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.

 

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.

The Pentagon spent $43 million to build a gas station that no one is using

Of all the Pentagon’s infamous boondoggles, this one ranks up there with the $37 screws, $7,622 coffee maker and $640 toilet seat.

The Defense Department spent $43 million to build a gas station in Afghanistan, according to a new report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Granted, it wasn’t just any gas station but a compressed natural gas (CNG) filling station in the city of Sheberghan, near Afghanistan’s natural gas fields. Still, a comparable CNG station in Pakistan usually costs much less – about $500,000 to build.

Even more disturbing to the inspector general, John Sopko, was the fact that the Pentagon couldn’t explain the high cost of the project. In his letter to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, Sopko said he found it “both shocking and incredible” that the Defense Department said it no longer has any knowledge of the $800 million program that funded the gas station – the Task Force for Stability and Business Operations – which was shut down a little over six months ago.

Even worse, this gas station probably should never have been built considering that most Afghanis could never afford the high cost of converting a gasoline-powered car to run on CNG (up to $800 per car in a country where the annual income is $690.)

Per the report:

“In sum, it is not clear why TFBSO believed the CNG filling station project should be undertaken. In the absence of national or even regional natural gas transmission and local distribution infrastructure to support a network of CNG stations, there is no incentive for motorists to convert their vehicles to CNG. In fact, an economic impact assessment performed at the request of TFBSO found that the CNG filling station project produced no discernable macroeconomic gains and a discounted net loss of $31 million.”

In its response to SIGAR, the Pentagon did not dispute any facts or findings detailed in the report.

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.