Featured Story

Secret Trade Pact would Allow Foreign Corporations to Sue U.S. for Damaging Investment “Expectations”

Friday, March 27, 2015
Democrats in Congress have been the most vocal opponents, saying it would give foreign banks as well as pharmaceutical, tobacco and other companies the ability to undermine U.S. sovereignty. “This is really troubling,” said Sen. Charles Schumer. “It seems to indicate that savvy, deep-pocketed foreign conglomerates could challenge a broad range of laws we pass at every level of government." Most GOP lawmakers reportedly favor the agreement.   read more
Latest News

Top Stories

  • Congressional Republicans Approve Huge Increase in Fund for Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan despite Pentagon Asking for Less

    Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Pentagon officials had asked for $51 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations. They got that, and more. Wednesday night, the Republican-controlled House passed a budget plan, authored by Rep. Tom Price, that added $45 billion to the request. Democrats, and even some Republicans, call the OCO a “slush fund” that allows the military too much freedom to spend taxpayer dollars. Democrats labeled the Republican padding of the fund an “abusive loophole.”   read more
  • Corporate Takeover of the First Amendment

    Wednesday, March 25, 2015
    The cornerstone of the Bill of Rights is increasingly becoming the property of corporations, says a new study. Supreme Court rulings reveal a “corporate takeover of the First Amendment," said Harvard professor John Coates IV. “Once the patron saint of protesters and the disenfranchised, the First Amendment has become the darling of economic libertarians and corporate lawyers who have recognized its power to immunize private enterprise from legal restraint,” wrote Columbia law professor Tim Wu.   read more
  • Crackdown on Medicare Fraud Brought back $3.3 Billion in One Year

    Tuesday, March 24, 2015
    Spearheaded by Attorney General Eric Holder and then-Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the HEAT program ramped up an 18-year effort by their two departments to battle Medicare fraud. Of the $3.3 billion recovered, $1.9 billion was funneled back into the Medicare Trust Fund, $1.2 billion went to the U.S. Treasury, and $155 million to other agencies. Whistleblowers collected $370 million of the funds for helping expose Medicare fraud.   read more

Unusual News

  • Lawyer who Defends Corporations Accused of Creating Toxic Pollution Sues Neighbor for Smoking Inside his own House

    Thursday, March 26, 2015
    When she’s not defending corporate polluters accused of releasing toxic substances, Nessa Coppinger is in court suing her neighbor for smoking in the privacy of his own home. She said Gray’s smoking was “a health concern” for her family. “We don’t allow smoking in our home,” she said. They want their neighbors to pay them $500,000 in damages, saying the smoke has intruded on their property. They’ve already gotten D.C. Judge Ronna Beck to issue an order banning smoking in Gray’s house.   read more
  • Breast Milk for Sale versus Breast Milk Banks

    Tuesday, March 24, 2015
    One biotech company offers cash to mothers to donate their extra breast milk to its lab. The company sells the human milk--which some call "white plasma"--at $180 an ounce, which means one premature baby can easily consume $10,000 worth over several weeks. But the lure of cash for milk may begin to drain the resources of milk banks, which don’t pay mothers for their contributions. Opponents say “breast milk farming” could lead greedy moms to do unscrupulous things in order to increase profits.   read more
  • U.S. Cities with Highest and Lowest Rates of Gay Populations

    Sunday, March 22, 2015
    Despite its status as home base for the Mormon Church, Utah has passed legislation with the support of the church prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment and housing. The area may also attract LGBT people from other, less welcoming, locations in the West. The metropolitan area with the fewest who identify as LGBT is Birmingham, Alabama, at 2.6%.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • $1 Billion TSA Behavioral Screening Program Slammed as Ineffective “Junk Science”

    Monday, March 23, 2015
    SPOT, whose techniques were first used in 2003 and formalized in 2007, uses “highly questionable” screening techniques, according to the ACLU complaint, while being “discriminatory, ineffective, pseudo-scientific, and wasteful of taxpayer money.” TSA has spent at least $1 billion on SPOT.   read more
  • Spending on Music Streaming Passes CD Sales for First Time

    Sunday, March 22, 2015
    CD revenues fell 12% to $1.85 billion in 2014. Meanwhile, streaming services accounted for $1.87 billion in revenue, up 29% from the year before. Digital downloads from services such as iTunes were the biggest money-maker at $2.6 billion, but even that figure was down 8.5% from 2013.   read more
  • FDA Opens Door to Less Expensive Drugs

    Friday, March 20, 2015
    In a move long fought by Big Pharma, the FDA has approved the first generic version of a biologic drug in the U.S., which could reduce the amount of money spent on the specialty medications. The Zarxio approval will directly affect the sales of Amgen’s Neupogen, which also targets chemo patients with infections. Amgen has gone to court in an effort to block the sale of Zarxio. Its availability in the U.S. market could save $5.7 billion in drug costs over the next 10 years   read more

Controversies

  • Inspector General Report Accuses Homeland Security Official of “Unprecedented” Visa Intervention on Behalf of Harry Reid, Virginia’s Current Governor and Others

    Thursday, March 26, 2015
    The investigation uncovered more than 15 whistleblowers within DHS who had concerns with Mayorkas’ actions—“an unusually large number of witnesses,” according to Government Executive. “Their allegations were unequivocal: Mr. Mayorkas gave special access and treatment to certain individuals and parties,” the report said. "Many employees concluded, not unreasonably, that the pressure exerted on them was because the individuals involved were politically connected.”   read more
  • Why are so many Babies Dying in Vernal, Utah?

    Thursday, March 26, 2015
    A small Utah town located near a major oil and gas drilling operation has witnessed a recent spike in infant deaths. Neonatal mortality rates in Vernal, population 10,000, went up six-fold from 2010 to 2013, according to statistics compiled by local resident and midwife Donna Young. Young’s troubling conclusion seemed to be backed up by a government health report on baby deaths in a tri-county area that includes Vernal. “I believe they know a lot more than what they’re divulging,” said Young.   read more
  • FCC Issues First TV Station Nudity Fine in 7 Years

    Thursday, March 26, 2015
    WDBJ got into trouble for showing a brief pornographic video clip on July 12, 2012, during a story on former porn star Tiffany Rose volunteering her time for a local rescue squad. The segment included three seconds from the woman’s website that featured an explicit video clip in a box on the side of the webpage. The fine of $325,000 against the station is the maximum amount that can be levied by the FCC.   read more

U.S. and the World

  • The FBI, 44 Dead Policemen and a Bomb Maker’s Finger

    Saturday, March 21, 2015
    The mission proved costly for the police force, which lost 44 men during the botched raid. Thirty-five members of the elite unit were picked off in a cornfield one by one by Moro Islamic Liberation Front snipers. The surviving commandoes weren’t even able to bring back Marwan’s body as a result of getting attacked by the Moro fighters. They had to settle for cutting off Marwan’s finger to prove to the FBI that the bomb maker, who was on the bureau’s list of most wanted terrorists, was dead.   read more
  • U.S. Dominates Weapons Export Market as Profits Grow with Sales to the Middle East

    Tuesday, March 17, 2015
    The U.S. was responsible for one-third of all defense exports and “was the main beneficiary of growth,” IHS reported. Saudi Arabia surpassed India to become the largest defense market for U.S. weapons makers, as the oil sheikdom increased its defense imports 54% from 2013 to 2014. This year is expected to be another strong year for Saudi imports, rising another 52% to $9.8 billion. “One out of every seven dollars spent on defense imports in 2015 will be spent by Saudi Arabia,” reported IHS.   read more
  • Ecuador Government Publishes Book about CIA Intervention in its Country

    Saturday, March 14, 2015
    Galarza was one of an estimated 120 Ecuadorans who were imprisoned and interrogated by the government with the assistance of CIA operatives. The spy agency claimed that Galarza was a guerilla in the Dominican Republic, an accusation he has long denied. Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, has said his agency printed the authors’ book, in both English and Spanish, to not only educate people about previous CIA schemes, but current ones.   read more

Appointments and Resignations

  • U.S. Ambassador to Somalia: Who Is Katherine Dhanani?

    Saturday, March 21, 2015
    Katherine Simonds Dhanani was nominated February 24, 2015, to be the next U.S. ambassador to Somalia. If she’s confirmed, the career Foreign Service officer would be the first ambassador to Somalia since the embassy was closed in 1991. If Dhanani is confirmed, she’ll initially be stationed in Nairobi, Kenya, until a suitable secure facility in constructed in Somalia.   read more
  • Assistant Secretary of Energy for Environmental Management: Who Is Monica Regalbuto?

    Saturday, March 14, 2015
    She joined the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management in 2008 as senior program manager in waste processing. As she awaits confirmation by the Senate, Regalbuto is deputy assistant secretary for fuel cycle technologies in DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy.   read more
  • Chief Executive Officer, Broadcasting Board of Governors: Who Is Andrew Lack?

    Saturday, February 28, 2015
    In an interview with The New York Times, Lack spoke of the difficulty of his job and said: “We are facing a number of challenges from entities like Russia Today which is out there pushing a point of view, the Islamic State in the Middle East and groups like Boko Haram. But I firmly believe that this agency has a role to play in facing those challenges.” Russia Today, a website and television channel run by the Russian government, blasted the comparison of their organization to terror groups.   read more

Featured Story

Secret Trade Pact would Allow Foreign Corporations to Sue U.S. for Damaging Investment “Expectations”

Friday, March 27, 2015
Democrats in Congress have been the most vocal opponents, saying it would give foreign banks as well as pharmaceutical, tobacco and other companies the ability to undermine U.S. sovereignty. “This is really troubling,” said Sen. Charles Schumer. “It seems to indicate that savvy, deep-pocketed foreign conglomerates could challenge a broad range of laws we pass at every level of government." Most GOP lawmakers reportedly favor the agreement.   read more
Latest News

Top Stories

  • Congressional Republicans Approve Huge Increase in Fund for Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan despite Pentagon Asking for Less

    Thursday, March 26, 2015
    Pentagon officials had asked for $51 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations. They got that, and more. Wednesday night, the Republican-controlled House passed a budget plan, authored by Rep. Tom Price, that added $45 billion to the request. Democrats, and even some Republicans, call the OCO a “slush fund” that allows the military too much freedom to spend taxpayer dollars. Democrats labeled the Republican padding of the fund an “abusive loophole.”   read more
  • Corporate Takeover of the First Amendment

    Wednesday, March 25, 2015
    The cornerstone of the Bill of Rights is increasingly becoming the property of corporations, says a new study. Supreme Court rulings reveal a “corporate takeover of the First Amendment," said Harvard professor John Coates IV. “Once the patron saint of protesters and the disenfranchised, the First Amendment has become the darling of economic libertarians and corporate lawyers who have recognized its power to immunize private enterprise from legal restraint,” wrote Columbia law professor Tim Wu.   read more
  • Crackdown on Medicare Fraud Brought back $3.3 Billion in One Year

    Tuesday, March 24, 2015
    Spearheaded by Attorney General Eric Holder and then-Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the HEAT program ramped up an 18-year effort by their two departments to battle Medicare fraud. Of the $3.3 billion recovered, $1.9 billion was funneled back into the Medicare Trust Fund, $1.2 billion went to the U.S. Treasury, and $155 million to other agencies. Whistleblowers collected $370 million of the funds for helping expose Medicare fraud.   read more

Unusual News

  • Lawyer who Defends Corporations Accused of Creating Toxic Pollution Sues Neighbor for Smoking Inside his own House

    Thursday, March 26, 2015
    When she’s not defending corporate polluters accused of releasing toxic substances, Nessa Coppinger is in court suing her neighbor for smoking in the privacy of his own home. She said Gray’s smoking was “a health concern” for her family. “We don’t allow smoking in our home,” she said. They want their neighbors to pay them $500,000 in damages, saying the smoke has intruded on their property. They’ve already gotten D.C. Judge Ronna Beck to issue an order banning smoking in Gray’s house.   read more
  • Breast Milk for Sale versus Breast Milk Banks

    Tuesday, March 24, 2015
    One biotech company offers cash to mothers to donate their extra breast milk to its lab. The company sells the human milk--which some call "white plasma"--at $180 an ounce, which means one premature baby can easily consume $10,000 worth over several weeks. But the lure of cash for milk may begin to drain the resources of milk banks, which don’t pay mothers for their contributions. Opponents say “breast milk farming” could lead greedy moms to do unscrupulous things in order to increase profits.   read more
  • U.S. Cities with Highest and Lowest Rates of Gay Populations

    Sunday, March 22, 2015
    Despite its status as home base for the Mormon Church, Utah has passed legislation with the support of the church prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment and housing. The area may also attract LGBT people from other, less welcoming, locations in the West. The metropolitan area with the fewest who identify as LGBT is Birmingham, Alabama, at 2.6%.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • $1 Billion TSA Behavioral Screening Program Slammed as Ineffective “Junk Science”

    Monday, March 23, 2015
    SPOT, whose techniques were first used in 2003 and formalized in 2007, uses “highly questionable” screening techniques, according to the ACLU complaint, while being “discriminatory, ineffective, pseudo-scientific, and wasteful of taxpayer money.” TSA has spent at least $1 billion on SPOT.   read more
  • Spending on Music Streaming Passes CD Sales for First Time

    Sunday, March 22, 2015
    CD revenues fell 12% to $1.85 billion in 2014. Meanwhile, streaming services accounted for $1.87 billion in revenue, up 29% from the year before. Digital downloads from services such as iTunes were the biggest money-maker at $2.6 billion, but even that figure was down 8.5% from 2013.   read more
  • FDA Opens Door to Less Expensive Drugs

    Friday, March 20, 2015
    In a move long fought by Big Pharma, the FDA has approved the first generic version of a biologic drug in the U.S., which could reduce the amount of money spent on the specialty medications. The Zarxio approval will directly affect the sales of Amgen’s Neupogen, which also targets chemo patients with infections. Amgen has gone to court in an effort to block the sale of Zarxio. Its availability in the U.S. market could save $5.7 billion in drug costs over the next 10 years   read more

Controversies

  • Inspector General Report Accuses Homeland Security Official of “Unprecedented” Visa Intervention on Behalf of Harry Reid, Virginia’s Current Governor and Others

    Thursday, March 26, 2015
    The investigation uncovered more than 15 whistleblowers within DHS who had concerns with Mayorkas’ actions—“an unusually large number of witnesses,” according to Government Executive. “Their allegations were unequivocal: Mr. Mayorkas gave special access and treatment to certain individuals and parties,” the report said. "Many employees concluded, not unreasonably, that the pressure exerted on them was because the individuals involved were politically connected.”   read more
  • Why are so many Babies Dying in Vernal, Utah?

    Thursday, March 26, 2015
    A small Utah town located near a major oil and gas drilling operation has witnessed a recent spike in infant deaths. Neonatal mortality rates in Vernal, population 10,000, went up six-fold from 2010 to 2013, according to statistics compiled by local resident and midwife Donna Young. Young’s troubling conclusion seemed to be backed up by a government health report on baby deaths in a tri-county area that includes Vernal. “I believe they know a lot more than what they’re divulging,” said Young.   read more
  • FCC Issues First TV Station Nudity Fine in 7 Years

    Thursday, March 26, 2015
    WDBJ got into trouble for showing a brief pornographic video clip on July 12, 2012, during a story on former porn star Tiffany Rose volunteering her time for a local rescue squad. The segment included three seconds from the woman’s website that featured an explicit video clip in a box on the side of the webpage. The fine of $325,000 against the station is the maximum amount that can be levied by the FCC.   read more

U.S. and the World

  • The FBI, 44 Dead Policemen and a Bomb Maker’s Finger

    Saturday, March 21, 2015
    The mission proved costly for the police force, which lost 44 men during the botched raid. Thirty-five members of the elite unit were picked off in a cornfield one by one by Moro Islamic Liberation Front snipers. The surviving commandoes weren’t even able to bring back Marwan’s body as a result of getting attacked by the Moro fighters. They had to settle for cutting off Marwan’s finger to prove to the FBI that the bomb maker, who was on the bureau’s list of most wanted terrorists, was dead.   read more
  • U.S. Dominates Weapons Export Market as Profits Grow with Sales to the Middle East

    Tuesday, March 17, 2015
    The U.S. was responsible for one-third of all defense exports and “was the main beneficiary of growth,” IHS reported. Saudi Arabia surpassed India to become the largest defense market for U.S. weapons makers, as the oil sheikdom increased its defense imports 54% from 2013 to 2014. This year is expected to be another strong year for Saudi imports, rising another 52% to $9.8 billion. “One out of every seven dollars spent on defense imports in 2015 will be spent by Saudi Arabia,” reported IHS.   read more
  • Ecuador Government Publishes Book about CIA Intervention in its Country

    Saturday, March 14, 2015
    Galarza was one of an estimated 120 Ecuadorans who were imprisoned and interrogated by the government with the assistance of CIA operatives. The spy agency claimed that Galarza was a guerilla in the Dominican Republic, an accusation he has long denied. Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, has said his agency printed the authors’ book, in both English and Spanish, to not only educate people about previous CIA schemes, but current ones.   read more

Appointments and Resignations

  • U.S. Ambassador to Somalia: Who Is Katherine Dhanani?

    Saturday, March 21, 2015
    Katherine Simonds Dhanani was nominated February 24, 2015, to be the next U.S. ambassador to Somalia. If she’s confirmed, the career Foreign Service officer would be the first ambassador to Somalia since the embassy was closed in 1991. If Dhanani is confirmed, she’ll initially be stationed in Nairobi, Kenya, until a suitable secure facility in constructed in Somalia.   read more
  • Assistant Secretary of Energy for Environmental Management: Who Is Monica Regalbuto?

    Saturday, March 14, 2015
    She joined the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management in 2008 as senior program manager in waste processing. As she awaits confirmation by the Senate, Regalbuto is deputy assistant secretary for fuel cycle technologies in DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy.   read more
  • Chief Executive Officer, Broadcasting Board of Governors: Who Is Andrew Lack?

    Saturday, February 28, 2015
    In an interview with The New York Times, Lack spoke of the difficulty of his job and said: “We are facing a number of challenges from entities like Russia Today which is out there pushing a point of view, the Islamic State in the Middle East and groups like Boko Haram. But I firmly believe that this agency has a role to play in facing those challenges.” Russia Today, a website and television channel run by the Russian government, blasted the comparison of their organization to terror groups.   read more