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The most interesting news about politics, including the 2016 presidential race

Over a year after VA exposé, some vets are ‘actually waiting longer for care’

+ Since massive backlogs at Veterans Affairs hospitals were exposed last summer, the agency has spent billions of dollars on improvements but today many vets in Portland and elsewhere are “actually waiting longer for care than they were before the backlogs were brought to light,” reports KOIN 6 News. The rate of vets in Portland who had to wait over 30 days for care (7%) was more than twice the national average of 3%.

+ After a yearlong internal investigation, Nestle confirms that the fish in its Purina pet food is caught by impoverished migrant workers who are lured by false promises to labor in brutal conditions.

+ In the wake of an Army colonel’s allegations that the Pentagon is dragging its heels on his performance review because he raised concerns about a $800 million tax force that supervised a ridiculous expensive $43 million natural gas filling station in Afghanistan, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is demanding answers from Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

+ Two teens died in a car crash at a railroad crossing in Miami, despite multiple complaints over the past two years to CSX Transportation about problems with the intersection, reports NBC 6.

Just across the border, Canada is preparing to welcome 700 Syrians a day

+ Amid strong resistance from many U.S. lawmakers to taking in Syrian refugees – and just across a relatively porous border – Canada is preparing for a flood of immigrants from the war-torn country. As many as 900 Syrian refugees could land each day – or 6,300 per week – in Toronto and Montreal starting as soon as December 1, as part of “Operation Syrian Refugees,” according to documents obtained by CTV News. They will be screened by Canadian officials, who will examine documents and biometric data.

+ Bill and Hillary Clinton have spent over four decades cultivating a global network of donors, raising at least $3 billion for their political campaigns and the family’s charitable foundation, according to a stunning investigation by the Washington Post. Along the way, the power couple pioneered fundraising techniques “that have transformed modern politics and paved the way for them to potentially become the first husband and wife to win the White House.”


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:

Fuel for nuclear bomb being peddled by black marketeer in Russia

+ The highly-enriched uranium in a blue shopping bag that a Russian military officer’s wife handed off to smuggler four years ago was just one of three incidents that can be linked to a black marketeer looking for a buyer, according to U.S. officials, as reported by the Center for Public Integrity. In all the cases, the nuclear material could be traced to a restricted military installation in Russia.

+ The new blacklist: How some drug companies keep out shareholder activists, including such infamous personalities as Bill Ackman, Carl Icahn, and Dan Loeb.

+ President Obama’s nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration has been hailed as an expert on the clinical testing of prescription drugs, but Robert Califf “helped lead a clinical trial that was sharply criticized by FDA reviewers and some outside advisors to the agency,” reports the Project on Government Oversight. The clinical trial of blood thinner Xarelto was biased in favor of the experimental drug, according to an an FDA staff review.

+ If you live in a glass house, don’t expect privacy when you’re looking at porn. A prominent member of a judicial panel in Philadelphia weighing sanctions against a judge over offensive emails was himself a recipient of pornographic messages exchanged among another justice and law enforcement officials, according to documents obtained by The Philadelphia Inquirer.


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.

Where does your state rank when it comes to corruption?

Where does your state rank? Only 3 states scored higher than a D+ in this State Integrity investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, which found that statehouses are rife with secrecy, questionable ethics and conflicts of interest.

+ Railroad companies hauling crude oil and other hazardous liquids through Minnesota still have not fully complied with a state law requiring them to detail their spill response plans, according to documents obtained by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

+ Child molesters, drug dealers and other criminals are increasingly using encryption technology on their phones to hide evidence that police and law enforcement officials say they can no longer access, even with a search warrant, reports Scripps News and the Toronto Star.

+ Donald Trump charges an average $250,000 per speech, commanding the biggest speaking fees of all the presidential candidates, closely followed by Hillary Clinton’s average $235,000 fee.

+ Allegations that Sen. Bob Corker may have engaged in insider trading and made false statements on his financial disclosure forms prompted the Campaign for Accountability to call for an SEC investigation of the powerful lawmaker. Per the group’s release this morning:

“Between 2008 and 2015, Sen. Corker, his wife and daughters made an astonishing 70 trades of stock in the real estate investment giant CBL & Associates Properties – more than triple the number of transactions he made of any other stock. Some of the trades closely preceded company announcements that led to changes in the stock’s price and seemingly resulted in the senator making millions of dollars.”

According to the group’s executive director Anne Weismann, “Sen. Corker’s trades followed a consistent pattern — he bought low and sold high. It beggars belief to suggest these trades – netting the senator and his family millions – were mere coincidences.”

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.”