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Need a Lyft? Ride-sharing company ‘burning’ through money

+ As Lyft raises $500 million, it is “burning through tens of millions of dollars a month,” losing $127 million in the first half of 2015 on $46.7 million in revenue, according to private fundraising documents obtained by Bloomberg. In a sign of its intense focus on growth in a competitive environment, the ride-sharing company spent $96.1 million on marketing during that period, more than twice its net revenue.

+ Here’s a simple math problem that even my 2nd-grade son should be able to figure out: How many $500 AK-47s can you buy with $500 million? That’s how much oil revenue ISIS takes in every year through its control of lucrative oil fields and the petroleum infrastructure in Iraq, which is five times higher than initial U.S. intelligence estimates, a gross miscalculation that severely underestimated the terror group’s financial health.

+ A Texas Congressman, who’s also second-generation auto dealer, tucked an amendment into the massive transportation bill that passed the House of Representatives last week that helps his family business. The little-noticed provision from Rep. Roger Williams “would allow dealers to rent or loan out vehicles even if they are subject to safety recalls,” reports the Center for Public Integrity’s John Dunbar.

+ The comptroller of financially-strapped Puerto Rico, Yesmín M. Valdivieso Galib, was fined for claiming a homestead tax exemption in FL while living on the island, reports the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo.

This government agency is putting the finances of students in jeopardy

+ It’s a glaring cybersecurity risk that very few people pay attention to: The U.S. Department of Education, which manages more $1 trillion in student loan debt, is putting in jeopardy the finances of students and their parents by not doing more to prevent attacks by hackers. Over a quarter of reported cyber-incidents involving the mishandling of data, including personal information, according to the Government Accountability Office.

+ The Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, which is partly funded by California taxpayers, spent $11 million on hospital equipment that is now missing, reports NBC Bay Area.

+ A former top fundraiser for the University of Georgia, Deborah Dietzler, “abused her position” to skip work and run marathons at taxpayer expense, booking flights and hotels in cities where she wanted to run marathons, according to an investigation by WSB-TV and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

+ As part of Essential Air Service, a little-known controversial $246 million government program to support airports in small cities, dozens of commercial flights depart without passengers or with nearly empty loads, reports the News4 I-Team (Washington D.C.).

 

Top Valeant exec in the sights of Congressional investigators

+ He may just have the worst Bond villain name imaginable but Laizer Kornwasser is becoming a poster boy for the burgeoning scandal over Valeant, the drug company under fire for its price increases and relationship with specialty pharmacy, Philidor Rx Services. Kornwasser is the highest-ranking exec at the company to be on the radar of Congressional Democrats investigating Valeant and he’s one of the main characters in the damning report (see below) published a few weeks ago, which noted that he was hired personally by CEO Michael Pearson on the same day that Philidor was incorporated in Delaware.

+ One of the biggest politically active nonprofits in the country was virtually the only supporter of Carolina Rising, the North Carolina group that spent $4.7 million on ads supporting now-Sen. Thom Tillis’ successful run to unseat incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan in 2014, reports the Center for Responsive Politics.

+ Three major universities in Texas – Texas A&M University, the University of Houston and Trinity University – are being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights over how they handled allegations of sexual violence on their campuses, according to documents obtained by The Texas Tribune.

+ In a case that highlights how white-collar crime remains a relatively low priority for state prosecutors, a couple implicated in a Ponzi scheme that stole more than $1 million in cash and diamonds from Atlanta victims was released on low bail (and subsequently fled to New York City) because the judge didn’t want to put them in jail for what is considered a property crime, reports Atlanta TV station, 11Alive.

Watch this report from 11Alive:

Top fashion designers breaking laws by importing protected animal products

+ Some of the most well-known fashion labels in the world, including Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Tom Ford and Alexander McQueen, have been caught violating international laws by importing protected animal products, reports NBC4’s I-Team. “I think the general public would be shocked at how much wildlife is still imported and exported to and from the United States,” says Fish and Wildlife supervisor Erin Dean, whose agency has seized more than 10,000 items imported to the U.S. since 2010.

+ The state of Minnesota is failing thousands of adults living with disabilites, segregating them and putting them in low-paying jobs with little room for growth, reports the Star Tribune in “A Matter of Dignity,” a five-day series of stories.

+ The use of pesticides on marijuana crops is a threat to public safety, warns Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper in the wake of multiple reports about the potential danger and a lawsuit against the LivWell chain of dispensaries for alleged use of Eagle 20, a petroleum-based fungicide, on marijuana.

+ Vladimir Putin’s daughter, Katerina, and her boyfriend, Kirill Shamalov, have corporate holdings worth about $2 billion, largely from a stake in a major gas and petrochemical company that Kirill acquired from a longtime friend of Putin, according to estimates provided to Reuters by financial analysts.

This tiny provision in the highway bill will make tech workers a lot of money

+ Tucked inside the massive highway bill moving through Congress is a huge benefit for employees at Uber and other private tech companies – the deregulation of trading of private shares, “making it easier for workers to sell their stock to wealthy investors, as long as their employers don’t block the transactions,” reports Bloomberg News.

+ Three prominent conservatives — including a top fundraiser for GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio — are linked to a “dark money” nonprofit that failed to disclose several million dollars spent on candidate-related TV ads, according to documents released Friday by the Federal Election Commission, reports the Center for Public Integrity.

+ Great lesson in how to make journalism work for readers: When the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill released 200,000 pages of emails, memos and other files related to teachers and coaches conspiring to inflate grades and give preferential treatment to student-athletes, the documents were not searchable. But WRAL News staffers uploaded the emails to DocumentCloud and converted the PDFs into searchable text.

+ For at least a decade, the FBI conducted surveillance of School of Americas Watch, an activist group seeking to close the notorious US-backed institution that trains Latin American military officials who have been implicated in massacres of opposition groups.

+ One of ExxonMobil’s massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) project is illegally occupying land owned by the Tuguba tribe in Australia’s Southern Highlands province, says a tribal chief. Simon Ekanda claims that the tribe never gave its permission and that certain processes such as land identification and social mapping were ignored in the rush to complete the job.

Veterans agency continues to mislead on wait-time manipulation

+ As the nation honors its veterans today, the head of the Veterans Administration continues to mislead the public about the agency’s notorious problems getting vets the medical care they deserve in a timely manner. During a speech last Friday at the National Press Club, Robert McDonald said 300 VA staffers are facing disciplinary action for manipulating the data over wait-times for veterans. But fact-checkers at the Washington Post point out that actually far fewer such employees – about 15 – face discipline, according to the VA’s own records.

+ Six months after FOX6’s Brad Hicks began his “Risk on the Rails” that raised questions about railroad secrecy on bridge safety, the federal government is taking action by warning the industry. “If railroads continue to respond with silence on the issue of bridge safety, Congress will ask us to step in more aggressively,” Sarah Feinberg, new Federal Railroad Administration administrator said.

+ In Texas, where officers are required by law to record the race of every person they pull over as part of a policy intended to prevent racial profiling, almost 2 million reports incorrectly marked the race of Hispanics as “white,” reports KXAN Austin.

+ In an incident that will add steam to anti-immigration rhetoric, a Dallas police officer was run over outside a nightclub, requiring hospitalization due to his severe injuries, by a suspect who has been deported three times but habitually avoids Border Patrol in his crossings.

Hedge funds push back against proposal to pause deals when banks fail

+ Hedge funds are pushing back against proposals to keep securities financing agreements – called repos – and securities lending transactions intact for up to 48 hours after a bank fails, reports Bloomberg. Such an effort, which is intended to allow the healthy unwinding of a giant bank without hurting the larger economy, could threaten the investments of hedge fund clients, argues the Managed Funds Association, a lobbying group for that sector.

+ British defense firm Mondial Defence Systems is being probed by the FBI over alleged kickbacks paid to an American citizen to help secure a Pentagon contract to supply troops with bomb-disposal equipment, reports the Independent.

+ Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and 11 other senators are pushing a bill to expand the independence of agency inspector generals and to allow them access to all agency records, in the wake of a recent Justice Department decision that limits such access.

+ Must-read dramatic story by the NYT’s Ian Urbina about the illegal “manning agencies” that trick villagers in the Philippines with false promises of high wages and send them to ships notorious for poor safety and labor records.

Clinton-linked consulting firm refuses to answer Senate questions

+ Teneo, the global consulting firm with strong ties to Hillary Clinton, denied that it wielded undue influence on the State Department, when Clinton was the country’s top diplomat, and it declined to answer questions posed by a Senate panel examining the issue, reports Reuters. One of the unanswered questions was about a three-hour meeting in 2012 at the firm’s office with Cheryl Mills when she was chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Clinton.

+ The family of Louisiana State University running back Leonard Fournette may have committed a NCAA violation by starting an online business to capitalize on his potential star power – but they shut it down just before his freshman season.

+ Only by having a form accidentally left in his mailbox did longtime activist Leslie James Pickering find out that he was being investigated by the FBI, ATF and other government agencies, which were tracking nearly his every move. After a lengthy public records battle, the former unofficial spokesperson of the Earth Liberation Front who now owns a bookstore, he realized that his FBI file is more than 30,000 pages long and dates back to the early 1990s, he told an audience in Worcester, Mass:

“When you find out you’re under surveillance … it can be really intimidating,” he said before the talk. “A lot of people run and hide and call it quits because of this. We want to set a different example and show people you can turn lemons into lemonade, so to speak, and continue to fight.”

+ Journalists in Canada are calling for changes to the country’s freedom of information laws on the federal and provincial level. Though such laws are being used more frequently to uncover important information – including the 2014 disclosure of a TransCanada gas pipeline rupture in northern Alberta – there’s also been a troubling increase in “exceptions and refusals.”

+ Take a look at the redesigned website for the Ground Truth Project, which is dedicated to “training a new generation of international correspondents and documentary filmmakers to go out in the world to produce social justice journalism that enlightens and informs.”

Feds failed to protect 1,800 wild horses sold for slaughter

+ Over a four-year period, the federal government sold 1,800 wild horses for $10 apiece to a Colorado rancher, Tom Davis, who assured them that he would not sell them to a slaughterhouse. But he did just that, selling them for about $100 each “across to border to Mexico, where he knew they would be killed for their meat,” reports GovExec. The Bureau of Land Management is being faulted for failing to enforce its own policies to make sure that no harm would come to the horses, according to a report by the Interior Department’s inspector general.

+ Must-read by the Center for Public Integrity’s Jamie Smith Hopkins: For workers who suffer from chemically induced illnesses and other job-related diseases that take years to develop, the current workers’ compensation system is hardly effective, leaving them to bear the burden of the health care costs.

+ An Alabama couple who claim that anti-nausea drug Zofran caused their child’s birth defects – their son had three holes in his heart – is suing drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline in federal court, claiming that the company hid its knowledge of such serious side effects from patients. Since these allegations first surfaced in February, more than 60 individual person injury lawsuits have been consolidated.

+ The conservative hero who made headlines by challenging the Federal Election Commission’s right to limit individual donations to candidates and political groups wants to be a delegate for Donald Trump. “He’s an outsider. He’s got resources. And he’s tapping into what the American people want: a fighter,” Shaun McCutcheon told Bloomberg.

 

In wake of budget cuts, violence doubles at Florida’s mental hospitals

+ After a $100 million budget cut, violence is on the rise at Florida’s six largest mental hospitals – almost 1,000 patients have hurt themselves or someone else and at least 15 people have died since 2009, according to an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

+ Here’s the tiny drug company outside of Belfast that has helped at least four huge U.S. drug giants avoid paying billions in taxes. Pfizer could be the next one to reap such benefits through an inversion, if it succeeds in buying Allergan.

+ The prime minister of Malaysia caught up in a corruption scandal won’t sue the Wall Street Journal for defamation because he is not well known enough in the U.S., according to his lawyers. In July, the WSJ reported that $700 million was transferred from a government-controlled investment fund into bank accounts belonging to Datuk Seri Najib Razak, prompting multiple probes in that country.

+ Government officials in Kenya have been looting millions from a youth enterprise development fund and spending the money to buy high-end real estate, reports the Daily Nation.

+ The head of laboratory safety at George Washington University – who oversees and protects the school’s radioactive materials and equipment – has been placed on administrative leave amid accusations of plagiarism and creating a harmful work environment, reports the GW Hatchet.

+ In case you missed it, read the NYT’s massive probe into how a group of corporate lawyers held a meeting in Manhattan in 1999 and plotted to increase the use of arbitration – rather than class-action suits – to settle consumer complaints, which has effectively taken away the right to sue. They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams and now arbitration clauses are quietly inserted into almost contract or agreement signed by consumers and employees, in which they agreed to abide by rules that effectively privatize the justice system by favoring businesses, “and judges and juries have been replaced by arbitrators who commonly consider the companies their clients, The Times found.”