As War in Afghanistan “Ends,” Quagmire of Reconstruction Continues

The US combat mission in Afghanistan was scaled down at the end of last year. But American taxpayers can expect new tales of misadventure about the war-torn country to emerge over the coming years. John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), appeared on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal on Monday, with harsh words for federal agencies in charge of US development projects in the nation. He warned Washington-led reconstruction was under the leadership of “horrendous” mismanagement, which has failed to ask simple questions or… Keep Reading

Unlike E.U., U.S. Doesn’t Mildly Rebuke Israel for Jailing Palestinian “Prisoner of Conscience”

On Dec. 8, five days after a Palestinian organizer was sentenced by an Israeli military court to almost ten months in jail, the European Union voiced its disapproval. Murad Shteiwi, a resident of the West Bank town Kufr Qaddum had been called a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International, and European diplomats echoed the distinction. The EU missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah described Shteiwi as “deeply committed to non-violence.” His prison term, they said, was “intended to prevent him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate… Keep Reading

Environmental Regulator Undermines Scientific Integrity, Says Watchdog

An agency that conducts environmental oversight on federally-owned land secretly relaxed standards used in policy-making, according to a non-profit watchdog. The Department of the Interior last week announced changes to its guidelines on scientific integrity without a review or public comment period. According to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility Director Jeff Ruch, the revisions mean that the department’s “use of science will remain politicized” Under the old rules, he told The Sentinel, “managers could be held to account for making alterations to technical documents for… Keep Reading

FDA Sets Up Clash With Congressional Dems Over New Gay Blood Donor Policy

At first glance, it appeared on Tuesday that the Food and Drug Administration scrapped  a discriminatory policy that prohibited gay men from donating blood. But Democratic lawmakers had previously argued that the proposal is still based on “outdated stereotypes.” “The recommendation to move to a one-year deferral policy is a step forward relative to current policies, however, such a policy still prevents many low-risk individuals from donating blood,” scores of legislators said in a letter sent on Dec. 15 to Health and Human Services Secretary… Keep Reading

FTC Sues Data Merchant Accused of Facilitating Theft from Millions

The Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on a data broker who allegedly played a central part in the scamming of payday loan applicants. The Arizona-based company LeapLab, bought the short-term high-interest loan applications and knowingly sold them to marketers without a “legitimate need” for them, according to the FTC lawsuit. One of those companies–the target of other FTC litigation–stands accused by the federal agency of using the information to plunder millions of dollars from payday loan applicants. The lawsuit was filed Monday at a… Keep Reading

New Report Opens Wide Loopholes in Digital Surveillance Protections

The feds and corporations are hijacking Americans’ webcams to conduct surveillance, and there isn’t much legal recourse for innocent victims when it happens, according to a new report. The paper, which details these 1984 telescreen-like capabilities using court documents, was released this week by a team of lawyers with the Chicago-Kent College Privacy Program. The report’s authors say that federal officials who remotely activate webcams routinely flout the Bill of Rights, and call for an end to the practice. “Allowing law enforcement to remotely activate… Keep Reading

Weaker Student Outcomes “No More Likely” to Affect Federal College Accreditation

With American students having accumulated over $1 trillion in debt, tuition financing is a hotly debated issue. But even students who are lucky enough to receive taxpayer-funded help might be getting short shrift. In recent years, Department of Education accreditors have been more likely to cite money woes than academic shortcomings as a reason for sanctioning institutions of higher learning, according to a Government Accountability Office report published Monday. The investigation’s authors discovered “that from October 2009 through March 2014, schools with weaker student outcomes… Keep Reading

Defense Contractor Caught Bilking the Pentagon

A classified report alleged that a major defense contractor might be charging unfair rates for an engine maintenance program. The Pentagon Inspector General found that taxpayers might be getting ripped off by Pratt and Whitney, and that the contractor has been improperly withholding information from the Defense Department. The Air Force “does not know whether the $1.54 billion already spent” on the deal through October 2014 “is a fair and reasonable price,” the inspector general found, but service branch currently intends to see out the… Keep Reading

Airports Still Impervious to Privatization

From water treatment plants to trash collection services to highway management, big chunks of the nation’s infrastructure are being sold off to private companies hoping to spin a buck off of vital public utilities. But, according to a federal study, the nation’s airports have been resisting the profiteers, much to the benefit of consumers. Officials and corporate interests often tout airport privatization as a policy initiative that brings increased efficiency. But, in a report released publicly on Friday, the Government Accountability Office found those claims… Keep Reading

Japanese Communists Complicate North Korea-Seth Rogen Showdown

The North Korean government on Sunday ratcheted up tensions with the US by praising the Sony Entertainment hack, while threatening retaliation against any American response, despite denying responsibility for the act. But while Washington’s focus is on Kim Jong Un and the Korean Peninsula, news of a potential complication for US long-term strategy quietly broke last week elsewhere in the region. Behind the story–itself buried by idle chatter about Seth Rogen and James Franco’s otherwise forgettable film–are the rise of communists and opposition to the US… Keep Reading

President Obama Declares NDAA Guantanamo Restrictions Unconstitutional

On Friday, President Obama signed a defense spending and policy bill crafted annually by Congress. What was remarkable about the enactment of the routine legislation was that he reserved the right to ignore certain provisions of the law related to the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. At the heart of the matter, were provisions in the bill that withheld authorization for the transfer of prisoners to the United States. President Obama said he had the right to overlook those stipulations as Commander-in-Chief of the… Keep Reading

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