Featured Story

Outside Political Money Groups Seen as “Shadow Party” that Supplants the Candidates Themselves

Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Spending by outside political groups has grown so large this election that politicians running for office find these shadowy organizations already defining them and dictating the messages that bombard voters. “They have become a shadow party that’s effectively impossible to dislodge, and they will shape, if not control, the [national] dialog,” said Sheila Krumholz. Money pouring into TV ads is expected to eclipse $2 billion this year.   read more
Latest News

Top Stories

  • Expensive New Hepatitis C Medicine, Seen as Harbinger of Specialty Drugs to Come, Poses Challenge to Health Care System

    Tuesday, July 29, 2014
    Expansion of healthcare access under Obamacare and the release of expensive drugs have state officials breaking into a sweat over how to pay for high-priced treatments for those who need them. The arrival of Sovaldi, Gilead Sciences’ new treatment for hepatitis C, is one perfect example. The drug costs $84,000 per patient for a 12-week regimen. In Oregon, the $360 million cost could mean that state Medicaid officials may have to deny the drug to some who qualify for coverage.   read more
  • U.S. Only Country of 47 to Vote against Investigating Possible Human Rights Violations during Israeli Occupation of Gaza

    Monday, July 28, 2014
    The U.S. has again demonstrated its steadfast loyalty to Israel, this time casting the lone “no” vote on a U.N. resolution authorizing an investigation into alleged human rights abuses in Gaza. The recent military invasion of the Palestinian territory has seen hundreds of civilians killed, including many children. The measure condemned the “violations of ...human rights” caused by the Israeli military and "all violence against civilians...including the killing of two Israeli civilians.”   read more
  • Is it Time to Eliminate the National Technical Information Service?

    Sunday, July 27, 2014
    Before the Internet came along, the NTIS served a real purpose--providing government reports that at one time were available nowhere else. But now it may be time for NTIS to go the way of the World Book encyclopedia, say U.S. senators Claire McCaskill and Tom Coburn. They have sponsored the Let Me Google That For You Act, which would eliminate NTIS. “Why would anyone buy publications from NTIS when they’re free on the Internet?” McCaskill said.   read more

Unusual News

  • For Weddings in Colorado and Washington State, Marijuana is Often the Key to Tying the Knot

    Tuesday, July 29, 2014
    A new kind of high is being enjoyed on wedding day in Colorado and Washington, the two states that have legalized recreational marijuana use. Pot is popping up in all different ways at marriage ceremonies in these two states, from bridal bouquets to gift bags to celebratory toasts. Advocates say serving marijuana is better than alcohol. It just mellows out the crowd, they insist, making it a good time for all.   read more
  • Manhunt for Fugitive Tuberculosis Patient

    Sunday, July 27, 2014
    An urgent manhunt is on in Northern California for a man who’s infected with tuberculosis. Law enforcement hopes to find him before he infects anyone else with what might be a drug-resistant strain of the disease. Eduardo Rosas Cruz showed up at the San Joaquin General Hospital in Stockton in March and was diagnosed with TB. He was told to stay for a health worker to administer his medication. Instead, he left. Officials got a statewide warrant for his arrest last Thursday.   read more
  • People Who Live Inland more Likely to Deny Climate Change…and so are People Exposed to Media Owned by Rupert Murdoch

    Friday, July 25, 2014
    Another study revealed another kind of divide among the believers and non-believers of climate change: the English language. The market research firm Ipsos MORI said in its “Global Trends 2014” report that the three countries with the most climate-change deniers were the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, all English-speaking nations. All have some of their media controlled by Rupert Murdoch.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • 42 Civil Rights Groups Support Telecoms against Open Internet

    Saturday, July 26, 2014
    Numerous civil rights groups have sided with the internet provider industry on the issue of net neutrality after getting lucrative partnerships and financial support from telecommunications companies. The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC), a law firm for civil rights groups, has worked with many of the firms opposing common carrier status for the Internet. MMTC raised more than $1 million from telecom companies at fundraising luncheons from 2011 to 2013.   read more
  • Minor League Baseball Players Sue Major League Baseball over Low Pay

    Friday, July 25, 2014
    The typical minor league player earns somewhere between $3,000 and $7,500 a season, which can include spring training and fall instructional leagues, the plaintiffs contend. Compare that to MLB salaries, which averaged $3.3 million last year, with a minimum annual wage of $500,000 in 2014. The big difference is that MLB players are unionized, while their minor league counterparts have been prevented by the league from bargaining collectively.   read more
  • Hedge Funds Accused of Screwing Americans out of Billions of Dollars in Taxes

    Wednesday, July 23, 2014
    The two banks “used the options to build special accounts for their hedge fund clients in their own names and claimed they owned the assets when it was, in fact, the hedge fund clients that exercised full control of the assets.” The structure of the basket options also allowed the hedge funds to borrow up to $17 for every dollar in an account rather than the 50 cents on the dollar that broker-dealers are restricted to according to limits that go back to the 1930s.   read more

Controversies

  • Members of U.S. Military Subjected to Aggressive Collection Tactics of Litigious Loan Operation

    Tuesday, July 29, 2014
    One retailer has been aggressively going after members of the U.S. military who have fallen prey to its collection tactics. USA Discounters has been described as “ruthless” in suing those who fall behind on payments on overpriced goods. Military personnel are supposed to be shielded from such litigation. But nothing prevents a company like USA Discounters from choosing where to file lawsuits. Often, that means traveling across country or the world to appear in court.   read more
  • Patient Privacy Laws Misapplied to Protect Health Centers, Not Patients

    Tuesday, July 29, 2014
    Americans have been threatened by private security at hospitals for simply trying to take a family photo and police have been thwarted in investigations of alleged sexual assaults in nursing homes, all in the name of the HIPPA patient privacy law. People complain that HIPPA was cited as the reason they were denied access to their medical records. Even the VA has tried to hide behind HIPPA while going after whistleblowers who exposed violations within the agency.   read more
  • Most Migrant Children from Central America Released to U.S. Relatives, Often via Chaotic Air Travel

    Tuesday, July 29, 2014
    The children’s ordeal once inside the U.S. can involve being loaded onto planes and flown back and forth across the states while federal officials struggle to manage the enormous influx from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. “Frequently, children are being apprehended in the border states where their families live and flown thousands of miles to shelters and detention facilities, only to be flown back to the border states where their U.S. journeys started,” wrote Manuel Roig-Franzia.   read more

U.S. and the World

  • European Union Court Slams Poland for Helping U.S. Torture Program

    Monday, July 28, 2014
    Poland’s actions in helping the George W. Bush administration torture terrorism suspects on its soil constituted a human rights violation, the European court ruled. It also was faulted for not looking into what happened to Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (implicated in the 2000 attack on the USS Cole) and Abu Zubaida (accused of facilitating militant training) while they were in CIA custody. Nashiri was subjected to a mock execution and had a drill put to his head at the black site.   read more
  • U.S. Wasted $34 Million Pushing Soybeans on Afghanistan

    Saturday, July 26, 2014
    The USDA decided it would be a good idea to spend $34 million on getting Afghan farmers to grow soybeans and for Afghan consumers to eat them. But the USDA struck out on both counts. The U.S. also paid about $1.5 million to build a soybean plan. When the crops failed, it paid to have 4,000 metric tons of soybeans flown in from the U.S at a cost of about $2 million. But no American expert could convince Afghans to incorporate soybeans into their diet.   read more
  • Air Force to Launch Satellites to Spy on other Satellites

    Friday, July 25, 2014
    U.S. Air Force officials overseeing the space-based surveillance say they were willing to discuss the mission to warn countries like China and Russia not to mess with American satellites and spacecraft orbiting the earth. The satellites will position themselves 22,300 miles above Earth, putting them in near-geosynchronous orbit, where a satellite maintains about the same relative position over the earth, to improve observational efforts.   read more

Appointments and Resignations

  • U.S. Ambassador to Honduras: Who Is James Nealon?

    Monday, July 28, 2014
    Nealon took a job as deputy chief of staff at the embassy in Peru in 2007. While in Peru, Nealon wrote a report, later released by WikiLeaks, expressing concern about “anti-system radicals” who might “lay the groundwork for a more systematic assault on the pro-growth model.” In December 2012, President Obama proposed Nealon as the ambassador to Bolivia, but, not surprisingly considering his comments, Nealon was rejected by the Bolivian government.   read more
  • U.S. Ambassador to South Korea: Who Is Mark Lippert?

    Sunday, July 27, 2014
    After Obama’s inauguration, Lippert was a deputy assistant to the president and then was named chief of staff for the National Security Council (NSC). Lippert left the NSC in 2010. If confirmed, Lippert will be the first political appointee to head the Seoul embassy; the job has previously been filled by career Foreign Service appointees. However, the South Korean government is reportedly eager to have an ambassador with such close ties to Obama.   read more
  • U.S. Ambassador to Egypt: Who Is Stephen Beecroft?

    Sunday, July 27, 2014
    In 2003, Beecroft was named special assistant to Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and the following year was special assistant to Secretary of State Colin Powell. Beecroft remained in the job when Condoleezza Rice took over the State Department. Beecroft served as ambassador to Jordan from July 17, 2008 to June 4, 2011. Beecroft was transferred to Baghdad, Iraq, on July 14, 2011.   read more

Featured Story

Outside Political Money Groups Seen as “Shadow Party” that Supplants the Candidates Themselves

Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Spending by outside political groups has grown so large this election that politicians running for office find these shadowy organizations already defining them and dictating the messages that bombard voters. “They have become a shadow party that’s effectively impossible to dislodge, and they will shape, if not control, the [national] dialog,” said Sheila Krumholz. Money pouring into TV ads is expected to eclipse $2 billion this year.   read more
Latest News

Top Stories

  • Expensive New Hepatitis C Medicine, Seen as Harbinger of Specialty Drugs to Come, Poses Challenge to Health Care System

    Tuesday, July 29, 2014
    Expansion of healthcare access under Obamacare and the release of expensive drugs have state officials breaking into a sweat over how to pay for high-priced treatments for those who need them. The arrival of Sovaldi, Gilead Sciences’ new treatment for hepatitis C, is one perfect example. The drug costs $84,000 per patient for a 12-week regimen. In Oregon, the $360 million cost could mean that state Medicaid officials may have to deny the drug to some who qualify for coverage.   read more
  • U.S. Only Country of 47 to Vote against Investigating Possible Human Rights Violations during Israeli Occupation of Gaza

    Monday, July 28, 2014
    The U.S. has again demonstrated its steadfast loyalty to Israel, this time casting the lone “no” vote on a U.N. resolution authorizing an investigation into alleged human rights abuses in Gaza. The recent military invasion of the Palestinian territory has seen hundreds of civilians killed, including many children. The measure condemned the “violations of ...human rights” caused by the Israeli military and "all violence against civilians...including the killing of two Israeli civilians.”   read more
  • Is it Time to Eliminate the National Technical Information Service?

    Sunday, July 27, 2014
    Before the Internet came along, the NTIS served a real purpose--providing government reports that at one time were available nowhere else. But now it may be time for NTIS to go the way of the World Book encyclopedia, say U.S. senators Claire McCaskill and Tom Coburn. They have sponsored the Let Me Google That For You Act, which would eliminate NTIS. “Why would anyone buy publications from NTIS when they’re free on the Internet?” McCaskill said.   read more

Unusual News

  • For Weddings in Colorado and Washington State, Marijuana is Often the Key to Tying the Knot

    Tuesday, July 29, 2014
    A new kind of high is being enjoyed on wedding day in Colorado and Washington, the two states that have legalized recreational marijuana use. Pot is popping up in all different ways at marriage ceremonies in these two states, from bridal bouquets to gift bags to celebratory toasts. Advocates say serving marijuana is better than alcohol. It just mellows out the crowd, they insist, making it a good time for all.   read more
  • Manhunt for Fugitive Tuberculosis Patient

    Sunday, July 27, 2014
    An urgent manhunt is on in Northern California for a man who’s infected with tuberculosis. Law enforcement hopes to find him before he infects anyone else with what might be a drug-resistant strain of the disease. Eduardo Rosas Cruz showed up at the San Joaquin General Hospital in Stockton in March and was diagnosed with TB. He was told to stay for a health worker to administer his medication. Instead, he left. Officials got a statewide warrant for his arrest last Thursday.   read more
  • People Who Live Inland more Likely to Deny Climate Change…and so are People Exposed to Media Owned by Rupert Murdoch

    Friday, July 25, 2014
    Another study revealed another kind of divide among the believers and non-believers of climate change: the English language. The market research firm Ipsos MORI said in its “Global Trends 2014” report that the three countries with the most climate-change deniers were the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, all English-speaking nations. All have some of their media controlled by Rupert Murdoch.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • 42 Civil Rights Groups Support Telecoms against Open Internet

    Saturday, July 26, 2014
    Numerous civil rights groups have sided with the internet provider industry on the issue of net neutrality after getting lucrative partnerships and financial support from telecommunications companies. The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC), a law firm for civil rights groups, has worked with many of the firms opposing common carrier status for the Internet. MMTC raised more than $1 million from telecom companies at fundraising luncheons from 2011 to 2013.   read more
  • Minor League Baseball Players Sue Major League Baseball over Low Pay

    Friday, July 25, 2014
    The typical minor league player earns somewhere between $3,000 and $7,500 a season, which can include spring training and fall instructional leagues, the plaintiffs contend. Compare that to MLB salaries, which averaged $3.3 million last year, with a minimum annual wage of $500,000 in 2014. The big difference is that MLB players are unionized, while their minor league counterparts have been prevented by the league from bargaining collectively.   read more
  • Hedge Funds Accused of Screwing Americans out of Billions of Dollars in Taxes

    Wednesday, July 23, 2014
    The two banks “used the options to build special accounts for their hedge fund clients in their own names and claimed they owned the assets when it was, in fact, the hedge fund clients that exercised full control of the assets.” The structure of the basket options also allowed the hedge funds to borrow up to $17 for every dollar in an account rather than the 50 cents on the dollar that broker-dealers are restricted to according to limits that go back to the 1930s.   read more

Controversies

  • Members of U.S. Military Subjected to Aggressive Collection Tactics of Litigious Loan Operation

    Tuesday, July 29, 2014
    One retailer has been aggressively going after members of the U.S. military who have fallen prey to its collection tactics. USA Discounters has been described as “ruthless” in suing those who fall behind on payments on overpriced goods. Military personnel are supposed to be shielded from such litigation. But nothing prevents a company like USA Discounters from choosing where to file lawsuits. Often, that means traveling across country or the world to appear in court.   read more
  • Patient Privacy Laws Misapplied to Protect Health Centers, Not Patients

    Tuesday, July 29, 2014
    Americans have been threatened by private security at hospitals for simply trying to take a family photo and police have been thwarted in investigations of alleged sexual assaults in nursing homes, all in the name of the HIPPA patient privacy law. People complain that HIPPA was cited as the reason they were denied access to their medical records. Even the VA has tried to hide behind HIPPA while going after whistleblowers who exposed violations within the agency.   read more
  • Most Migrant Children from Central America Released to U.S. Relatives, Often via Chaotic Air Travel

    Tuesday, July 29, 2014
    The children’s ordeal once inside the U.S. can involve being loaded onto planes and flown back and forth across the states while federal officials struggle to manage the enormous influx from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. “Frequently, children are being apprehended in the border states where their families live and flown thousands of miles to shelters and detention facilities, only to be flown back to the border states where their U.S. journeys started,” wrote Manuel Roig-Franzia.   read more

U.S. and the World

  • European Union Court Slams Poland for Helping U.S. Torture Program

    Monday, July 28, 2014
    Poland’s actions in helping the George W. Bush administration torture terrorism suspects on its soil constituted a human rights violation, the European court ruled. It also was faulted for not looking into what happened to Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (implicated in the 2000 attack on the USS Cole) and Abu Zubaida (accused of facilitating militant training) while they were in CIA custody. Nashiri was subjected to a mock execution and had a drill put to his head at the black site.   read more
  • U.S. Wasted $34 Million Pushing Soybeans on Afghanistan

    Saturday, July 26, 2014
    The USDA decided it would be a good idea to spend $34 million on getting Afghan farmers to grow soybeans and for Afghan consumers to eat them. But the USDA struck out on both counts. The U.S. also paid about $1.5 million to build a soybean plan. When the crops failed, it paid to have 4,000 metric tons of soybeans flown in from the U.S at a cost of about $2 million. But no American expert could convince Afghans to incorporate soybeans into their diet.   read more
  • Air Force to Launch Satellites to Spy on other Satellites

    Friday, July 25, 2014
    U.S. Air Force officials overseeing the space-based surveillance say they were willing to discuss the mission to warn countries like China and Russia not to mess with American satellites and spacecraft orbiting the earth. The satellites will position themselves 22,300 miles above Earth, putting them in near-geosynchronous orbit, where a satellite maintains about the same relative position over the earth, to improve observational efforts.   read more

Appointments and Resignations

  • U.S. Ambassador to Honduras: Who Is James Nealon?

    Monday, July 28, 2014
    Nealon took a job as deputy chief of staff at the embassy in Peru in 2007. While in Peru, Nealon wrote a report, later released by WikiLeaks, expressing concern about “anti-system radicals” who might “lay the groundwork for a more systematic assault on the pro-growth model.” In December 2012, President Obama proposed Nealon as the ambassador to Bolivia, but, not surprisingly considering his comments, Nealon was rejected by the Bolivian government.   read more
  • U.S. Ambassador to South Korea: Who Is Mark Lippert?

    Sunday, July 27, 2014
    After Obama’s inauguration, Lippert was a deputy assistant to the president and then was named chief of staff for the National Security Council (NSC). Lippert left the NSC in 2010. If confirmed, Lippert will be the first political appointee to head the Seoul embassy; the job has previously been filled by career Foreign Service appointees. However, the South Korean government is reportedly eager to have an ambassador with such close ties to Obama.   read more
  • U.S. Ambassador to Egypt: Who Is Stephen Beecroft?

    Sunday, July 27, 2014
    In 2003, Beecroft was named special assistant to Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and the following year was special assistant to Secretary of State Colin Powell. Beecroft remained in the job when Condoleezza Rice took over the State Department. Beecroft served as ambassador to Jordan from July 17, 2008 to June 4, 2011. Beecroft was transferred to Baghdad, Iraq, on July 14, 2011.   read more