Featured Story

Why is the DEA Conducting Mass License Plate Tracking and Why was it Allowed to Conduct Mass Surveillance of Americans’ Phones Records?

Friday, January 30, 2015
"This program is a major DEA initiative that has the potential to track our movements around the country,” wrote ACLU's Bennett Stein. “The federal government is uniquely positioned to create a centralized repository of all drivers’ movements across the country — and the DEA seems to be moving toward doing just that. If license plate readers continue to proliferate without restriction...the agency will soon possess a detailed and invasive depiction of our lives.”   read more
Latest News

Top Stories

  • Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling Convicted

    Thursday, January 29, 2015
    Posecutors argued Sterling was the source who helped James Risen discuss a CIA operation in his book “State of War.” “The Sterling case – especially in light of Obama’s complicity in the cover-up of torture during the Bush administration,” Dan Froomkin wrote, “sends a clear message to people in government service: You won’t get in trouble as long as you do what you’re told (even torture people). But if you tell [a reporter] something we want kept secret, we will spare no effort to destroy you.”   read more
  • Dream Come True for Oil Companies: Obama Expected to Approve Drilling off Atlantic Coast from Virginia to Georgia

    Wednesday, January 28, 2015
    Environmentalists contend the coast could suffer the same fate as the Gulf states after the 2010 BP disaster that fouled coastal waters with millions of barrels of oil. “Opening Atlantic waters to offshore drilling would take us in exactly the wrong direction,” said Bob Deans. Democratic senators from East Coast states blasted the move. “All of the risk is put on the backs of our shore communities, and all of the reward goes to Big Oil,” said Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey.   read more
  • Only 2 Countries Have Not Joined the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child: South Sudan and…United States

    Tuesday, January 27, 2015
    The U.S. signed the treaty in 1995. However, President Clinton never submitted it to the Senate for approval. George W. Bush also did not ask the Senate to ratify it. Nor has President Barack Obama, who during his 2008 campaign said, “It is embarrassing that the U.S. is in the company of Somalia, a lawless land. If I become president, I will review this and other human rights treaties.” Supporters say it’s unlikely the U.S. will ratify it soon, with Republicans now in charge of the Senate.   read more

Unusual News

  • Army Major who Oversaw Sexual Assault Cases Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Rape

    Thursday, January 29, 2015
    Army Major Erik Burris, who had been responsible for supervising sexual assault cases by soldiers, was himself convicted Sunday of crimes including rape and forcible sodomy. Burris was found guilty of two counts of rape, forcible sodomy, four counts of assault, and disobeying an order from a superior officer. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, forfeiture of pay and allowances and dismissal from the Army. He had multiple victims.   read more
  • Wisconsin Town in Need of Jurors Grabs People off the Street

    Wednesday, January 28, 2015
    When Judge Michael Schumacher ran out of potential jurors for a trial, he instructed the sheriff, Ron Cramer, to round up more people. Cramer then hit the streets of the 65,000-population city, and using a little known law, ordered some residents to come with him to the courthouse. The sheriff cited the “Insufficient Jurors” statute on the books, which authorizes police to grab any local resident 18 years old with no felony convictions to serve on a jury if a pool runs dry.   read more
  • Justice Dept. Pays $134,000 to Woman Who Sued Over Use of Her Identity in Fake Facebook Page for DEA Operation

    Sunday, January 25, 2015
    Sondra Arquiett sued the government after learning photos of her were part of a social media sting operation run by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Federal agents had obtained the images after confiscating her phone in 2010 as part of a drug arrest, which resulted in Arquiett pleading guilty to a drug conspiracy charge. But she never gave the DEA permission to use her photos to snare other people she knew who were using or trafficking in illegal drugs.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • Koch Brothers Unveil Plan to Outspend Political Parties in 2016 Election Campaign

    Wednesday, January 28, 2015
    At $889 million, a figure leaked this week at the Kochs’ annual winter donor retreat near Palm Springs, the brothers’ secretive fundraising network goal would dwarf the $657 million spent by the entire Republican Party during the 2012 election. The Koch budget might even match the total spending by both Republicans and Democrats in next year’s contests. And all the while, the Kochs will largely avoid disclosing the sources of their campaign operation.   read more
  • For the First Time in at Least 10 Years, a Decline in the Number of Americans Reporting Trouble Paying Medical Bills

    Tuesday, January 27, 2015
    The survey revealed the number of people who said they were struggling to pay their medical bills went down from about 75 million people in 2012 to 64 million people last year. The survey also showed that due to the implementation of Obamacare, the number of uninsured working-age adults in the U.S. declined from 37 million in 2010 to 29 million by the second half of last year. The rise in people with health insurance also meant fewer people skipped going to the doctor in 2014.   read more
  • Will Secret Donors Dominate the Upcoming Election Season?

    Monday, January 26, 2015
    Candidates’ backers set up nonprofit organizations ostensibly as “social welfare organizations” that don’t have politics as their primary purpose. Instead, they run “issue ads,” that coincidentally mention either the candidate they’re backing or their opponent. Sen. Mitch McConnell used this technique to great effect in his recent defeat of Alison Lundergan Grimes.   read more

Controversies

  • Pennsylvania Fracking Companies Flaunt Environmental Rules and Regulations…Every Day

    Thursday, January 29, 2015
    The largest 20 frackers averaged more than 1.5 violations a day, with many racking up hundreds of violations. Some of the violations included allowing toxic chemicals to flow off drilling sites and into local soil and water; endangering drinking water through improper well construction; and dumping industrial waste into local waterways. The report noted that the numbers collected are probably on the low side.   read more
  • HUD Official Worked for Government and Housing Industry at the Same Time…Beyond the Revolving Door

    Thursday, January 29, 2015
    Until June, Debra Gross worked for the Housing and Urban Development at the same time she was a deputy director for an advocacy group that had interests in HUD decision making. HUD’s IG looked into the Gross case and found it created a conflict of interest. How Gross was even hired by former HUD Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing Sandra Henriquez might raise questions, but federal law permits agencies to share employees with outside organizations.   read more
  • Half of Prisoners Cleared after being Wrongly Convicted are African-American

    Thursday, January 29, 2015
    The National Registry of Exonerations reported that 66 of the 125 inmates who were exonerated in 2014 were black. Since 1989, 1,536 people have been exonerated and 715 were black. “This can be attributed to the fact that there are more African-Americans in the U.S. prison system than any other race group,” said ThinkProgress. African-Americans make up only about 13% of the U.S. population at large, but about 43% of the prison population.   read more

U.S. and the World

Appointments and Resignations

  • Senegal’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Babacar Diagne?

    Saturday, January 24, 2015
    In November 2012, Diagne left his position at RTS and was appointed ambassador to the Gambia, a nation almost entirely surrounded by Senegal. Much of his work involved advocating for Senegalese held in prison in that country, many of them facing death sentences. He also obtained a grant from Senegal’s government to support women’s projects in the Senegalese women’s community in the Gambia. He served there until being sent to Washington in 2014.   read more
  • Angola’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Agostinho Tavares?

    Saturday, January 17, 2015
    In 2007, Tavares was made head of the Asia and Oceania Department of Bilateral Cooperation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His first ambassadorial posting came in 2011 when he was sent to represent Angola in Ottawa, Canada. On August 24, 2014, Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos appointed Agostinho Tavares da Silva Neto to be his ambassador to the United States.   read more
  • Comoros’ Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Soilihi Mohamed Soilihi?

    Saturday, January 10, 2015
    Soilihi in 2006 was appointed as special delegate to Moroni city hall and the following year he became chief of staff to Comoros’ minister of finance. Soilihi moved to foreign affairs, becoming political counselor to the minister in 2009. In 2010, Soilihi took over as director general of the Office of Radio and Television for Comoros. One of his achievements was to make Comoran television available via satellite.   read more

Featured Story

Why is the DEA Conducting Mass License Plate Tracking and Why was it Allowed to Conduct Mass Surveillance of Americans’ Phones Records?

Friday, January 30, 2015
"This program is a major DEA initiative that has the potential to track our movements around the country,” wrote ACLU's Bennett Stein. “The federal government is uniquely positioned to create a centralized repository of all drivers’ movements across the country — and the DEA seems to be moving toward doing just that. If license plate readers continue to proliferate without restriction...the agency will soon possess a detailed and invasive depiction of our lives.”   read more
Latest News

Top Stories

  • Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling Convicted

    Thursday, January 29, 2015
    Posecutors argued Sterling was the source who helped James Risen discuss a CIA operation in his book “State of War.” “The Sterling case – especially in light of Obama’s complicity in the cover-up of torture during the Bush administration,” Dan Froomkin wrote, “sends a clear message to people in government service: You won’t get in trouble as long as you do what you’re told (even torture people). But if you tell [a reporter] something we want kept secret, we will spare no effort to destroy you.”   read more
  • Dream Come True for Oil Companies: Obama Expected to Approve Drilling off Atlantic Coast from Virginia to Georgia

    Wednesday, January 28, 2015
    Environmentalists contend the coast could suffer the same fate as the Gulf states after the 2010 BP disaster that fouled coastal waters with millions of barrels of oil. “Opening Atlantic waters to offshore drilling would take us in exactly the wrong direction,” said Bob Deans. Democratic senators from East Coast states blasted the move. “All of the risk is put on the backs of our shore communities, and all of the reward goes to Big Oil,” said Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey.   read more
  • Only 2 Countries Have Not Joined the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child: South Sudan and…United States

    Tuesday, January 27, 2015
    The U.S. signed the treaty in 1995. However, President Clinton never submitted it to the Senate for approval. George W. Bush also did not ask the Senate to ratify it. Nor has President Barack Obama, who during his 2008 campaign said, “It is embarrassing that the U.S. is in the company of Somalia, a lawless land. If I become president, I will review this and other human rights treaties.” Supporters say it’s unlikely the U.S. will ratify it soon, with Republicans now in charge of the Senate.   read more

Unusual News

  • Army Major who Oversaw Sexual Assault Cases Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Rape

    Thursday, January 29, 2015
    Army Major Erik Burris, who had been responsible for supervising sexual assault cases by soldiers, was himself convicted Sunday of crimes including rape and forcible sodomy. Burris was found guilty of two counts of rape, forcible sodomy, four counts of assault, and disobeying an order from a superior officer. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, forfeiture of pay and allowances and dismissal from the Army. He had multiple victims.   read more
  • Wisconsin Town in Need of Jurors Grabs People off the Street

    Wednesday, January 28, 2015
    When Judge Michael Schumacher ran out of potential jurors for a trial, he instructed the sheriff, Ron Cramer, to round up more people. Cramer then hit the streets of the 65,000-population city, and using a little known law, ordered some residents to come with him to the courthouse. The sheriff cited the “Insufficient Jurors” statute on the books, which authorizes police to grab any local resident 18 years old with no felony convictions to serve on a jury if a pool runs dry.   read more
  • Justice Dept. Pays $134,000 to Woman Who Sued Over Use of Her Identity in Fake Facebook Page for DEA Operation

    Sunday, January 25, 2015
    Sondra Arquiett sued the government after learning photos of her were part of a social media sting operation run by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Federal agents had obtained the images after confiscating her phone in 2010 as part of a drug arrest, which resulted in Arquiett pleading guilty to a drug conspiracy charge. But she never gave the DEA permission to use her photos to snare other people she knew who were using or trafficking in illegal drugs.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • Koch Brothers Unveil Plan to Outspend Political Parties in 2016 Election Campaign

    Wednesday, January 28, 2015
    At $889 million, a figure leaked this week at the Kochs’ annual winter donor retreat near Palm Springs, the brothers’ secretive fundraising network goal would dwarf the $657 million spent by the entire Republican Party during the 2012 election. The Koch budget might even match the total spending by both Republicans and Democrats in next year’s contests. And all the while, the Kochs will largely avoid disclosing the sources of their campaign operation.   read more
  • For the First Time in at Least 10 Years, a Decline in the Number of Americans Reporting Trouble Paying Medical Bills

    Tuesday, January 27, 2015
    The survey revealed the number of people who said they were struggling to pay their medical bills went down from about 75 million people in 2012 to 64 million people last year. The survey also showed that due to the implementation of Obamacare, the number of uninsured working-age adults in the U.S. declined from 37 million in 2010 to 29 million by the second half of last year. The rise in people with health insurance also meant fewer people skipped going to the doctor in 2014.   read more
  • Will Secret Donors Dominate the Upcoming Election Season?

    Monday, January 26, 2015
    Candidates’ backers set up nonprofit organizations ostensibly as “social welfare organizations” that don’t have politics as their primary purpose. Instead, they run “issue ads,” that coincidentally mention either the candidate they’re backing or their opponent. Sen. Mitch McConnell used this technique to great effect in his recent defeat of Alison Lundergan Grimes.   read more

Controversies

  • Pennsylvania Fracking Companies Flaunt Environmental Rules and Regulations…Every Day

    Thursday, January 29, 2015
    The largest 20 frackers averaged more than 1.5 violations a day, with many racking up hundreds of violations. Some of the violations included allowing toxic chemicals to flow off drilling sites and into local soil and water; endangering drinking water through improper well construction; and dumping industrial waste into local waterways. The report noted that the numbers collected are probably on the low side.   read more
  • HUD Official Worked for Government and Housing Industry at the Same Time…Beyond the Revolving Door

    Thursday, January 29, 2015
    Until June, Debra Gross worked for the Housing and Urban Development at the same time she was a deputy director for an advocacy group that had interests in HUD decision making. HUD’s IG looked into the Gross case and found it created a conflict of interest. How Gross was even hired by former HUD Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing Sandra Henriquez might raise questions, but federal law permits agencies to share employees with outside organizations.   read more
  • Half of Prisoners Cleared after being Wrongly Convicted are African-American

    Thursday, January 29, 2015
    The National Registry of Exonerations reported that 66 of the 125 inmates who were exonerated in 2014 were black. Since 1989, 1,536 people have been exonerated and 715 were black. “This can be attributed to the fact that there are more African-Americans in the U.S. prison system than any other race group,” said ThinkProgress. African-Americans make up only about 13% of the U.S. population at large, but about 43% of the prison population.   read more

U.S. and the World

Appointments and Resignations

  • Senegal’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Babacar Diagne?

    Saturday, January 24, 2015
    In November 2012, Diagne left his position at RTS and was appointed ambassador to the Gambia, a nation almost entirely surrounded by Senegal. Much of his work involved advocating for Senegalese held in prison in that country, many of them facing death sentences. He also obtained a grant from Senegal’s government to support women’s projects in the Senegalese women’s community in the Gambia. He served there until being sent to Washington in 2014.   read more
  • Angola’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Agostinho Tavares?

    Saturday, January 17, 2015
    In 2007, Tavares was made head of the Asia and Oceania Department of Bilateral Cooperation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His first ambassadorial posting came in 2011 when he was sent to represent Angola in Ottawa, Canada. On August 24, 2014, Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos appointed Agostinho Tavares da Silva Neto to be his ambassador to the United States.   read more
  • Comoros’ Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Soilihi Mohamed Soilihi?

    Saturday, January 10, 2015
    Soilihi in 2006 was appointed as special delegate to Moroni city hall and the following year he became chief of staff to Comoros’ minister of finance. Soilihi moved to foreign affairs, becoming political counselor to the minister in 2009. In 2010, Soilihi took over as director general of the Office of Radio and Television for Comoros. One of his achievements was to make Comoran television available via satellite.   read more