Tag Archives: this pressed

this pressed: Watchdog Accuses Pentagon of Evading Questions on $800 Million Afghanistan Program – ProPublica


This story has been updated.The watchdog charged with overseeing U.S. spending in Afghanistan says the Pentagon is dodging his inquiries about an $800 million program that was supposed to energize the Afghan economy.John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said the military is restricting access to some documents in violation of law and has claimed there are no Defense Department personnel who can answer questions about the Task Force for Business Stability Operations, or TFBSO, which operated for five years.“Frankly, I find it both shocking and incredible that DOD asserts that it no longer has any knowledge about TFBSO, an $800 million program that reported directly to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and only shut down a little over six months ago,” Sopko wrote in a letter to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter released today.The Pentagon’s claims are particularly surprising since Joseph Catalino, the former acting director of the task force who was with the program for two years, is still employed by the Pentagon as Senior Advisor for Special Operations and Combating Terrorism.In June, the DOD wrote in an official response to Sopko that it “no longer possess[es] the personnel expertise to address these questions,” a point the Pentagon reiterated in October. However, in response to questions from ProPublica Friday, a Pentagon spokesman said in an email that Catalino will be made available for questions. SIGAR had previously spoken to him before the task force shut down in March.The Pentagon has also refused to allow SIGAR to freely review all the task force documents. Normally the inspector general is simply given the documents it requests, but the Pentagon is insisting that anything related to the task force be read in a DOD-controlled room on DOD computers, and any documents SIGAR wishes to take must first be reviewed and redacted by the Pentagon.“We have established a reading room at the task force document storage facility specifically for SIGAR use,” said Army Lt. Col. Joe Sowers, a Department of Defense spokesman, in his email.These “appropriate security safeguards,” as Principal Deputy Under Secretary Brian McKeon called them in a letter to Sopko, “are necessary due to SIGAR’s actions that revealed Personally Identifiable Information [PII] in an unrelated incident.”The incident McKeon referenced involved information requested by ProPublica under a Freedom of Information Act request last November. ProPublica sought the Commander’s Emergency Response Program database from Afghanistan, which documents how commanders spent money on local projects. SIGAR provided the database, but did not redact names of military personnel, which the Pentagon said should have been done. ProPublica used the database to create an interactive that allows readers to search and sort how the troops spent $2 billion in petty cash.ProPublica has been analyzing how the Pentagon spent money in Afghanistan, closely tracking waste, such as this $25-million headquarters that no one needed and was never used.In SIGAR’s report, Sopko said he didn’t buy the Pentagon’s reasoning for not cooperating. SIGAR has refused to abide by the Pentagon’s terms because it believes the law does not allow for them.“SIGAR believes this vague accusation is a red herring intended to divert attention from DOD’s continued refusal to answer any questions related to TFBSO activities,” the report says. “For example, in response to SIGAR audits and investigations of other matters, DOD has continued to provide unrestricted information and unfettered access requested by SIGAR auditors and investigators.”But in a follow-up email, Sowers said that the Defense Department’s general counsel said that it “would expect same ground rules for future requests for unclassified docs containing [personally identifiable information] or other sensitive FOIA exempt info.” A SIGAR spokesman said today that the inspector general would wait to comment until officially informed of the broader change in policy.Despite the Pentagon’s restrictions, SIGAR has documented serious problems with at least one chunk of the $800 million tab. The task force spent nearly $43 million to build a compressed natural gas station in Afghanistan with the hopes of helping the country develop its natural resources and become less dependent on foreign fuel imports. The single station was intended as a model that would be replicated in other areas of the country.The project, SIGAR found, was ill-conceived from start to finish. Were a similar station built in neighboring Pakistan, SIGAR noted, it would cost about $300,000. The task force spent 140 times that. Even factoring in the extra security costs to build in Afghanistan, “this level of expenditure appears gratuitous and extreme,” SIGAR wrote.Cost aside, military planners also failed to account for Afghanistan’s lack of a viable local infrastructure to move the natural gas and for the hundreds of millions it would ta

Source: Watchdog Accuses Pentagon of Evading Questions on $800 Million Afghanistan Program – ProPublica

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this pressed, Public Safety – , System to Recall Defective Tires ‘Completely Broken,’ Says Official – NBC News


Access the NTSB’S Website, should you have complaints, HERE

“The panel of NTSB investigators unanimously recommended that Congress require tire registration, and also recommended that drivers register their tires with the manufacturer The federal recall system that is supposed to keep potentially dangerous car tires off the road is “completely broken,” federal officials said Tuesday.At a meeting in Washington, accident investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board said that while each year tire problems cause 33,000 accidents and kill 500-plus motorists, only one in five defective tires is being taken out of service via recalls. More than half of recalled tires remain in use, investigators found.”Based on the work we did, that system is not working,” said Dr. Rob Molloy, acting director of the NTSB’s Office of Highway Safety. Access the site HERE

Access the NTSB’S Website, should you have complaints, HERE

The federal recall system that is supposed to keep potentially dangerous car tires off the road is “completely broken,” federal officials said Tuesday.At a meeting in Washington, accident investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board said that while each year tire problems cause 33,000 accidents and kill 500-plus motorists, only one in five defective tires is being taken out of service via recalls. More than half of recalled tires remain in use, investigators found.”Based on the work we did, that system is not working,” said Dr. Rob Molloy, acting director of the NTSB’s Office of Highway Safety. “It is completely broken.”The problem, according to an NTSB report, is that tire manufacturers can’t reach tire owners to warn them. Independent tire dealers aren’t required to register the tires they sell with manufacturers, and so most don’t. Though 3.2 million tires were recalled between 2009 and 2013, most of the drivers using them were unaware of the recalls. NTSB experts told the board that even mechanics have no way of knowing when tires have been recalled.”Why can’t a service tech tell me if my tires are recalled,” NTSB Vice Chairman T. Bella Dinh-Zarr asked.”The main reason for that,” answered investigator Robert Squire, “is there’s no easy way to do it.”Sean Kane, the founder of Safety Research and Strategies, a firm that monitors potential hazards in consumer projects, said drivers would be surprised to learn that there’s no government or industry database to notify owners or mechanics about recalled tires.Said Kane, “I think it’s shocking to consumers to know that when they go into a shop to have their tires inspected, that no one can tell them whether they’ve got a recalled tire on their car in 2015.”At Tuesday’s meeting, investigators gave examples of fatal accidents linked to defective tires, including a multi-passenger van that crashed in Lake City, Florida in 2014. The driver thought he had an issue with a tire, but since the defect was internal couldn’t find the problem and kept driving. The tire failed and the van flipped over. Two passengers were killed eight were injured.The tire had been recalled more than a year earlier because of an internal defect, but hadn’t been registered with the tiremaker.In 2014, Joan Morro was killed and her husband injured after a recalled tire on a pickup truck blew and forced their Dodge Durango off the road on Interstate 95 in South Carolina. Their son Frank alleges in a civil suit that the accident was caused by a tire on the truck that had been recalled by Michelin.”My father was fractured from head to toe,” said Frank Morro. “He had multiple brain bleeds, skull fractures and a left orbit fracture.”The panel of NTSB investigators unanimously recommended that Congress require tire registration, and also recommended that drivers register their tires with the manufacturers. Registering tires requires sending your name, address and tire identification number with the company that made it. The number is on the tire sidewall and starts with the letters DOT.

Source: System to Recall Defective Tires ‘Completely Broken,’ Says Official – NBC News

Access the NTSB’S Website, should you have complaints, HERE

This Pressed: Politics: The Paradox of Paul Ryan: Why the Tea Party’s Right to be Wary | BillMoyers.com


Only in a world where Cosmopolitan magazine can declare the Kardashians “America’s First Family” and the multi-billionaire loose cannon Donald Trump is perceived by millions as the potential steward of our nuclear arsenal could about-to-be Speaker of the House Paul Ryan be savaged as insufficiently right-wing.This is after all a man who made his bones in Congress and the Republican Party as an Ayn Rand-spouting, body building budget-buster slashing away at the body politic like a mad vivisectionist, as well as an anti-choice, pro-gun zealot who never met a government program he liked (except the military, whose swollen budget he would increase until we are all left naked living in a national security state).But the former vice presidential candidate is widely cited among many of his colleagues as a likable enough chap who is polite to his elders in the hierarchy of Congress, and this makes the more rabid bomb throwers seethe. To them, that chummy, self-enlightened pragmatism as well as his past embrace of immigration reform qualify him as a so-called RINO, a Republican in Name Only, a “squish.” Time makes ancient good uncouth, as the poem goes, and in the words of Ed Kilgore at Washington Monthly’s “Political Animal” blog, “Nowadays if you are guilty of having ever supported ‘amnesty’ your other heresies will be uncovered, however old they are. The other way to look at it, of course, is that the GOP continues to drift to the Right, making yesterday’s ideological heroes suspect.”The House Freedom Caucus, the fractious faction of radical right-wingers gerrymandered into a permanent demolition squad, successfully conspired to bring down House Speaker John Boehner and his designated successor Kevin McCarthy. They have for the moment agreed to support Paul Ryan’s speakership, but not with the unanimity that would constitute an official endorsement. Further, it seems that for their support to continue once he takes the job Ryan must pledge to curtail some of his powers and enable the insurgents to continue to wreak havoc on the day-to-day business of the House without fear of punishment by the grown-ups.There’s a paradox to all this. Despite his ideological kinship with the anti-government crowd, Paul Ryan is the embodiment of the troika of money, power, and politics that corrupts and controls the capital, the very thing the tea partiers detest. Ryan is “a creature of Washington,” Red State’s Erick Erickson wrote. “He worked on Capitol Hill, worked in a think tank, then went back as a congressman. He speaks Washingtonese with the best of them.”He’s a master at the insider cronyism that defines Washington today. Just look at Ryan’s choice as his new chief of staff: David Hoppe, the personification of the supreme K-Street lobbyist, his footprints stamped all over the tar pit of Washington patronage, his hands chapped from rubbing at the prospect of the big bucks corporations pay for government favors. A 29-year veteran staffer on Capitol Hill, he’s a poster child for the revolving door through which members of Congress and their staffs rotate in the endless cycling between public service and private lucre.In Hoppe’s case, the rush of air from the revolving door would jumpstart the windmill in a Dutch landscape painting. The indefatigable journalistic sleuth David Sirota went digging into federal records this week and reports that, “Hoppe has lobbied for such major financial industry interests as insurance giant Metlife, the National Venture Capital Association and Zurich Financial Services.”Hoppe also has scurried along the inner corridors and back rooms of government for the investment firm BlackRock. Imagine: this man will now be sitting right there beside the Speaker of the House after working for a company which, Sirota writes, “could be affected by efforts to change federal financial regulations and which could benefit from a recent proposal to shift military pension money into a federal savings plan managed in part by the Wall Street giant.”What’s more, Hoppe has lobbied for Cayman Finance, “whose business ‘promot[ing] the development of the Cayman Islands financial services industry’ could be affected by legislation to crack down on offshore tax havens.” The big tax avoiders must be licking their corporate chops.

Source: The Paradox of Paul Ryan: Why the Tea Party’s Right to be Wary | BillMoyers.com (This Pressed)

this pressed for you: read on! Flash – Will latest migrant drama prod Europe into action? – France 24


© Eurokinissi/AFP / by Christian Spillmann | Local residents and rescue workers try to help migrants after their boat sank off the island of Rhodes, Greece, on April 20, 2015

20 April 2015 – 22H05

Will latest migrant drama prod Europe into action?

BRUSSELS (AFP) –

EU nations have long had the recipes for managing migrant flows and sharing out the burden of illegal migration but have lacked the political will for action despite multiple dramas in the Mediterranean, critics say.

“It’s shameful of Europe,” a high-ranking EU official told AFP after a boat carrying more than 700 people — perhaps as many as 1,000 — capsized off Libya days after a series of similar accidents sparked international outrage.

The European Union’s 28 members states had “no more excuses” to avoid action, warned the bloc’s foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini.

Amid the anger caused by the Lampedusa disaster of late 2013, in which 366 people drowned off Italy while seeking to reach Europe’s shores, the EU finessed plans to deal with the problem.

The action plan outlined at the time included improving the legal means of migration, combatting people-smugglers, beefing up the cash made available to Frontex, the EU’s frontier control agency, and rewriting the rules on dealing with migrant and refugee arrivals.

There has been no real follow-up however.

“The latest tragedies on the Mediterranean show how urgent it is to agree a share-out of responsibility,” said Cecilia Malmstroem, the EU’s former migration commissioner.

But at a summit on the issue in December 2013, EU leaders merely agreed to “prioritise efforts to stop departures” and show “appropriate solidarity” on dealing with new migrant arrivals.

The EU’s current migrant and refugee regime is set out in what is known as the Dublin II accords. They require that the country of first arrival — most often Italy recently – process migrants as well as asylum requests and be responsible for expelling those whose applications have been rejected.

A European Commission proposal to review the rule in the interests of better burden-sharing was flatly rejected by 24 of the EU’s 28 member states.

Only Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta — on the frontline of the migrant tide — backed the idea.

Malmstroem said European politicians had allowed populist and xenophobic movements to dictate policy and put the emphasis on repatriation.

– ‘Something has to change’ –

Now, public anger and shock over the steadily mounting death toll at sea may force a change.

“These are people like you and me — they’re not cockroaches,” thundered The Times of London, referring to controversial remarks made by a British newspaper columnist that “gunships” should be used on migrant boats to turn them back.

Malmstroem’s successor, Greece’s Dimitris Avramopoulos, is set to introduce a new approach to the problem in May.

Among his initiatives are greater funding for Frontex’s Triton operation monitoring the Mediterranean, new European programmes and facilities to handle incoming migrants, and legal and security rules “for people fleeing conflicts.”

Central to Avramopoulos’ push is his conviction that “something has to change” in the logic of the Dublin II accord, which leaves each country to deal with its individual share of the bloc’s immigration problem, limiting collective measures.

At a March 12 meeting, EU interior ministers looked at ways of stopping would-be migrants from leaving home.

Among these was setting up centres to examine immigration and asylum requests at major departure points in Africa to help stop people from setting out in rickety boats for a perilous journey across the Mediterranean sea.

“The only way to truly change the reality is to address the situation at its roots,” a Commission statement read.

Italy suspended its Mare Nostrum search-and-rescue operation late last year in protest over its rising cost and it was replaced by a smaller and much more restricted EU-led mission called Triton.

The recent flood of migrants and the growing loss of life have put Triton in the spotlight, with EU diplomatic sources saying Monday there was an emerging consensus that it had to get more resources to cope with the growing problem.

EU leaders will hold an emergency summit on the issue on Thursday and will be under intense pressure to come up with concrete proposals.

EU foreign and interior ministers meeting on Monday came up with a 10-point plan for action to be submitted to the leaders at the summit.

by Christian Spillmann

? 2015 AFP

News videos : UK elections – Miliband wins debate as PM Cameron absent

via Flash – Will latest migrant drama prod Europe into action? – France 24.

related Readings:  HERE

this pressed: A medical student develops an illness she has been studying – The Washington Post


A patient’s worst nightmare

The first two years of medical school, the preclinical years, teach students about disease in the abstract, as testable material. We detach ourselves from reality as we memorize a constellation of symptoms and treatments presented from a podium or a textbook. I have been guilty of occasionally forgetting that what I am studying may be a patient’s worst nightmare.

“We ask patients to take on risks in order to heal,” Cherie Fathy writes, “but we should never forget how overwhelming it is to hear those risks or to play those odds.” (Courtesy of Cherie Fathy)

As students on the wards, we see mere snapshots of our patients’ illnesses. We are there as patients receive a diagnosis in the clinic or a treatment in the hospital. What we don’t see is a patient at home deciding whether that lump is even worth checking on or a mother dreading when to tell her children what she has, or how to even begin telling them.

via A medical student develops an illness she has been studying – The Washington Post.

this pressed: Could non-citizens decide the November election? – The Washington Post via The Judicial Watch


Could control of the Senate in 2014 be decided by illegal votes cast by non-citizens? Some argue that incidents of voting by non-citizens are so rare as to be inconsequential, with efforts to block fraud a screen for an agenda to prevent poor and minority voters from exercising the franchise, while others define such incidents as a threat to democracy itself. Both sides depend more heavily on anecdotes than data.

In a forthcoming article in the journal Electoral Studies, we bring real data from big social science survey datasets to bear on the question of whether, to what extent, and for whom non-citizens vote in U.S. elections. Most non-citizens do not register, let alone vote. But enough do that their participation can change the outcome of close races.

via  Could non-citizens decide the November election? – The Washington Post. (The Judicial Watch

this pressed: Watch Twitter explode along with Ferguson – The Washington Post


Watch Twitter explode along with Ferguson – The Washington Post.