Featured Story

State Regulators Accuse U.S. Lawmaker of “Unprecedented” Meddling into ExxonMobil Fraud Investigations

Saturday, July 30, 2016
Smith, a Texas Republican who has received more than $687,000 in fossil fuel donations, made his hostility to the investigations known this month. Smith reportedly counts the oil and gas industry as his biggest lifetime donors and has used his science committee platform at every opportunity to try to discredit the scientific consensus on global warming. Smith called the ExxonMobil investigations "a form of extortion." Prosecutor Schneiderman called the subpoenas the work of "GOP extremists."   read more
Latest News

Top Stories

  • Trump’s Call for Russia to Interfere in U.S. Election on His Behalf Alarms Foreign Policy Experts

    Friday, July 29, 2016
    This is the first time that a presidential candidate has openly asked a foreign power to meddle in the democratic process to his benefit. More than that, Trump seemed to be suggesting that Russia should violate U.S. law on his behalf. Were Russia to follow Trump’s suggestion, the foreign intervention into U.S. politics would be among the most severe of the past century. “This is unprecedented...[and] seems to be genuinely new in international relations,” said professor Musgrave.   read more
  • FBI’s Secret Recording of Conversations on Courthouse Steps Not Illegal, Rules Federal Judge

    Thursday, July 28, 2016
    The FBI placed recording devices in a light fixture along the steps of both courthouses. The government then used the recordings during grand jury proceedings. Judge Phyllis Hamilton acknowledged the practice of placing recording devices on the courthouse steps to capture the conversations in a federal criminal fraud case was "unsettling," but said the four did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when they engaged in discussions about the alleged fraud next to the FBI's microphones.   read more
  • Americans Wary of Future Science Designed to “Enhance” Human Species

    Wednesday, July 27, 2016
    A new survey shows a real discomfort with the idea of meddling with human abilities. Pew asked about three techniques that might emerge in the future: using gene editing to protect babies from disease, implanting chips in the brain to improve people’s ability to think, and transfusing synthetic blood that would enhance performance by increasing speed, strength and endurance. The public was unenthusiastic on all counts, even about protecting babies from disease.   read more

Unusual News

  • Traffic Deaths Up 30% in Cities that Turned Off Red-Light Cameras at Traffic Signal Intersections

    Friday, July 29, 2016
    Many communities have ended their red-light camera programs in recent years amid complaints that they are designed to raise money through tickets rather than to enhance safety. Some courts have sided with motorists against the programs. "Debates over automated enforcement often center on the hassle of getting a ticket and paying a fine," said IIHS's Adrian Lund. "It's important to remember that there are hundreds of people walking around who wouldn't be here if not for red-light cameras."   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
  • 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

Where is the Money Going?

  • DNC Tried to Leverage White House Ties to Reward Donors with Federal Board Appointments

    Thursday, July 28, 2016
    “Being a donor does not get you a role in this administration,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz, “nor does it preclude you from getting one." The practice of rewarding big donors with federal positions dates back to the times of the founding fathers. FEC's Bob Biersack said that “Big donors have always risen to the top of lists for appointment to plum ambassadorships and other boards and commissions around the federal landscape." Most of the people on the list gave huge sums to the DNC.   read more
  • Obama Vetoes Bill Limiting Ex-Presidents’ Allowance

    Wednesday, July 27, 2016
    Obama said he supports the bill's goal, but he sent the measure back to Congress because it would immediately end salaries and benefits to staffers carrying out the official duties of former presidents. He says the measure doesn't provide enough time for these employees to be moved to another payroll. Obama says the bill would also interfere with the Secret Service's ability to protect ex-presidents.   read more
  • 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

Controversies

  • Stem Cell Clinics, Spreading Across U.S., Circumvent Laws to Provide Americans with Unproven Disease Treatments

    Friday, July 29, 2016
    The proliferation of the clinics “looks like it is occurring on a nationwide industrial scale,” said biochemist Turner, “operating brazenly, out in the open. It leaps out of these cultural assumptions about hopes and dreams of stem cell treatment, but there is no science behind it.” Some advertise treatments that seem to flout regulations. Said Prof. Ogbogu: "These clinics are being run by very sophisticated people. They understand the laws very well and have been working around the laws.”   read more
  • First Time in 40 Years, U.S. Regulators Propose Clampdown on Debt Collector Abuses

    Friday, July 29, 2016
    The regulations take aim at the harassing debt agency: Collectors would be barred from contacting people more than six times a week. After a debtor dies, collectors would have to wait 30 days before going after family members. “This is about bringing better accuracy and accountability to a market that desperately needs it,” said CFPB's Cordray. The bureau receives more complaints about debt collection than any other issue — more than 7,000 a month — 40% about debts customers say they don't owe.   read more
  • After 5-Year Battle, EPA Approves New Rules to Regulate Deadly Formaldehyde

    Friday, July 29, 2016
    The EPA has announced new limits to formaldehyde exposure, ending a battle of more than five years to regulate a toxic chemical commonly found throughout the home. Until now, the federal government has not regulated formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, in wood products. “We are carrying out important measures laid out by Congress to protect the public from harmful exposure of this widely used chemical found in homes and workplaces,” said EPA's Jim Jones.   read more

U.S. and the World

  • U.S. Says It Plans to Expand Central American Refugee Admission Program

    Thursday, July 28, 2016
    The White House has reached an agreement with Costa Rica to serve as a temporary host site for the most vulnerable migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras while they wait to be processed as refugees. The U.N. high commissioner for refugees has agreed to set up an unusual process for reviewing requests for people in their home countries to qualify as refugees and send them to Costa Rica if they are facing immediate danger.   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
  • 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

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

Featured Story

State Regulators Accuse U.S. Lawmaker of “Unprecedented” Meddling into ExxonMobil Fraud Investigations

Saturday, July 30, 2016
Smith, a Texas Republican who has received more than $687,000 in fossil fuel donations, made his hostility to the investigations known this month. Smith reportedly counts the oil and gas industry as his biggest lifetime donors and has used his science committee platform at every opportunity to try to discredit the scientific consensus on global warming. Smith called the ExxonMobil investigations "a form of extortion." Prosecutor Schneiderman called the subpoenas the work of "GOP extremists."   read more
Latest News

Top Stories

  • Trump’s Call for Russia to Interfere in U.S. Election on His Behalf Alarms Foreign Policy Experts

    Friday, July 29, 2016
    This is the first time that a presidential candidate has openly asked a foreign power to meddle in the democratic process to his benefit. More than that, Trump seemed to be suggesting that Russia should violate U.S. law on his behalf. Were Russia to follow Trump’s suggestion, the foreign intervention into U.S. politics would be among the most severe of the past century. “This is unprecedented...[and] seems to be genuinely new in international relations,” said professor Musgrave.   read more
  • FBI’s Secret Recording of Conversations on Courthouse Steps Not Illegal, Rules Federal Judge

    Thursday, July 28, 2016
    The FBI placed recording devices in a light fixture along the steps of both courthouses. The government then used the recordings during grand jury proceedings. Judge Phyllis Hamilton acknowledged the practice of placing recording devices on the courthouse steps to capture the conversations in a federal criminal fraud case was "unsettling," but said the four did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when they engaged in discussions about the alleged fraud next to the FBI's microphones.   read more
  • Americans Wary of Future Science Designed to “Enhance” Human Species

    Wednesday, July 27, 2016
    A new survey shows a real discomfort with the idea of meddling with human abilities. Pew asked about three techniques that might emerge in the future: using gene editing to protect babies from disease, implanting chips in the brain to improve people’s ability to think, and transfusing synthetic blood that would enhance performance by increasing speed, strength and endurance. The public was unenthusiastic on all counts, even about protecting babies from disease.   read more

Unusual News

  • Traffic Deaths Up 30% in Cities that Turned Off Red-Light Cameras at Traffic Signal Intersections

    Friday, July 29, 2016
    Many communities have ended their red-light camera programs in recent years amid complaints that they are designed to raise money through tickets rather than to enhance safety. Some courts have sided with motorists against the programs. "Debates over automated enforcement often center on the hassle of getting a ticket and paying a fine," said IIHS's Adrian Lund. "It's important to remember that there are hundreds of people walking around who wouldn't be here if not for red-light cameras."   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
  • 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

Where is the Money Going?

  • DNC Tried to Leverage White House Ties to Reward Donors with Federal Board Appointments

    Thursday, July 28, 2016
    “Being a donor does not get you a role in this administration,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz, “nor does it preclude you from getting one." The practice of rewarding big donors with federal positions dates back to the times of the founding fathers. FEC's Bob Biersack said that “Big donors have always risen to the top of lists for appointment to plum ambassadorships and other boards and commissions around the federal landscape." Most of the people on the list gave huge sums to the DNC.   read more
  • Obama Vetoes Bill Limiting Ex-Presidents’ Allowance

    Wednesday, July 27, 2016
    Obama said he supports the bill's goal, but he sent the measure back to Congress because it would immediately end salaries and benefits to staffers carrying out the official duties of former presidents. He says the measure doesn't provide enough time for these employees to be moved to another payroll. Obama says the bill would also interfere with the Secret Service's ability to protect ex-presidents.   read more
  • 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

Controversies

  • Stem Cell Clinics, Spreading Across U.S., Circumvent Laws to Provide Americans with Unproven Disease Treatments

    Friday, July 29, 2016
    The proliferation of the clinics “looks like it is occurring on a nationwide industrial scale,” said biochemist Turner, “operating brazenly, out in the open. It leaps out of these cultural assumptions about hopes and dreams of stem cell treatment, but there is no science behind it.” Some advertise treatments that seem to flout regulations. Said Prof. Ogbogu: "These clinics are being run by very sophisticated people. They understand the laws very well and have been working around the laws.”   read more
  • First Time in 40 Years, U.S. Regulators Propose Clampdown on Debt Collector Abuses

    Friday, July 29, 2016
    The regulations take aim at the harassing debt agency: Collectors would be barred from contacting people more than six times a week. After a debtor dies, collectors would have to wait 30 days before going after family members. “This is about bringing better accuracy and accountability to a market that desperately needs it,” said CFPB's Cordray. The bureau receives more complaints about debt collection than any other issue — more than 7,000 a month — 40% about debts customers say they don't owe.   read more
  • After 5-Year Battle, EPA Approves New Rules to Regulate Deadly Formaldehyde

    Friday, July 29, 2016
    The EPA has announced new limits to formaldehyde exposure, ending a battle of more than five years to regulate a toxic chemical commonly found throughout the home. Until now, the federal government has not regulated formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, in wood products. “We are carrying out important measures laid out by Congress to protect the public from harmful exposure of this widely used chemical found in homes and workplaces,” said EPA's Jim Jones.   read more

U.S. and the World

  • U.S. Says It Plans to Expand Central American Refugee Admission Program

    Thursday, July 28, 2016
    The White House has reached an agreement with Costa Rica to serve as a temporary host site for the most vulnerable migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras while they wait to be processed as refugees. The U.N. high commissioner for refugees has agreed to set up an unusual process for reviewing requests for people in their home countries to qualify as refugees and send them to Costa Rica if they are facing immediate danger.   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
  • 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

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