Featured Story

Secret Surveillance of Americans’ Mail Revealed to be Widespread with Lax Oversight

Thursday, October 30, 2014
Last year alone, USPS approved nearly 50,000 “mail cover” requests from police and agency inspectors to secretly monitor individuals’ mail for criminal and national security investigations. Law enforcement agencies have stepped up use of mail covers as part of counterterrorism and criminal cases since 9/11. But the scope of the surveillance was not previously known to be so widespread, nor was the absence of oversight from potential abuses.   read more
Latest News

Top Stories

  • Rising Global Temperatures from Climate Change Linked to Increase in Violence

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014
    As the old saying goes, as temperatures rise, tempers flare. That adage also applies to the effects of global warming on the human condition. Researchers found 55 credible studies linking increases in violence with rising global temperatures. Those increases ranged from personal conflicts (domestic violence, road rage, assault, murder, and rapes) to country or group conflicts, including riots, ethnic violence, invasions, gang violence and civil wars.   read more
  • Less than 1% of Patriot Act’s “Sneak and Peek” Delayed Notice Warrants are Used against Terrorism

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014
    Federal law enforcement has increasingly used a key provision of the Patriot Act to pry into people’s lives without having to tell them. This practice has been justified under the guise of counterterrorism, but government statistics show that less than 1% of all “sneak and peek” actions involve suspected terrorists. Only 51 such requests during 2013 were for terrorism out of 11,129 total requests that year. The biggest reason for the warrants was to investigate drug crimes.   read more
  • North Dakota to Vote on Making State First to Define Life as Beginning at Conception

    Monday, October 27, 2014
    Anti-abortionists have tried in several states to up the stakes in the fight to end women’s right to control their bodies by pushing new laws that would define human life as beginning at conception. After several defeats, they might finally succeed next month in North Dakota. However the wording of the amendment doesn’t mention abortion. Instead, it reads: “The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”   read more

Unusual News

  • Richest 2% Create 4 Times as many Greenhouse Gases Per Capita as Poorest 20%

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014
    The wealthy, often criticized for hogging too much of the nation’s wealth, also are disproportionate contributors to global warming. A new study from the Center for Global Development says the richest 2% of Americans are responsible for producing four times as much greenhouse gas emissions per person—53.5 metric tons of CO2 a year—as the bottom 20% of the population, which generates about 12.5 metric tons per person.   read more
  • Wisconsin County Uses Armored Vehicle and 24 Officers to Collect Judgment against “Argumentative” 75-Year-Old

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014
    After Roger Hoeppner refused to pay $80,000 to the city and come out of his house after 24 deputies showed up, the department sent in its military surplus vehicle, known as the MARV (Marathon County Response Vehicle). Hoeppner agreed to come out once he saw the MARV, and later paid the money he owed. “People may not always understand why, but an armored vehicle is almost a necessity now,” said Sheriff's Captain Greg Bean.   read more
  • Is Sherri Ybarra the Weirdest Candidate who Might Actually Get Elected?

    Sunday, October 26, 2014
    Sherri Ybarra isn’t clear on how long she’s been married, figured she’d be able to get a Ph.D. in education in one semester and hasn’t voted in a general election since moving to Idaho 18 years ago. But she has a good chance of being elected the state’s superintendent of schools. Ybarra has also plagiarized material from the website of her competitor and has claimed endorsements from elected officials who are not supporting her.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • Health Insurers Tighten Belt, Leaving Patients at Mercy of Creative Billing Increases by Providers

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014
    In some instances, patients find themselves being billed for the room they sat in while seeing a therapist. “How could it be that the doctor was in network and the hospital was in network, but I had to pay separately for the room?” asked Leo Boudreau, who found such a charge on a bill. Some ophthalmologists are now charging “refraction fees” as part of eye examinations. A person with a broken arm is now billed separately for the sling. A visit to an ER can result in an “activation fee.”   read more
  • Obama Increases Nuclear Weapons Production and Research

    Monday, October 27, 2014
    The U.S. nuclear weapons complex is greatly expanding the production of fissile cores to levels not seen since the end of the Cold War three decades ago. The dramatic increase comes as part of a long-term billion-dollar effort to renew the nuclear arsenal under President Barack Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize largely because of his promise to greatly reduce the nation’s stockpile of these weapons—a promise he has not kept.   read more
  • Police Beating Victim Wins $1,000 Settlement…His Lawyers Get $459,000

    Friday, October 24, 2014
    The terms of the settlement were negotiated by Warren’s lawyers and approved by the mayor and city council. Warren was arrested after a high-speed car chase in which he struck a school bus, a police car, and a police officer. After Warren flipped his car, five Birmingham police officers descended on him, repeatedly hitting and kicking him. The arrest was captured on video taken by a police car dashboard camera and later shown on national news. Warren sued for assault and battery.   read more

Controversies

  • Breast Cancer Charity Accused of Partnering with Corporations Linked to Cancer-Causing Products

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014
    One example cited is Komen’s decision to accept $100,000 from Baker Hughes, supplier of equipment to the oil and gas industry. Baker Hughes has helped companies carry out hydraulic fracturing operations that use cancer-causing chemicals. In response to public pressure, Komen canceled founder Nancy Brinker's acceptance of the check. Komen has also partnered with water bottling companies that use BPAs, a carcinogen, and fast-food providers accused of selling food containing carcinogens.   read more
  • Nobel Peace Prize Winners Press Obama to Take Firmer Stand against Torture

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014
    Led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and former President José Ramos-Horta of East Timor, the Nobel laureates want Obama, who won the prize in 2009, to make “full disclosure to the American people of the extent and use of torture.” That would include releasing the Senate report on the CIA's use of torture last decade against al Qaeda members and others. “When a nation’s leaders condone and even order torture, that nation has lost its way,” wrote the laureates.   read more
  • Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Fights to Delay Registration of Tens of Thousands of New Democratic Voters

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014
    State Rep. Stacy Abrams (D) led an effort to register those who've never voted before, mostly minorities, and added about 90,000 people to the rolls. About 40,000 of those registrations have been lost. Georgia’s top election official, Brian Kemp, has been unhelpful with the missing registrations. “We asked the Secretary of State to meet with us. We wanted to understand if we were doing something wrong, or if there was another database... But he refused...” said Abrams.   read more

U.S. and the World

  • Why Does New York City Have 33 Times More Homeless People than Tokyo, the World’s Most Populated City?

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014
    The numbers are eye opening: Tokyo has 13.4 million residents, but only 1,697 are homeless. Compare that to New York, where there are 56,000 homeless. "Income inequality is a massive and growing problem in the U.S., while Japan has historically had one of the lowest rates of inequality among developed countries,” wrote Scott Keyes. In Japan, government provides more social services to help the homeless than the U.S. does, and families have a strong sense of duty to relatives in need.   read more
  • Only 12% of Pakistanis Killed by Drones Identified as Militants

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014
    Of the 2,379 Pakistani drone fatalities, only 704 could be identified. Of those, only 295 were identified as members of an armed group inside Pakistan. “Almost 30% are not even linked to a specific group,” Jack Serle reported. “Only 84 are identified as members of al Qaeda – less than 4% of the total number of people killed.” These findings “demonstrate the continuing complete lack of transparency surrounding U.S. drone operations,” said Mustafa Qadri.   read more
  • U.S. Wasted $7.6 Billion to Fight Poppy Cultivation in Afghanistan…Which is Now at an All-Time High

    Thursday, October 23, 2014
    “Afghan farmers grew an unprecedented 209,000 hectares of opium poppy in 2013, surpassing the previous peak of 193,000...in 2007," said SIGAR. "With deteriorating security in many parts of rural Afghanistan and low levels of eradication of poppy fields, further increases...are likely in 2014.” The illicit trade was valued at nearly $3 billion last year. Regions that had become “poppy free” as a result of U.S. anti-drug programs have been experiencing a “resurgence in cultivation.”   read more

Appointments and Resignations

  • Acting Director of the U.S. Secret Service: Who Is Joseph Clancy?

    Monday, October 27, 2014
    Clancy moved up to special agent in charge of presidential protection in February 2009 when Barack Obama assumed office. Under his watch, in November 2009, a couple famously crashed a White House dinner honoring Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Clancy offered his resignation to then-Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan because of the security breach, but Sullivan declined to accept it.   read more
  • U.S. Ambassador to India: Who Is Richard Verma?

    Sunday, October 26, 2014
    Verma was appointed assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs under Hillary Clinton in 2009. His appointment appeared to violate Obama’s self-imposed ban on putting former lobbyists in the government as Verma had lobbied the State Department on behalf of the U.S.-India Business Council. Nonetheless, he was confirmed in the post and subsequently led negotiations with Congress on Iran sanctions and the New START treaty.   read more
  • Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service: Who Is Anne Alonzo?

    Sunday, October 26, 2014
    In 2000 Alonzo was named senior vice president of the National Foreign Trade Council, a post she held for seven years. Alonzo jumped at the chance to return to her hometown in 2007 when she was offered the post of vice president for global public policy and corporate affairs for Kraft Foods. She handled issues of tariffs; tax and trade; and sustainability. While at Kraft, Alonzo in 2010 was named chair of the World Cocoa Foundation.   read more

Featured Story

Secret Surveillance of Americans’ Mail Revealed to be Widespread with Lax Oversight

Thursday, October 30, 2014
Last year alone, USPS approved nearly 50,000 “mail cover” requests from police and agency inspectors to secretly monitor individuals’ mail for criminal and national security investigations. Law enforcement agencies have stepped up use of mail covers as part of counterterrorism and criminal cases since 9/11. But the scope of the surveillance was not previously known to be so widespread, nor was the absence of oversight from potential abuses.   read more
Latest News

Top Stories

  • Rising Global Temperatures from Climate Change Linked to Increase in Violence

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014
    As the old saying goes, as temperatures rise, tempers flare. That adage also applies to the effects of global warming on the human condition. Researchers found 55 credible studies linking increases in violence with rising global temperatures. Those increases ranged from personal conflicts (domestic violence, road rage, assault, murder, and rapes) to country or group conflicts, including riots, ethnic violence, invasions, gang violence and civil wars.   read more
  • Less than 1% of Patriot Act’s “Sneak and Peek” Delayed Notice Warrants are Used against Terrorism

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014
    Federal law enforcement has increasingly used a key provision of the Patriot Act to pry into people’s lives without having to tell them. This practice has been justified under the guise of counterterrorism, but government statistics show that less than 1% of all “sneak and peek” actions involve suspected terrorists. Only 51 such requests during 2013 were for terrorism out of 11,129 total requests that year. The biggest reason for the warrants was to investigate drug crimes.   read more
  • North Dakota to Vote on Making State First to Define Life as Beginning at Conception

    Monday, October 27, 2014
    Anti-abortionists have tried in several states to up the stakes in the fight to end women’s right to control their bodies by pushing new laws that would define human life as beginning at conception. After several defeats, they might finally succeed next month in North Dakota. However the wording of the amendment doesn’t mention abortion. Instead, it reads: “The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”   read more

Unusual News

  • Richest 2% Create 4 Times as many Greenhouse Gases Per Capita as Poorest 20%

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014
    The wealthy, often criticized for hogging too much of the nation’s wealth, also are disproportionate contributors to global warming. A new study from the Center for Global Development says the richest 2% of Americans are responsible for producing four times as much greenhouse gas emissions per person—53.5 metric tons of CO2 a year—as the bottom 20% of the population, which generates about 12.5 metric tons per person.   read more
  • Wisconsin County Uses Armored Vehicle and 24 Officers to Collect Judgment against “Argumentative” 75-Year-Old

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014
    After Roger Hoeppner refused to pay $80,000 to the city and come out of his house after 24 deputies showed up, the department sent in its military surplus vehicle, known as the MARV (Marathon County Response Vehicle). Hoeppner agreed to come out once he saw the MARV, and later paid the money he owed. “People may not always understand why, but an armored vehicle is almost a necessity now,” said Sheriff's Captain Greg Bean.   read more
  • Is Sherri Ybarra the Weirdest Candidate who Might Actually Get Elected?

    Sunday, October 26, 2014
    Sherri Ybarra isn’t clear on how long she’s been married, figured she’d be able to get a Ph.D. in education in one semester and hasn’t voted in a general election since moving to Idaho 18 years ago. But she has a good chance of being elected the state’s superintendent of schools. Ybarra has also plagiarized material from the website of her competitor and has claimed endorsements from elected officials who are not supporting her.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • Health Insurers Tighten Belt, Leaving Patients at Mercy of Creative Billing Increases by Providers

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014
    In some instances, patients find themselves being billed for the room they sat in while seeing a therapist. “How could it be that the doctor was in network and the hospital was in network, but I had to pay separately for the room?” asked Leo Boudreau, who found such a charge on a bill. Some ophthalmologists are now charging “refraction fees” as part of eye examinations. A person with a broken arm is now billed separately for the sling. A visit to an ER can result in an “activation fee.”   read more
  • Obama Increases Nuclear Weapons Production and Research

    Monday, October 27, 2014
    The U.S. nuclear weapons complex is greatly expanding the production of fissile cores to levels not seen since the end of the Cold War three decades ago. The dramatic increase comes as part of a long-term billion-dollar effort to renew the nuclear arsenal under President Barack Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize largely because of his promise to greatly reduce the nation’s stockpile of these weapons—a promise he has not kept.   read more
  • Police Beating Victim Wins $1,000 Settlement…His Lawyers Get $459,000

    Friday, October 24, 2014
    The terms of the settlement were negotiated by Warren’s lawyers and approved by the mayor and city council. Warren was arrested after a high-speed car chase in which he struck a school bus, a police car, and a police officer. After Warren flipped his car, five Birmingham police officers descended on him, repeatedly hitting and kicking him. The arrest was captured on video taken by a police car dashboard camera and later shown on national news. Warren sued for assault and battery.   read more

Controversies

  • Breast Cancer Charity Accused of Partnering with Corporations Linked to Cancer-Causing Products

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014
    One example cited is Komen’s decision to accept $100,000 from Baker Hughes, supplier of equipment to the oil and gas industry. Baker Hughes has helped companies carry out hydraulic fracturing operations that use cancer-causing chemicals. In response to public pressure, Komen canceled founder Nancy Brinker's acceptance of the check. Komen has also partnered with water bottling companies that use BPAs, a carcinogen, and fast-food providers accused of selling food containing carcinogens.   read more
  • Nobel Peace Prize Winners Press Obama to Take Firmer Stand against Torture

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014
    Led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and former President José Ramos-Horta of East Timor, the Nobel laureates want Obama, who won the prize in 2009, to make “full disclosure to the American people of the extent and use of torture.” That would include releasing the Senate report on the CIA's use of torture last decade against al Qaeda members and others. “When a nation’s leaders condone and even order torture, that nation has lost its way,” wrote the laureates.   read more
  • Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Fights to Delay Registration of Tens of Thousands of New Democratic Voters

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014
    State Rep. Stacy Abrams (D) led an effort to register those who've never voted before, mostly minorities, and added about 90,000 people to the rolls. About 40,000 of those registrations have been lost. Georgia’s top election official, Brian Kemp, has been unhelpful with the missing registrations. “We asked the Secretary of State to meet with us. We wanted to understand if we were doing something wrong, or if there was another database... But he refused...” said Abrams.   read more

U.S. and the World

  • Why Does New York City Have 33 Times More Homeless People than Tokyo, the World’s Most Populated City?

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014
    The numbers are eye opening: Tokyo has 13.4 million residents, but only 1,697 are homeless. Compare that to New York, where there are 56,000 homeless. "Income inequality is a massive and growing problem in the U.S., while Japan has historically had one of the lowest rates of inequality among developed countries,” wrote Scott Keyes. In Japan, government provides more social services to help the homeless than the U.S. does, and families have a strong sense of duty to relatives in need.   read more
  • Only 12% of Pakistanis Killed by Drones Identified as Militants

    Tuesday, October 28, 2014
    Of the 2,379 Pakistani drone fatalities, only 704 could be identified. Of those, only 295 were identified as members of an armed group inside Pakistan. “Almost 30% are not even linked to a specific group,” Jack Serle reported. “Only 84 are identified as members of al Qaeda – less than 4% of the total number of people killed.” These findings “demonstrate the continuing complete lack of transparency surrounding U.S. drone operations,” said Mustafa Qadri.   read more
  • U.S. Wasted $7.6 Billion to Fight Poppy Cultivation in Afghanistan…Which is Now at an All-Time High

    Thursday, October 23, 2014
    “Afghan farmers grew an unprecedented 209,000 hectares of opium poppy in 2013, surpassing the previous peak of 193,000...in 2007," said SIGAR. "With deteriorating security in many parts of rural Afghanistan and low levels of eradication of poppy fields, further increases...are likely in 2014.” The illicit trade was valued at nearly $3 billion last year. Regions that had become “poppy free” as a result of U.S. anti-drug programs have been experiencing a “resurgence in cultivation.”   read more

Appointments and Resignations

  • Acting Director of the U.S. Secret Service: Who Is Joseph Clancy?

    Monday, October 27, 2014
    Clancy moved up to special agent in charge of presidential protection in February 2009 when Barack Obama assumed office. Under his watch, in November 2009, a couple famously crashed a White House dinner honoring Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Clancy offered his resignation to then-Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan because of the security breach, but Sullivan declined to accept it.   read more
  • U.S. Ambassador to India: Who Is Richard Verma?

    Sunday, October 26, 2014
    Verma was appointed assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs under Hillary Clinton in 2009. His appointment appeared to violate Obama’s self-imposed ban on putting former lobbyists in the government as Verma had lobbied the State Department on behalf of the U.S.-India Business Council. Nonetheless, he was confirmed in the post and subsequently led negotiations with Congress on Iran sanctions and the New START treaty.   read more
  • Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service: Who Is Anne Alonzo?

    Sunday, October 26, 2014
    In 2000 Alonzo was named senior vice president of the National Foreign Trade Council, a post she held for seven years. Alonzo jumped at the chance to return to her hometown in 2007 when she was offered the post of vice president for global public policy and corporate affairs for Kraft Foods. She handled issues of tariffs; tax and trade; and sustainability. While at Kraft, Alonzo in 2010 was named chair of the World Cocoa Foundation.   read more