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

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.

 

Nearly 1,000 cops have lost their badges due to sexual misconduct

+ Nearly 1,000 police officers have lost their badges in recent years due to sexual misconduct, according to a yearlong investigation by the Associated Press. That doesn’t count states such as California and New York, which don’t have a statewide system for keeping records of such dismissals.

+ Prominent U.S. senators plan to investigate large price increases in drugs sold by Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Retrophin, Rodelis Therapeutics and Turing, which made headlines for its move to increase the price of an anti-infection drug from $13.50 to $750 per tablet last month. The senate’s Special Committee on Aging, led by Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) will hold a hearing on the issue on December 9.

+ A predatory debt collector in Minnesota’s manual for employees was a smoking bazooka of abusive and deceptive practices” that included such ploys as threatening people by invoking the IRS, suspending their professional licenses and a sheriff’s sale of their property, according to documents obtained by investigators for the state’s Commerce Department. Tucker, Albin and Associates was hit with a record civil penalty by the department in July.

+ Two members of legendary hip-hop group Wu Tang Clan were once investigated by the FBI over suspicions that Raekwon and RZA had marked Staten Island gangsters Anthony and Harvey Christian for death over alleged robberies of members of their own family, according to newly-released documents obtained by the Staten Island Advance. “The Detectives have documented, in their case files that the WTC is heavily involved in the sale of drugs, illegal guns, weapons possession, murder, car jackings, and other types of violent crimes,” the FBI document read. “It is believed that the [REDACTED] sometimes carry out enforcement actions for the WTC which include beatings, shootings, and murder.”

How ’60 Minutes’ stole this reporter’s idea without giving any credit

+ How “60 Minutes” took Sam Quinones’s story idea on the heroin epidemic in Ohio – on which he spent years reporting, interviewing hundreds of people and poring over documents – without crediting him or his excellent book, “Dreamland,” in its show on Sunday night. He writes on his blog: “The whole episode reminds me that 60 Minutes is no longer a standard bearer of anything except cost containment. Shows like 60 Minutes no longer set the national debate. They’re followers, imitators, now, where once they were leaders.”

+ Georgia ranks first among all non-border states in deportations of undocumented immigrants, according to an investigation by Atlanta’s WSB-TV. In fiscal year, there were 7,120 immigrants who were deported – of the 1,173 who had felony convictions, nearly half had been removed at least once before.

+ It shouldn’t be surprising but there are actually some members of Congress who are opposed to providing public access to formal reports by the indispensable Congressional Research Service, a much-respected legislative branch.

+ The last installment of the NYT’s excellent investigative series on the increasing use of arbitration by companies across the country takes a look at how religious tribunals are being used to settle secular problems such as claims of financial fraud and wrongful death. After their son Nick Ellison died from taking drugs shortly after leaving a Christian substance abuse program, his parents couldn’t take the group to court but had to attend sessions run by Peacemaker Ministries, which does mediation incorporating prayer and scripture.

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.”

For-profit school hired investigator to ‘follow’ reporter in Miami

+ Every journalist’s nightmare scenario: Shortly after the Miami Herald’s Michael Vasquez started reporting on questionable business practices at Dade Medical College, the for-profit school hired a private investigator to “follow” him and dig up information on him.

+ Now Hillary Clinton is jumping in to endorse a federal investigation of ExxonMobil, amid reports that the oil giant engaged in a cover-up to mislead the public about the risks of man-made climate change, which were discovered by its own scientists in the 1970s and 1980s. “Yes, yes, they should,” Clinton said, when asked about the issue at a town hall in New Hampshire on Thursday. “There’s a lot of evidence that they misled.”

+ The Michigan State Police used asset forfeiture funds to pay for controversial Stingray devices, which are used for cellphone tracking, to “fight terrorism” but instead are used to solve everyday crimes and infringe on the privacy of citizens, according to documents obtained by the ACLU.

+ Success Academy, New York City’s high-performing charter school network, is able to achieve great test results by weeding out weak or difficult students, according to documents obtained by the New York Times and interviews with employees.

 

 

The billion-dollar boondoggle behind the runaway blimp

+ The 6,000-foot-long multibillion-dollar surveillance blimp that broke loose on Wednesday afternoon and came down in pieces over Pennsylvania represents the last gasp of one of the Pentagon’s more bizarre boondoggles, reports the Intercept. It was one of only two airships in the 18-year, $2.7-billion-dollar Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, which was once supposed to include 36 blimps to protect the country from cruise missiles.

+ Deutsche Bank is close to settling a regulatory probe into alleged violations of U.S. sanctions laws against Iran and other rogue nations, probably paying about $200 million, reports Bloomberg News.

+ That shocking video of a black high-school student in South Carolina being tossed out of her desk, dragged across the floor and handcuffed is not an isolated case. Across the country, in less-publicized incidents, “thousands of students are also getting arrested, ticketed, interrogated and searched by police officers, often in connection with minor indiscretions or allegations they were disruptive,” reports the Center for Public Integrity. Just yesterday, an Oklahoma City police officer was criminally charged after video emerged of him punching a student in the face.

+ Many of the biggest donors to Republican presidential candidate John Kasich’s super PAC have longstanding business ties to the governor that prompted ethics complaints, which could revive “cronyism concern,” reports Politico’s Isaac Arnsdorf.

 

Feds probing cancer cluster near nuke waste storage site

+ Due to an “unusual” number of rare cancers in Coldwater Creek, a small suburb of St. Louis where nuclear waste has been stored for decades, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control are testing residents.

+ Bible-quoting Warren Buffett wannabe Sardar Biglari – who owns burger chain Steak n’ Shake and Maxim magazine – paid himself a $34.4-billion bonus last year though his flagship hedge fund lost 7.2 percent in 2014 and has under-performed the S&P 500 Index over the last five years.

+ The massive New York Times nail salon exposè, which was one of the paper’s most-read stories of the last year, is riddled with inaccuracies and misquotes, writes Reason’s Jim Epstein.

+ As it does every year, the Hill has picked the top lobbyists in the country, representing groups as varied as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Not sure if the publication’s conclusion that “access equals power” is always valid but it’s a useful list.

 

World Bank accused of shutting down efforts to halt evictions of Kenya tribe

+ When Navin Rai, a top official at the World Bank, tried to defend the rights of a tribal group in Kenya, he says the bank shut him down, reports the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. When Rai attempt to prevent the Kenya Forest Service from using funds provided by a bank-supported conservation project to evict the Sengwer tribe from the forests they have lived in for centuries, he says bank officials told him to stop his efforts.

+ Americans are killing lions for sport in record numbers, in anticipation of tough new U.S. regulations on the practice. Last year, 745 African lions as trophies were imported into the country, up 70 percent since 2011 and more than double the total in 2000, according to data from the Fish and Wildlife Service.

+ It could be a movie (and probably will be soon): Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, George Clooney’s wife, is defending the deposed president of the Maldives currently facing prosecution on terrorism charges. She is facing off against Cherie Blair, the wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair, who caused a firestorm in England when it was revealed that she is representing the autocratic regime.

+ A cyber attack on the Dutch agency that recently investigated the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 disaster is being traced to a group of Russian hackers linked to the Kremlin. Evidence of Pawn Storm’s activity was discovered during an analysis of the Dutch Safety Board’s computer system, according to cybersecurity company Trend Micro.

 

How Uber plays Double Dutch to avoid paying taxes

+ Uber is able to avoid paying most taxes in the US by skillfully playing Double Dutch – through two Dutch companies, Uber International CV and Uber BV. Since most profits are sent to the former firm, which has no employees, as royalties which are untaxed under Dutch law, the company only reports minimal taxable revenue to American authorities, reports Fortune magazine. For every $10 in net revenue that Uber International CV gets from Uber BV, it only has to send 14.5 cents that is subject to taxes to the US-based parent company.

+ The return of Steve Cohen: In the face of insider trading charges in 2013, the embattled hedge fund king’s firm saw several key employees indicted, it had to pay over a billion dollars in penalties and return most funds to investors. But he himself escaped prosecution, he’s hiring back some of his former top traders, and charges were just dismissed against one of his former top lieutenants, Michael Steinberg.

+ City councilors are pushing for a pay raise – but what do they really do day to day? They don’t punch clocks, have unlimited vacation days and skip plenty of hearings, reports the Boston Globe.

+ The state of Arizona tried to illegally import a lethal injection drug that’s not approved in the US but the shipment was intercepted by federal agents at the Phoenix airport, reports the Associated Press.

 

Inmates punished with 20 years in solitary for making a rap video

+ For the crime of making a music video that shows them rapping, beatboxing and dancing in a jail cell, seven inmates at South Carolina’s Kershaw Correctional Institution were handed a combined 20 years in solitary confinement, according to documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

 

+ “Police departments should not exist if their sole purpose is to generate revenue,” Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington nonprofit, tells Bloomberg News. He was referring to the closure of several St. Louis area police departments in the wake of a post-Ferguson law which states that traffic citations in the county’s municipalities can’t exceed 12.5 percent of annual operating revenue, down from 30 percent.

+ Campus sexual assault policies are facing tough scrutiny at some colleges, including the University of Minnesota, where one alleged assailant’s punishment consisted of disciplinary probation, mandatory counseling, and an assignment to write a paper, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

+ Despite the wealth of evidence showing that Maine’s poor and unemployed spend disproportionately on the lottery, the state shelled out millions to advertise its lottery in recent years – tripling its advertising budget, installing flat-screen TVs in stores to advertise jackpots and more, according to an investigation by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting.