2019 is scheduled to deliver more rough times for the uninvited purveyor of your junk mail. USPS‘ first quarter report reveals a $2.08 billion loss, which is even worse than fourth quarter 2018, which noted a net loss of “$1.5 billion, an increase […] of nearly $1.0 billion compared to the same quarter last year.”
In February’s report for October through December 2018, Megan Brennan, Postmaster General Extraordinaire (below), helms an already sinking ship whose Marketing Mail (which comprises the following tree-destroying garbage “non-first class” items: printed matter, flyers, circulars, advertising, newsletters, bulletins, catalogs and small parcels) explosion of $553 million to the bank was more than negated by “increases in compensation and benefits of $657 million”…
CFO Joseph Corbett, oblivious to basic math, bemoaned the “increases in transportation costs due to these higher volumes.” Fortunately (?), quarter one of 2019 saw marketing mail revenue fall by 3.9%.
Trump’s “Task Force on the United States Postal System,” chaired by entitled Treasury thug Steven Mnuchin, reported last year that “ USPS has been losing money for more than a decade and is on an unsustainable financial path.” The recommendations knocked Brennan for her apparent micromanagement deficiency, noting “USPS suffers from a lack of institutional governance. […] Between December 2016 and August 2018, the USPS Board of Governors (the Board) had no Governors [;] […] the Postmaster General managed the USPS’s financial and operational challenges without strategic direction and guidance, exacerbating management’s limited power to effect needed organizational change[.]”
Interestingly, according to CBS News, the report, which we did not read in its entirety, suggests a “new pricing model that [TRIGGER WARNING: CAPITALIST IDEAS AHEAD] would remove current price caps and charge market-based prices for mail and packages that were not deemed to be ‘essential postal services[,]’ [which] could raise costs for Amazon […]”
The evil e-commerce empire itself, incidentally, contributed to the report.
For the Bernie Sanders enthusiasts, the report also warned against any misguided foray into banking by the ailing office: “[G]iven the USPS’s narrow expertise and capital limitations, USPS should not pursue expanding into new sectors, such as postal banking, where the USPS does not have a demonstrated competency or comparative advantage [.]” [our emphasis]
The USPS website fancies the organization as “at the core of the $1.4 trillion U.S. mailing industry that employs more than 7.5 million people.” Their self-reported $70.6 billion in revenue (which, again, fails to cover USPS’ expenses) comes out to about 5% of that $1.4 trillion.
Citizens Against Government Waste reports USPS has lost $70 billion in since 2007.
In January, the price of a “forever” stamp for first class mail was hiked by 10%, to $0.55.
A pulmonary function lab at Duke University admitted to violating the False Claims Act by defrauding the federal government and is paying heavily. After canning a lab technician, Erin Potts-Kant, for embezzlement from Duke (that they’ll be sure to notice; gotta maintain the bottom line. for the children), the institution “discovered possible research misconduct in 2013[.]” The “misconduct” consisted of Potts-Kant’s lab bagging millions in NIH and EPA grants based on falsified data.
Erin Potts-Kant was supposed to certify the validity of the unit’s work and ensure that it fulfilled government requirements. But instead, the suit state[s], “Potts-Kant engaged in systematic and near-universal research fraud,” including, in some cases, making up data outright “in lieu of actually performing experiments.”
NPR reported in March that 17 scientific papers building on the bogus findings were forced to be retracted. The ruse also helped Potts-Kant co-author and publish 38 articles in scholarly journals with her fellow Duke researchers — which were, in turn, cited in 417 other articles when the suit was filed in 2013.
The university must pay the federal government $112.5 million to settle the suit, but apparently not on the Feds’ initiative. They declined to tangle with the $8.5 billion endowed non-profit, a grateful participant in the federally subsidized higher education empire.
Former Duke lab analyst Joseph Thomas (above), who first reported the fraud in 2013, took it upon himself to sue the university where the government wouldn’t; he will pocket an additional $33.75 million under False Claim Act whistleblower stipulations–a cool 30%.
Thomas’ attorneys say he stuck with the case after the government opted not to mount its own investigation after he reported his allegations and filed suit.
Duke released a statement reassuring everyone that Potts-Kant eventually pled [sic] guilty to two counts of forgery and paid restitution to Duke .
The ordeal has allowed Duke to give Geeta Swamy the new role of “vice dean and associate vice provost for scientific integrity.” And hers is not the only new role!
Duke’s new Advisory Panel on Research Integrity and Excellence, to be chaired by pediatric microbiologist and former research dean of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, Ann Arvin, will examine ways of “improving the structure and function of research administration, with a focus on promoting research integrity[.]”
To give San Francisco credit where due, the city’s 11-member Board of Supervisors voted 8-1 with two absences to usurp the police state’s facial recognition capabilities. It is the first American city to respect this invasion of privacy.
The board’s rules committee unanimously advanced the law last week, noting it would also require city departments to get approval from the Board of Supervisors before purchasing other surveillance technology ― including license plate readers, body cameras and biometrics technology, among other items.
None of the 53 city departments may use the technology beginning next month. According to CNN, the police department dabbled with the faulty, Orwellian techniques between 2013 and 2017. It’s anyone’s guess how many stills they have stockpiled.
The airport and seaport are exempted, however, so check your makeup before getting groped by their TSA.
Vanessa and Keana Rodel, Filipino refugees lost in the legal limbo of Hong Kong and threatened with deportation for temporarily housing Edward Snowden, achieved Canadian asylum at the end of March.
But five others remain stateless in Hong Kong after that government rejected their asylum claims in 2017. You can donate to support them here:
The already flimsy legal proceedings into Robert Kraft‘s alleged postseason porking (see our previous post) continue to crumble. NFL.com reports Florida Judge Leonard Hanser has blocked prosecutors from screening hidden camera footage of Kraft honing his craft in the courtroom.
When taping the New England Patriots owner’s January jaunts at Orchids of Asia Day Spa, the authorities“did not do enough to minimize the invasion of privacy of customers who did not commit crimes.”
Disgraced ex-Trump attorney Michael Cohen (above, caught with phone in class) picked up 36 months’ hard time in a (presumably) white collar facility for paying off Trump’s mistresses–amounting to campaign finance violations–as the 2016 presidential contest heated up.
While the desirable deal also hit Cohen for nearly $2 million in restitution and fines, he apparently caught a break for singing to Robert Mueller regarding the Russia Investigation.
Federal sentencing guidelines called for [Cohen] to face between 51 and 63 months — four to five years — in prison for the tax fraud, false statements and campaign finance violations he pleaded guilty to in August.
Assuring his return to the “public villain with oversized head” section of the Halloween costume inventory for 2019, the high-rolling Cohen, according to NPR, observed, “Today I get my freedom back.” That’ll look great on a Starbucks cup!
Rather than leave the Senate gracefully, deposed lawmaker Claire McCaskill (D-MO) accused her colleagues who actually won their re-elections campaigns of forgoing “tough votes.” Presumably these include her decisive decision to continue unconstitutional surveillance of Americans.
The 65-year-old bemoaned the office that will launch her lucrative lobbyist or consultant career for its preponderance of “embarrassing uncles,” blissfully unaware Joe Biden has now been gone for ten years.
Immigration Situation, CBP Improvisation, Park Defecation and TSA Implication
As detailed by Trump’s bluster of a “Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border,” the Federal Government is enjoying a partial shut down after the Senate refused to vote on a House funding bill that allocates $5.7 billion for Trump’s Border Wall. National focus is trained not on the fact our inept employees who failed to write their own budget now can’t begrudgingly provide mediocre services on which they hold a monopoly, but on the paychecks they cannot collect:
Some 800,000 federal workers across the country find themselves in financial uncertainty as the government shutdown crawls into its 12th day. Some 420,000 employees are considered “essential,” and are working without pay, while another 380,000 have been ordered to stay home.
Our muckraking the laughable TSA is old news. The bumbling seem to be on the “essential” list, as “88% of [parent agency] Department of Homeland Security” is working for IOUs. But according to Huffington Post, TSA agents first ducking their unpaid assignments by calling out sick are now just quitting.
CNN reported a 200-300 percent increase in agents calling out sick at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, and also claimed that throughout the first week of January, as many as 170 agents called out at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport each day.
Via their union, the remaining TSA agents threatened a “massive security risk for American travelers […] there are problems that will arise – least of which would be increased wait times for travelers.”
[TSA employee union American Federation of Government Employees]launched a lawsuit against the federal government for forcing federal employees to show up to work uncompensated, calling the demands “inhumane.”
The logic here is that every day we don’t borrow more money to reopen the government, there are fewer …professionals to cup our genitals before we’re allowed to fly. Aren’t you motivated to call the Congress and complain?
Big brass at TSA got defensive when news of the “people who root through innocent peoples’ dirty laundry all day without changing gloves are sick but more than usual” stats broke:
Trump joined the fight, and CNN promoted their “bananas are the devil” analogy in response:
This comes on the heels of a monumental shift in TSA air marshal policy: starting December 28, the undercover agents moved–to the back of the plane. Good luck picking them out now!
Not everyone was PUN ALERT on board with the change:
“The TSA wants to change the way operations are carried out, and the men and women of the Federal Air Marshal Service do not support these changes,” Brian Borek, representative of the air marshals to the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. “The TSA, riddled with their own organizational issues, should allow the air marshals to do what they have continued to do best — fly operationally sound missions to protect the integrity of the aircraft, its crew, and passengers in the manner that they have been training and perfecting for the last 17 years.”
Borek also noted implementing the change amidst the madness of the tail end of Christmas travel was an idiotic move“does not pass the common-sense [sic] test.”
John Cohen, a former acting undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said it appears that DHS and TSA are making important decisions arbitrarily.
“Changes to security routines on planes and at airports are serious and should not be enacted haphazardly […] And there is clearly a perception that is what is going on here.”
Interestingly, Boston Globe reported just last month the TSA had pulled the plug on Quiet Skies (see above link), following widespread criticism that federal air marshals were spying on thousands of unwitting fliers who are not suspected of any crime or on any terrorist watch list.
But back to the real domestic security crisis: starving homeless people.
First, ICE helped deal with undocumented children flooding into the country by arresting those who volunteered to shelter them. Apparently, Trump made a rule that every adult in a volunteer household must surrender “biometric data, including fingerprints” to the Federal Government.
Nearly two thirds of those arrested — 109 in total — had no criminal record, the agency said.
Just under 80 percent of people screened by ICE during the sponsorship process showed results that theywere not in the country legally.
It’s important to protect the immigrants from other immigrants. Our solution is to continue warehousing them in government facilities. So far only two (that we know of) have not survived.
On December 7, Jakelin Caal Maquin, 7, of Guatemala, apparently went into septic shock just after boarding the bus with her father to get from her point of entry (Antelope Hills, NM) to the “processing” hub at Lordsburg, NM. She reportedly had a medical screening and “observation,” as well as access to food and water, in the 6ish hours before the bus came. However, after she started seizing, got airlifted and died, government records indicated she had gone “several days” without food or water.
Then Felipe Gómez Alonzo, 8, also of Guatemala, died on Christmas eve despite receiving Amoxicillin for his 103-degree fever, diagnosed as “common cold,” at an Alamogordo, NM hospital earlier in the day.
Felipe and his father were detained by CBP for about a week, an unusually long time that the agency did not fully explain[.]
Perhaps under scrutiny after burying news of Maquin’s demise for a week, Custom and Border “Protection” promptly released the following sensitive Christmas day headline: “An eight year-old Guatemalan national previously apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection was died [sic] shortly after midnight on December 25 at Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico. “
According to Washington Post, CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said during testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee that the agency’s holding cells are “incompatible” with the new reality of parents with children coming across the border to surrender to agents en masse, requesting asylum.
“Our Border Patrol stations were built decades ago to handle mostly male single adults in custody, not families and children[.]”
The shutdown will not curtail the border-crossers getting caged. Associated Press reports CBP officers and the Border Patrol remain on the job despite the shutdown.
The other government tentacle attracting attention is the parks, because we all prefer our government to take control of the Grand Canyon and charge $35 for parking.
CNN had to fill some space and noted on Monday:
In the 16 days since the government shutdown began and more than 21,000 National Park Service employees were furloughed, seven visitors to national parks have died.[…] [T]he tally of deaths is not out of the ordinary for the expansive National Park Service, which sees an average of six deaths per week[:] accidents like drownings, falls, and motor vehicle crashes, as well as medical incidents such as heart attacks.
Other self-evident observations from the rabid media: [A]dmissions have […] surged because no one is collecting admission fees.
Unlike shutdowns in some previous administrations, the Trump administration [has left] parks open to visitors despite the staff furloughs.
And if there’s one necessary government function exposed out of all this, it’s human waste disposal. Joshua Tree had to close its campground:
“The park is being forced to take this action for health and safety concerns as vault toilets reach capacity,” the park service said. “In addition to human waste in public areas, driving off-road and other infractions that damage the resource are becoming a problem.” Signs at Joshua Tree informed campers this week that the grounds would close “for the safety of visitors and park resources” due to a “lapse in federal appropriations.” Handwritten signs urged visitors: “Pack out your trash. There are no trash services at this time.”
Human beings are incapable of picking up their own trash. Perhaps that’s why the Feds took control of the parks.
Even when the government reopens, don’t expect your travel difficulties to end with a soft molestation at the xray machine. DeltaAirlines hopes to board passengers faster by rolling out eight boarding groups, color coded, starting later in January.
This is the actual (reportedly “more complicated“) new boarding order, according to CNN, which should send you running for an actual good airline:
Premium Select (or First Class “if applicable”)
Sky Priority (the poor souls who use frequent flier “perks” at Delta Airlines)
Economy Main Cabin 1 and Delta credit card holders and Silver Medallion members
Economy Main Cabin 2
Economy Main Cabin 3
CNN notes that the cheapest ticket holders get to make everyone else board and wait for them, so you can save money and spend less time in a cramped seat next to a stranger. Maybe they have to deplane last.
Delta wasn’t done. As of December 18, all animals in Delta cabins must be at least four months old. Also, “emotional support animals” (greatest country in the world, everyone) are banned from flights eight hours or longer. Because if you’re too fragile to fly without your platypus, Delta believes you can suck it up if only the flight is longer.
Service and support animals fly free on Delta — unlike regular pets, which cost passengers $125 each way.Delta says the number of service animals on its flights has increased nearly 150% since 2015.
So either travelers are replicating the “put all my shit in a carryon bag because Delta started charging to check suitcases” workaround with their animals, or we just need much more emotional support when flying with the dirty Delta.
Refresh the ‘Feed
Facebook closed the year on a high note by revealing that between 5 and 7 million users were over-exposed for nearly two weeks in September, courtesy of a “bug.”
The bug allowed apps users had approved to pull their timeline photos to also receive their Facebook Stories, Marketplace photos, and most worryingly, photos they’d uploaded to Facebook but never shared.
In January, CNBC interviewed the diaspora of ex-Facebook employees to investigate the company’s performance evaluation system. Apparently, given the cap on highly graded employees, you have to suck ass starting on orientation day to survive semiannual reviews.
Many former employees blamed the cult-like atmosphere partly on […] [the] peer review system [, which] pressures employees to forge friendships with colleagues at every possible opportunity, whether it be going to lunch together each day or hanging out after work.
Also, when promotions come up in December, employees[…] focus on short-term goals and push out features that drive user engagement and improve their own metrics without fully considering potential long-term negative impacts on user experience or privacy, multiple former employees said.
We’ve all realized you can’t delete a Facebook account, but are those who never enrolled in the public tantrum train safe? No.
UK Charity Privacy International found 34 Android apps upload user data to Zuckerberg’s machine upon launch. Known culprit apps include Pregnancy+, MigraineBuddy, Bible+ and Muslim Pro.
Regardless of an unsuspecting Android owner’s PUN ALERT status with the social media giant, any app running Facebook’s Software Developer Kit (SDK) provides a window to your soul:
A Facebook spokesperson told Yahoo News, “Facebook’s SDK tool means that developers can choose to collect app events automatically, to not collect them at all, or to delay collecting them until consent is obtained, depending on their particular circumstances.”
Technology Tangle Continues for Manafort
God bless Paul Manafort. As we previously reported, the convicted tax cheat helped pen his own prosecution by virtue of inability to convert a Word document to PDF.
The Trump associate’s shenanigans were further exposed Tuesday when his defense team contested–with a sloppily-constructed document–Mueller’s charge that Manafort blew his plea deal by lying to the Feds last year.
[W]hile portions of the filing were supposed to be redacted and shielded from the public, court watchers were able to view the filing in its entirety by copying and pasting the redacted sections.
Oops. The dirty details, reportedly shielded on the court docket within an hour, showed additional accusations from Mueller that Manafort dealt 2016 US election polls to Konstantin Kilimnik, and met the suspected Russian intelligence operative (and fellow Mueller indictee) during the 2016 campaign.
Interesting tidbit, courtesy of The Hill: Mueller’s middle name is “Swan.”
The Pentagon wrapped its first-ever audit and the results were apparently so humiliating they were not released.
Defense News does note the year-long endeavor consumed $413 million […] [another] $406 million was spend [sic] on addressing issues found by the department, with another $153 million on “financial system fixes,” per a DoD factsheet — a total […] of $972 million.
While shoveling Federal Reserve-weakened cash toward improving the system is an honorable step, we won’t hold our breath for any legitimate proposals to more efficiently administer what Reuters characterizes–in perhaps the rosiest pro-big Government euphemism of the year–numerous military bases of various sizes at home and abroad and troops deployed in far-flung locales.
Meanwhile, the Federal Deficit packed on an additional 17% in preparation for holiday hedonism. Fiscal year 2018 saw a $779 billion shortfall, and, to their credit, CNN admitted the gap could not be blamed on the recent Republican tax cut, which was more than offset by increased revenues from individual and self-employment taxes.
[Why tax cuts are so maligned when they apparently lead to more tax revenue, we’ll never understand.]
Rather, [s]pending rose 3% over the previous year, fueled in part by increases to the defense budget agreed upon in September 2017 as part of a deal between Republicans and Democrats to head off a government shutdown. Social Security and interest on the federal debt also contributed to the increase.
When your national debt is a record $21,000,000,000,000-plus, and even ultra-left wing NPR cautions merely covering the interest on that monstrosity will outstrip defense spending in a few years, the obvious solution is to spend more on defense. It’s all about winning.
Another example of winning: the lame-duck GOP majority snuffed out a bipartisan effort to end our unconstitutional Yemen carnage with a 201-187 procedural ploy.
This greased the wheels for the Manage Our Wolves Act, whose passage will reportedly strip “endangered species” status from American gray wolves. And, according to The Intercept, incidentally block a floor vote on whether to direct President Donald Trump to end U.S. involvement in the Saudi- and UAE-led intervention in Yemen.
A September resolution by Ro Khanna (D-CA) mandating the end of America’s unconstitutional interference in the conflict had the standing for a floor vote without the blessing of the Establishment-controlled Rules Committee under the War Powers Act. Not anymore.
Even the Humane Society of the United States implored Congress for mercy towards the ferocious mammals. And, perhaps unbeknownst to them, the shell-shocked, cholera-stricken Yemeni, with whom we are not at war.
Just twelve Republicans, including Justin Amash (R-MI), had the stones to oppose the final bill (although a combined 54 members chose not to show up), which passed by a mere 16 votes.
Trump’s election year fear mongering over the migrant caravan got a little-noticed boost from the “law and order” angle when NBC revealed the DHS has infiltrated the estimated 4,000 Central American asylum seekers by paying moles to monitor their progress. Namely, the new Federal employees are tapping the WhatsApp communication of the refugees.
Trump, according to CNN, deployed 6,000 American troops to the border just prior to his party’s somewhat muted shellacking in the midterms, because you need 1.5 heavily-armed Americans to safely deny each starving homeless Honduran access to the country. Or for a more nefarious purpose:
“If [the troops] have to, they’re going to use lethal force. I’ve given the OK,” Trump said. “If they have to — I hope they don’t have to[…] I have no choice[;] [y]ou’re dealing with a minimum of 500 serious criminals[,] rough people.”
Defense’s top dog James Mattis had other ideas: “[T]here has been no call for any lethal force[.]” CNN has him on record thatany troops backing up customs personnel would not be carrying firearms but could be equipped with shields and batons.
Trump fired back: “[If]our people are going to start getting hurt, we will close entry into the country for a period of time until we can get it under control […] [t]he whole border. I mean the whole border.”
Forbes reported the Federal Government is successfully prying innocent Americans’ locations from technology companies via warrants demanding details on anyone essentially using a phone within a certain radius of the coordinates of alleged crimes.
Those users could be Android phone owners, anyone running Google Maps or any individual running Google services on their cell [phone].
Captain John Sherwin of the Rochester Police Department in Minnesota said it wasn’t just Google that could furnish cops with a startling mount [sic] of detailed location data. Facebook and Snapchat [had also] proven useful.
Fortunately, the ham-handed FBI might have struck out in this instance, which featured a location sweep for the time frames surrounding five (5) armed robberies of the same Hernico, VA Dollar Tree earlier this year (four at the store, one of their manager at the local bank deposit box):
[F]or unknown reasons, no records were returned. Forbes couldn’t find any charges against individuals named as suspects in the document. Forbes also contacted the prosecutor who signed off on the search warrant, but had not received a response at the time of publication.
Not to be outdone, Facebook is weathering scrutiny for siccing right wing researchers Definers Public Affairs on those who would bring the social decay giant scrutiny: with intent to smear [Facebook]’s critics by linking them to the billionaire liberal donor George Soros.
The Hillnotes Facebook has seen more than a quarter of its value wiped out this year amid data privacy issues, strict regulations in Europe, the threat of regulations in the U.S. and stagnant user growth.
The oven gloves were off on Thanksgiving eve, as Facebook quietly admitted to asking an opposition-research company to investigate billionaire George Soros over his public criticism of the social network.
Mashable reported soon-to-depart policy pusher Elliot Schrage (below) will take the kitchen heat for head Q-tip Mark Zuckerberg, stammering the tech giant used “public information” to determine Soros was funding the heretofore “grassroots” organization Freedom from Facebook, whose ambitious call to action can be found here.
COO Sheryl Sandberg (below) was also on the carving block, and to her credit assumed responsibility for using Definers, despite her recent duplicity as the scandal unfolded. Like Obama, she hears about her own operations from the news.
Sandberg said she did not initially remember Definers when she read a New York Times story that detailed how Facebook had employed the firm. She subsequently asked her staff to look into the matter to “double-check whether anything had crossed my desk.”
The silver lining for Facebook: their failure to swiftly deploy speech restriction policies as photos and discussions of a 17-year-old South Sudanese child bride being auctioned off from a reportedly unrelated platform sprouted on the social media site was largely ignored over the holiday weekend.
Facebook said the post was taken down as soon as the company learned of it, but that wasn’t until after the girl involved was married.
One suspect consequence of the Dirty Dems’ recapture of the House of Representatives Tuesday: disgraced Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke [below, hat]’s oversized neck on the subpoena chopping block, according to Huffington Post.
A priority of both [House Natural Resources Committee–yes, your tax money pays for a committee to save the trees from their own cabinet department amidst partisan division–member Raul] Grijalva [D-AZ] [above, close-set eyes] and [House Oversight Committee vice ranking member and man with a hard-on for titles that are apparently meaningless unless your party holds the majority Jerry] Connolly [D-VA] [below, pedophile garb and ‘stache] will be getting to the bottom of what Connolly called an “abortive attempt” to replace the head of Interior’s office of inspector general with a Trump political appointee from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The OIG has several ongoing investigations into Zinke’s conduct.
Emails from Ben Carson [below, wide shot] at Housing and Urban Development, obtained by The Hill, indeed reveal the Trump ally’s intention to install his subordinate at Interior, in a covert move linking the agencies we will dub OperationTreeHouse:
“It is with mixed emotions that I announce that Suzanne Israel Tufts [below Carson, tufted feather pin on sweater], our Assistant Secretary for Administration, has decided to leave HUD to become the Acting Inspector General at the Department of Interior,” Carson wrote in his email with the subject line “Fond Farewell.”
Interestingly, Think Progress spoke to an Interior spokesperson who noted since a deputy had been serving in the acting role […] Tufts’ appointment to oversee Zinke’s investigations [does] not require Senate approval.
The public outcry was swift. Within one week, Tufts cashed out, perhaps to employ her former Federal connections by returning to consulting:
“Ms. Tufts is not employed by the (Interior) Department and no decision was ever made to move her to Interior,” spokeswoman Heather Swift said.
[An] HUD official on Friday blamed the announcement on a “miscommunication at the staff level,” suggesting Carson was given bad information.
How Interior’s OIG is investigating the big brass at peak efficiency despite, as confirmed by Federal News Network, not having an inspector general for nearly a decade, is unclear. But they are still running investigations (below).
The number of federal probes into alleged misconduct by Zinke as of August of his second year at Interior, according to Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, was 17. Three had cleared him of wrongdoing. Five were closed for “lack of cooperation or records,” including Zinke “not provid[ing] complete information” on charter flights; and demonstrating he was “unable” to explain pulling the plug on a $1 million federal study, instigated under Obama in the waning days of his administration, on the health impact of “mountaintop removal” coal mining.
[Interior’s OIG] added the cancellation “wasted” some $455,110 that had already been spent on research and that the remaining $548,443 would be returned to the Treasury in 2021.
Speaking of slow-walking accountability entreaties to Federal miscreants…
Chase Bishop: Back in Court
The butterfingered fibbie has pleaded not guilty to second-degree assault for allegedly accidentally blowing a hole in a fellow bar patron in June. On January 17, however, we will reportedly learn if a plea deal has been reached.
Amid astonished reports that Trump skipped an observation ceremony at Belleau for fallen Americans in World War I after a light steady rain and a low cloud ceiling prevented his helicopter from traveling to the site, former national security adviser and career prick Ben Rhodes deftly took to Twitter, explaining to the little people that he “helped plan all of President Obama’s trips for 8 years. There is always a rain option. Always.”
Rhodes failed to realize Trump’s “rain option,” flawlessly executed, was to send in his stead Chief of Staff John Kelly, who does not matter as much.
The president (below, with Melania and German Chancellor Angela Merkel) did make it to Arc de Triomphe Sunday morning for the 100-year commemoration of Armistice Day.
USA Today flexed, however, that several world leaders (it’s unclear if this included Trump), arrived, “rain-soaked,” a few minutes beyond the official 11:00 AM mark at local time for the exact 100-year anniversary of the 1918 cease-fire. Because that’s what’s important.
I Will Note be a Party to This
And current Democratic Representative Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) pulled further ahead of Republican rival Martha McSally in her quest to replace retiring GOP Senator Jeff Flake.
Sinema’s 28,000-vote lead as of Saturday evening is an interesting illustration of third party effects on national races. Green Party candidate Angela Green (her actual name) (below), despite ending her bid and endorsing Sinema five days before the election, collected at least 43,000 votes as of Friday. News outlets such as CNN continue to breathlessly update results including only Sinema and McSally.
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.
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.”
New York Times put the civilian fatality number at either 13 or 19.
While a United States “independent” investigation found its strikes resulted in no civilian casualtiesand that “numerous enemy combatants were killed,” the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan found 10 civilians were killed.
Additionally, those civilians suffered their deaths while being coerced by “antigovernment elements”–members of the Taliban–to retrieve bodies from earlier fighting, according to the UN Mission’s Twitter account. This aligned with testimony an elderly villager with a head wound gave to the New York Times.
Air Force reported Afghanistan strikes nearly quadrupled to 900 in August and September of 2017, compared with “a similar period” from 2016.
Konstantin Kilimnik’s first name has now been corrected in this post.
Conservative outlet Daily Wire noticed lobbyist extraordinaire Tony Podesta (above) had been subpoenaed in August by the “Russia Ruins U.S. Elections 2016” investigative committee head Robert Mueller (below).
This is only interesting because Hillary’s decrepit former campaign chairman John Podesta, now a partisan writer for Washington Post, had to cease and desist his unauthorized lobbying for Vladimir Putin before signing onto Hillary‘s RMS Titanic campaign for U.S. president in 2016.
Apparently, ex-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and the Podesta Group both worked with the pro-Putin outfit European Centre for a Modern Ukraine. Tony Podesta pocketed over $1 million to lobby the American Feds, casting former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych as a decent guy–without authorization from Washington to lobby on behalf of a foreign agent. Daily Wire reports Podesta registered these activities only after NBC blew the whistle.
Yanukovych (below) was exiled to Russia in 2014 after reportedly using his office to help the Kremlin undermine Ukraine.
Mueller started investigating Podesta’s possible violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act in October. Podesta put out a statement that his company always complies with lobbying restrictions, then resigned on October 30.
USA Today reports that while Podesta has worked on campaigns of Democrats including Ted Kennedy and George McGovern, Podesta Group itself works with Republicans as well, and their (now) former CEO Kimberley Fritts (below) was a Republican. [She jumped ship in November to start the new lobbying firm Cogent Strategies–with 40 percent of the Podesta staff.]
However, Politico reports this transition was underway months ago. Like about the same time Tony Podesta got subpoenaed.
Mueller’s office and the Justice Department together have spent over $6 million on the investigation through September 30. The juiciest results of the probe thus far include Trump’s (oh so briefly) national security adviser Michael Flynn’s cooperation after admitting to lying to the FBI and Manafort’sindictment on twelve charges including conspiracy against the United States, money laundering, failure to register as a foreign agent and multiple failures to filereports of foreign bank and financial accounts.
Another Trump adviser, Rick Gates, was indicted and house-arrested alongside Manafort (also) on October 30.
Although Manafort was recently sprung from that house arrest on $10 million bail to live in his Florida home with continued GPS monitoring, Mueller had serious misgivings, because as recently as November 30, Manafort ghostwrote an op-ed alongside a “long-time Russian colleague” who is “currently based in Russia and assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service.”
The “colleague,” with whom Manafort communed during the 2016 campaign, is Konstantin Kilimnik. The pair’s piece was to run under the name of Oleg Voloshin.
Mueller is understandably concerned Manafort meant to muddy the waters of his upcoming trial (which probably explains the gag order against his drumming up support with rosy op-eds). Daily Beast has an email from Manafort to Kilimnik on November 29 that includes:
“[This draft] keeps [Voloshin’s] approach but takes out pieces that would not be good to mention.”
Manafort reportedly struck the statement that he “had an ear of the president [Yanukovych] on a more regular basis than even some his ministers.”
Although the al-Qaeda affiliate has yet to claim responsibility, Somalian fundamentalist Islamic group al-Shabaab is suspected of detonating a truck bomb near Somalia’s ministry of foreign affairs on October 14, leveling several buildings.
The explosives may have been stolen from the African Union peace-keeping mission Amisom, who have 20,000 troops in Somali. A Somalian government “expert” walked back the blame on the al-Shabaab terrorists, insisting they meant to target the foreign ministry and dumping the live truck next to an fuel truck instead was “very, very bad luck.” (For the terrorists?)
Initially the death toll hovered at “over 300.” By December it was up to 512. Two Americans were killed.
al-Shabaab-linked media reported the attack. However, according to The Guardian, al-Shabaab is known to avoid claiming responsibility for operations which it believes may significantly damage its public image among ordinary Somalis.
They also promised more terror attacks earlier this year after Trump reportedly vowed “new military efforts” against al-Shabaab.
The anti-Shabaab action should not be confused with America’s campaign against al-Shabaab rival ISIS in Somalia. In November, we hit Somalia’s ISIS faction, reportedly a base in Buqa. Express suggested Trump ordered the strikes as part of his promise to attack ISIS “ten times harder” following attacks on America, a declaration made just days after Sayfullo Saipov (below) allegedly slaughtered eight people in New York City with a rented U-haul truck on October 31 in the name of ISIS.
U.S. Africa Command reported “several terrorists” were killed, and Somalia’s government cooperated. This is at least the thirteenth American drone strike of al-Shabaab in 2017, although Russia has been pounding them pretty good.
America has been messing around in Somalia since at least 1993. Our raid of Mogadishu and its ensuing press coverage inspired the 2001 Ridley Scott movie Black Hawk Down.
In May, Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken, 38 (above), was killed fighting al-Shabaab–the first American casualty in Somalia since the 1993 raid described above. Milliken was reportedly on SEAL Team Six, who killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.
al-Shabaab have waged war on the Somalian government for over ten years.
Trump’s slimy Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin requested a $25,000/hour private Air Force jet to use throughout his honeymoon with actress Louise Linton last summer.
“The Secretary is a member of the National Security Council and has responsibility for the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence,” [a Treasury] spokesman said in a statement. “It is imperative that he have access to secure communications, and it is our practice to consider a wide range of options to ensure he has these capabilities during his travel, including the possible use of military aircraft.”
Like he’s in the fucking X-Men or something.
Except even they didn’t need a private jet to communicate, because Professor X was all up in their minds!!
What does the Treasury Secretary even do, besides pose with sheets of increasingly-worthless (thanks, Federal Reserve) dollar bills?
The Hill reported the Treasury’s Inspector General opened a second investigation into his $25,000 trip from Washington to New York and back on August 15 (one week before his eclipse stunt). He took a commercial plane to the meeting with President Trump, but needed 25 g’s of Air Force jet to return. Mnuchin’s office fired back that they were merely required to provide additional information toward the original investigation.
On October 6, the IG found “no evidence of wrongdoing” in the nine Mnuchin trips reviewed (which cost taxpayers over $800,000 in private planes), but that “corners were cut” and the Trump administration must better justify private jet use in the future. One of the nine was a withdrawn request for the honeymoon. The most expensive was a four-day jaunt to Italy for the G-7 summit for $314,442; Mnuchin maintained he needed a private plane for “scheduling, [STUPID WORD ALERT] logistics, […] secure communications needs,” and “potential for developments during travel related to a number of issues.”
Speaking of pricey travel, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price could no longer afford the damage to his reputation after Politico reported his travel on private and military planes. (The exact amount is at least $400,000 and possibly as higher than $1 million. Reports vary.)
The final straw for Trump, interestingly, was Price’s half-assed offer to reimburse the government what he calculated as the price of his own seat on the (at least 24) flights: $52,000. Taxed-to-death American people no like. Price was forced to resign.
The Department of Defense adjusted the official number of Americans still serving in our longest-ever war, the nation-building of Afghanistan. While the actual number is “classified,” it was revealed to be at least 25 percent higher than the figure of 8,400 our employees previously fed us [our emphasis]:
“The number 11,000 is an approximation. It may be slightly above that, it may be slightly below that, it will certainly vary,” Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, Jr., the director of the Joint Staff [below], told reporters at the Pentagon.
McKenzie further acknowledged the Pentagon lied to the public about this for “six months or so.”
Secretary of Defense James Mattis (who apparently now goes by “Jim”) mentioned to reporters the “very strange accounting procedure” by which the Pentagon discounts troops in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq deployed for less than 120 days from the official tally.
President Trump publicly ordered 4,000 more troops (not included in the 11,000-ish we now know about) into the country earlier this year. Because national security. In June, Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee, “We are not winning in Afghanistan right now, and we will correct this as soon as possible.”
According to Military Times, U.S. involvement peaked in 2010, with about 100,000 deployed. This followed an Obama-authorized “surge” of 33,000 in 2009 to counter al-Qaeda.
According to Associated Press, almost 2,400 Americans have perished in Afghanistan since we invaded following the Twin Towers terrorist attacks of 2001. Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the attacks, was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in Pakistan–not Afghanistan, where we continue to keep thousands of troops–six years ago.
A “cap” of 8,400 troops in Afghanistan, reportedly set by Obama in 2016, seems to carry just as much weight as our budget “caps.” Or the Constitutional requirement for the Congress to authorize war.