Court Rules President’s Words Have Little Meaning, War is Raging in Afghanistan

A prisoner’s bid to end a fifteen-year stint at Guantanamo Bay, by arguing that the war in Afghanistan was over, had his hopes dashed in a federal court this week. Moath al-Alwi, captured in 2001, argued that statements made by the previous administration, suggesting hostilities in Afghanistan had ceased, meant that prisoners of war from that conflict should be freed, in accordance with long-established law of war principles. Alwi’s legal team specifically cited statements made by former President Obama in 2015. One was made during his annual State… Keep Reading

ATF Made Millions in “Off-the-Books” Cig Smuggling Op

Another Department of Justice informant program is under scrutiny following a New York Times report disclosing the existence of an undercover financing operation–this one involving illegal cigarette sales. Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) enlisted the help of a Virginia tobacco distributor in 2011, to swindle a farmers’ cooperative out of $24 million. Some of the money was then used to finance ATF undercover activities, including $1 million payments each to two owners of the distribution company. The Times expose was… Keep Reading

Racist Evidence, Incompetent Lawyers Lead to Supreme Court Death Sentence Stay

The Supreme Court on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to put on hold a death sentence that had been upheld twice in lower federal circuits. Duane Buck was granted the temporary reprieve after six justices decided an appellate court had not properly adjudicated his claims of having an incompetent lawyer. The Sixth Amendment guarantees “the Assistance of Counsel for…defense.” Buck had been sentenced to death in Texas, after his own attorneys said he was more likely to re-offend on the account of his race. Buck is black. “No… Keep Reading

Trump’s Anti-Immigration Regime Takes Shape

Homeland Security chief John Kelly issued a memo to department leadership Monday, outlining how agencies will implement anti-immigration executive orders given last month by President Trump. The guidance broadens the criteria of individuals eligible for removal from the country. It also loosens restrictions on immediate deportations, and orders Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offices to reallocate funding away from immigration advocacy programs. The move also allows for the hiring of 10,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, and for the dismantling of safeguards erected for undocumented immigrants during… Keep Reading

Homeownership Rate Lowest Since L.B.J. Era, Years After Subprime Meltdown

Data released this month by the Census Bureau show that homeownership is increasingly unavailable to Americans, years after the Great Recession. The rate of homeowners in the US fell in 2016 to 63.4 percent from 63.7 percent, marking the lowest it has been since 1967. Prospective buyers, meanwhile, got no relief from the market last year, with the vacancy rate down and the median asking price up at to $167,700–the highest it has been since the post-2008 housing price recovery began in 2011. Though the… Keep Reading

Senate Confirms Austerity Champion Congressman as Influential White House Staffer

The Senate approved of President Trump’s chief budget and policy aide on Thursday, in a 51-49 vote. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) was the lone Republican to reject Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), on the grounds that the Tea Party Congressman has extended his frequent calls for fiscal austerity to the defense budget. Mulvaney is now set to lead the Office of Management and Budget, an influential wonky arm of the White House through which draft “major rules” receive edits before publication. The agency is also tasked with… Keep Reading

Lowball Estimate: U.S. on Hook for $447 Billion in Environmental Damages

The chief federal watchdog warned on Wednesday that the United States government’s environmental liabilities have grown by hundreds of billions of dollars over the past two decades. In a biannual report about “high risk” problems facing federal agencies, the Government Accountability Office said that taxpayers were on the hook last year for $447 billion in environmental cleanup costs—up from $217 billion in 1997. The doubling roughly mirrors the rate of economic growth over the same time frame, but GAO warned that federal environmental liabilities might… Keep Reading

Government Has Yet to Implement Roughly 1,000 Cyber Security Recommendations

A report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Tuesday revealed that federal agencies are dragging their feet establishing necessary safeguards against cyber attacks. The government watchdog noted that it has over recent years made about 2,500 recommendations to agencies to bolster their cyber defenses. “As of February 2017,” the report went on to state, “about 1,000 of our information security-related recommendations had not been implemented.” Federal information security, protecting critical infrastructure, and defending the government’s store of personally identifiable information are all listed as “high… Keep Reading

First of Many “CRA” Love Letters to Corporate America Signed into Law by Trump

The first of many deregulatory measures rapidly pushed by Congressional Republicans under the Trump administration was signed into law on Tuesday. President Trump gave the green light to a resolution disapproving of Dodd-Frank disclosure rules. The regulations had required publicly-traded companies extracting natural resources to divulge payments made to foreign governments. The proposal was one of dozens that have originated in the House of Representatives since January under the Congressional Review Act (CRA)–an arcane law, passed in 1996, allowing the legislative branch to nullify recently passed executive… Keep Reading

Aetna-Humana Merger, at Heart of Election Year Obamacare Scandal, Dies After Court Ruling

A proposed $34 billion merger between health insurance giants Aetna and Humana has fallen apart, after a federal judge ruled last month that it violated antitrust laws. Aetna announced on Tuesday that the two companies would not be appealing the ruling. District Judge John Bates had found that integration of the two firms would illegally stifle competition in the market for Medicare Advantage. The CEO of Aetna, Mark Bertolini, said that “the current environment makes it too challenging to continue pursuing” the merger, by appealing Bates’… Keep Reading

Michael Flynn

In Wake of Flynn Resignation, Dems & GOP Spar Over Broadening Russian Probes

The fledgling Trump administration is already dealing with a high-profile resignation. National Security Advisor Michael Flynn stepped down on Monday night, amid reporting that he broke the law during a December phone call with a Russian ambassador, and then lied about it. In his resignation letter, Flynn admitted only that he “inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information.” As late as Monday afternoon, it had appeared Flynn’s job might be safe. White House advisor Kelly Ann Conway claimed on MSNBC that… Keep Reading

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