NEWS:
Arizona and Nebraska Governors Deny Driver Licenses to Young Immigrants with Work Permits House Committee Accuses Air Force of Not Allowing Others to Compete with Lockheed and Boeing for Satellite Launch Contracts Can FBI Crime Statistics Really be Trusted? Sioux Tribe Reaches Out on Internet to Raise Money to Buy Back Sacred Land Federal Court Again Rules that Genes Can be Patented Judge Orders CIA to Turn over More Documents about Drug Kingpin Pablo Escobar More than 3 Million Violent Crimes in U.S. go Unreported Every Year In Wake of Mass Killings, States Still Don’t Comply with Gun Database of Mentally Ill Is This the Worst Small-Town Police Force in the U.S.? Robbing Banks is Not a Cost-Efficient Profession U.S. Increases Dependence on Oil Supplied by Saudi Royal Family Good News and Bad News for Wind Energy Industry Lawsuit Claims One-Third of California Drinking Water Contaminated with Cancer-Causing Chemical Army Suicide Record Set in July 10 Most Profitable U.S. Companies Paid 9% in Federal Income Taxes 4-Star General Faces Possible Demotion for Wasteful Spending Monsanto and Dupont Spend Big to Fight Labeling Genetically Modified Foods Pentagon Exploits Lower Drought-Related Prices to Stockpile Meat Congress on Track to Set Do-Nothing Record Retired Federal Workers Receiving 6-Figure Pensions Now Top 21,000 Two Campaign Groups with Anonymous Donors Outspend all Super PACs Combined Timber, Beef and Off-Road Vehicle Industries Accuse Forest Service of Paying Too Much Attention to Scientists Office of Legal Counsel Withholds from Public 39% of Its Decisions Justice Department Stops Fighting Release of Legally Innocent Prisoners Like Athletes who Dope, Wall Street’s High-Speed Traders Try to Keep Ahead of Regulators TSA Accused of Anti-Black and Hispanic Discrimination AT&T Sued over Draconian Lunch Break Rules Federal Court Rules Utah’s Anti-Hair Braiding Law Unconstitutional U.S. Gains First Openly Gay General Investigation Turns Up Only 10 Cases of Voter Impersonation Nationwide…in 10 Years 30% of Doctors Will Refuse to Treat New Medicaid Patients Obama Keeps Fighting in Court to Jail Americans Indefinitely without Trial Radioactive Sinkhole Forces Evacuation of 150 Homes WikiLeaks Whistleblower Calls for Dismissal of Charges Against Him for Cruel and Unusual Detention “Path to Prosperity” — Paul Ryan’s Budget Plan — Doesn’t Include Federal Workers Johnson & Johnson Sued for Misrepresenting “Health Benefits” of Splenda Essentials Sweetener Unemployment Benefits Go to Millionaires Because of a Loophole in Current Law CDC Warns of New Swine Flu Virus Hitting Children Who Pet Animals at County Fairs CBO Says Drilling on Federal Land Won’t Net Much Money or Energy Court Guts Ohio Law that Helped GOP by Prohibiting Medicaid Doctor Campaign Donations Feds Unhappy with N.Y. Action Against Bank Accused of “Scheming” with Iranians Google Pays Record $22.5 Million Fine for Privacy Violations Despite Senate Report, Justice Dept. Won’t Prosecute Goldman Sachs for Mortgage Meltdown Role UN Calls on U.S. to Halt Biofuel Production as Drought Devastates Corn Crop Court Says Utah Must Pay Millions to Polygamist Trust Fund Kentucky Tops Southern-Dominated “Toxic 20” Air Polluting States Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs: Who Is Kevin Washburn? U.S. Finally Cleaning Up Some of Its Agent Orange Mess in Vietnam Director of the Missile Defense Agency: Who Is James Syring? Mississippi Offers French Tax Dodgers a Refuge NRC Shelves New Plant Licenses as It Ponders What to Do About Waste Monsanto Genetically Modified Crops Make the Drought Worse Blackwater Fined Millions, Given 3 Years to Prove It’s Reformed Pfizer Pays $60 Million for Bribing Foreign Doctors Appeals Court Affirms Federal Power to Spy without a Warrant Segregation Returns to U.S. . . . Income Segregation Secret Boy Scout Predator Files Released Judge Begrudgingly OKs Morgan Stanley Derivatives Price-Fixing Settlement Debit Card Company Sued for Anti-Deaf Discrimination Insurance Company Sues Trayvon Martin’s Mother over Liability Medicaid Providers Receive Billions in Reimbursements Despite Owing Back Taxes $2 Billion a Year Industry: Housing Illegal Immigrants Leading Billboard Company Avoids Criminal Charges in Tree-Cutting Controversy Navy Veteran Deported after 40 Years in U.S. Obama Administration Fights against UN Global Warming Restrictions Bipartisan Senate Bill Would Crack Down on Pentagon Contractors Surprise: Doctors on Drug Company Payroll More Likely to Prescribe Company’s Drugs Next Biofuel Source: Willow Harvard Study Concludes that Fluoridated Water Is Associated with Lower IQs in Children Federal Court Approves Doctors Telling Patients that Abortion Can Lead to Suicide U.S. Has Secret Pact to Aid Syrian Rebels “Pop-Up” Campaign Finance Groups Dance Rings Around the IRS and FEC Trillion-Dollar Cybercrime Number Pulled Out of Thin Cyberspace Romney’s New Bain Troubleshooter Is Ex-BP Publicist/Fannie Mae Lobbyist/Iraq War Strategist More Kids Are Living in Poverty and Exposed to Air Pollution Is Michael Phelps the Greatest Olympian in History? States Dodge Supreme Court Ruling Against Life Sentences for Minors Fish Get Skin Cancer from Sun Under Ozone Hole Political Ad Database Is Finally Online, but Crippled by Lack of Features When Republicans Collide: Islamaphobe Takes on Tea Partier in Tennessee Commander of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center: Who Is Lt. Gen. David Perkins? There’s a Good Chance Your Friends Are Phonies Judge Tells Big Tobacco Oversight by Courts and FDA Isn’t Either/Or Marine Falsely Accused of Desertion, Locked up for a Month Senator McCain Does About-Face and Turns to Lockheed for Key Staffer U.S. Wasting Millions in Afghanistan Court Blocks Arizona Late-Term Abortion Law Contractors with Criminal Histories Fall Through Government Database Cracks India Loss of Power Not as Hard on 300 Million Who Never Had Any Conservative Koch-Funded Global Warming Skeptic Flips Sides Doctor Challenges Fracking “Trade Secrets” Medical Gag Rule Japan Restarts Nuclear Plants, then Orders Quake Fault Survey First Case of Professor Prosecuted for Accidental Death of Research Student USDA Retracts “Meatless Monday” Memo New York Legislature Votes to Name Post Office after Late Covert CIA Officer Voters to Decide If Porn Actors Must Wear Condoms Every U.S. State Now Hit by Drought Conditions Homeland Security Pulls Back Plan to Screen Chemical-Plant Workers for Terrorist Ties to “Cut Down on Paperwork” Positive University Study on Fracking Was Led by a Gas Company Insider VA Must Disclose Documents on CIA, Army and Nazi Scientists Tests Using Veterans as Guinea Pigs
Arizona and Nebraska Governors Deny Driver Licenses to Young Immigrants with Work Permits

Arizona and Nebraska Governors Deny Driver Licenses to Young Immigrants with Work Permits

Tuesday, August 21, 2012
The political battle between Republican governors and President Barack Obama over amnesty for illegal immigrants continued late last week when two states blocked hundreds of thousands of young people from gaining drivers licenses and other public benefits.   Under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, as many as 1.7 illegal immigrants can receive work papers and driver’s licenses if they are under 32 years of age, arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, and have committed no major crimes.   The 2005 Real ID Act declared that “deferred action” recipients are eligible for driver’s licenses. However, within hours of the program going into effect on August 15, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) issued an executive order blocking the implementation of Obama’s program in her state. Brewer said the program does not make program applicants “legal citizens,” which meant the state could deny them driver’s licenses and other services, according to the governor.   Three days later, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman (R) followed Brewer’s lead and blocked immigrants in his state as well from gaining deferred action status.   The two states reportedly have more than 100,000 eligible illegal immigrants within their borders.   Democrats in Arizona lashed out at Brewer, who has been a leading voice against illegal immigration in her state.  Jeff Rogers, the chair of the Pima County Democratic Party, told the media that Brewer was acting like George Wallace, the former Alabama governor who was an avowed segregationist and tried to block African-American students from attending the University of Alabama. -Noel Brinkerhoff   To Learn More: Obama’s DREAM Act-Lite Runs into More Trouble as Nebraska, Arizona Go Rogue (by Patrik Jonsson, Christian Science Monitor) For Young Immigrants Who Get Deferrals, The Battle Is Far From Over (by David Adams and Alex Dobuzinskis, Reuters) Gov. Jan Brewer Battles Obama’s DREAM Directive in Arizona (by Terry Greene Sterling, Daily Beast)
 
House Committee Accuses Air Force of Not Allowing Others to Compete with Lockheed and Boeing for Satellite Launch Contracts

House Committee Accuses Air Force of Not Allowing Others to Compete with Lockheed and Boeing for Satellite Launch Contracts  -  Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Two of the nation’s largest defense contractors have enjoyed a virtual monopoly over the launching of Air Force satellites into orbit. But a bipartisan effort in the U.S. House seeks to end the sweetheart deal and open up opportunities for smaller commercial rivals.
 
United Launch Alliance, a joint venture created by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, has handled all of the Air Force’s satellite launches for six years. The armed service wants to extend this arrangement for another five years, during which the two companies would be paid $19 billion. The new contract would include lightweight satellites that could be manufactured by smaller companies.
 
But two lawmakers object to the cost as well as allowing Lockheed and Boeing to dominate satellite launches. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) and ranking member C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Maryland) wrote to the Department of Defense in early August complaining that the arrangement with United Launch Alliance lacks competition “and is unable to compete internationally due to high costs.”
 
Rogers and Ruppersberger want the Air Force to consider two other companies, SpaceX and Orbital, before awarding the next launch contract. They also called on Congress to eliminate a taxpayer-financed subsidy of $100 million per launch to United Launch to cover maintenance and overhead. The subsidy is only provided to United Launch.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
To Learn More:
 
Can FBI Crime Statistics Really be Trusted?

Can FBI Crime Statistics Really be Trusted?    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is supposed to be the authority on crime statistics. But the FBI’s numbers are only as good as those provided by local law enforcement, and apparently the bureau hasn’t been verifying what police file with Washington.
 
Of the 17,000 law enforcement departments that send in crime numbers, less than 1% have been audited by the FBI over the last five years, according to an investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
 
Among the 30 largest cities’ police departments, nearly two-thirds have not been audited since 2007.
 
In the case of departments in Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Seattle, Memphis, El Paso and Austin, the FBI has never audited these reports since the bureau began reviewing crime statistics 15 years ago.
 
“That lack of scrutiny allows cases of undercounting of crimes, such as in Milwaukee where thousands of violent assaults were not included in the crime rate since 2006, to go unnoticed and gives the public a false sense of the true level of crime,” wrote Ben Poston in the Journal Sentinel.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
To Learn More:
FBI Crime-Reporting Audits Are Shallow, Infrequent (by Ben Poston, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
 
Sioux Tribe Reaches Out on Internet to Raise Money to Buy Back Sacred Land

Sioux Tribe Reaches Out on Internet to Raise Money to Buy Back Sacred Land  -  Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Having lost their lands two centuries ago, members of the Sioux Nation are now trying to buy back a portion of the Black Hills.
 
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the Native American blog Last Real Indians want to raise $1 million to purchase 1,943 acres that is going on sale on August 25. The land is considered sacred to the Sioux, who call it “the Center and heart of everything that is.”
 
So far the campaign has raised $137,000, considerably less than what is needed to buy the Reynolds Prairie, named after the family who owns it. The Lakota Sioux call it “Pe’Sla” (Old Baldy).
 
“We shouldn’t have to buy back something that’s already ours,” said Chase Iron Eyes, who’s involved in the fundraising effort. “But, we’re adaptable.”
 
The Black Hills were granted to the Sioux Nation under the Laramie Treaty of 1868. A few years later, prospectors began encroaching on the land after gold was discovered in the area.
 
The U.S. government seized the Black Hills in 1877 following battles between the Sioux and American cavalry, including the infamous Battle of Greasy Grass (what the Sioux call Little Big Horn) where General George Custer and his men were killed.
 
Donations to the purchase campaign can be made here.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
To Learn More:
Pe’Sla: Protecting Sacred Sites as the Next Battle Ground (by Chase Iron Eyes, Last Real Indians)
Support Is Needed to Save Black Hills Sacred Site (by Gale Courey Toensing, Indian Country)
 
Federal Court Again Rules that Genes Can be Patented

Federal Court Again Rules that Genes Can be Patented    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The biotech industry breathed a sigh of relief last week when a federal court again upheld companies’ ability to patent human genes.
 
Civil libertarians have challenged the industry, starting with Myriad Genetics, arguing that to own a patent involving human genetic material is the same as patenting “products of nature,” which is illegal.
 
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) won its first case in 2010, when it sued to nullify Myriad Genetics’ patents on the BRCA-1 BRCA-2 genes, which can help detect breast cancer.
 
The company last year appealed to a federal appellate court and won a decision affirming its patents.
 
It was then the ACLU’s turn to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. But the high court refused to hear the case and bumped it back to a federal appeals court. There, a three-judge panel upheld the previous appellate decision that left Myriad Genetics’ patents in place.
 
In a 2-to1 decision, the judges ruled that “isolated” human genes are patentable.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
To Learn More:
U.S. Court Upholds Status Quo on Gene Patents (by Amanda Wilson, Inter Press Service)
Federal Court Approves Patenting of Human Genes (by David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
 
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More than 3 Million Violent Crimes in U.S. go Unreported Every Year
Monday, August 20, 2012
More than 3 Million Violent Crimes in U.S. go Unreported Every Year
A new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) paints a picture of the more than three million violent crimes that go unreported in the United States every year. Based on survey responses for the years 2006 to 2010, the BJS report estimates that 52% of all violent crimes, or an annual average of 3.38 million incidents, go unreported every year, including 211,000 sexual assaults and 507,000 aggravated assaults. From 1994 to 2010, the percentage of serious violent crime—rape or sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated assault—that was not reported to police declined from 50% to 42%.
 
Why do so many violent crime victims fail to report the incident? Personal issues and concerns about the criminal justice system dominated the reasons, according to the report. Asked for their most important reason for not reporting, 52% gave personal reasons, including that they “dealt with it in another way/personal matter” (34%) and “not important enough to victim to report” (18%).
 
Concerns about the criminal justice system itself were most important to 39%, including those who believed that the police would not or could not help (16%) and those who feared reprisal or getting the offender in trouble (13%). The share of unreported violent crimes not reported for police-related reasons has increased over the years, driven by a jump in the share of victims who believe that the police would not think the crime was important enough to address, from 5% in 2005 to 12% in 2010. Those victims who said the police would be ineffective or inefficient went from 2% in 2005 to 4% in 2010, as did those who thought the police would be biased (from 1% in 2005 to 3% in 2010).
 
Those who named another reason or said there was no one most important reason totaled 18%.
 
Consistent with the importance of personal reasons to why victims did not report the crimes against them are data showing that among unreported intimate partner violent crimes, 38% went unreported because the victim was afraid of reprisal or getting the offender in trouble. Further, 62% of crimes perpetrated by someone the victim knew well went unreported to police, compared to 51% of victimizations committed by a stranger.
 
Bullying remains a big problem, according to the study data. About 76% of violent crimes that occurred at school were not reported to police, which is consistent with the findings that from 2006 to 2010, crimes against youth age 12 to 17 were more likely to go unreported than crimes against persons in other age categories.
-Matt Bewig
To Learn More:
Victimizations Not Reported to the Police, 2006-2010 (by Lynn Langton, Marcus Berzofsky, Christopher Krebs, and Hope Smiley-McDonald; National Crime Victimization Survey) (pdf)
 
Good News and Bad News for Wind Energy Industry
Sunday, August 19, 2012
Good News and Bad News for Wind Energy Industry
The wind energy industry is having a banner year. So why are executives of wind-generated energy fretting so much? Because, they say, the industry’s success may get cut short by politicians in Washington.
 
This year, energy produced from wind power reached 50 gigawatts in the U.S., the highest level ever recorded. It is enough electricity to power 13 million homes, or nearly all those in Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin, Virginia, Alabama, and Connecticut combined.
 
But the industry has been aided by a federal tax break that’s been around since the George H. W. Bush administration. President Barack Obama favors renewing the Production Tax Credit, which is set to expire this year.
 
But Mitt Romney wants to do away with the tax break, as do Republican leaders in Congress.
 
“These truly are the best of times and could be the worst of times for American wind power,” Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, the lobbying arm of the wind industry, told The Guardian. “This month we shattered the 50-gigawatt mark, and we’re on pace for one of our best years ever in terms of megawatts installed. But because of the uncertainty surrounding the extension of, incoming orders are grinding to a halt.”
 
Not all Republicans agree with Romney. In Iowa, where wind energy is popular, Republican Gov. Terry Branstad supports the tax break, as do all members of the state’s Congressional delegation.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
To Learn More:
Wind Energy Tax Credit Splits Obama, Romney (by Jennifer Jacobs, Des Moines Register)
 
10 Most Profitable U.S. Companies Paid 9% in Federal Income Taxes
Saturday, August 18, 2012
10 Most Profitable U.S. Companies Paid 9% in Federal Income Taxes
The largest corporations in the U.S., consisting of oil, retail, banking and technology giants, paid an average of only 9% of their earnings in income taxes to the Internal Revenue Service last year.
 
According to the tax code, companies are supposed to pay 35% income tax. But NerdWallet determined that the top 10 came nowhere near that.
 
Exxon Mobil, the country’s biggest business, made more than $73 billion in 2011, but paid only $1.5 billion to the IRS.
 
The second largest company, Chevron, paid $1.9 billion in taxes after collecting $47.6 billion in revenue.
 
No. 3 on the list, Apple, made $34.2 billion. It paid $3.9 billion to the IRS.
 
These were followed by:
 
Microsoft (made $28 billion, paid $3.1 billion)
JPMorgan Chase (made $26.7 billion, paid $3.7 billion)
Walmart (made $24.4 billion, paid $4.6 billion)
Wells Fargo (made $23.7 billion, paid $3.4 billion)
ConocoPhillips (made $23 billion, paid $1.9 billion)
IBM (made $21 billion, paid $268 million)
General Electric (made $20.1 billion, paid $1 billion)
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
To Learn More:
Corporate Tax Rate Too High? Not for GE…2.3% over 10 Years (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
 
Unusual News
Is This the Worst Small-Town Police Force in the U.S.?
Monday, August 20, 2012
Is This the Worst Small-Town Police Force in the U.S.?
It has been a bad month for the police department of Coopertown, Tennessee (pop.: 4,278), about 30 miles northwest of Nashville. At the beginning of August, police dash cam video (at 6:00) from May 16 of white volunteer officer Robert McCormick using anti-black racist slurs in reference to the sex life of Mayor Sam Childs, who is white, and referring to an African-American man who had lodged a complaint against McCormick, ignited a furor. McCormick, whose punishment had been limited to a one-day suspension, was fired.
 
The video was leaked by the town’s only other full-time officer, David Deckerd, only days after his July 31 termination. Coopertown says Deckerd was fired because on July 21 he was accused of pulling a gun during an off-duty road rage incident. Deckerd counters that his firing was retaliation for uncovering the video. The last remaining Coopertown police officer, Police Chief Paul West, resigned on August 16, in response to what Mayor Childs called “predatory reporting” by the media.
 
None of this is really new to the people of Coopertown, which has had ten police chiefs in the last eleven years. The trouble seems to have started under Police Chief Matthew Norrod, who was fired in 2000 and convicted in 2001 of theft, admitting in court that he stole $2,120 from a suspect during an arrest. In May 2007, Chief Dave Barrera was dismissed over the hiring of his wife by the department. Over the past several years, the city has been sued at least five times for unlawful termination of police employees. Three settled for an undisclosed amount of money, one case was dismissed, and another cost taxpayers $90,000 after a jury verdict.
 
Other lowlights include the 11-month tenure (May 2005-Apr. 2006) of Chief E.J. Bernard, a homicide detective who left the Nashville Police Dept. amid an internal inquiry that concluded he had filed false reports and intimidated and berated a dead woman’s son whom he wrongly suspected of murder. Bernard resigned shortly after testifying—in a corruption case brought by local prosecutors—that Coopertown Mayor Danny Crosby was dangerous and irrational, used racial slurs, called drunk driving a crime that doesn’t “generate revenue and should be ignored,” and contended that many residents were out to get him. Crosby, who once tried to change local speed limits on his own, got the town council to change them and earned Coopertown a reputation as a speed trap.
 
Ironically, when the people of Coopertown voted 16 years ago to transform their sprawling rural community into an incorporated city, they did so as a way to prevent Robertson County officials from locating a new landfill in their midst. They stopped the trash dump, but have been plagued ever since by odors of corruption and incompetence emanating from City Hall and police headquarters.
 
The town will be patrolled by the Robertson County Sheriff’s Office until new police officers can be hired. Anyone interested in the $16 an hour job has until September 6 to apply here.
-Matt Bewig
To Learn More:
Coopertown’s Last Officer Quits, Blames Media Glare (by Brian Haas and Nicole Young, The Tennessean)
 
Robbing Banks is Not a Cost-Efficient Profession
Monday, August 20, 2012
Robbing Banks is Not a Cost-Efficient Profession
Income potential being an important factor in evaluating career options, readers should note that despite its glamorous media image, bank robbery is not a particularly remunerative profession, especially in the long-term. The conclusion that crime doesn’t pay was reached by three economists originally paid by the British Bankers’ Association to assess the cost effectiveness of bank security measures. Using confidential data on the value of every bank heist in the U.K. from 2005 to 2008, the trio came up with an economic model of bank robbery.
 
They found that the average revenue from a British bank robbery in 2005-2008 was only $31,600, although excluding the one-third of robberies that came up dry boosts the average to $46,600. But those proceeds have to be divided among the gang, and while extra gang members raise the average take, the haul per person decreases.
 
The average take per person per successful job was $19,792, equivalent to less than six months’ average wage in the UK, although being armed increased revenues substantially. While that may not sound too bad, multiple jobs greatly increase the risk of arrest and incarceration, as 20% of heists ended that way.
 
Data from the FBI paint a similar picture. In 2011, there were 5,086 bank robberies in the U.S., generating $38,343,501.96 in revenues for the perpetrators, or an average of $7,539 per heist. Excluding the robberies where nothing was taken increases the average only to $8,457. Not only is the return low, the risk is high: out of 13 people killed during bank robberies in 2011, 10 were robbers.
 
On the other hand, and in light of AllGov’s story last week on the Justice Department decision not to prosecute Goldman Sachs, it appears that robbery does pay well…if the robbers are the bankers themselves.
-Matt Bewig
 
To Learn More:
Bank Robbery Doesn’t Pay (Much) (by Christopher Shea, Wall Street Journal)
Robbing Banks: Crime Does Pay – but not very much (by Barry Reilly, Neil Rickman & Robert Witt, Significance) (behind a paywall)
 
Federal Court Rules Utah’s Anti-Hair Braiding Law Unconstitutional
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Federal Court Rules Utah’s Anti-Hair Braiding Law Unconstitutional
Jestina Sunkarie Bangura-Clayton has won her legal case against the state of Utah, which tried to force her to obtain a cosmetology license for her hair-weaving business.
 
Clayton’s part-time work came to a halt in 2009 after state officials told her she needed a cosmetology license to charge for African hair braiding. The refugee from Sierra Leone objected, arguing that the license would have required her to spend 2,000 hours and thousands of dollars on cosmetology classes, most of which had nothing to do with her line of work.
 
With the help of the Institute for Justice, Clayton sued in federal court. There, District Court Judge David Sam ruled the state had wrongly applied its Cosmetology Act and licensing regulations against her.
 
“Utah’s regulations do not advance public health and safety when applied to Jestina because Utah has irrationally squeezed ‘two professions into a single, identical mold,’ by treating hair braiders—who perform a very distinct set of services—as if they were cosmetologists.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
To Learn More:
Utah Licensing Law Is Unfair to Hair Braider (by Jonny Bonner, Courthouse News Service)
Jestina Clayton v. Mark Steinagel (U.S. District Court, Central Utah) (pdf)
 
 
Where is the Money Going?
4-Star General Faces Possible Demotion for Wasteful Spending
Saturday, August 18, 2012
4-Star General Faces Possible Demotion for Wasteful Spending
Army General William “Kip” Ward may lose a star and a million dollars in retirement pay for overspending on travel and accommodations while serving in Africa.
 
Ward, a four-star general (the Army’s highest rank) and the first head of the new U.S. Africa Command, has been under investigation for 17 months after the Department of Defense learned he authorized spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to fly non-military personnel, including, in 15 cases, his wife, on government planes. Ward also spent large sums on hotel rooms, transportation and other expenses when he traveled as head of Africa Command.
 
According to a report by the Defense Department’s inspector general, Ward accepted “complimentary meals and Broadway show tickets in excess of $20.00 in value for himself and his wife from a prohibited source with multiple DoD contracts.” He also “misused a government vehicle by allowing his spouse to use a hardened vehicle in Germany without required threat assessments or authorization.”
 
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is reviewing Ward’s case. One option under consideration involves demoting Ward to three stars, which could cost him as much as $1 million in retirement pay over time.
 
Ward is no longer in charge of the Africa Command. Based in Northern Virginia, he is currently serving as a special assistant to the vice chief of the Army. He tried to retire in 2011, but was forced to remain in the Army until the investigation was complete. Since then, he has been paid as a two-star general.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
 
To Learn More:
4-Star General Investigated Over Spending (by Lolita Baldor, Associated Press)
 
 
Pentagon Exploits Lower Drought-Related Prices to Stockpile Meat
Saturday, August 18, 2012
Pentagon Exploits Lower Drought-Related Prices to Stockpile Meat
The Department of Defense has a reputation for wasting a lot of money, but in at least one case the Pentagon has found a way to save money.
 
Because of this year’s drought, the meat industry has been forced to drop its prices. The military already buys about 94 million pounds of beef, 64 million pounds of pork, and 500,000 pounds of lamb a year, and doesn’t really need more. But it’s hard to resist a bargain, so the Defense Logistics Agency is negotiating to take advantage of the reduced prices to purchase more meat and freeze it for future use.
 
The Pentagon is promoting the expenditure as a magnanimous gesture to help the beef, pork and lamb industries, but economists warn that the extra purchases will have only a tiny effect on the crisis, in which the drought damaged the corn crop, which is used to feed livestock. This raised the price of growing animals and has forced producers to sell their cows, pigs and lamb early.
-David Wallechinsky
 
 To Learn More:
DOD to Review Meat Purchases During Drought (U.S. Department of Defense)
Pentagon's Stimulus Plan: Buy More Meat (by Tom Shoop, Government Executive)
Feds To Buy More Meat During Drought (by Jennifer Rizzo, CNN)
 
Retired Federal Workers Receiving 6-Figure Pensions Now Top 21,000
Friday, August 17, 2012
Retired Federal Workers Receiving 6-Figure Pensions Now Top 21,000
Retiring from years of service in the federal government can really put the gold back into the golden years.
 
Washington is currently paying more than 21,000 retired federal workers pensions of $100,000 or more per year, according to USA Today and Gannett News Service. This total represents 1.2% of all federal retirees.
 
Almost 10% of the 21,000 receive an annual pension of $125,000 or more. More than 150 retirees enjoy $150,000 or more, and six individuals get more than $200,000 a year.
 
The six-figure pensions were earned at various federal agencies, with the U.S. Postal Service producing 714 of these retirees. The Social Security Administration has 444, the Drug Enforcement Administration 326, the Internal Revenue Service 237 and the Federal Bureau of Investigation 186.
 
According to data released for 2011, I. King Jordan, the first deaf president of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., collected $375,900, and Maxey D. Love Jr., former president of a farm credit union, $322,272.
 
Almost all of the six-figure pensions go to federal workers who were hired before 1984, since the method of determining pensions changed for those who hired after that year. The average federal pension pays $32,824 a year.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
 
To Learn More:
Some Federal Pensions Pay Handsome Rewards (by Dennis Cauchon, USA Today and Paul D’Ambrosio, Asbury Park (New Jersey) Press)
 
Controversies
In Wake of Mass Killings, States Still Don’t Comply with Gun Database of Mentally Ill
Monday, August 20, 2012
In Wake of Mass Killings, States Still Don’t Comply with Gun Database of Mentally Ill
In the wake of recent mass killings in Wisconsin, Colorado, Texas and Louisiana, 67 survivors and family members of victims of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting last week sent a letter to President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney demanding that they announce plans to improve the flawed U.S. background check system. As AllGov reported last November, that system regularly allows guns to be sold to disturbed and/or criminally dangerous people, including the shooters at the Virginia Tech (VT) and Tucson mass shootings.
 
The 13-year-old, FBI-run National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is supposed to tell gun dealers if a customer is ineligible to buy a gun because of a history of mental illness or a criminal record. But the Virginia Tech survivors’ letter points out that the database is missing millions of records because many states haven’t bothered to submit the relevant mental health records.
 
Updating a November 2011 report with new FBI data, the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) recently found that 21 states and the District of Columbia have reported fewer than 100 mental health records to NICS: Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming.
 
“I think that those states are doing a disservice to their citizens,” said Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily was hurt in the Virginia Tech shooting. “They're not doing what they can to protect public safety and to keep firearms out of the hands of potentially dangerous people.” Haas, who has become an advocate for stricter gun control, points out that VT gunman Seung-Hui Cho should have been in the NICS database, but was not. Since then, Virginia has submitted more than 170,000 records of people with mental illnesses.
 
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released in July found that some states weren’t submitting records because of bureaucratic and technical barriers, while other states contend their laws prohibit the record sharing. State submission of records to NICS is voluntary.
-Matt Bewig
 
To Learn More:
States Aren’t Submitting Records To Gun Database (by Jeff Brady, All Things Considered-NPR)
 
Lawsuit Claims One-Third of California Drinking Water Contaminated with Cancer-Causing Chemical
Sunday, August 19, 2012
Lawsuit Claims One-Third of California Drinking Water Contaminated with Cancer-Causing Chemical
The movie Erin Brockovich  made the chemical carcinogen chromium-6 infamous in 2000. A state law was passed in California the following year requiring formulation of a standard limiting its presence in drinking water by 2004.
 
Eight years later, two environmental groups have sued the state not only for its failure to put a standard in place; but for not even having agreed on one.
 
The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Working Group filed suit in Alameda County Superior Court this week, pressing the government to accelerate the process. The state Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggested a “goal” in 2011, but it is up to the California Department of Public Health to set the standard.
 
The department’s website says it will release a draft recommendation next year on its way to a 2015 final determination.
 
Erin Brockovich chronicled the experience of residents in the small town of Hinckley, who were exposed to chromium-6 when Pacific Gas & Electric used the heavy metal to prevent rust in water towers. The water seeped into the groundwater and caused health problems that included bronchitis, asthma and lung cancer. PG&E settled with Hinckley residents in 1996 for $333 million.
 
There is some evidence that chromium-6 can damage DNA. Other studies have linked it to male reproductive harm, liver toxicity and blood disorders. The chemical is on California’s Prop. 65 list of substances known to cause cancer and reproductive harm.
 
It has long been known as dangerous if inhaled and in 2007 the federal government determined that it’s not OK to eat it either. There is no federal standard for chromium-6.
 
The state EPA suggested a standard of .02 parts per billion (ppb), which would be a significant improvement over levels found in some California cities by the Environmental Working Group. A 2010 study by the group found chromium-6 in 31 cities, including Riverside (1.69 ppb) and San Jose (1.34 ppb), both of which made the top 5 in the United States.
–Ken Broder
 
To Learn More:  
Environmentalists Say Carcinogen Is Rampant in California Water (by Rebekah Kearn, Courthouse News Service)
Suit Presses State on Chromium-6 (by Stephanie M. Lee, San Francisco Chronicle)
We Can't Wait Any Longer for Safe Drinking Water (by Sarah Janssen, Natural Resources Defense Council)
 
Army Suicide Record Set in July
Sunday, August 19, 2012
Army Suicide Record Set in July
Despite the winding down of the Afghanistan war and stronger mental health initiatives, the U.S. Army experienced its worst month in July with suicides.
 
A total of 38 soldiers killed themselves last month, making it the highest monthly total since the Army began releasing such figures in 2009.
 
Of the 38 suicides, 26 were active-duty personnel and 12 were either National Guardsmen or reservists not in uniform at the time of their deaths.
 
If the suicides continue on this pace for the remainder of 2012, the Army would lose about 200 active-duty troops this year, which would represent the highest yearly total in the past 10 years.
 
Army officials were disheartened by the news. They had hoped the reduction in combat deployments, along with new initiatives to improve mental health care, would result in a drop in the suicide rate.
 
July was a bad month not only for the Army but also other branches of the military. The Marine Corps recorded eight suicides, making July its worst month in 2012.
 
The Air Force had six in July, compared with two in June. The Navy had four last month. The Associated Press said the Navy’s June suicide total was not immediately available.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
To Learn More:
July Marked Worst Month for Army Suicides (by Greg Jaffe, Washington Post)
Army Suicides Doubled Last Month from June's Total (by Robert Burns, Associated Press)
U.S. Troop Suicides Surge (Again) (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
 
U.S. and the World
Judge Orders CIA to Turn over More Documents about Drug Kingpin Pablo Escobar
Monday, August 20, 2012
Judge Orders CIA to Turn over More Documents about Drug Kingpin Pablo Escobar
Although it might seem obvious, when searching for records related to Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, the Central Intelligence Agency must actually search for the name “Pablo Escobar,” and must search everywhere they might reasonably be found, according to a federal judge in Washington, DC. Escobar (Dec. 1, 1949–Dec. 2, 1993) founded the Medellín drug cartel, which in the 1980s controlled 80% of the global cocaine market, shipping 15 tons a day, worth more than $500 million, to eager consumers in the U.S. In 1989, Escobar made Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s richest people, with a net worth estimated at $3 billion.
 
Despite all that notoriety, the Washington-based think tank Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) has been fighting the CIA since 2004 to force the agency to turn over documents that may reveal its links to a vigilante group in Bogotá that helped track down Escobar. That group was PEPES (People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar), which was created by rival drug smugglers and illegal right-wing militias and maintained regular relations with the Colombian police and U.S. drug agents. PEPES harassed, tortured and killed Escobar’s relatives, associates and lawyers until police shot Escobar in 1993.
 
After PEPES disbanded, many of its members went on to found the illegal paramilitary group United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), which has killed thousands of civilians suspected of supporting leftist guerrillas. Many AUC leaders are now under U.S. indictment for drug-trafficking, which IPS researcher Paul Paz y Mino calls blowback from short-sighted U.S. decisions in the hunt for Escobar. “The kind of monster the U.S. helped create was, in many ways, worse than what they wanted to destroy,” he said about the PEPES transforming into the AUC. The AUC has been designated a terrorist organization by many countries and organizations, including the U.S. and the European Union.
 
Curious about ties between the CIA and PEPES, IPS sued the CIA in 2006 for making a legally inadequate response to an IPS FOIA request filed in 2004. IPS complained that the CIA improperly redacted the documents it turned over and failed to perform a complete search for records on Escobar and PEPES.
 
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that the CIA’s redactions were justified, but that the  CIA “failed to perform an adequate search by failing to search three of their five directorates as well as failing to search for plaintiff's requested term ‘Pablo Escobar.’” CIA officials admitted that in conducting their search, they did not even look through records at three of its directorates, of which there are five: Directorate of Intelligence (DI); National Clandestine Service (NCS); Directorate of Science and Technology (DS&T); Directorate of Support (DS); and Director of CIA Area (DCIA). The CIA argued that it did not search DS&T, NCS, or DC for responsive records “because the files most likely to have information responsive to the request would be exempt” under the FOIA statute.
 
Judge Lamberth ruled that the Freedom of Inforamation Act requires the CIA, or any agency, to “made a good faith effort to conduct a search for the requested records,” and that the CIA’s “failure to search the remaining three directorates while admitting that they would likely contain records responsive to plaintiff’s search does not rise to the level of an adequate search,” noting that the agency would have the opportunity to claim that certain records were exempt from disclosure.
 
He also ruled that searching only for “Escobar” and not for “Pablo Escobar” was inadequate, rejecting the CIA’s claim that even admitting the existing of records containing the name “Pablo Escobar” could harm national security, as Escobar has been dead for nearly 20 years.
- Matt Bewig
 
To Learn More:
CIA Must Extend Search for Pablo Escobar Docs (by Ryan Abbott, Courthouse News Service)
Institute for Policy Studies v. CIA (U.S. District Court, D.C., 2012) (pdf)
 
U.S. Increases Dependence on Oil Supplied by Saudi Royal Family
Sunday, August 19, 2012
U.S. Increases Dependence on Oil Supplied by Saudi Royal Family
After years of working to reduce its dependence on Persian Gulf oil supplies, the U.S. has increased its petroleum imports from Saudi Arabia.
 
Over the past 12 months, American imports from the Saudi kingdom have increased by more than 20%. Experts say the change was prompted by fears of military conflict with Iran, which could disrupt oil shipments from Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing countries in the region. Supporters of increased imports also cite reductions in oil production in Mexico and Venezuela.
 
The increase in Saudi oil purchases has upset both conservative and liberal foreign policy experts.
 
“At a time when there is a rising chance of either a nuclear Iran or an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, we should be trying to reduce our reliance on oil going through the Strait of Hormuz and not increasing it,” Michael Makovsky, a former Defense Department official who worked on Middle East issues in the George W. Bush administration, told The New York Times.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
To Learn More:
U.S. Reliance on Saudi Oil Heads Back Up (by Clifford Krauss, New York Times)
 
Investigation Turns Up Only 10 Cases of Voter Impersonation Nationwide…in 10 Years
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Investigation Turns Up Only 10 Cases of Voter Impersonation Nationwide…in 10 Years
Voter impersonation, the reason why more than half of all U.S. states have adopted or considered voter identification laws, is virtually non-existent, according to an investigative news study.
 
After examining 2,068 cases of voter fraud since 2000, News21, a Carnegie-Knight investigative reporting project, found only 10 cases involving in-person voter impersonation.
 
That’s 10 cases out of 146 million registered voters, or one for every 15 million prospective voters.
 
And yet 37 states have enacted or deliberated on voter ID laws that require individuals to produce photo identification at polling places in order to cast their ballots.
 
“Voter fraud at the polls is an insignificant aspect of American elections,” David Schultz, professor of public policy at Hamline University School of Business in St. Paul, Minnesota, told News21. “There is absolutely no evidence that [voter impersonation fraud] has affected the outcome of any election in the United States, at least any recent election in the United States.”
 
The investigation found more fraud cases with absentee ballots (491) and voter registration (400), neither of which can be prevented by voter ID laws.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
To Learn More:

  

 
Appointments and Resignations
Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs: Who Is Kevin Washburn?
Sunday, August 12, 2012
Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs: Who Is Kevin Washburn?
Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs: Who Is Kevin Washburn?
 
On August 2, 2012, President Barack Obama nominated a law professor with experience in American Indian law and gambling law to succeed Larry EchoHawk as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs. A member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, Kevin K. Washburn has been Dean of the University of New Mexico School of Law in Albuquerque since June 2009. The nomination is subject to confirmation by the Senate.
 
Born in 1967 in Southeastern Oklahoma, Washburn earned a BA in Economics at the University of Oklahoma in 1989, attended law school at the Washington University Law School in St. Louis for one year, before transferring to Yale Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the Yale Journal on Regulation and earned his JD in 1993. Washburn actually began his legal education at the University of New Mexico School of Law as a student at the American Indian Law Center’s Pre-law Summer Institute.
 
Pursuing a career in public service after graduating law school, Washburn served as a judicial law clerk for Judge William C. Canby, Jr., an expert in American Indian law, on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Phoenix, Arizona, from August 1993 to July 1994. Washburn then relocated to Washington D.C., to serve as a trial attorney at the Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division from 1994 to 1997. At the DOJ, Washburn successfully argued the case of Montana v. EPA, in which the Ninth Circuit upheld an Environmental Protection Agency decision to recognize the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes as a state for purposes of setting water quality standards under the Clean Water Act. Changing jobs at the DOJ, Washburn served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the Violent Crimes Section from 1997 to 2000. During this time, Washburn also taught at UNM as an adjunct professor. Washburn’s first official foray into practicing American Indian law came when he returned to Washington to serve as general counsel at the National Indian Gaming Commission from January 2000 to July 2002.
 
Washburn began his academic career as an associate professor of law at the University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis, where he taught from 2002 to 2008, although he was resident in Massachusetts for the 2007–2008 academic year as the Oneida Indian Nation Visiting Associate Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He was Rosenstiel Distinguished Professor of Law at the Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona in Tucson from 2008 to 2009, where he taught contracts, criminal law, and gambling law.
 
Among his many academic publications, Washburn has listed the following as representative: The Legacy of Bryan v. Itasca County: How an Erroneous $147 County Tax Notice Helped Bring Tribes $200 Billion in Indian Gaming Revenue (2008); Restoring the Grand Jury (2008); American Indians, Crime, and the Law (2006); and Federal Criminal Law and Tribal Self-Determination (2006). He has served as a trustee on the Law School Admission Council from 2006 to present; as a member of the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Native American Sentencing Issues of the United States Sentencing Commission from 2002 to 2004; and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Innocence Project of Minnesota from 2002 to 2003.
 
Washburn is married to Elizabeth “Libby” Rodke Washburn, who currently serves as the state director for U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico), and they have two children. A Democrat, Washburn has contributed $3,050 to Democratic candidates and causes, including $525 to ActBlue in 2009, $525 to Sen. Michael Bennett (D-Colorado) in 2009, and $2,000 to John Kelly’s unsuccessful campaign for Congress in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District in 2000. Libby Washburn has contributed $1,250: $250 to Dave Obey (D-Wisconsin), who was U.S. Representative for Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District from 1969 until 2011, in 2009, and $1,000 to Sen. Bennett in 2010.
-Matt Bewig
 
Biography (University of New Mexico School of Law)

  

 
Director of the Missile Defense Agency: Who Is James Syring?
Saturday, August 11, 2012
Director of the Missile Defense Agency: Who Is James Syring?
In the wake of the dismissal of Lieutenant General Patrick O’Reilly as head of the Missile Defense Agency for outrageously abusive conduct toward his staff, President Barack Obama has nominated Rear Admiral James D. Syring to be promoted to Vice Admiral and head the agency, which researches, develops, and tests missile defense programs. Syring takes the helm of an agency which, since its founding during the Reagan administration as the Strategic Defense Initiative, or “Star Wars” program, has had several high-profile failures and where O’Reilly’s tenure led to plummeting morale. The agency has an annual budget of $8 billion. As for O’Reilly, who is expected to leave in August, military rules require that he be demoted to major general if his departure occurs before the end of his expected four-year term in November, according to Pentagon officials.
 
Born circa 1963, James Syring hails from Muncie, Indiana, where he graduated Northside High School in 1981. He earned a BS in Marine Engineering at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1985, and an MS in Mechanical Engineering from the Naval Post Graduate School in 1992.
 
Commissioned as a Navy ensign upon graduating from Annapolis, Syring was designated an engineering duty officer. At sea, he qualified as a surface warfare officer on the USS Downes (FF 1070) where he served as auxiliaries, electrical and electronics material officer. Syring served as ship superintendent for the USS Port Royal (CG 73) and Aegis test officer for the new construction DDG 51 class ships on the staff of the supervisor of Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi, from 1992 to 1996. Continuing his work on the DDG 51 class ships, which is the Navy’s first class of destroyer built around the Aegis Combat System and the SPY-1D multifunction phased array radar, Syring was combat systems, test and trials officer in the DDG 51 Aegis Shipbuilding Program Office from 1996 to 1999 and combat systems baseline manager at the Aegis Technical Division, responsible for new construction Aegis baseline computer program development from 1999 to 2001. Syring served as director for Surface Combatants in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, where he provided advice on acquisition issues related to several classes of ships, including the CG 47 cruisers, DDG 51 destroyers, DDG 1000 destroyers and LCS class ships from 2001 to 2003.
 
Syring served in the DDG 1000 Shipbuilding Program for the following seven years, first as technical director from 2003 to 2005, and then as program manager from 2005 to 2010. Since 2010, Syring has served as the program executive officer for Integrated Warfare Systems in the Naval Sea Systems Command.
-Matt Bewig
 
DDG 1000 Moves Forward as Budget Battles Fade (by Christopher P. Cavas, Navy Times)
 

  

 
Ambassador to Pakistan: Who Is Richard Olson?
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Ambassador to Pakistan: Who Is Richard Olson?
In the wake of the resignation of career diplomat Cameron Munter, who was a casualty of Pakistani anger over civilian deaths and U.S. covert actions there, President Obama on July 17 nominated career diplomat Richard Olson, who served as Coordinating Director for Development and Economic Affairs at the Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, from June 2011 to June 2012, to take over the embassy in Islamabad.
 
Born circa 1959, Olson earned an AB in Law & Society and History at Brown University in 1981. Joining the Foreign Service in 1982, Olson served early career assignments in Mexico, Uganda, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia (as the embassy’s liaison officer to General Norman Schwarzkopf during the 1991 Gulf War) and Ethiopia. Olson served in the United Arab Emirates, both at the embassy in Abu Dhabi from 1999 to 2001 and as U.S. consul general in Dubai from 2001 to 2003.
 
In the aftermath of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Olson volunteered to work with the Coalition Provisional Authority as governorate coordinator for the province of Najaf in Southern Iraq. Olson served as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Mission to NATO in Brussels, Belgium, from 2006 to 2008, followed by service as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates from 2008 to 2011, which was his first ambassadorship.
 
Olson’s Washington assignments include service at the State Department Operations Center (twice), on the NATO Desk, at the Office of Israel and Palestine Affairs (twice, including as director), and at the Office of Iraqi Affairs, including as director.
 
Olson and wife Deborah Jones (a Foreign Service Officer who served as Ambassador to Kuwait from 2008 to 2011) have two daughters. In his spare time, Olson is an avid cyclist, and competed in the March 2011 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon (sprint).
-Matt Bewig
 

Obama Names New Afghan, Pakistan Envoys (Dawn.com, Pakistan) 

 
Domestic Policy/Agency of the Day

Department of the Air Force

The US Air Force (USAF) constitutes the aviation component of the Armed Services, providing tactical, strategic and logistical air support for US military operations. USAF also is charged with operational command of US nuclear forces. Some of the most advanced weapons systems in the US military have been developed for the Air Force, often at great costs and involving much controversy.  
 

Domestic Policy Divisions

Foreign Policy/Nation of the Day

Somalia

Located in eastern Africa, Somalia was under Portuguese and British rule from the 15th through the 19th centuries. During World War II, Italian troops overran Somalia, though the British took the country back after the end of the war and helped Somalia move toward independence. Somalia gained its independence as a united nation in 1960 and adopted its first constitution in 1961. It was originally forged as a democratic government with a parliamentary system, but in 1969. President Abdirashid Ali Shermake was assassinated in 1969 and a military coup installed Muhammad Siad Barre as president. This led to decades of repression and war.   In January 1991, President Barre was ousted from his position by northern and southern clan-based forces, furthering a turbulent government situation that has continued until the present-day. In late 1991, the Somaliland region of Somalia in the northwestern section of the country declared itself independent, and although it is not recognized as an independent country by any other nation it has enjoyed relative stability since its separation. Since 1991, the regions of Puntland, Jubaland, and Maakhir have also seceded and formed individual governments.   In August 2000, the Transitional National Government (TNG) was formed, but was plagued with internal problems and disruptive foreign intervention. The TNG was succeeded by the Transitional Federal Government, created in November 2004 and is backed by the United Nations, the African Union, and the U.S.   Since 1991, Somalia has undergone several changes in leadership, the current leader being President Sharif Ahmed, who was elected in January 2009.   In recent years, Islamist insurgents, who have declared allegiance to al-Qaeda, have fought against the government and against Ethiopian forces inside Somalia to regain control of most of southern Somalia.   Somali pirates have also become a major threat to international business and shipping due to a long-term absence of authority in the country, which has caused NATO to initiate an anti-piracy operation.   In response to the failure of the Somali military, the U.S. helped fund a training program in Djibouti during 2009. The program enlisted 1,000 soldiers, each of whom were supposed to receive a salary of $100 per month. However, the absence of funds resulted in no pay for the soldiers, leading about half to desert the Somali army and return home or join the al-Shabaab militants. This failure to fund the salaries of soldiers threatens the ability of the U.S. and the European Union to build up a successful Somali army.
 

Nations

Meet Your Government

Jones, B. Todd

In the wake of recent revelations that an undercover ATF operation designed to track illegal guns purchased in the U.S. to Mexican drug cartels has lost track of more than 1,000 guns, Acting ATF Director Ken Melson was re-assigned to the Justice Department Office of Legal Policy. Attorney General Eric Holder has asked B. Todd Jones to serve as Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). This is not the first time that Jones has been called in to fill a position left open by the resignation of a controversial official.   Jones will continue to serve simultaneously as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota. No stranger to wearing more than one professional hat at a time, Jones will remain in Minnesota and expects to leave ATF as soon as a permanent director is found.    Born May 23, 1957, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Jones’s father was in the Air Force, and the family moved quite often. After graduating from Wyoming High School in Cincinnati in 1975, Jones earned his B.A. in Political Science from Macalester College in 1979 and his J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1983. During his senior year of college, he worked as an intern in the office of Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey, and he has said that his internship inspired him to a career in public service, which he also says is “in his blood.”   Immediately following admission to the Minnesota bar, Jones went on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he served as an infantry officer with the 7th Marine Regiment and subsequently as both defense counsel and prosecutor in a number of courts martial proceedings. In fact, it may be military service that runs in Jones’ family, because his great-great-grandfather served in the Ohio Colored Infantry during the Civil War.    Upon leaving active duty in 1989, Jones worked as an associate attorney at Oppenheimer, Wolff & Donnelly from 1989 to 1992. In 1991, Jones was recalled as a Marine Corps Reservist for the first war in Iraq and served as the commanding officer of the fourth Marine Division Military Police Company until his honorable discharge in 1998.    During those same years, Jones served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota from 1992 to 1994. He returned to private practice as a partner with Greene Espel from 1994 to 1997, and served as First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota from 1997 to 1998. In 1998, Senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minnesota) recommended Jones as the next U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, and President Bill Clinton nominated him. He served from 1998 to 2001, resigning upon the election of Republican George W. Bush.    Back in private practice, Jones returned briefly to Greene Espel, but soon left that firm and became a partner at the much larger firm of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi from 2001 to 2009, where his practice focused on complex business litigation and corporate criminal defense.    In 2009, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) recommended Jones for his old job as U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota. The previous Attorney, Rachel Paulose, had resigned in 2007 following allegations of mishandling of classified reports and a dictatorial management style. President Obama nominated Jones, and he has served in that role from 2009 to the present. Ironically, six years earlier, in 2003, Jones and Klobuchar clashed in a high profile criminal trial in Minneapolis, with Klobuchar’s office prosecuting former Minnesota Twins baseball Hall-of-Famer Kirby Puckett for rape and Jones defending him. The trial ended in an acquittal on all charges.    Shortly after beginning his second stint as Minnesota’s U.S. Attorney, Jones was asked by Attorney General Eric Holder to chair the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee (AGAC) of U.S. Attorneys, which provides advice and counsel to the Attorney General on policy, management and operational issues affecting U.S. Attorneys Offices throughout the country, and also represents U.S. Attorneys in the decision-making process at the Department.    Jones will be no stranger to the issues faced by ATF, for during his years as a federal prosecutor, he conducted grand jury investigations and was lead trial lawyer in many federal prosecutions involving drug trafficking, firearms, financial fraud and violent crime. As U.S. Attorney, moreover, Jones has advocated a community-based approach in dealing with Arab-American communities, many of which feel stereotyped in the current Islamophobic environment.    Jones has been married since 1980 to Margaret Samanant, whom he met in college, and the couple has three sons and two daughters. According to the website OpenSecrets, Jones has contributed $12,947 to Democratic candidates and causes since 2002.    Department of Justice Press Release Announcing the Jones Appointment Federal Agent: How B. Todd Jones Became the Man to Put the U.S. Attorney’s House Back in Order (by Frank Bures, Minnesota Monthly) New Acting Director of ATF B. Todd Jones Will Tackle “Lack of Stability” (by Steven John and Sasha Aslanian, Minnesota Public Radio) Washington called, U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones answered (by Ruben Rosario, St. Paul Pioneer Press)    
 
Blog

AllGov France Launched

It is with great pleasure that we announce the launch of AllGov France, the first expansion of AllGov outside the United States. Like allgov.com, allgov.fr is built on a foundation of hundreds of trustworthy, well-researched articles about a wide variety of government departments and their leaders. On top of this foundation we are adding daily news that concentrates on policy, but also includes a healthy dose of the odd and unusual.   AllGov France is headed by editor Guillaume Serina and staffed by a dozen freelance journalists, all of whom are French citizens based in France. Soon all content on the site will be mirrored in English.   It is our intention to continue adding AllGovs for the government of every nation in the world.   In June we will be launching AllGov California, the first of 50 state AllGovs.   We look forward to comments and suggestions from site users. -David Wallechinsky Editor-in-Chief AllGov