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Amped Status's List: Government & Politics

  • about 1 hour ago

    "On a recent rainy day, more than 400 sex offenders, gang members and other inmates at the federal prison in this West Texas town weathered the storm by crowding into a three-story building.

    Two guards were on duty. One was a uniformed correctional officer, the other a health worker in civilian clothes pitching in because there were not enough regular officers.

    Outside, along the security fences surrounding the sprawling prison campus, a worker who normally offers counseling to inmates patrolled in a vehicle, armed with three weapons. And in a unit reserved for the most dangerous inmates, a clerk from the commissary policed the corridors.

    The staffing scramble at Big Spring is playing out at federal prisons across the country. As the Trump administration has curtailed hiring in its quest to reduce the size of the government, some prisons are so pressed for guards that they regularly compel teachers, nurses, secretaries and other support staff to step in....

    Dozens of workers from prisons across the country said inmates had become more brazen with staff members and more violent with one another. At a prison in West Virginia, violent incidents increased almost 15 percent in 2017 from the year before, according to data obtained by The New York Times. Workers blame the problems on their depleted numbers and the need to push often inexperienced staff members into front-line correctional roles, changes not lost on the prison population.

    “When you’re an officer and in the units for eight hours a day, you get to know the inmates,” said a teacher at a Florida prison who was not authorized to speak to the news media. “You can tell when a fight is about to happen. I don’t have that background.” The teacher added: “The inmates see this and they know we are outnumbered. They know we have people working in the units who don’t have the slightest idea what to do.”

    Support staff members typically receive only a few weeks’ training in correctional work and, while required under their contracts to serve as substitutes, are often uncomfortable in the roles. Even workers who previously held correctional positions said the cutbacks were unsettling because fewer colleagues were on hand to provide backup when things turned ugly....

    According to the bureau, assaults on prison staff rose more than 8 percent last year from the previous year.

    There are also concerns about the growing amount of contraband getting past depleted prison staffs. In Big Spring, people have walked up to the double security fence in broad daylight, with no guard in sight, and tossed drugs, cellphones or other items to inmates. Sometimes staff members find out only because the contraband has not cleared both fences and is marooned in between.

    Prison workers fret most about cellphones, which are banned because they allow inmates to attempt crimes. Big Spring has issued bulletin after bulletin to workers about the growing presence of cellphones, which can fetch as much as $1,500 inside the prison, according to documents reviewed by The Times. One officer found a cellphone hidden at the bottom of a water jug; another found a charger concealed in a wall next to an inmate’s bunk.

    This year, prison workers have recovered over 200 cellphones in secure areas of Big Spring, according to data obtained by The Times. Last year, they found 69; in 2016, only one.

    “Everyone heard about that first cellphone,” said Curtis Lloyd, a counselor at the prison. “Now it’s like it’s raining cellphones.”

    The Times interviewed about 60 employees of the Bureau of Prisons, some of whom, like Mr. Lloyd and Ms. Gregg, were able to speak openly because they are protected by their status as officials in the prison employees’ union. The bureau did not authorize them to talk, and many other workers who spoke to The Times requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation.

  • about 1 hour ago

    "According to attorneys and advocates, field officers with Immigration and Customs Enforcement have for years been known to misrepresent themselves as members of local law enforcement agencies in an attempt detain immigrants, a practice known internally as “ruses.” As municipal and state officials scale back cooperation with ICE, often in response to the agency’s ever-more aggressive tactics under the Trump administration, agents have been regularly resorting to making home arrests and using deceptions that go way beyond merely identifying as “police.”

    The tactic helps ICE gain access. “ICE is a law enforcement agency and they’re bound by the same constitutional restrictions as any law enforcement agency,” said Ghita Schwarz, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

    Nancy Morawetz, a professor of clinical law and an immigration expert at New York University School of Law, said that though existing case law allows federal law enforcement agents to use ruses, she doesn’t believe it’s clearly legal for a federal officer to masquerade as a local one. “What ICE is doing is saying ‘Oh, it’s all the same question. If law enforcement can use ruses, then any ruse is an option,’” she said. “There is a pretty strong argument, I think, that it is impersonating a police officer,” a felony charge in New York state.

    Fourth Amendment protections mean that even if agents know where a target lives, they cannot enter without either a judicial warrant or the occupant’s consent. Posing as local law enforcement officials is one way to create that consent. “The use of ruses is a way to skirt the constitutional protections and get in the door,” said Genia Blaser, senior staff attorney at the Immigrant Defense Project, which tracks ICE arrests.

    According to Blaser, most of the cases Immigrant Defense Project hears about follow similar patterns: the agents call their target at a personal number, show up at their door, or both, and claim to be local officers of some type investigating a crime, executing a warrant, or responding to an accident."

  • about 2 hours ago

    "Colleagues at a government-contracted shelter in Arizona had a specific request for Antar Davidson when three Brazilian migrant children arrived: “Tell them they can’t hug.”

    Davidson, 32, is of Brazilian descent and speaks Portuguese. He said the siblings — ages 16, 10 and 6 — were distraught after being separated from their parents at the border. The children were “huddled together, tears streaming down their faces,” he said.

    Officials had told them their parents were “lost,” which they interpreted to mean dead. Davidson said he told the children he didn’t know where their parents were, but that they had to be strong.

    “The 16-year-old, he looks at me and says, ‘How?’” Davidson said. As he watched the youth cry, he thought, “This is not healthy.”

    "

  • Jun 13, 18

    "Project South asserted that Latinx immigrants in various cities in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas, who cannot provide social security numbers and IDs have been overwhelmingly impacted by the restrictions, which have left countless residents without the basic utilities needed to live.

    “It’s really hard to tell [how many people have been affected],” Project South’s legal and advocacy director Azadeh Shahshahani told ThinkProgress. “It could be thousands, it could be more than that. But, by definition, we’re talking about vulnerable communities, people without social security numbers.”

    The practice of requiring photo ID and social security numbers is not mandated by local or state law. It also violates federal laws, including the Privacy Act of 1974, which forbids the denial of government services on the basis of a person’s refusal to share their social security number, as well as the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits policies that discriminate on the basis of a number of factors, including race.

    “Access to water and utilities is a human right, It’s a fundamental human right,” Shahshahani added, pointing to the fact that the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognize access to basic utilities as linked to the right to life and human dignity. “Every human being should have access to water regardless of their immigration background.”"

  • Jun 13, 18

    "But the rate of arrests under S-Comm today has stabilized at a level far below that of the Obama administration. Back then, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) made arrests at a rate that was more than double what it is under Trump, according to analysis from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University.

    ICE under Obama averaged 309,887 arrests per year from 2009-2012, while ICE under Trump averaged 139,553 in 2017.

    Obama set records between 2008 and 2014 with the number of people arrested and placed in deportation proceedings under S-Comm. Those numbers plummeted by more than half in 2015, when S-Comm was replaced by the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP)....

    Breaking up of families and separation of children from their parents is a practice that dates back to the Obama administration. As Rewire News has pointed out, men were routinely separated from their children and families during deportation proceedings.

    Immigrants were held in family detention centers that were rife with sexual abuse and lacked adequate facilities and medical care. Obama claimed the administration would stop sending immigrants to family detention centers in 2009, or rather limited to exceptional circumstances in a single state. But family detention continued, as did the trauma and abuse.

    Six years later, when the Obama administration went to court to try and continue family detention, and when a federal court again ordered the administration to release children held in detention because they weren’t licensed for childcare, the administration circumvented the decision’s intent to end that detention by getting Texas to change its child care licensing procedures to keep them open.

    In January 2016, the Obama administration openly targeted immigrant families for arrest, separation, and deportation via early dawn raids. It was part of an explicit strategy to attempt to scare people fleeing death and abuse in their home countries from crossing the US border.

    This deterrence strategy included ad campaigns in Central American countries discouraging people from making the trip by warning them of detention and deportation.

    Hillary Clinton, who Feinstein endorsed for president, said, “We have to send a clear message, just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay.”

    Between 2012 and 2016, dozens of immigrants died in detention.

    “I find it just inhumane, callous, and something I never thought my country would do. So it’s very worrisome and we’ve got to stop it,” Feinstein concluded.

    Yet, to some extent, the U.S. government has had an inhumane or callous immigration policy since at least Obama.

  • Jun 13, 18

    "The DNC Rules Committee approved the recommendation of a new rule last week that allows the party to block certain presidential campaigns. More specifically, the party will block campaigns that do not “affirmatively demonstrate that they are faithful to the interests, welfare and success of the Democratic Party of the United States.”

    The Democratic Party would decide how to define “faithful,” which means that not only could this block outsiders like Bernie Sanders from running as a Democrat, but even life-long Democrats (e.g. Tulsi Gabbard) who want to see broad and extensive changes to how the party operates and its policies.

    “Why wait till the primaries or the convention to cheat progressives out of the presidential nomination when you can just block them from running in the first place? Who needs 718 superdelegates to rig a primary election when an even smaller body of DNC members can just cancel it,” said Nick Braña, who lobbied the superdelegates for Sanders on his 2016 presidential campaign.

    Remember when then-DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz admitted on live television that superdelegates exist to protect party-loyal candidates from grassroots competition? Here is a refresher:

    This outraged many voters. It outraged many more when it came to light that DNC officials did what they could to marginalize Bernie Sanders’ campaign and essentially picked Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic nominee before a single primary vote was cast.

    Despite calls for change in the Democratic Party — to end superdelegates, to open primary elections, to adopt “big tent” policies for greater competition within the party — party leaders have since double downed on many of these same policies that resulted in broad anger, distrust, and disenchantment in 2016.

  • Jun 13, 18

    "Corporations have been powerful political players in America for more than a century. But for Amazon and its allies to reverse an already watered-down tax—the original plan was $500 per head—in an ostensibly progressive metropolis shows just how much weight big businesses have, and how easily they can throw it around anywhere they want.

    The "head tax" was just the latest attempt by Seattle to raise revenue. Last year, the city passed a law imposing an income tax on residents, but in November a court ruled it was illegal because of a Washington state prohibition on income taxes (Seattle is appealing the ruling). The city also imposed a controversial tax on sugary beverages starting this year.

    In that context, a tax targeting Amazon in particular seemed like a less fraught way to get money for progressive priorities. The corporation, in case you hadn't noticed, is doing pretty well these days. After acquiring Whole Foods and breaking into the brick-and-mortar market it initially eschewed, the company's revenues were up 38 percent last year compared to 2016, and its stock price spiked 70 percent. Total 2017 revenue reached about $179 billion and corporate profits some $3 billion. The tax Amazon felt so threatened by would have cost it just $12 million given its roughly 45,000 employees, according to New York Times. To call that a drop in the bucket is a massive understatement; it's a drop in the fucking ocean. (Bezos, for his part, has a net worth approaching $140 billion, making him the wealthiest person on Earth and an avatar for a society where public goods like public housing are increasingly hard to come by.)

    If the concentrated economic and political power of monopolistic companies like Amazon worries you, the week has been off to a brutal start: On the same day Seattle's city council voted to repeal the tax on local employers, a federal judge gave the green light to the looming AT&T and Time Warner merger. Barring a higher court reversing this decision—or the FCC suddenly deciding to care about consumer protection—that means not only that we'll have even more insanely powerful corporate lobbying entity in DC, but also that a top internet and cable provider will also own the content from networks like CNN and HBO. As at Amazon, everything in the process of human creative expression, from ideation to production to distribution, will likely soon happen under the same corporate roof. (VICE Media airs weekly and nightly newscasts on HBO.)

    If all of this sounds like an ominous trend toward monopoly and oligarchy, that's because it is. As the Associated Press reported, the collapse of the pro-tax coalition in Seattle could encourage powerful businesses in other states and cities to mount their own furious lobbying campaigns—or just scare lawmakers out of trying to do anything, as they are in Mountain View, California. And the precedent set by the approval of the AT&T-Time Warner merger, as Reuters reports, seems clear: Cable companies can and should buy the smaller companies that produce content they air, because the feds aren't going to stop them."

  • Jun 13, 18

    "Since the IRS implemented the private debt collection (PDC) initiative last year, I have been concerned that taxpayers whose debts are assigned to private collection agencies (PCAs) will make payments even when they are likely in economic hardship – that is, they are unable to pay their basic living expenses. As discussed in my 2017 Annual Report to Congress, this is exactly what has been happening. The recent returns of approximately 4,100 taxpayers who made payments to the IRS after their debts were assigned to PCAs through September 28, 2017 show:

    28 percent had incomes below $20,000;
    19 percent had incomes below the federal poverty level; and
    44 percent had incomes below 250 percent of the federal poverty level....

    This pattern of taxpayers whose debts are assigned to PCAs entering into IAs and making payments they appear to be unable to afford is continuing. IRS data shows that since the inception of the program in April 2017 through March 29, 2018, of 9,751 taxpayers who entered into IAs and made payments while their debts were assigned to PCAs:

    24 percent had incomes below the federal poverty level - all of these taxpayers’ incomes were less than their ALEs;
    22 percent had incomes at or above the federal poverty level and below 250 percent of the federal poverty level; 80 percent of these taxpayers’ incomes were less than their ALES; and
    Overall, 43 percent who entered into IAs had incomes less than their ALEs.
    "

  • Jun 13, 18

    "
    Lartey, who earned an annual salary of $65,969 as a records management analyst, was a career government official with close to 30 years under his belt. But he had never seen anything like this in any previous administration he had worked for. He had never had to tape the president’s papers back together again.

    Armed with rolls of clear Scotch tape, Lartey and his colleagues would sift through large piles of shredded paper and put them back together, he said, “like a jigsaw puzzle.” Sometimes the papers would just be split down the middle, but other times they would be torn into pieces so small they looked like confetti.

    It was a painstaking process that was the result of a clash between legal requirements to preserve White House records and President Donald Trump’s odd and enduring habit of ripping up papers when he’s done with them — what some people described as his unofficial “filing system.”

    Under the Presidential Records Act, the White House must preserve all memos, letters, emails and papers that the president touches, sending them to the National Archives for safekeeping as historical records."...

    But White House aides realized early on that they were unable to stop Trump from ripping up paper after he was done with it and throwing it in the trash or on the floor, according to people familiar with the practice. Instead, they chose to clean it up for him, in order to make sure that the president wasn’t violating the law.

    Staffers had the fragments of paper collected from the Oval Office as well as the private residence and send it over to records management across the street from the White House for Lartey and his colleagues to reassemble.

    “We got Scotch tape, the clear kind,” Lartey recalled in an interview. “You found pieces and taped them back together and then you gave it back to the supervisor.” The restored papers would then be sent to the National Archives to be properly filed away.

    Lartey said the papers he received included newspaper clips on which Trump had scribbled notes, or circled words; invitations; and letters from constituents or lawmakers on the Hill, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

    “I had a letter from Schumer — he tore it up,” he said. “It was the craziest thing ever. He ripped papers into tiny pieces.”..

    Lartey did not work alone. He said his entire department was dedicated to the task of taping paper back together in the opening months of the Trump administration.

    One of his colleagues, Reginald Young Jr., who worked as a senior records management analyst, said that during over two decades of government service, he had never been asked to do such a thing.

    “We had to endure this under the Trump administration,” Young said. “I’m looking at my director, and saying, ‘Are you guys serious?’ We’re making more than $60,000 a year, we need to be doing far more important things than this. It felt like the lowest form of work you can take on without having to empty the trash cans.”...

    Trump, in contrast, does not have those preservationist instincts. One person familiar with how Trump operates in the Oval Office said he would rip up “anything that happened to be on his desk that he was done with.” Some aides advised him to stop, but the habit proved difficult to break....

    Lartey said he was fired at the end of the work day on March 23, with no warning. His top-secret security clearance was revoked, he said. Later, five boxes of his personal belongings were mailed to his home.

    “I was stunned,” he said. “I asked them, ‘Why can’t you all tell me something?’ I had gotten comfortable. I was going to retire. I would never have thought I would have gotten fired.” He signed a pre-written resignation letter that stated he was leaving to pursue other opportunities. But he is still unemployed.

    Young, who was terminated April 19, said he fought back and had his official status changed from “resigned” to “terminated.”

    “I was coerced to sign a resignation letter at that time,” he said. “Then they escorted me to the garage and took my parking placard.”

    He described the firing as traumatic and frustratingly Kafkaesque. “The only excuse that I’ve ever gotten from them,” he said, “was that you serve at the pleasure of the president.”

  • Jun 12, 18

    "Education Secretary Betsy DeVos disregarded a scathing review by her own staff this spring when she reinstated the watchdog body that had accredited two scandal-scarred for-profit universities whose bankruptcies left tens of thousands of students with worthless degrees and mountains of debt, a new report has revealed.

    A 244-page internal document, written by career staff and delivered to the secretary in early March but made public late Friday, found that the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, or Acics, had failed to meet 57 of 93 federal quality and management compliance standards as it vied to continue operating as a gatekeeper for billions in federal financial aid dollars. The findings were released late last week after the department was sued by the National Student Legal Defense Network and the Century Foundation."

  • Jun 12, 18

    "When he was indicted, Manafort received a felony defendant’s dream-come-true: staying out of jail on bail despite multiple counts (though he seems, since then, to have blown that deal to pieces — more on that later). Last October, prosecutors and the judge took the time to negotiate an intricate $10 million bond agreement with Manafort’s lawyers. He was allowed to live, with a monitoring device around his ankle, in various luxury residences he owns in northern Virginia; Palm Beach, Florida; and the Hamptons, a tony New York beach area....

    It often goes this gentle way for influential people who find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Before Harvey Weinstein was arrested on rape charges last month, his defense team was able to negotiate a bail package that allowed him to stay free for $1 million, which he paid with a cashier’s check. When Weinstein was briefly taken into custody, police officers used three sets of handcuffs connected in a chain behind his back to spare him discomfort due to his considerable girth (and he still complained). He was whisked through the arraignment process in a notably speedy manner — surrendering at 7:30 in the morning, he left the court in time for brunch....

    Most lawyers can only dream about their run-of-the-mill clients receiving Weinstein-style treatment for offenses that are less serious than the sexual assault charges against the Hollywood mogul. Defense lawyer Matthew Daloisio noted in a widely-circulated post on Twitter that while Weinstein got through the judicial system in less than three hours, the man who followed him into the same courtroom was held in jail overnight — for a total of 16 hours — due to an arrest for an unpaid $195 fine on marijuana possession....

    ONE OF THE inequities of the system is highlighted by Weinstein’s case. His net worth has been estimated at more than $200 million, which means $1 million in bail represents 0.5 percent of his assets — spare change. On the other hand, for the unlucky army of poor and working poor who enter the court system, bail of $10,000 or $1,000 is more than they possess. According to a 2016 survey by the Federal Reserve, about 46 percent of Americans do not have enough money for a $400 emergency expense....

    “The injustices are not among the people who are multi-millionaires,” noted David Feige, board chair of the Bronx Freedom Fund, which pays bail for people accused of misdemeanors in the Bronx. “The injustices are among the people who are accused of shoplifting $5 in Advil and are sitting in Rikers Island because they couldn’t make bail. It could be $500.”

    For these people, the ordeal of being behind bars is not the only dreadful consequence of the money bail system. It means they could lose their job if, for instance, they work in a service industry position for which an absence of more than a day can be grounds for dismissal. They could also lose their housing if they can’t make the next month’s rent because they are not working. When they get out, they could be homeless as well as jobless.

    The upshot is that bail operates not as a way to ensure defendants show up for trial, but to coerce them to plead guilty. One of the reasons Manafort and Weinstein can go to trial is because they are not inconvenienced by the wait. According to the website of the Bail Project, a nationwide program to underwrite bail for people accused of misdemeanors, “90 percent of people who are held in jail on bail will plead guilty just to go home, even if they didn’t commit the crime.”



  • Jun 12, 18

    "The Department of Homeland Security is intentionally separating children as young as one year old from immigrant parents, including families fleeing persecution or torture seeking humanitarian asylum in the U.S. Although separation of families as a consequence of detaining adults for unauthorized crossing occurred under the Bush and Obama Administrations, due to this Administration’s policy decisions, family separation at the border has accelerated. Public outrage over the practice has grown in recent months as stories of young children being taken from parents are coming to light.

    The declarations below, exhibits for a lawsuit claiming immigrants’ rights were violated by the practice, were made by a small sample of the hundreds of detained parents from whom children have been taken away and handed over to the Department of Health and Human Services for placement in foster or  group homes (shelters are at 95 percent capacity as of last week). These parents all sought asylum at ports of entry near U.S. border towns, according to court documents."

  • Jun 06, 18

    "The head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau dissolved a group of outside experts that acted as an important sounding board for the watchdog agency on economic and financial issues as well as policy.

    Bureau officials told the 25 members of the Consumer Advisory Board on Wednesday that they will be replaced and the board will be reconstituted, according to two board members who were on a morning conference call. An email to board members on behalf of CFPB Acting Director Mick Mulvaney confirmed the actions.

    “Everyone on the board has been fired,” said Judith Fox, a professor of consumer law at Notre Dame Law School who sat on the board for three years.

    The law that created the CFPB mandates that bureau officials meet with the advisory board at least twice a year. But the meetings repeatedly have been canceled under Mulvaney, who has steered the bureau in a more industry-friendly direction since taking charge late last year."

  • Jun 06, 18

    "Some Angelenos needed a bit of reassurance that their votes would be counted in Tuesday’s primary election after 118,522 voters’ names were accidentally left off rosters due to a printing error, according to L.A. County Registrar Dean C. Logan.

    About 2.3% of L.A. County’s 5.1 million registered voters and 35% of the county’s 4,357 precincts were affected by the error, according to figures provided by the registrar-recorder/county clerk’s office, which was still trying to determine the reason for the printing error. Voters whose names are missing are being encouraged to file provisional ballots, which are verified by vote counters later. "

  • Jun 06, 18

    "Last month it was reported by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that the NSA collected over 530 million American call records in 2017. That’s three times the number of call records reportedly collected by the agency in 2016, which was about 151 million....

    Notably, the same report that revealed the surge in phone record collections also included information revealing significant increases in the number of individuals targeted for warrantless surveillance under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

    In 2017, there were 129,080 non-Americans targeted for such surveillance. That’s up from 106,469 in 2016 and up from 89,138 in 2013....

    One of the biggest concerns about warrantless surveillance conducted under Section 702 is that the communications of American citizens entitled to Fourth Amendment protections can often be swept up in these warrantless collections. “The NSA, CIA, and National Counterterrorism Center conducted over 7,500 of these backdoor searches [in 2017], and the FBI does not report the number of searches it conducts at all,” the ACLU notes.
    Legislative efforts to better protect the constitutional rights of Americans with regard to Section 702 were unfortunately thwarted earlier this year. Noted Democrats including Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, Adam Schiff, D-Burbank and Pete Aguilar, D-Redlands voted down amendments to protect the constitutional rights of Americans in the House, while Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, also helped shut down debate in the Senate.

    Consequently, bipartisan legislation from Senators Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, and Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, wasn’t able to advance.

    Alas, there seems to be more bipartisan interest in sustaining a sweeping surveillance than bipartisan interest in curtailing such mass surveillance. Regardless, we urge Congress to always press for more transparency and more limits on the surveillance state they’ve to date enabled.

  • Jun 06, 18

    "A Cambridge Analytica director apparently visited Julian Assange in February last year and told friends it was to discuss what happened during the US election, the Guardian has learned.

    Brittany Kaiser, a director at the firm until earlier this year, also claimed to have channelled cryptocurrency payments and donations to WikiLeaks. This information has been passed to congressional and parliamentary inquiries in the UK and US.

    Cambridge Analytica and WikiLeaks are already subjects of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, but the revelations open up fresh questions about the precise nature of the organisations’ relationship.

    There was no known connection until October last year, when it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica had “reached out” to Assange in July 2016 and offered to help him index and distribute the 33,000 emails that had been stolen from Hillary Clinton.

    Assange issued a statement saying that he had turned down the Cambridge Analytica offer. Alexander Nix, the company’s chief executive, told Westminster MPs the same in February, during an appearance at the Commons digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) select committee. Nix said he found a contact for WikiLeaks’ speaking agency on the internet and sent Assange an email.

    But visitor logs from the Ecuador embassy obtained by the Guardian and Focus Ecuador appear to show that Brittany Kaiser, a senior executive at Cambridge Analytica until earlier this year, visited Assange on 17 February 2017. Information passed to the DCMS committee in the UK and the Senate judiciary committee in the US states that the meeting was “a retrospective to discuss the US election”.

    Kaiser is also alleged to have said that she had funnelled money to WikiLeaks in the form of cryptocurrency. She called the organisation her “favourite charity”. The reports passed to investigators say that money was given to her by third parties in the form of “gifts and payments”.

    Nix is due to appear before the DCMS committee for the second time at 3pm on Wednesday, where he is expected to be pressed on Cambridge Analytica’s relationship with WikiLeaks.

    At his first appearance, Nix told the committee: “We have no relationship with WikiLeaks. We have never spoken to anyone at WikiLeaks. We have never done any business with WikiLeaks. We have no relationship with them, period.”

    He told MPs that Cambridge Analytica had found out about the Clinton emails leak on the news and had “reached out to a speaking agency that represents [Assange] – that was the only way we could find to get hold of him”.

    But when Kaiser appeared before MPs in April, she acknowledged that some employees at the company had contacts with lawyers who had also represented Assange.

    Damian Collins, the DCMS committee chair, asked Kaiser: “If Alexander Nix wanted to reach out to Julian Assange, couldn’t he do it through you?” Kaiser replied: “That’s what I was wondering when I found that out from the press – he could have asked me to put him in touch with the legal team. But he didn’t.”

    Kaiser told MPs that her principal connection to WikiLeaks was via . Jones represented Assange in his extradition case against the Swedish government and became a close, personal friend, visiting him weekly until he in April 2016. The inquest ruled that no-one else was involved in the death of Jones, who had been depressed.

    Jones’s legal assistant, Robert Murtfeld, who worked closely with him on the WikiLeaks case subsequently went to work for Cambridge Analytica in New York. Information passed to the US and UK committees reveals that Murtfield had arranged Kaiser’s visit to Assange last year.

    In a Tweet on Wednesday, Wikileaks said: “WikiLeaks has no knowledge of donations from either party mentioned, did not have a meeting to discuss the US election and was not approached by Murtfeld or anyone connected to him.”

  • Jun 06, 18

    "President Trump’s legislative framework for a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s infrastructure appears all but dead in Congress.

    Lawmakers are focused on other legislative matters, and Democrats say the latest “infrastructure week” that started Sunday has done little to reinvigorate the president’s plan.

    “The infrastructure week’s been overtaken by the latest tweet,” quipped Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “There’s just no energy left in it.”

    Senate Democrats appeared to throw in the towel last week, posting an “in memoriam” video tribute to infrastructure week that shows White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders casting doubt on the potential for a bill this year.

    “I don’t know that there will be one by the end of this year. Certainly, the administration, as you mentioned, secured some funding for infrastructure projects,” Sanders said last week when asked about the likelihood for an overarching piece of legislation.
    “We’re going to continue to look at ways to improve the nation’s infrastructure. But in terms of a specific piece of legislation, I’m not aware that that will happen by the end of the year,” she added.

    The press secretary’s remarks added to growing pessimism that Congress can put together and pass a large package aimed at rehabilitating America’s roads, bridges and airports, something Trump had identified as a priority for his first term.

    Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told The Hill Wednesday that there has been no movement on a bill with Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.).

    “As far as I know, it’s been shredded, or burned, or something. It doesn’t exist,” DeFazio said Wednesday of the president’s rebuilding blueprint.

    The White House plan, unveiled in February, was meant to provide lawmakers with a framework to craft legislation. But it quickly met opposition from Democrats, who argued the administration’s emphasis on funding from the private sector and state and local governments was the wrong approach to infrastructure.  

    Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle immediately questioned how to pay for the president’s proposal, which calls for $200 billion in federal money with the goal of sparking a $1.5 trillion investment by incentivizing private and local investors.

    “The only thing we need is funding and Paul Ryan is opposed to any additional funding,” said DeFazio, referring to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

    “I told the president that — when I was at the White House — if he wants a bill, he’s got to push the Republican leadership for funding. He didn’t. They won’t. That’s it. Done. Dead,” he said.

    While members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee have long clamored for an extensive infrastructure package, Republican leadership has shown no appetite for pursuing additional legislation."

  • Jun 06, 18

    "Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Report Card for America’s Infrastructure depicts the condition and performance of American infrastructure in the familiar form of a school report  card—assigning letter grades based on the physical condition and needed investments for improvement."

  • Jun 05, 18

    "The lobbyist whose wife rented a $50-a-night condo to Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has revised his disclosure reports after his firm concluded he had not properly disclosed additional efforts to influence Mr. Pruitt and the agency — including appeals when Mr. Pruitt was living in the condo.

    The lobbying firm, Williams & Jensen, has refiled lobbying disclosure reports from 2017 to acknowledge that Steve Hart, the firm’s former chairman, lobbied the E.P.A. on behalf of Coca-Cola and a government board from Puerto Rico helping the island address its fiscal debts. Lobbyists are legally required to disclose which agencies they target and the topic of their lobbying work.

    The revisions come after an outside review of the activities of Mr. Hart, whose wife, Vicki Hart, rented the condo to Mr. Pruitt. The E.P.A. chief lived in the unit from shortly after his confirmation in February 2017 until August 2017.

    Previously, both Mr. Hart and Mr. Pruitt — in defending the condo lease as not representing a conflict of interest — had said that Mr. Hart never lobbied Mr. Pruitt. Earlier, however, emails released as part of congressional investigation into Mr. Pruitt in April showed that Mr. Hart in fact had met with Mr. Pruitt in July 2017, on behalf of a former Smithfield Foods executive who then served on the Smithfield Foundation board.

    New emails provided Friday to The New York Times show that Mr. Hart contacted Ryan Jackson, Mr. Pruitt’s chief of staff, and Sydney Hupp, who was then a senior scheduling aide to Mr. Pruitt, on behalf of Coca-Cola in March 2017. Ms. Hupp has since left the agency.

    “Coke has enormous expertise in clean water development since you cannot bottle Coke with dirty water,” wrote Mr. Hart, in an email sent to Mr. Jackson and Ms. Hupp, as he encouraged Mr. Pruitt to meet with Muhtar Kent, the chief executive and chairman of the board for the Coca-Cola Company."

  • Jun 05, 18

    "Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley posted a video showing he was denied entry to a detention center for migrant children who had been separated from their parents while trying to enter the country.

    Merkley chronicled his efforts to enter the former Walmart in Brownsville, Texas, in a Facebook post on Sunday. The senator says he made the trip after his office's attempt to schedule a tour was declined.

    "I think it's unacceptable that a member of Congress is not being admitted to see what is happening to children whose families are applying for asylum. I decided to come out here, go up to the door and ask to be let in," he said in the video."...

    On May 7, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the U.S. would begin prosecuting anyone trying to enter the country illegally, including asylum seekers.

    Families would be split up in such cases, with adults sent to jails and children placed in the custody the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a unit of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    The facility Merkley visited is operated by Southwest Key Programs. According to its website, the nonprofit runs 27 shelters for immigrant children in Texas, Arizona and California.

    The senator was made to wait at the door, which had its glass panes blacked out, while an employee tried to track down a supervisor. Police arrived just as a supervisor came outside. The supervisor said he was not authorized to discuss the issue and referred Merkley to the nonprofit's administrators. He did not say why the senator could not tour the facility.

    Merkley later took to Twitter to note that he was "barred entry & the police were called on me. The front doors were locked and blacked out. What are they hiding about the conditions [these] innocent children are being held in?"...

    The administration has not disclosed how many children have been separated from their parents as a result of the new "zero tolerance" policy. But a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official told a Senate panel that the 638 adults referred for prosecution from May 6 to May 19 had been traveling with 658 children, according to The Washington Post.

    On Friday, House Democratic leaders condemned the policy for "unnecessarily inflicting trauma" on children and urged the White House to end it.

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