday, September 23, 2014
    Officer Chris Poncia has 461 people in his case file, all the sex offenders in Providence. His beat includes 175 Level 2 and 3 offenders, who are classified this way because they’re considered likely to commit sex crimes again. Poncia is unique among his peers in Rhode Island, which has about 1,600 sex offenders. He is the only cop in the state who does nothing but patrol the sex offender beat.   read more
  • Florida Sheriffs Used SWAT-Style Attack to Enforce Barbershop License

    Saturday, September 20, 2014
    “With some team members dressed in ballistic vests and masks, and with guns drawn, the deputies rushed into their target destinations, handcuffed the stunned occupants—and demanded to see their barbers’ licenses,” the court wrote. The raid was one of several deputies carried out against minority-owned barbershops and salons in 2010.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • CDC Funds Group that Helps Hollywood Present Health and Health Insurance Issues Accurately

    Wednesday, September 24, 2014
    When television writers or screenwriters need some expert advice for a medical storyline, they turn to Hollywood, Health, and Society, a private group of experts funded by the federal government’s leading health research agency. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides up to half a million dollars a year to Hollywood, Health, and Society, which has been advising the entertainment industry for 13 years.   read more
  • California Pensions to Dump $4 Billion Hedge Fund Investments; Rockefeller Charity Drops Oil

    Tuesday, September 23, 2014
    The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) has decided to divest its investment portfolio of all hedge funds, a total of 24 plus six “funds of funds.” The total comes out to about $4 billion out of CalPERS’ total assets of $300 billion. The amount may not be that significant compared to the overall investing CalPERS does, but the pension fund’s sheer size makes any decision noticeable among investors.   read more
  • Secret Donors have Spent more than $60 Million on Current Election Campaign

    Monday, September 22, 2014
    Nonprofit groups that aren’t supposed to have politics as their primary purpose have reportedly put $63 million into ads and other efforts to influence the outcome of the 2014 midterm races, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), which tracks electoral spending. Mother Jones’ Andy Kroll pointed out that this amount nearly matches the $69 million in dark money that was spent during the entire 2008 presidential campaign.   read more

Controversies

  • No Counsel, Convictions or Trials for Longtime Mississippi Jail Inmates

    Monday, September 29, 2014
    At least one Mississippi jurisdiction, Scott County, routinely keeps prisoners for months and sometimes more than a year at time without indicting them or providing legal counsel. That’s why the American Civil Liberties Union and the MacArthur Justice Center are suing the county alleging inmates’ constitutional rights are being violated by being “indefinitely detained” and “indefinitely denied counsel.”   read more
  • D.C. Passes Strict—and Unwanted—Gun Law Allowing Concealed Firearms

    Monday, September 29, 2014
    The Washington D.C. city council voted last Tuesday to establish a permitting process for carrying concealed firearms. It came as a result of a federal judge declaring the District’s laws forbidding civilians to carry weapons unconstitutional because of a 2008 Supreme Court ruling on the subject.   read more
  • Judge Criticizes Customs and Border Protection for Deporting 4-Year-Old U.S. Citizen

    Sunday, September 28, 2014
    Emily Ruiz was 4 years old in 2011 when she went to Guatemala with her grandfather. Their flight home to New York was diverted to Washington. Emily cleared immigration, but officers found irregularities in her grandfather’s papers.Eventually the two were deported to Guatemala. In a suit Emily's father filed, the government is accused of claims of claims of false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence.   read more

U.S. and the World

Appointments and Resignations

  • U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda: Who Is Erica Barks-Ruggles?

    Monday, September 29, 2014
    In 2005, Barks-Ruggles was named deputy assistant Secretary of state for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. While in that post, she focused on Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel and Palestinian affairs, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon. In 2008, Barks-Ruggles was asked by her superiors to tone down a report on human rights in North Korea, removing words such as “repressive” and “regime.”   read more
  • U.S. Ambassador to Slovenia: Who Is Brent Hartley?

    Sunday, September 28, 2014
    In 2010 he was made director for European Security and Political Affairs and in 2012 Hartley was named deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs with responsibility for Nordic, Baltic and Central European countries. Some of his duties there have entailed testifying to Congress on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Hungarian anti-Semitism and anti-Romani trends.   read more
  • U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau: Who Is James P. Zumwalt?

    Sunday, September 28, 2014
    Zumwalt went back to Tokyo in 2008 as deputy chief of mission, serving as chargé d’affaires for a time during 2009. While there, he wrote a blog for the embassy website focusing on Japanese culture and other issues. In 2012, Zumwalt was back in Washington as deputy assistant secretary of state for Japan and Korea, a post he held until his nomination to be ambassador.   read more