Category Archives: Government Takes Property

ICE, IRS, VA and the Russia Thing

A chief counsel at ICE, Raphael Sanchez, resigned Monday after his four-year scheme of stealing seven immigrants’ identities and spending $190,000 on credit cards and Amazon accounts opened in their names was exposed.

This required forging social security cards and drivers licenses from the ICE database. Not to be confused with the Vigilant database ICE now accesses for new prey:

Refrigerators, ICE and Ex-Im Updates

(Accolades are in order for Alameda, CA, whose residents recently nixed a $500,000 contract for a Vigilant license plate reader network.)

The 44-year-old Seattle-based lawyer, whose job description is “immigration removal proceedings in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington”,  claimed three illegal immigrants as dependents on his tax returns with impunity, but got pinched when he used a Chinese national’s permanent resident card to pay his electric bill.

Through his own lawyer, Sanchez offered “sincere and immense regret” and pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. His recommended sentence is four years.

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Despite Pentagon comptroller David Norquist echoing military leaders’ “pleading” with Congress to save $2,000,000,000 PER YEAR by closing “tens of thousands of excess military bases around the world” [our emphasis], our entitled representatives have so thoroughly refuted the move that Defense didn’t even broach the subject in their 2019 budget request. According to Washington Times, the improbable decision to conduct a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) is out of the question this election year.

The last BRAC round occurred in 2005 and took a decade to complete. It is estimated to have cost $24 billion and the Pentagon estimates it will save about $4 billion per year.

The House Armed Services Committee dismissed the Pentagon’s request last year, because America was founded on the basis of a stifling cent Federal government whose chief objective is to provide military and contracting jobs indefinitely.

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As the IRS gears up for tax season, they’re dogged by the independent Taxpayer Advocate Service‘s damning details of last year’s effort to recover $920 million that was mistakenly not confiscated. Private collection agencies and IRS itself were allowed to pocket 25% commissioneach–of what they scored for the Feds.

Image result

IRS’ target group unfortunately included many struggling taxpayers. The 4,100 targets had a median household income of $41,000 (national median last year was $59,039, according to the Census Bureau); 28% made less than $20,000, and some received Social Security, making them ineligible for shakedown by IRS ground rules.

19% were below the federal poverty level.

Of those bullied into “installment agreements” by the collectors, 45% could not afford to make the payments because they had income that was less than their allowable living
expenses.

According to the report obtained by ThinkProgress, the agencies got paid for accounts actually settled by IRS:

The IRS is aware that it is paying commissions to [collection agencies] with respect to work done by the IRS, but has
no plans to change its procedures to attempt to identify payments that were clearly not attributable to [agencies]…

[our emphasis]

Also, the initiative cost $20 million but recovered just $7 million.

A revenue-neutral FairTax, collected with every purchase to punishe consumption rather than production, eliminating the IRS, is still out of the question.

Related:

Summer Part 2: August Agony!!! Looking Back: May 10: IRS Takes From Little People; Squander Millions on Unused Email, Faulty Fraud Detection

The Department of Veterans Affairs is back under the microscope.

Last week’s Office of Inspector General report scrutinized VA secretary David Shulkin (below) for attending the Wimbeldon tennis tournament–and stopping in Copenhagen, Denmark–last July in conjunction with the London Ministerial Summit on Veterans’ Affairs.

A portrait of David Shulkin, secretary of the Department

The Obama-appointed Undersecretary is the only Trump nominee to wield unanimous 100-0 consent from the Senate from his 2017 confirmation to head VA.

Washington Post, who apparently got the story first in September, noted Shulkin previously denied reaching out to Prince Harry’s 2016 Invictus Games head Victoria Gosling to poach the tennis tickets (worth thousands on the street). It turns out Shulkin did exactly that, and got served when OIG found Gosling could not come up with the first name of Shulkin’s wife, Dr. Merle Bari. This did not match Shulkin’s story that Gosling was a friend, so the exchange did not require ethics clearance.

Dr. Bari proved to be a very expensive add in add on to the delegation, adding $4300 in plane tickets alone to the $122,000, 11-day European extravaganza funded by the VA’s taxpayer-provided budget. Her status as “invitational traveler” cleared the VA ethics office just two weeks after her husband directed the agency to determine “essential” travel to “decrease employee travel and generate savings.”

Shulkin (2016 net worth: $17 million) repaid the government for Bari’s ticket.

A member of the security team’s expense voucher included “an inexplicable $3,825 overpayment for airport parking and a $2,718 overpayment for lodging.”

The report mentions another unusual expense: VA had official “Trip Book” itineraries printed for the entourage, 15 copies at a cost of $100 each.

December Debacle: Stories from the Freezer!!! September 13 and 29: Mnuchin Continues Opulent Employment; Tom Price Priced Out of Trump Administration

The best part? Shulkin’s chief of staff Vivieca Wright Simpson (below) resigned Friday after altering emails to VA’s ethics lawyer to suggest Shulkin received an award on the trip’s Denmark leg (which would have justified his wife’s traveling at taxpayer expense). OIG, of course, found Shulkin had no idea of the malfeasance.

636543769466427466-Screen-Shot-2018-02-16-at-11.19.54-AM.jpg

(Wright Simpson flew in economy class, but changed her connecting city, adding $2900 to the cost of her ticket.)

Two other staff members indulged in the trip, with six (6) security employees requiring “several additional days of advance travel.” So several of the trip itinerary booklets were apparently extras.

It’s unclear if Shulkin has yet rewritten VA hiring guidelines as he promised last December when USA Today found the agency has routinely–in violation of Federal law–employed physicians with revoked medical licenses for the past 15 years.

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Besides Shulkin, four other Trump officials are under investigation for lavish travel using government funds. EPA head Scott Pruitt, for example, traveled from Cincinnati to New York on a military plane at a cost of $36,068.50 to catch his first-class flight to Rome, according to CNBC. Pruitt, according to the EPA, is awarded first or business class (for his frequent travel on jumbo jets to spread environmental protection) to avoid repeating past “security threats.” The Hill:

Pruitt has a “blanket waiver” to federal standards that limit officials’ ability to book first-class flights on the taxpayer dime.

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Paul Manafort‘s release from house arrest looks even less likely, as Robert Mueller‘s long awaited Russia probe turned up evidence of his “additional criminial conduct…[including]  a series of bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracies.”

December Debacle: Stories from the Freezer!!! October 23: Podesta Joins the Presidential Party

It’s unclear if the still-pending $10 million bail deal will proceed for Manafort’s alleged overstatement of income by his company DMP International to secure a $9.5 million mortgage for his other venture, Summerbreeze LLC. No additional charges are yet filed, and D.C. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson (below) has everyone under gag order as her office aims for an October trial.

Amy Berman Jackson.jpg

On February 16, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein indicted 13 Russian citizens and 3 Russian entities for spreading anti-Hillary and pro-Trump propaganda during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election via (according to Politicoidentity theft, fake accounts, carefully orchestrated trips and outreach, a concerted social media strategy and even real live rallies across the United States secretly planned from Russia.

Specifically: Russian “specialists were instructed to post content that focused on ‘politics in the USA’ and to ‘use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except [Bernie] Sanders and Trump—we support them)[.]”

[our emphasis]

According to The Hill, the Russians sought to suppress support among black voters for Hillary Clinton, creating fake accounts on social platforms including Facebook and Instagram with names like “Blacktivist” and “Woke Blacks” — and suggesting that she was not strong enough on issues germane to African-Americans. 

 

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/ice-lawyer-seattle-charged-stealing-immigrants-ids-n847856?cid=sm_npd_nn_tw_ma

https://www.seattlepi.com/seattlenews/article/ICE-Seattle-Immigration-Corruption-12617163.php

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/raphael-sanchez-ice-chief-steal-immigrants-identity-fraud-us-immigration-customs-enforcement-a8214511.html

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/pentagon-drops-effort-to-close-unneeded-military-bases-that-cost-2-billion-per-year/article/2648854

IRS paid private debt collectors $20 million to recoup $6.7 million from low-income Americans

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/veterans-affairs-chief-shulkin-staff-misled-ethics-officials-about-european-trip-report-finds/2018/02/14/f7fbc020-0c3a-11e8-8b0d-891602206fb7_story.html?utm_term=.39103093bba7

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/02/16/va-secretary-david-shulkins-chief-staff-retiring-amid-travel-report-findings/344810002/

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/15/trump-cabinet-officials-in-ethics-scandals.html

http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/373811-pruitt-coach-travel-yielded-interactions-that-were-not-the-best

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/02/16/mueller-russia-indictments-not-playing-around-217014

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/16/bernie-sanders-russia-2016-election-interference-415691

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/16/mueller-manafort-bank-fraud-accusations-416509

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/374302-five-key-takeaways-from-the-russian-indictments?userid=115887

FEMA Withdraws Aid Withdrawal Amid Backlash, Raises Stakes with Seedy Power Provider and Drops the Ball on Puerto Rican Food Delivery; Congress Shits on Taxpayers Again; Your Location and Face Broadcast to More Federal Agencies

FEMA threatened to cut Puerto Rico off their particular division of the federal teat at the end of January, congratulating themselves for distributing over 30 million gallons of potable water and nearly 60 million meals since the island was largely destroyed by last autumn’s Hurricane Maria.

Puerto Rico Updates

The agency estimated after pumping $500 million of “public assistance,” and $3.2 million of unemployment aid into the island, just 1% of its inhabitants still require emergency food.

Remaining supplies were transferred to the island’s own disaster agency, Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency (PREMA)–not to be confused with the floundering state-run power supplier, PREPA.

Some far-flung areas of the island were slated to continue suffering. NPR cited Mayor Carmen Maldonado of Morovis, who was not contacted by PREMA regarding the 10,000 citizens of her municipality still dependent on soon-to-evaporate FEMA rations.

Days after that story broke, the Feds sought to save face:

As the New York Times reports, FEMA now claims that it never intended to end the aid and that it has no plans to at this time. Instead, the Jan. 31 cutoff date was “mistakenly publicized by the agency[.]”

If it really was a mistake, they might have just sacked an employee for pressing the wrong button and promptly reassigned him to continue soaking the taxpayers with his “public service.”

Rather, the hapless agency apparently folds on deadlines at the first hint of (justified) taxpayer discontent. And believe anything disreputable contractors say:

Those millions of FEMA meals may not have included 30 million promised by Tiffany Brown (below) of Tribute Contracting LLC in Atlanta in her October 3 bid. (At $5.10 per meal, Tribute was the lowest bidder.)

Brown bagged (pun alert) one of the biggest contracts for brown bag meals to send to the island (only they didn’t include the required heating pouches, which would have made them fancier than traditional brown bag lunches): $156 million for 30 million meals. At the mid-October deadline for the first 18.5 million, Brown’s one-woman operation had delivered…none. 

Apparently, she farmed the job out to a subcontractor: an eleven-person caterer down the road (who curiously managed anonymity across multiple media outlets). They did have the heating pouches, however:

PHOTO: A photo in Tribute Contracting, LLCs contract with a catering company show examples of self heating meals that include a meal in one pouch with a food heater, water pouch, cutlery, and seasonings.

The caterers weren’t too interested in working either, it appears. Tribute was fired.

“My biggest mistake was not asking for more help.”–Tiffany Brown

Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) of the House Oversight Committee noted this is Brown’s sixth terminated Federal contract. Four were failures to deliver food to the Federal Prison System. The fifth fuck-up came in 2016 for the Government Printing Office, who issued a decision in 2016 that “no agency in the executive branch” would enter contracts with Tribute until 2019. But FEMA said […]that exclusion only applied to GPO.

The GPO angle is interesting: the feckless Feds only banned Tribute from contracts over $35,000, and only until January 2019. And all Tribune did to GPO was fail to put the Marine Corps logo on both sides of some tote bags. Wait. New York Times:

An investigation by [GPO]’s inspector general found that Tribute “altered and submitted a false shipping document and subcontracted the predominant production function on two contracts without proper authorization,” according to a 2015 report submitted to Congress.

Which doesn’t explain why GPO returned to Tribute for the tote bags a year later.

FEMA never gave Brown any money. She is now suing the government for $70 million in debt accrued for the 50,000 meals she managed to almost deliver.

Brown told FEMA officials in an email exchange on Oct. 19 that, because of issues with suppliers, all 30 million meals would instead be delivered by November 7 – two weeks after the deadline.

She told ABC News on Friday that the original schedule in the contract was flexible and that she had been communicating with FEMA officials about the changes.

You can check out her website, but we took some screenshots just in case she stumbles upon some shame and takes it down:

Brown, who reportedly lost family in FEMA’s other notable success story, Hurricane Katrina, spoke with ABC on Friday:

“I think there’s a lacking of seeing the human aspect of everyone, the human aspect of the citizens of Puerto Rico and how they feel, the human aspect of the business owners trying to support them just trying to help out maybe that doesn’t have the larger infrastructure but out of the kindness of their own heart they want to be able to help they’re not seeing the human aspect they’re only seeing a lowest possible bid or trying to meet a budget and not about the people.”

She also fingered “a lack of infrastructure, particularly payment infrastructure on FEMA’s part.”

It appears the 50,000 meals (which actually made it to Jacksonville, FL for shipment before FEMA pulled the plug) actually came from Brown’s other partner, the non-profit Breedlove. Not to drag them into this, but their website is here.

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As we noted above, Cobra Acquisitions may be picking up the slack. Nasdaq reported the subsidiary of Oklahoma City-based energy giant Mammoth (which is reportedly flirting with serious self-enrichment if the new Puerto Rico power grid is built to run on fossil fuels)…more than doubled its contract to rebuild the Puerto Rican power grid on January 28, from the $200 million already invested in quarter four of 2017 to a cool $445 million.

PREPA requested FEMA clear the contract as “reasonable” and “in compliance with emergency procurement provisions of Puerto Rico;” the federal agency obliged in late December.

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Everyone knows the only solution to government incompetence is to pour more confiscated taxpayer cash onto the fire. So last week, as the seventeen-day stopgap fizzled out and the Feds ran out of borrowing power for the second time this year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) huddled to further destroy the livelihood of their subjects employers.

Wading through the details, the disgustingly unaffordable package funds the Federal government for at least another month.

It blows through the 2011 Budget Control Act‘s limit on domestic spending by $57,000,000,000$117 billion more than Trump requested.

Military spending will swell to $700 billion this year, a monstrous 13% increase from 2016, if our numbers are correct.

In Defense of Defense

It bumps up to $716 billion  for 2019.

$90 billion for hurricane and wildfire relief was shoved in there, which sounds generous if you don’t factor in that the victims of these disasters now have more debt to pay off when McConnell and Schumer are long dead.

Some choice goodies that were slipped in, according to New York Times, include: tax credits to prop up renewable energy (it’ll be cheaper and safer for everyone, just wait); extension of a tax break for racehorse owners; exemption from a new college investment income excise tax for the non-tution-charging Berea College (conveniently located in McConnell’s state of Kentucky); funding for abstinence-only sex ed (can’t trust condoms, guys); repeal of $1.35 billion for an Obamacare public health program; repeal of Obamacare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board, which ostensibly controls Medicare spending; faster implementation of shrinking the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole;” and extension of temporary subsidies to rural hospitals and underserved areas’ health provider tuition loans.

And also billions for the VA, billions for NIH, billions for community health centers, billions for “infrastructure”…all of which Vox suggests will yield major fiscal stimulus.

The deal did not address protections for DACA recipients, the catalyst for last month’s Federal shutdown (and a vote McConnell had promised Schumer to end the impasse). Like the rest of the country, these people appear to be utterly disregarded by McConnell’s rabid lust for accumulating debt. Schumer forgot his earlier advocacy as well:

“After months of legislative logjams, this budget deal is a genuine breakthrough,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “After months of fiscal brinksmanship, this budget deal is the first real sprout of bipartisanship.”

He proclaimed the deal has consigned “the pointless and arbitrary sequester caps to the ash heaps of history.”

A speed bump emerged when Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) forced a procedural delay because the leadership would not allow any amendments to the fiscal depravity. While railing against idiotic government grants (including $700,000 studying whether Neil Armstrong inserted an extra “a” in his famous moon landing line, and coming up empty), Paul pointed out Republicans famously struck the Budget Control Act merely to slow down the rate of spending growth, and decried each and every deficit from the Obama administration.

The 2018 deficit, with this added $300 billion, is projected at $955 billion. Trillion-dollar deficits have become typical since George W. Bush in 2008. TheBalance.com shows how much we’ve added to our over $20,600,000,000,000 in national debt in each of recent years (which is slightly divorced from deficit).

“The reason I’m here tonight is to put people on the spot,” Paul said. “I want people to feel uncomfortable. I want them to have to answer people at home who said, ‘How come you were against President Obama’s deficits, and then how come you’re for Republican deficits?'”

Paul’s fellow Republicans were pissed, as several are up for re-election this year and all reportedly wanted to start the weekend early. The most bone-headed reaction to Paul’s pragmatism came from our favorite crony cow, Lindsey Graham:

“It appears ‘General’ @RandPaul is at it again. He just called for the immediate withdrawal of all forces from Afghanistan as a way to give the US military a pay raise,” Graham tweeted. “Fortunately, only ‘General’ Paul — and the Taliban – think that’s a good idea.”

[America has been in Afghanistan, killing and being killed, without declaring war, for over 16 years.]

CNBC noted:

The vast majority of the Republican lawmakers who are opposing the budget agreement, including Paul, voted for the GOP tax law. The massive tax cuts are estimated to add more than $1 trillion to budget deficits over 10 years, even after economic growth is taken into account, according to the CBO.

The bill eventually passed early Friday morning, 71-28, and technically shuttered the government for several hours before the House could ram it through and get it to Trump to sign. It’s unclear if anyone read all of the nearly 700 pages.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi gave a House-record eight-hour speech advocating for DACA protections, largely reading testimony from Dreamers (DACA recipients) threatened with deportation next month, as the program was not extended by the crooked Schumer-McConnell generational theft. Pelosi voted against the bill, but it passed the House 240-186.

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As we boosted the defense budget with fake money we don’t have, it emerged as the Pentagon undergoes its first-ever audit that its own Defense Logistics Agency (annual budget: $40 billion) lost track of $800 million in construction projects.

Image result

The outside firm Ernst & Young who discovered the glaring errors (and warned more will be uncovered) are just one of the third party consultants who comprise $367 million of the nearly $1 billion audit. Politico reports the rest is to go back and fix broken accounting systems that are crucial to better financial management.

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Customs and Border Protection continues to safeguard your liberties…by expanding locations at which it scans your face. To better patrol the U.S.-Mexican border, the McAllen, TX checkpoint will now catalog the face of every driver and passenger. About time:

The agency will use the results of the South Texas effort to set the stage for a wider rollout along the southern and northern borders, where the technology someday could be used to identify fugitives or wanted terror suspects. Customs and Border Protection already operates facial recognition exit programs at nearly a dozen international airports, including Houston’s, aimed at making sure travelers are who they say they are.

Traveler acceptance is really high, and we can thank the Apples and the Googles for that,” said Colleen Manaher, CBP executive director of planning, program analysis and evaluation, in an interview at the Border Security Expo in San Antonio, where she revealed the Anzalduas project. “It’s a game-changer.”

Summer Part 1: Stories We Shelved!!! March 10, 19 and 22–Genes, Tattoos and Faces

[our emphasis]

Colleen Manaher

Manaher (above) called the prospect of getting her grubby fingers on identification of just 50 percent of faces crossing the Port Anzalduas bridge “a home run.”

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And in the wonderful state of Kansas,

Kansas: Helpful Public Servants and Meddlesome Neighbors

December Debacle: Stories from the Freezer!!! December 12: Kansas Lawsuit Settled

 

the two-party duopoly cracked down on attempts by the country’s debt-laden youth to gain representation.

After six teenage boys filed to run in this year’s gubernatorial election, the state House committee swiftly passed a bill from Rep. Blake Carpenter (R) requiring candidates to be “qualified electors”–that is, at least 18 years old, and able to vote.

The bill, which would not take effect until after the election, was reportedly co-drafted by Libertarian candidate Ethan Randleas (who happens to be 18). It is lauded as TRIGGER WARNINGcommon sense” by 17-year-old Tyler Ruzich (Republican candidate) and slammed as “reactionary” and “disenfranchis[ing]” by Jack Bergeson, 17 (Democratic candidate).

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It’s turning into a rocky year even for Kansans who are eighteen or older: renewing a drivers license may require residents to obtain new social security cards if their middle initial, not their full middle name is currently displayed; new state-issued birth certificates if all they have is a hospital document; and a marriage license, if they’ve ever changed their name. This will transform one’s license into a Federal Real ID.

Secure driver’s licenses and identification documents are a vital component of a holistic national security strategy.

–DHS website, our emphasis

The Federal Real ID Act was passed over 12 years ago on recommendation from the 9/11 Commission, but, like Common Core, has faced massive public opposition. It mandatory compliance has therefore been extended for various states (yellow, below).

On October 10, residents of non-compliant states will no longer be granted access to airports or military bases with their state-issued drivers license.

The veil is sliding off DHS’s threat to states refusing to funneling all your passport, birth certificate, marriage license and other ID info into a single police state card with a literal TRIGGER WARNING gold star  (they’re calling it a yellow star, for obvious reasons) that can pool all surveillance of your life at the filthy fingertips of the Federal agent manning the bar code reader:

It has been 12 years since the REAL ID Act was passed and half of all the states have already met the REAL ID minimum standards. It is time that the remaining jurisdictions turn their commitments to secure identification into action.

[our emphasis]

Fortunately, according to Charlotte Observer in 2016:

By 2010, more than 25 state legislatures had passed laws criticizing or refusing to comply with the law.

Kansas is currently “in compliance” until 2020. The Feds are signaling that for other, less obedient states that later this year,

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/01/29/581511023/fema-to-end-food-and-water-aid-for-puerto-rico

https://www.theroot.com/fema-cutting-off-food-and-water-aid-to-puerto-rico-1822558738

https://www.theroot.com/tiffany-brown-head-of-the-one-woman-company-which-deli-1822897056

http://www.nasdaq.com/press-release/cobras-puerto-rico-contract-increased-to-approximately-445-million-update-on-puerto-rico-activities-20180129-01030

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/fema-contractor-scapegoat-controversy-canceled-contract/story?id=52915221

http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/372748-senate-leaders-agree-to-two-year-budget-deal?userid=115887

https://www.wsj.com/articles/house-democrats-split-on-budget-deal-1518115903

https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/08/politics/budget-vote-congress-shutdown/index.html

https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/08/politics/rand-paul-analysis/index.html

http://money.cnn.com/2018/02/07/news/economy/rising-deficits/index.html

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/08/shutdown-news-rand-paul-holds-up-senate-budget-vote.html

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/05/pentagon-logistics-agency-review-funds-322860

https://www.mystatesman.com/news/facial-recognition-scanners-tested-soon-texas-mexico-border/K5zgnDYPlrvASb1k5c2vIP/

http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article198664404.html

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2018/feb/11/new-drivers-license-requirements-causing-headaches/

https://www.dhs.gov/real-id

Refrigerators, ICE and Ex-Im Updates

Trump is under fire for his proclivity to keep food cold.

The Guardian tore into two new refrigerators slated for installation on Air Force One, replacing the current 1990 installations for $23.7 million.

The military apparently requires the jumbo 747’s five coolers to carry 3,000 meals.

Lost in the food fight is Boeing (the largest corporate welfare cow of the Export-Import Bank), who scored the culinary contract last year to install the fridges on their own 747 model and deferred reporters’ questions to Air Force One.

EXIM

As we have previously reported, the infamous Ex-Im backs loans for foreigners and sticks American taxpayers with the bill.

Ex-Im Bank Updates

According to this recent rosy budget request, the agency “operates at no cost to taxpayers,” “supports 180,000 jobs” in 2018, and generates $492.2 million in deficit-reducing receipts” (about half of 1% of fiscal year 2018’s projected deficit of over $1,000,000,000,000).

This apparently justifies their $95.5 million demand for operating expenses.

In Ex-Im’s defense, the 2018 request reduces their staff by 15 (fifteen!) full-time employees, and shrinks the operating budget 17.7% compared to fiscal year 2017. Which isn’t that difficult when you justify your existence with net income to the Treasury, then pocket a paltry (by Washington standards) budget.

But there are bigger fish to fry (cooling the leftovers in the president’s new refrigerators).

Ex-Im, which dodged dismantling in late 2016, still lacks a quorum on its board of directors to approve loans over $10,000,000. (Recall Ex-Im’s primary objective is to help small businesses actually located in America.)

Summer Part 2: August Agony!!! Looking Back: June 29: Michigan Congressman Bucks Party on Ex-Im Bank

Scott Garrett is pictured. | AP Photo

Trumps’ pick to lead Ex-Im, former New Jersey Congressman Scott Garrett (above) didn’t even make it out of the Senate Banking Committee vote in December, much less to full Senate confirmation. Garrett twice voted against reauthorizing Ex-Im while in Congress and faced opposition from U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Acting chairman and president, Obama appointee Charles Hall, left in December, lamenting the lapse in fee collections due to a backlog of bigger loans for lack of quorum (which Hall exacerbated by leaving): “If we don’t get a board, probably sometime in 2018 I would anticipate that we would cease to be self-sustaining.”

The government website shows three of the seven board positions currently filled. No quorum for you!

Image result for soup nazi

Interestingly, Delta Airlines spent millions lobbying against the Ex-Im reauthorization in recent years (though they were outspent 7 to 1 by Boeing). Apparently, European countries are tempted to buy Airbus (the only other double-wide jumbo jet manufacturer in the world) if U.S. taxpayer-backed loans are not offered for Boeing contracts.

Delta’s beef is the Ex-Im guarantees save international competitors like Air India enough on borrowing for jets that they can slash ticket prices and siphon Delta customers.

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Meanwhile, NBC spotlighted Scott Daniel Warren, a volunteer at No More Deaths, who was arrested January 17 for allegedly lavishing a pair of illegal immigrants with food and shelter in Ajo, AZ.

Carlos Diaz, a division chief of ICE’s Customs and Border Protection, denied the arrest was related to a video the non-profit released earlier that day, which showed CBP agents dumping water jugs left in the treacherous stretch of desert for illegal immigrants to consume. Diaz alleges agents are instructed to leave water jugs intact.

Should immigrants evade death, their movements will be newly scrutinized in a fashion sure to violate the privacy of law-abiding citizens as well.

Vigilant Solutions

ICE recently inked a contract with Vigilant Solutions to tap into 2 billion license plate photos and recordings of 100 million “sightings” (including date, time, and GPS coordinates) monthly. The purpose? Better “law enforcement” of illegal immigrants. (Vigilant also contracts with smaller enforcement agencies, presumably to collar real, dangerous criminals.)

ICE agents would be able to query [the] database in two ways. A historical search would turn up every place a given license plate has been spotted in the last five years, a detailed record of the target’s movements. That data could be used to find a given subject’s residence or even identify associates if a given car is regularly spotted in a specific parking lot.

ICE will get email alerts when a plate they’re watching pops up anywhere Vigilant is installed–on local police dash cams, traffic cams, who knows.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson reportedly killed a similar program in 2012, presumably because it’s unconstitutional.

Related:

Air Surveillance of Baltimore Little People

Homeland Security reassured the horrified public that while ICE gets flags for anything tagged by Vigilant, none of ICE’s ham-handed enforcement terrorizing of non-citizens will flow back to Vigilant. (Probably convenient for ICE.)

How this private-sector database of citizens and non-citizens’ movements will be shared or disseminated with other Federal thugs remains to be seen.

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jan/26/donald-trump-refrigerator-air-force-one

http://www.defenseone.com/business/2018/01/air-force-one-needs-new-refrigerators-they-cost-24-million/145457/

http://fortune.com/2017/12/19/scott-garrett-rejected-export-import-bank/

http://www.govexec.com/oversight/2017/12/depleted-export-import-bank-hit-another-vacancy/144272/

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/volunteer-arrested-after-giving-food-water-undocumented-immigrants-arizona-n840386

https://www.theverge.com/2018/1/26/16932350/ice-immigration-customs-license-plate-recognition-contract-vigilant-solutions

NSA’s FISA Festivities Extended with Bipartisan Support; Rest of Government Fights for Funding–Updated with Related FBI Dereliction of Duty

In a two-hour marathon vote January 16,  a visibly humiliated Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell scraped together 60 votes to vote on the six-year re-authorization of FISA Section 702 without allowing amendments.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 gives the NSA authority to ignore the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution and collect phone logs of all Americans, as revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013, because they could all be terrorists.

Claire McCaskill (D-MO), up for re-election this November, fought flu symptoms to cast the sixtieth vote to forgo any debate of the re-authorization and advance to a final vote.

That January 18 vote exceeded the simple majority required, flipping four senators who had advocated debate to “yea”–Ted Cruz (R-TX), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jerry Moran (R-KS),  Chuck Schumer (D-NY)–and picking up Dan Sullivan (R-AK), who missed the filibuster vote:

Trump signed the bill January 19, proclaiming on Twitter: “Just signed 702 Bill to reauthorize foreign intelligence collection. This is NOT the same FISA law that was so wrongly abused during the election. I will always do the right thing for our country and put the safety of the American people first!”

This represented quite a reversal from his January 11 tweet, in which he quoted a headline: “[‘]House votes on controversial FISA ACT today.[‘] This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?”

In an exclusive Fox News interview, chief of staff John Kelly assumed credit for changing his boss’s mind:

“I see a man who can change his mind when the facts and data and staff … bring him to a different conclusion.”

The House had passed the matching version of the bill on January 11 by 256-164, after rejecting an amendment by Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Justin Amash (R-MI) to add the barest of privacy protections for American communications “incidentally” caught up in the surveillance of foreign agents for which the secret FISA court that now allows stockpiling all American communications by the Federal Government was originally established.

*

On January 19, Politico reported NSA was sitting on some surveillance data pertaining to pending lawsuits, “accidentally” destroyed that data, and misled a federal court about their actions.

Related:

Summer Part 2: August Agony!!! Looking Back: May 12: NSA, “Exploits,” WannaCry and Whistleblowers

Apparently, in addition to hoarding all our phone logs, NSA is obligated to preserve their ill-gotten, privacy-destroying goodies from our internet traffic, since 2007 when George W. Bush was slammed for warrantless wiretaps of foreigners. How far we’ve come.

But Dr. Mark O. and Elizabeth B. (they’re your employees and they watch you, but you’re not allowed to know their real names) revealed–apparently hours before the above-detailed FISA renewal–that legally-mandated logs of intercepted internet traffic from years 2001 through 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2016 were all deleted. And the backup tapes. Oops.

“The NSA sincerely regrets its failure to prevent the deletion of this data.”

In 2014, Miriam P. reassured the court that legally-must-be-retained data was safe:

The NSA is “preserving magnetic/digital tapes of the Internet content intercepted under the [PSP] since the inception of the program,” she wrote, adding that “the NSA has stored these tapes in the offices of its General Counsel.”

The agency now says, “regrettably,” that the statement “may have been only partially accurate when made.”

The latest NSA filing says the ongoing investigation indicates that officials did a “physical inspection” in 2014 to confirm the tapes’ presence in the counsel’s office storage space. However, “those tapes largely concerned metadata,” not the content of communications the NSA intercepted.

[our emphasis]

*

The continued collection of all Americans’ communications without a warrant (despite petty assurances from McConnell, after dragging the bill over a bipartisan filibuster, that the six-year renewal “does not allow the targeting of American citizens”) took precedence over shielding DACA participants from deportation. And funding the government itself, which shut down all “non-essential functions” on January 20.

Obama Proposes Addressing Debt After He’s Gone and Collecting Pension in Hawaii

Image result

Members of Congress, hiding behind the 27th Amendment, will continue to cash paychecks.

The House passed a band-aid bill to fund the government for four weeks and renew CHIP, a recently-expired insurance program for children ineligible for Medicaid, but the Senate rejected it, largely at the behest of of Democrats, leading to many Republicans, including Trump’s press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, dubbing the debacle the “Schumer Shutdown,” despite the minority leader (below) offering Trump two bipartisan deals Friday morning (after assuring all citizens’ phone and email data was still open for Federal probing).

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, after meeting with President Donald Trump on Friday.

Schumer even admitted on the Senate floor he had offered to entertain Trump’s border wall in one proposed bill in exchange for the DACA protections.

Priority one: taking. Priority two: watching.

BuzzFeed, incidentally, spoke with a former NSA employee, who lamented that the agency’s contractor morale will suffer, because they could be vacationing in nicer weather if not for the uncertainty of furlough. The headline literally used the word “suffering.”)

*

UPDATE 1/21/18:

It was quite a weekend for government security dropping the ball. Reuters noted the FBI lost some text messages probing Hillary’s Secret Server.

Agent Peter Strzok and attorney Lisa Page reportedly dragged on a text convo from just after Trump’s election through last May. The FBI fingered its “technical system” for “failing to preserve” missives that may have focused D.C. on the newly-inaugurated president–and away from the criminal behavior of his rival.

Republicans have said the texts, which referred to Trump as an “idiot” and a “loathsome human,” raised concerns the FBI is biased against Trump and may have given Clinton favorable treatment after deciding not to recommend criminal charges in connection with the probe into her use of a private email system while she was secretary of state.

Page and Strzok (below) both did time on Robert Mueller‘s squad to investigate Trump’s possible collusion with Russia to win the White House. Strzok was reassigned as soon as Mueller learned of the texts; Page finished work for the probe in July. It’s unclear whether either was vetted for impartiality to work for the Special Counsel.

peter strzok, lisa page

Fox News reported Page texted Strzok following Loretta Lynch‘s sleazy meeting with Hillary’s husband during the investigation:

“It’s a real profile in couragw [sic], since [Lynch] knows no charges will be brought.”

Days later, Hillary was cleared by then-FBI director James Comey.

BREAKING NEWS

According to Heavy:

“God Hillary should win 100,000,000 – 0,” Strzok wrote to Page, according to one message obtained by Politico. “Also did you hear [Trump] make a comment about the size of his d*ck earlier? This man can not be president,” Page responded, Politico reported.

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article195420669.html

https://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=115&session=2&vote=00011#top

https://www.theverge.com/2018/1/20/16913534/president-donald-trump-signed-fisa-amendments-reauthorization-act-of-2017-section-702

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/01/18/senate-votes-to-approve-reauthorization-controversial-fisa-surveillance-provision.html

http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/12/politics/fisa-surveillance-weird-politics/index.html

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/19/nsa-deletes-surveillance-data-351730

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/1/20/16912726/trump-shutdown

http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/369889-schumer-says-he-offered-to-discuss-wall-as-part-of-trump-deal

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-fbi-clinton/senator-says-fbi-lost-crucial-texts-tied-to-clinton-probe-idUSKBN1FA15O?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/01/21/newly-released-texts-between-ex-mueller-team-members-suggest-knew-outcome-clinton-email-probe-in-advance.html

Peter Strzok’s Texts & Emails to Lisa Page Revealed: READ

Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday, Observed

Jorge Garcia, 39, of Lincoln Park stands at the ticket counter at Detroit Metro Airport checking his bags on Jan. 15, 2018. He was to be deported to Mexico.

Jorge Garcia, 39 (above), a landscaper from Lincoln Park, MI, was removed by ICE to his native Mexico despite the Federal holiday. The undocumented immigrant, brought to America at age 10, leaves behind a wife and two children, all citizens. He has reportedly never committed a crime, and because he paid taxes, Washington will lose some revenue as President Trump encourages removal of law-abiding non-citizens.

Related:

Summer Part 2: August Agony!!! Looking Back: July 18: Crime and Punishment

A spokesman for ICE said he could not immediately comment Monday since it was a federal holiday, and their offices are closed.

Supporters of Jorge Garcia hold up signs that read "Stop Separating Families" at Detroit Metro Airport on Jan. 15, 2018. Garcia was being deported to Mexico after living in the U.S. for 30 years.

(But apparently he was still at the office?)

The day of rest and reflection for non-deporting government paper pushers shortened the time frame the Feds are entertaining to pass the next short term spending fix. The cancerous central government’s credit card runs out January 19, and Democrats are pushing to include protections for 800,000 beneficiaries of Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in the last-minute meltdown to continue confiscating.

DACA is scheduled to expire March 5.

Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) told ABC the DACA provisions, which shield certain young immigrants from deportation, must be included to earn his vote on the spending bill.

Meanwhile, Trump is pushing for inclusion of $18 billion to construct a “Great Wall” on the Mexican border.

Yesterday the President tweeted, “DACA is probably dead because the Democrats don’t really want it, they just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from our Military.”

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) reportedly pitched a plan to include border wall funding and extension of DACA at a meeting on January 11, where Trump made a holiday weekend news cycle-dominating remark characterizing African nations, Haiti and El Salvador as “all these shithole countries” that do not contribute useful immigrants to America. Negotiations apparently collapsed shortly thereafter.

While Durbin confirmed Trump’s words, Republican senators at the meeting obscured the story. Tom Cotton of Arkansas denied the remark on Sunday, and seems to currently maintain he does not recall. Lindsey Graham (SC) half-halfheartedly confirmed the president’s words.

Rand Paul (KY), who was not present, lamented the media for blasting Trump as a racist, because it “destroy[ed] the setting…for immigration compromise.”

“I don’t think the comments were constructive at all, but I also think that, to be fair, we shouldn’t draw conclusions that he didn’t intend,” Paul said.

Trump told Twitter today: “Senator Dicky Durbin totally misrepresented what was said at the DACA meeting. Deals can’t be made when there is no trust! Durbin blew DACA and is hurting our military.”

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/wayne/2018/01/15/jorge-garcia-daca-deported-mexico-immigration/1033296001/

http://www.wzzm13.com/news/local/detroit/after-30-years-in-us-metro-detroit-immigrant-deported-to-mexico/508218873

https://nypost.com/2018/01/14/john-lewis-says-he-wont-vote-for-government-funding-without-daca-deal/

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/15/trump-dicky-durbin-shithole-dreamers-340621

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/trump-referred-haiti-african-countries-shithole-nations-n836946

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/rand-paul-donald-trump-racist_us_5a5b839ee4b03c4189669449

http://abc7chicago.com/politics/trump-tweets-sen-dicky-durbin-totally-misrepresented-daca-comments/2948444/

Puerto Rico Updates

Governor Ricardo Rosselló of Puerto Rico sicced his Justice Department on Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (logo, below), the beleaguered island’s government-owned electric authority. They’re looking for possible crimes against the public interest.

PREPA, who hold a monopoly on the U.S. territory’s electricity, may have hoarded electrical repair supplies as nearly half the island continues without power following Hurricane Maria last October.

Puerto-rico-electric-power-authority-authority-emblem.jpg

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and heavily-armed guards raided a PREPA warehouse in Palo Seco last week.

“Critical materials” were reportedly distributed to contractors immediately.

PREPA denied to Associated Press it failed to spring the warehouse contents. The agency is reportedly reneging on its earlier decision to forgo mutual aid agreements with other power authorities to hasten the rebuild. These new partners include utility companies from New York and Florida, according to The Intercept.

Related:

December Debacle: Stories from the Freezer!!! November 6: Whitefish Revisited; Bronze Star LLC Bungles Tarps for Puerto Rico

PREPA holds $9 billion of the island’s estimated $120,000,000,000 debt from its 2016 bankruptcy.

Related:

I PROMESA You We’ll Default on National Debt

Besides the questionable deals through the mainland Federal disaster assistance we previously uncovered, The Intercept speared another big tuna in the race to profit from government incompetence: Cobra Acquisitions.

Cobra doesn’t have a cool logo to go with its name, but its Oklahoma-based parent oil company, Mammoth, does.

Unlike the [failed] [$300 million] Whitefish contract, the Cobra deal [for $200 million] involved heavy input from the Federal Emergency Management Agency[.]

[our emphasis]

CNN reported in November the cash-strapped PREPA dropped $15 million up front for Cobra’s services, noting the “pay first, get reimbursed by FEMA later” practice is commonplace in disaster cleanups.

Mammoth CEO Arty Straehla reportedly signed the deal to secure “stable cash flow” for his larger company.

Intercept suggests the Cobra deal undermines Puerto Rico’s previous goal to decrease dependence on imported oil, as the private company’s rebuild will further stymie the switch to renewable energy.

Cobra (like Whitefish) was formed just months before the storm hit.

*

According to Intercept, some of the island’s mayors have given up on the island government and started rebuilding their cities’ grids out of the local budget, through coalitions such as the new Pepino Power Authority–made up of volunteers and retirees. It remains to be seen if Federal overlords will pull the plug.

 

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-puertorico-storm-energy/puerto-rico-governor-orders-probe-of-discovery-of-hurricane-recovery-materials-idUSKBN1F02VU

https://theintercept.com/2018/01/10/puerto-rico-electricity-prepa-hurricane-maria/

https://theintercept.com/2017/10/31/puerto-rico-electric-contract-cobra/

http://money.cnn.com/2017/11/06/news/economy/cobra-power-deal-puerto-rico/index.html

December Debacle: Stories from the Freezer!!! December 8: Pentagon Audit

2,400 auditors will be unleashed on the financials of our bloated Defense Department, as the deadline for the inaugural Pentagon Audit stipulated by the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act has arrived, according to NPR.

Defense has heretofore evaded requirements of other federal agencies to report to their employees how they burn cash (almost $700,000,000,000 for this fiscal year, even though Trump only requested an increase to $639 billion).

This will be the first audit of the Defense Department in the nation’s history, led by David Norquist (below), brother of Americans for Tax Reform founder Grover Norquist.

David L. Norquist, official portrait.jpg

Related:

December Disaster: Stories We Missed!

Whether evidence of the inherent waste of the self-proclaimed world’s largest bureaucracy sees the light of day remains to be seen. We’ll be waiting.

Thanks to our source:

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/12/08/569394885/pentagon-announces-first-ever-audit-of-the-department-of-defense

Soda Tax Update

It’s shaping up to be quite a year for government confiscation. Seattle has joined the rush of ravenous localities dipping further into poor peoples’ pockets under the guise of improving their health.

A $0.0175 per ounce levy on every sugared beverage (including Gatorade) sold in the city kicked in on January 1.

Emerald City denizens may develop some bottled up rage over the endeavor, forecast to [stupid phrase alert] make it rain $15 million for the progressive utopia.

(Presumably before the additional 9.6% sales tax.)

Kshama Sawant (below), a Socialist Alternative member of the Seattle City Council, was absent for the 7-1 vote last June to enact the tax.

Kshama Sawant Portrait (24588157130).jpg

The full use of the new cheddar is unclear. Ricochet reports:

Since this was sold as a health initiative, $2 million of that will expand a city program that gives fruit and vegetable vouchers to low-income families [Fresh Bucks]. Of course, only $400,000 will go to actual vouchers; the other $1.6 million stays with the government for “administrative costs.”

[our emphasis]

This includes job creation for five (5) well-connected Seattle residents to get in good with local government, according to Seattle Times.

As with any government initiative, there are exemptions. Diet soda drinkers (whom Ricochet notes are more likely white, wealthy and/or campaign contributors) will escape the tax. 100% fruit juice (metabolically identical to soda) is exempt.

Distributors are also exempt if they post less than $2 million in annual sales. ($2 to $5 million in sales? You pay just $0.01/ounce.)

Any coffee with sugar that is not milk-based is subject to the tax.

And Forbes reported disgraced ex-Mayor Ed Murray initially wrote in an exemption for sugary coffee prepared onsite, meaning you could choose between paying more at the grocery store for a bottle of Starbucks brand sugar or standing in line with insufferable Starbucks customers. Seattle Times noted this exemption was killed just before the vote.

Washington state-based Costco risked retaliation from lawmakers by encouraging consumers to buy outside the city.

Since distributors are officially paying the tax, public shaming will no doubt follow for any price increase (like Costco’s “recovery fee” intimated above). That’s not fair to the struggling citizens!

*

Death Capital of America, Chicago, similarly tried to Band-aid its remaining residents’ health with a $0.01/ounce confiscation from August 2 through December 1 of 2017. Cook County officials scrapped the blatant budget-shoring measure, backed by big-government billionaire–and failed New York City soda tax perpetrator Michael Bloomberg–after the public noticed the measure penalized consumers of diet soda, but not sugar-laden juice. And that nearly 1 million consumers purchased soda with food stamps, so they were exempt from the tax. And that restaurant soda sales tanked. And that nearly 90% of citizens were opposed to the shakedown, according to anti-soda tax lobby Can the Tax.

Cook County Against Beverage Taxes

How’s Philadelphia‘s trampling of lower-income consumers going?

Proponents of the soda tax shut down Harrisburg-led hearing in City Hall.

Pennsylvania state Representative Mark Mustio and state Senators Mario Scavello and Scott Wagner (all Republicans) introduced memos attempting to remove the sugared beverage distributor measure, which took effect in January 2017, six months after Philly started spending the predicted revenue on “universal pre-kindergarten”.

Wagner is challenging Tom Wolf (below) for the Governor’s mansion this November.

Image result for wolf

Philly Me Up…Philadelphia Beverage Distributors to be Taxed by the Ounce “For the Children”

As we noted above, the skimming started mid-fiscal year 2017 (July 1-June 30). Projected profit for that period was $47 million, but the city realized just $39 million. They are projected to fall short of the FY 2018 “goal” of $93 million as well. City communications lackey Mike Dunn (below) gushed that the $66 million squeezed from Philly residents (as of December) is “a significant sum in a city where more than a quarter of residents live below the poverty line.

Mike Dunn

BillyPenn suggests soda sales are down in Philly and somewhat less outside the city limits. A study concocted by Bloomberg himself found overall revenues at major grocery chains had not dropped in Philadelphia, even though sugary drink sales had declined 57 percent.

[our emphasis]

While Mayor Kenney predicted a maximum 27% decline in consumption (which is, hopefully, the ultimate objective of policing peoples’ diets), Health Department data recorded a 31% decline through November.

Thanks to our sources:

http://www.king5.com/article/money/consumer/dont-like-seattles-sugary-drink-tax-costco-invites-you-to-shop-outside-the-city/281-505360199

http://www.king5.com/article/news/local/seattle/seattles-new-tax-on-sugary-drinks-kicks-in-jan-1/281-501869514

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/promoting-health-at-a-hefty-price-seattles-soda-tax-starts-jan-1/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ronaldholden/2017/02/22/starbucks-wont-face-a-sugary-drink-tax-inside-its-seattle-stores/#4f67e7ff3c42

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/is-seattles-proposed-soda-tax-also-a-latte-tax/

https://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2017/10/fizzled-0

http://www.stopthecookcountytax.com

Philly soda tax year one: The finances, fights and its future

December Debacle: Stories from the Freezer!!! November 23: Another Naval Disaster

sailors-lost-chialastri-combs-grosso.jpg

The U.S. Seventh Fleet was performing a joint training exercise with the Japanese 500 miles from Okinawa when a C-2A Greyhound plane carrying eleven American service members crashed in the Philippine Sea. Eight were quickly rescued and moved to the carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which the plane had been aiming for.

Airman Matthew Chialastri, Lt. Steven Combs and Airman Apprentice Bryan Grosso (above) were all presumed dead after a two-day search.

According to CNN, this was the Seventh Fleet’s sixth major non-combat “incident” in 2017.

This count includes the deadly crashes of the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S McCain, which we covered earlier in the year, as well as  the USS Antietam running into the ground of Tokyo Bay in January; the USS Lake Champlain crashing into a South Korean fishing boat in May; and the guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold getting pegged by an out-of-control Japanese tugboat on November 18,  just days before the Greyhound crash.

BREAKING: USS John S. McCain Collision

By our count, the Seventh Fleet, which fired Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin in August, has suffered 20 non-combat American deaths this year. The McCain and Fitzgerald commanders were also removed. CNN cited a Navy report casting those fatal incidents “avoidable [and due to] numerous failures […] on the part of leadership.”

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/us-navy-plane-crash-sailors-missing-named-pacific-ocean-okinawa-japan/

http://time.com/5030829/uss-benfold-tug-boat-collision/

http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/22/politics/navy-aircraft-crash/index.html

UPDATE: Motel 6[66]

Washington state is dealing with more Motel 6 employees selling out undocumented guests to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Related:

December Debacle: Stories from the Freezer!!! September 13: Customs & Border Protection Keep Their Clothing Borders in Place for Harassment; Immigration and Customs Enforcement Force Their Authority on Undocumented Motel 6 Customers

From 2015 to 2017, over 9,100 guests’ names, birthdates, driver’s license numbers, license plate numbers and room numbers were handed to Federal authorities without a warrant by four Seattle-area corporate-owned Motel 6 locations. At least six individuals were arrested as a result.

Fifteen additional Washington locations, all franchises, are under investigation.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is suing the chain for violating state consumer protection and anti-discrimination law. He alleges Motel 6 trained employees to hand over lists of all guests (without a warrant presented) when the Feds regularly stopped in.

Agents then allegedly combed the lists for guests with “Latino-sounding names” to attempt to link them to immigration violations.

Motel 6 told Associated Press they specifically prohibited employees from surrendering guest lists to government agents back in September, when two Phoenix locations got 20 guests arrested in similar secret police-style raids.

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/immigration-border-crisis/motel-6-gave-guest-information-immigration-authorities-washington-ag-says-n834566

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/01/04/575567251/motel-6-gave-guest-information-to-immigration-agents-lawsuit-says