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Veterans Affairs Can’t Keep Track of Suicide Data for Prevention Program

The federal government might lack significant data on veteran suicides for a program specifically designed to mitigate the psychological damage of war, according to a watchdog report released Friday. The Government Accountability Office said that the Department of Veterans Affairs has not been verifying the accuracy of some of its medical centers’ reporting on the number of veterans who take their own lives. The investigation, which probed records from five department facilities between fiscal years 2009 and 2013, led the report’s authors to posit that the… Keep Reading

As Airlines Hoard Cash, Senator Calls for Investigation Into the Sky Barons

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wants the Department of Justice to open an investigation into the nation’s airliners over rising ticket prices, but according to a government watchdog the problem is less about competition and more about corporatism. “At a time when the cost of fuel is plummeting and profits are rising, it is curious and confounding that ticket prices are sky-high and defying economic gravity,” Sen. Schumer said in a press release on Monday. At $55.91 a barrel, oil is at its lowest price since… Keep Reading

Feds Used Fear to Justify Spying, New Docs Reveal

Court documents declassified by the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) show how the government relied on fear and false promises to gain a top secret court’s approval for the post-9/11 surveillance dragnet program. “[They] seek to use our own communications infrastructure and laws against us, as they secrete agents into the United States, waiting to attack at a time of their choosing,” wrote then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) in December 2006,… Keep Reading

Despite Downward Trend, Sentinel Discontent Index Up Slightly In September

The District Sentinel Discontent Index rose by 0.1 point in September, but indicated that the economy appears to be improving over the long run. Labor Discontent, narrowed by an improving job market, was down on a monthly basis by almost half a point. Those gains were more than washed out by increasing Consumer Discontent—pushed 0.62 points up by a diminished Consumer Confidence Index. A slight decline in the seasonally-adjusted rate of seriously delinquent FHA-backed mortgages, meanwhile, saw Housing Discontent fall slightly, by 0.02 points. The… Keep Reading

Discussing US-Middle East Trade, Kerry Uses Eyebrow-raising Euphemism

Using a euphemism decried as misleading by public interest groups, Secretary of State John Kerry said this week that American diplomats routinely urge Middle Eastern governments to alter laws to placate multinational corporations and investors. At a “Middle East Commercial Center Leadership Dinner” at The US Chamber of Commerce, Kerry said Monday that the “elimination of non-tariff trade barriers” is one of many issues “that US officials raise constantly in conversations with our regional counterparts.” The term has featured heavily in the protracted negotiations over the Trans… Keep Reading

Snowden Talks Reform, Torture, And Return to US

Edward Snowden popped-up via video-link from an undisclosed location in Russia on Friday to talk surveillance reform efforts in Congress, the so-called Torture Report, and his chances of returning to the US. He spoke to a CATO conference on surveillance, privacy, and civil liberties, and he said Congress is mostly taking “baby steps” toward reform and that nothing so far “really solves the problem.” “We really need to think more broadly about the kind of society we want to live in,” he said during a… Keep Reading

Justice Department Bad at Punishing Misbehaving Attorneys, GAO Report Says

The Department of Justice has come under fire for aggressively investigating whistleblowers, journalists, and internet activists like Aaron Swartz, but a government watchdog said the agency lacks concern about actual malfeasance committed by its own. The Government Accountability Office said in a report released Thursday that the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), which collects, investigates, and punishes its misbehaving lawyers, lacks transparency and doesn’t “ensure that attorneys found to have engaged in misconduct serve the discipline imposed upon them.” The oversight agency discovered that… Keep Reading

Leahy Blasts House GOP Over Sunshine Sunset

One of the authors of a transparency reform bill passed unanimously by the Senate took aim at House Republicans after the lower chamber recessed for the 113th Congress without acting on it. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) issued a statement saying the legislation would have restricted the executive branch’s ability to withhold information from the public, and that should have made it congressional conservatives’ bread and butter. “I would think that members of the House Republican leadership, who have spent so much time on oversight of… Keep Reading

Wall Street “Cromnibus” Carried By Dems Who Received Most Cash From Banks Pushing It

As the fate of the “Cromnibus” hung in the balance on Thursday night, it was reported that widely-reviled JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon personally phoned Members of Congress to urge them to support the bill and the Trojan Horse deregulation it contains. Seventeen of those 56 House Democrats who answered the call–either literally or figuratively–were among party congresspeople to receive the twenty largest donations from Dimon’s bank during the last election cycle. Seven lawmakers changing their votes from “aye” to “nay” could have killed the bill. Of… Keep Reading

In Approving Islamic State Fight, Senate Panel Wants War on Terror Authorization to End

In authorizing military force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday set the stage for a key War on Terror law to expire. An amendment paired with the resolution assembled by committee chair Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) would relinquish the post-9/11 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) in three years. “Those of use who were in Congress in 2001 never envisioned that authorization would still be utilized today the way it was utilized in thirty separate military operations,”… Keep Reading

Senators Fail to Stop NSA Power Grab

Despite rhetoric about reining in the National Security Agency, privacy-minded Senators sat on their hands this week as a provision to dramatically expand the agency’s authority to spy on Americans was quietly ushered through Congress. The new provision gives Congressional approval, for the first time, to spying activities carried out under Executive Order 12333 – a breathtakingly broad authority to conduct foreign surveillance that’s also known to collect enormous amounts of data belonging to Americans. “Congress codified the status quo, which happens to be an… Keep Reading

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