Featured Story

Here’s Why Indiana’s Anti-Gay Law is Different from other States’ Religious Freedom Laws

Wednesday, April 01, 2015
Lawyer Matt Anderson said the law opens up “the path of least resistance among its species to have a court adjudicate it in a manner that could ultimately be used to discriminate…" It “explicitly applies to disputes between private citizens,” said ThinkProgress. “This means it could be used as a cudgel by corporations to justify discrimination against individuals that might otherwise be protected.” The law already took root elsewhere; Arkansas on Tuesday passed a bill nearly identical to it.   read more
Latest News

Top Stories

  • Smartphone Users Tracked by Apps an Average of every Three Minutes

    Tuesday, March 31, 2015
    The smartphone owners were sent daily messages informing them of the number of times their personal information—current location, incoming and outgoing phone calls, their contacts lists—had been shared with app companies. One message read: “Your location has been shared 5,398 times with Facebook, Groupon...and seven other apps in the last 14 days.” People were taken off guard. One person reacted: “4,182 (times) – are you kidding me? It felt like I’m being followed by my own phone. It was scary."   read more
  • Was Hillary Clinton, While Secretary of State, Running a Secret Spy Network?

    Monday, March 30, 2015
    One of the emails pointed out the deteriorating security situation right before the Benghazi consulate was stormed, citing “an extremely sensitive source” who pointed out the numerous bombings and kidnapping of aid workers and diplomats by those thought to be loyal to the late Libyan Prime Minister Muammar Gaddafi. Despite the information gathered by Clinton’s network, she said after the Benghazi attacks of September 2012 that U.S. intelligence officials had had no advance warning of the threat.   read more
  • Indiana Gov. Pence Signs Bill Allowing Discrimination against Gays (and also Declares an HIV Emergency)

    Sunday, March 29, 2015
    The new law prohibits state or local governments from substantially burdening a person’s ability to exercise their religion, which opponents say is a veiled attempt to allow religious conservatives to discriminate against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals without the state intervening. “Not only is this law unnecessary, it unfortunately has already portrayed our state as intolerant, unfriendly, and backwards” Democratic state Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane said.   read more

Unusual News

  • All-Time Highest Temperature Recorded in Antarctica

    Tuesday, March 31, 2015
    Base Esperanza, controlled by Argentina and located near the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, recorded a temperature of 63.5°F on March 24. That was nearly four degrees higher than the previous high for the continent. “One surprising aspect of the temperatures measured recently at Esperanza and Marambio are that they occurred in autumn, nearly three months past the usual warmest time of the year in the Antarctic Peninsula,” according to the Weather Underground.   read more
  • TSA’s Guide to Spotting Potential Terrorists at Airports

    Monday, March 30, 2015
    The TSA has even assigned point values to each suspicious act. Strong body odor, for example, is worth 1 point, while a cold penetrating stare rates 2 points. If a passenger appears to be in disguise, he’s assessed 3 points. Points can also be deducted for a passenger’s age, or if they appear to be traveling with a spouse. Anyone assessed 4 or 5 points is subject to further screening and 6 or more points causes a supervisor to be called.   read more
  • Obama and Agriculture Dept. Agree that White Potatoes are Nutritious for Poor People

    Sunday, March 29, 2015
    The reviewers concluded that there was “insufficient evidence” that adding white potatoes to the approved list would change food purchasing habits of WIC recipients, and that there was “no evidence” purchasing habits had changed since white potatoes were removed from the list in 2009. Furthermore, “The nutrient profile of white potatoes does not support their exclusion from the CVV [cash value voucher program] because their nutrient content is similar to that of other starchy vegetables."   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • Through Medicare, Taxpayers Spent $4.5 Billion Last Year on New Hepatitis C Drugs…but they Work

    Tuesday, March 31, 2015
    The costly drugs are effective—with cure rates of upwards of 90% and fewer dangerous side effects. “Curing hepatitis C will likely go on to prevent liver cancer, go on to prevent patients needing liver transplantation, go on to save health care dollars down the road,” said liver specialist Dr. Adam Peyton, who prescribed $13.5 million worth of hepatitis C drugs in Part D last year. “It’s upsetting that there's been so much negative publicity for such a positive breakthrough in medicine.”   read more
  • Photo ID Cards are not an Effective way to Stop Food Stamp Fraud

    Monday, March 30, 2015
    There is fraud in the system, according to the Urban Institute, but it’s not the kind that would be prevented by having a photo on the cards. Generally fraud occurs when a recipient buys food with the card and then sells it or connives with a retailer to receive cash back from a purchase, which is strictly forbidden by the regulations governing the program. In none of these scenarios would a photo on the cards stop fraud.   read more
  • $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

Controversies

  • Citizens’ Growing Protests against Border Patrol Checkpoints Inside the U.S.

    Tuesday, March 31, 2015
    Dash-cam footage showed agents smashing the car window of Navy veteran Thomas Sauer, 26, then forcibly yanking him from his car after he chose to “opt out” of discussing his citizenship. “I did it because I don't agree with the premise of questioning citizens without suspicion,” said Sauer. The incident led to his being fired from his job. “Often, local citizens are subjected to extended interrogation and detainment” said ACLU attorney Mitra Ebadolahi. “These are mini police-state zones.”   read more
  • Alabama Judges Override Juries and Order Death Sentences…if There’s an Election Coming Up

    Tuesday, March 31, 2015
    Statistics show that Alabama judges, who are elected to the bench, have overridden juries in murder cases 111 times since the death penalty’s reinstatement in 1976. Of that 111, judges have upgraded the sentences to death 101 times. Of those, 80% occurred in the year leading up to a judge’s reelection. "Alabama judges, who are elected in partisan proceedings, appear to have succumbed to electoral pressures.” wrote U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor   read more
  • FBI Begins Tracking Hate Crimes against Arabs, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims

    Monday, March 30, 2015
    Until now, the Uniform Crime Report did not include hate crime data for any South Asian-American community. Instead, they were just lumped in with all Asian Americans. Supporters of the change said it was long overdue, noting that hate crimes against Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims have gone up since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.   read more

U.S. and the World

  • Israelis Killed more Palestinians Last Year than in any Year since 1967

    Sunday, March 29, 2015
    Most of the deaths came in the fighting in Gaza between July 7 and August 26. During those hostilities, 2,220 Palestinians were killed, 1,492 of them civilians, 551 of whom were children. This included 142 Palestinian families who saw three or more family members killed because of attacks on their residences. These attacks on residential buildings accounted for 742 deaths. During the Gaza fighting, 71 Israelis were killed, 66 of them soldiers.   read more
  • Cold-Blooded Participant in Rwandan Genocide, Caught Lying to Gain U.S. Citizenship, Loses Appeal

    Sunday, March 29, 2015
    Munyenyezi was found to have “kicked off the killing frenzy there by telling the party’s devotees that all Tutsi ‘cockroaches’ must die.” According to the appeals court, “she personally inspected IDs at the checkpoint, separated those who would live from those who would die (and die gruesomely), and kept records of the ghastly going-ons.”   read more
  • 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

Appointments and Resignations

  • Undersecretary for Health, Department of Veterans Affairs: Who Is David Shulkin?

    Monday, March 30, 2015
    Shulkin’s work has frequently involved looking at managed and accountable care, in which patients, especially the chronically ill, get the right care at the right time, while avoiding unnecessary duplication of services and preventing medical errors. In 2008, for example, he studied why patients who are admitted at night are more likely to die than patients admitted during the day. Also in 2008 he edited the book Questions Patients Need to Ask: Getting the Best Healthcare.   read more
  • Chair of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board: Who Is Vanessa Allen Sutherland?

    Sunday, March 29, 2015
    Sutherland moved on to cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris in 2004 as counsel. In 2008 she was named a senior counsel for Philip Morris parent Altria in their client services group. She switched to government service in 2011 as chief counsel for the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, where she works as she awaits confirmation.   read more
  • Chemical Safety Chairman Resigns: Who Is Rafael Moure-Eraso?

    Saturday, March 28, 2015
    Investigations into chemical accidents had backlogged under his leadership and he was accused of getting in the way of the EPA’s inspector general’s investigations. Further, Moure-Eraso and two top executives were caught using personal email accounts to conduct official business. A congressional investigation concluded Moure-Eraso ruined CSB’s workplace, turning it into an “abusive, toxic and hostile” environment. Board members have left in disgust because of CSB’s “level of dysfunction.”   read more

Featured Story

Here’s Why Indiana’s Anti-Gay Law is Different from other States’ Religious Freedom Laws

Wednesday, April 01, 2015
Lawyer Matt Anderson said the law opens up “the path of least resistance among its species to have a court adjudicate it in a manner that could ultimately be used to discriminate…" It “explicitly applies to disputes between private citizens,” said ThinkProgress. “This means it could be used as a cudgel by corporations to justify discrimination against individuals that might otherwise be protected.” The law already took root elsewhere; Arkansas on Tuesday passed a bill nearly identical to it.   read more
Latest News

Top Stories

  • Smartphone Users Tracked by Apps an Average of every Three Minutes

    Tuesday, March 31, 2015
    The smartphone owners were sent daily messages informing them of the number of times their personal information—current location, incoming and outgoing phone calls, their contacts lists—had been shared with app companies. One message read: “Your location has been shared 5,398 times with Facebook, Groupon...and seven other apps in the last 14 days.” People were taken off guard. One person reacted: “4,182 (times) – are you kidding me? It felt like I’m being followed by my own phone. It was scary."   read more
  • Was Hillary Clinton, While Secretary of State, Running a Secret Spy Network?

    Monday, March 30, 2015
    One of the emails pointed out the deteriorating security situation right before the Benghazi consulate was stormed, citing “an extremely sensitive source” who pointed out the numerous bombings and kidnapping of aid workers and diplomats by those thought to be loyal to the late Libyan Prime Minister Muammar Gaddafi. Despite the information gathered by Clinton’s network, she said after the Benghazi attacks of September 2012 that U.S. intelligence officials had had no advance warning of the threat.   read more
  • Indiana Gov. Pence Signs Bill Allowing Discrimination against Gays (and also Declares an HIV Emergency)

    Sunday, March 29, 2015
    The new law prohibits state or local governments from substantially burdening a person’s ability to exercise their religion, which opponents say is a veiled attempt to allow religious conservatives to discriminate against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals without the state intervening. “Not only is this law unnecessary, it unfortunately has already portrayed our state as intolerant, unfriendly, and backwards” Democratic state Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane said.   read more

Unusual News

  • All-Time Highest Temperature Recorded in Antarctica

    Tuesday, March 31, 2015
    Base Esperanza, controlled by Argentina and located near the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, recorded a temperature of 63.5°F on March 24. That was nearly four degrees higher than the previous high for the continent. “One surprising aspect of the temperatures measured recently at Esperanza and Marambio are that they occurred in autumn, nearly three months past the usual warmest time of the year in the Antarctic Peninsula,” according to the Weather Underground.   read more
  • TSA’s Guide to Spotting Potential Terrorists at Airports

    Monday, March 30, 2015
    The TSA has even assigned point values to each suspicious act. Strong body odor, for example, is worth 1 point, while a cold penetrating stare rates 2 points. If a passenger appears to be in disguise, he’s assessed 3 points. Points can also be deducted for a passenger’s age, or if they appear to be traveling with a spouse. Anyone assessed 4 or 5 points is subject to further screening and 6 or more points causes a supervisor to be called.   read more
  • Obama and Agriculture Dept. Agree that White Potatoes are Nutritious for Poor People

    Sunday, March 29, 2015
    The reviewers concluded that there was “insufficient evidence” that adding white potatoes to the approved list would change food purchasing habits of WIC recipients, and that there was “no evidence” purchasing habits had changed since white potatoes were removed from the list in 2009. Furthermore, “The nutrient profile of white potatoes does not support their exclusion from the CVV [cash value voucher program] because their nutrient content is similar to that of other starchy vegetables."   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • Through Medicare, Taxpayers Spent $4.5 Billion Last Year on New Hepatitis C Drugs…but they Work

    Tuesday, March 31, 2015
    The costly drugs are effective—with cure rates of upwards of 90% and fewer dangerous side effects. “Curing hepatitis C will likely go on to prevent liver cancer, go on to prevent patients needing liver transplantation, go on to save health care dollars down the road,” said liver specialist Dr. Adam Peyton, who prescribed $13.5 million worth of hepatitis C drugs in Part D last year. “It’s upsetting that there's been so much negative publicity for such a positive breakthrough in medicine.”   read more
  • Photo ID Cards are not an Effective way to Stop Food Stamp Fraud

    Monday, March 30, 2015
    There is fraud in the system, according to the Urban Institute, but it’s not the kind that would be prevented by having a photo on the cards. Generally fraud occurs when a recipient buys food with the card and then sells it or connives with a retailer to receive cash back from a purchase, which is strictly forbidden by the regulations governing the program. In none of these scenarios would a photo on the cards stop fraud.   read more
  • $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

Controversies

  • Citizens’ Growing Protests against Border Patrol Checkpoints Inside the U.S.

    Tuesday, March 31, 2015
    Dash-cam footage showed agents smashing the car window of Navy veteran Thomas Sauer, 26, then forcibly yanking him from his car after he chose to “opt out” of discussing his citizenship. “I did it because I don't agree with the premise of questioning citizens without suspicion,” said Sauer. The incident led to his being fired from his job. “Often, local citizens are subjected to extended interrogation and detainment” said ACLU attorney Mitra Ebadolahi. “These are mini police-state zones.”   read more
  • Alabama Judges Override Juries and Order Death Sentences…if There’s an Election Coming Up

    Tuesday, March 31, 2015
    Statistics show that Alabama judges, who are elected to the bench, have overridden juries in murder cases 111 times since the death penalty’s reinstatement in 1976. Of that 111, judges have upgraded the sentences to death 101 times. Of those, 80% occurred in the year leading up to a judge’s reelection. "Alabama judges, who are elected in partisan proceedings, appear to have succumbed to electoral pressures.” wrote U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor   read more
  • FBI Begins Tracking Hate Crimes against Arabs, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims

    Monday, March 30, 2015
    Until now, the Uniform Crime Report did not include hate crime data for any South Asian-American community. Instead, they were just lumped in with all Asian Americans. Supporters of the change said it was long overdue, noting that hate crimes against Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims have gone up since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.   read more

U.S. and the World

  • Israelis Killed more Palestinians Last Year than in any Year since 1967

    Sunday, March 29, 2015
    Most of the deaths came in the fighting in Gaza between July 7 and August 26. During those hostilities, 2,220 Palestinians were killed, 1,492 of them civilians, 551 of whom were children. This included 142 Palestinian families who saw three or more family members killed because of attacks on their residences. These attacks on residential buildings accounted for 742 deaths. During the Gaza fighting, 71 Israelis were killed, 66 of them soldiers.   read more
  • Cold-Blooded Participant in Rwandan Genocide, Caught Lying to Gain U.S. Citizenship, Loses Appeal

    Sunday, March 29, 2015
    Munyenyezi was found to have “kicked off the killing frenzy there by telling the party’s devotees that all Tutsi ‘cockroaches’ must die.” According to the appeals court, “she personally inspected IDs at the checkpoint, separated those who would live from those who would die (and die gruesomely), and kept records of the ghastly going-ons.”   read more
  • 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

Appointments and Resignations

  • Undersecretary for Health, Department of Veterans Affairs: Who Is David Shulkin?

    Monday, March 30, 2015
    Shulkin’s work has frequently involved looking at managed and accountable care, in which patients, especially the chronically ill, get the right care at the right time, while avoiding unnecessary duplication of services and preventing medical errors. In 2008, for example, he studied why patients who are admitted at night are more likely to die than patients admitted during the day. Also in 2008 he edited the book Questions Patients Need to Ask: Getting the Best Healthcare.   read more
  • Chair of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board: Who Is Vanessa Allen Sutherland?

    Sunday, March 29, 2015
    Sutherland moved on to cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris in 2004 as counsel. In 2008 she was named a senior counsel for Philip Morris parent Altria in their client services group. She switched to government service in 2011 as chief counsel for the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, where she works as she awaits confirmation.   read more
  • Chemical Safety Chairman Resigns: Who Is Rafael Moure-Eraso?

    Saturday, March 28, 2015
    Investigations into chemical accidents had backlogged under his leadership and he was accused of getting in the way of the EPA’s inspector general’s investigations. Further, Moure-Eraso and two top executives were caught using personal email accounts to conduct official business. A congressional investigation concluded Moure-Eraso ruined CSB’s workplace, turning it into an “abusive, toxic and hostile” environment. Board members have left in disgust because of CSB’s “level of dysfunction.”   read more