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Archive for July 13th, 2014

Germany Wins World Cup

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 13th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Germany Wins World Cup
Germany won its fourth World Cup after a tense 1-0 victory over Argentina on Sunday. Mario Gotze’s strike, seven minutes from the end of extra time, ensured Germany ended its 24-year wait for glory at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium. Deadlocked at 0-0 after 90 minutes, it was left to substitute Gotze to provide the game’s defining moment with a touch of magic. The Bayern Munich star took Andre Schurrle’s pass on his chest before displaying exquisite technique to volley the ball past Sergio Romero.

Missile Kills World Cup Viewers at Gaza Cafe
About a dozen local Palestinians gathered Wednesday evening at the Fun Time Beach cafe, a Gaza Strip beachside eatery of plastic chairs, umbrellas, walls of cloth and palm leaves, a container for a kitchen and a small bathroom, to watch the World Cup match between Argentina and the Netherlands. What they were not watching for was an Israeli missile, apparently targeting what Israel’s military later described as a single terrorist. The blast destroyed the cafe and killed at least eight people. The cafe was one of more than 750 locations that the Israeli military struck in the first 48 hours of its aerial blitz in Gaza that began in the early hours of Tuesday morning, with the stated goal of halting the rocket attacks from Gaza against Israeli towns and cities.


Bumgarner, Posey hit grand slams, SF beats D-backs

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 13th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Bumgarner, Posey hit grand slams, SF beats D-backs
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Madison Bumgarner became the first pitcher in 48 years to hit two grand slams in a season, and Buster Posey also hit a slam Sunday that boosted the San Francisco Giants over the Arizona Diamondbacks 8-4.

Annual Protestant march in Belfast mostly peaceful
LONDON (AP) — Police in Northern Ireland say an annual Protestant parade that typically sparks riots and disorder has taken place peacefully.

Tennis hall opens doors for Lindsay Davenport
NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) — Lindsay Davenport remembers picking up a tennis racket as a child and the feeling that came with the ease of a powerful return. After giving up on two other sports, she found something she liked.


John McCain: Send “planeloads” of kids back to Central America

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 13th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

John McCain: Send “planeloads” of kids back to Central America
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., says the surge of unaccompanied minors arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border must be stopped immediately.

W.H.: LeBron James’ return to Cleveland a “powerful statement”
White House spokesman Josh Earnest says NBA star LeBron James’ decision to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers says a lot about his commitment to his home and his family.


Fox’s Brit Hume Deflates Fox News Claims That Increased National Guard Presence Would Resolve Border Security Issues

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 13th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Fox’s Brit Hume Deflates Fox News Claims That Increased National Guard Presence Would Resolve Border Security Issues

Fox News figures have repeatedly claimed a surge of National Guard troops to the U.S. – Mexico border would stem the tide of people seeking refugee status in the United States, but National Guardsmen cannot apprehend people at the border or turn them away.

On the July 13 Fox News Sunday, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) said he is requesting troops on the border because “what you have to have is this clear presence on the border, where people understand that you no longer can just freely go and walk across the Rio Grande and stay in America from now on.” In response, guest host Brit Hume said to Perry, “I get that that’s the message governor. What I don’t quite understand is how it is with the law being the way it is, the presence of more troops or forces on the border who are not legally able to apprehend these immigrants, these border crossers, is going to change anything without the law being changed first.”

Perry returned to his demand for an increased National Guard presence, arguing that “you bring boots on the ground to send that message clearly, both visually and otherwise.”


Ex-Sen. Bob Smith Is Back, But Have N.H. Voters Noticed?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 13th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Ex-Sen. Bob Smith Is Back, But Have N.H. Voters Noticed?
Scott Conroy, RealClearPolitics
GOFFSTOWN, N.H. — Two months before the New Hampshire Republican Senate primary, Bob Smith was scrutinizing a shopping cart full of watermelons near the checkout line at Sully’s Market. “That’s a ripe melon,” the former two-term U.S. senator said as he flicked one of the green fruits with his thumb and forefinger. Next, Smith turned his attention to a less desirable specimen in the cart and replicated the ripeness test for the benefit of state Rep. John Hikel, a local supporter who was escorting the candidate on what had been billed as a canvass of downtown Goffstown but turned into…

The Left’s Hollow Complaints About Hobby Lobby
Peter Berkowitz, RealClearPolitics
Progressives are fond of saying that they stand for empathy and compromise, and are quick to blame conservatives for polarizing our politics. Their feverish reaction last week to the Supreme Court’s thoughtful 5-4 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. shows that progressives could use more of the virtues they claim as their own. The case involves three family-run, for-profit corporations. Norman and Elizabeth Hahn and their three sons own and operate Conestoga Wood Specialties. David and Barbara Green and their three children run Hobby Lobby, a nationwide chain of arts and…


Desmond Tutu backs assisted dying

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 13th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Desmond Tutu backs assisted dying
The retired Anglican Archbishop of South Africa Desmond Tutu says he “reveres the sanctity of life” but supports assisted dying.

Mental health work scheme piloted
Ministers are piloting ways to get more people with mental health problems into work with earlier treatment and employment support.

Channel 4 ‘will not change’ Utopia
Channel 4 says it will not make alterations to its upcoming drama Utopia, despite accusations it exploits the death of murdered Tory MP Airey Neave.


McCain: Paul a part of ‘Fortress America’ wing

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 13th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

McCain: Paul a part of ‘Fortress America’ wing
McCain said he understood Paul’s appeal to Americans “weary of involvement.” 


Citigroup’s $7 Billion Settlement Announcement To Resolve Mortgage-Backed Securities Probe Expected Monday

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 13th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Citigroup’s $7 Billion Settlement Announcement To Resolve Mortgage-Backed Securities Probe Expected Monday
NEW YORK, July 13 (Reuters) – Citigroup agreed to pay $7 billion to resolve a U.S. government investigation into shoddy mortgage-backed securities the bank sold in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis in a settlement set to be announced on Monday, sources said.

The $7 billion includes $4 billion in cash to the U.S. Department of Justice, $2.5 billion in consumer relief, more than $200 million to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and just under $300 million to settle probes by five states, said sources familiar with the negotiations.

Spokespeople for the Justice Department and the bank declined comment. Representatives of attorneys general of New York, Delaware, California, Massachusetts and Illinois, the states said to be involved, did not immediately return requests for comment. Nor did the FDIC.

The settlement, signed over the weekend, caps months of negotiations, during which the government demanded $12 billion and threatened to sue Citigroup, according to the sources.

The deal is scheduled to be announced on Monday morning when Citigroup executives also will report second-quarter results before the stock market opens in New York, the sources said.

The $7 billion has surprised stock analysts and people inside the bank, who expected Citigroup to resolve the investigations for much less.

Citigroup is the second major bank to settle with authorities since President Barack Obama ordered the formation of a task force to investigate the sale and packaging of toxic home loans, which were at the center of the 2008 financial crisis. The Justice Department issued more than a dozen subpoenas to financial institutions in early 2012.

Bank of America Corp also has been negotiating with the Justice Department over similar claims.

JPMorgan Chase & Co, the largest U.S. bank, last year agreed to pay $13 billion to settle government probes over the packaging of toxic mortgages, including by Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, which the bank acquired during the crisis.

The $13 billion JPMorgan accord was comprised of a $2 billion penalty to the Justice Department, $4 billion in consumer relief, $4 billion to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and $3 billion to other authorities.

Citigroup’s penalty to the Justice Department is twice what JPMorgan paid, though it had handled far fewer mortgage-backed securities, because investigators found more evidence of defective loans in the bank’s securities and more awareness of the wrongdoing at the time, the sources said.

At the same time, the Citigroup settlement covers the bank’s potential exposure for tens of billions of dollars’ worth of collateralized debt obligations, the sources said. JPMorgan got no such release in its deal.

LONG NEGOTIATIONS

Negotiations with Citigroup, the third largest U.S. bank, began with a meeting in Brooklyn in November, the day the JPMorgan settlement was announced, one source said.

In late April, the bank offered $363 million, the sources said. At a May 2 meeting in Washington, the government demanded the bank increase its offer, sources said, and Citi responded with $700 million.

Justice did not consider the offer realistic, according to sources. Citi then came up with $1 billion in cash and $2 billion in consumer relief, one source said.

But by then, Justice made a demand of $12 billion, sources said.

Negotiations reached a fevered pitch the week of June 9, with Citigroup requesting to meet with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder several times that week, only to be rebuffed, one source said.

The Department of Justice gave Citigroup until June 13 to come back with a serious offer. By that Sunday, Citigroup agreed to pay $3.6 billion in cash, $2.5 billion in consumer relief and $900 million more to cover probes by five states and the FDIC, one source said.

The department threatened to sue Citigroup, but on June 17 postponed a planned announcement, sources said.

Top Justice Department officials were preoccupied with the capture of a suspect in the 2012 attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, and other commitments, sources said.

The bank then worked on the consumer relief portion and Tony West, the No. 3 Justice Department official, negotiated for Citi to settle with the states and FDIC for $500 million, rather than $900 million, one source said.

The $400 million difference was moved into the Justice Department’s bucket, where it was no longer tax deductible as a business expense, the source said.

IMPACT ON RESULTS

How much the deal will reduce Citigroup’s quarterly results on Monday depends on various factors.

Citigroup has not disclosed how much of the legal cost it has already incurred by booking reserves. Analysts have estimated its legal reserves at between $2 billion and $3.5 billion.

Citigroup said in May that possible litigation losses in excess of its reserves could be as much as $5 billion.

Analysts, on average, have expected Citigroup to report on Monday that it earned $1.09 a share in the second-quarter, down nearly 13 percent from a year earlier, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters. It’s not clear whether the estimates had been updated to include the expected settlement. (Reporting by Karen Freifeld in New York and Aruna Viswanatha in Washington; Additional reporting by David Henry in New York; Editing by Frances Kerry and Sandra Maler)

U.S. Sees Risks In Assisting A Compromised Iraqi Force
A classified military assessment of Iraq’s security forces concludes that many units are so deeply infiltrated by either Sunni extremist informants or Shiite personnel backed by Iran that any Americans assigned to advise Baghdad’s forces could face risks to their safety, according to United States officials.


Militants Fire on Military Post in Egypt, Killing Soldier and Nearby Civilians

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 13th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Militants Fire on Military Post in Egypt, Killing Soldier and Nearby Civilians
The fighters in Egypt have also fired rockets at Israel in a show of support of Palestinian groups.



U.S. Sees Risks in Assisting a Compromised Iraqi Force
A classified report says that many units are deeply infiltrated by either Sunni extremist informants or Shiite personnel backed by Iran, according to U.S. officials.



Contributing Op-Ed Writer: Spies Like Us
To the Americans, intelligence gathering since 9/11 has been part of a war. Germans would never think that way.




Report: Feds Launch Investigation Into Prescription Drug Abuse In NFL

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 13th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Report: Feds Launch Investigation Into Prescription Drug Abuse In NFL

Investigators “want to find out who provided and distributed the drugs to football players,” according to the New York Daily News.

The post Report: Feds Launch Investigation Into Prescription Drug Abuse In NFL appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Former Bears quarterback Jim McMahon during a game in 1985; McMahon is one of eight plaintiffs in a new lawsuit against the NFL.

Former Bears quarterback Jim McMahon during a game in 1985; McMahon is one of eight plaintiffs in a new lawsuit against the NFL.

CREDIT: Associated Press/John Swart

After former NFL players filed a class action lawsuit in May alleging that the league and its teams illegally supplied them with prescription painkillers and other drugs, the Drug Enforcement Agency launched an investigation into the NFL’s drug practices, according to a report from the New York Daily News.

The nine former players, headlined by former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, alleged that the NFL “intentionally, recklessly and negligently created and maintained a culture of drug misuse, substituting players’ health for profit” in the lawsuit, and that the league and its teams did so without warning players of the dangers of the drugs or properly informing them of the injuries they suffered. The league “fraudulently concealed these dangers from its players to keep them on the field when they shouldn’t have been,” the suit alleged.

In response, the DEA’s New York division began talking to former players about the culture of drug use in the NFL and how doctors were able to get non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and other painkillers mentioned in the lawsuit, according to the Daily News. One source told the paper that the investigators “want to find out who provided and distributed the drugs to football players.”

The lawsuit from McMahon et al. is the second major legal claim involving prescription drugs against the NFL. In 2011, a dozen former players alleged in a lawsuit that the league illegally provided them with Toradol, a powerful and controversial anti-inflammatory. As in this suit, the players claimed that team trainers and doctors did not warn them of the drug’s side effects. A 2013 Washington Post survey found that more than half of NFL players had used Toradol; another survey of former players found that 52 percent said they had used prescription painkillers during their careers and that 71 percent of those who used the drugs had abused them.

A DEA spokesperson told the Daily News that she was not aware of an investigation into the league’s practices but that the agency is involved in widespread efforts to combat prescription drug abuse.

A federal judge last week granted preliminary approval to a settlement between the NFL and more than 4,500 former players who sued the league over its handling and treatment of concussions. But if this suit and possible investigation are any indication, the league is about to face even more scrutiny over how it has treated its players.

The post Report: Feds Launch Investigation Into Prescription Drug Abuse In NFL appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Emails Reveal Extensive Failures In Michigan Prison Food Privatization Scheme

Newly revealed emails between Aramark employees and Michigan officials illustrate why the state is considering revoking the company’s prison food contract.

The post Emails Reveal Extensive Failures In Michigan Prison Food Privatization Scheme appeared first on ThinkProgress.

prison jail fence

CREDIT: Spirit of America / Shutterstock

A quarter of the workers who are supposed to supply food to Michigan prisons under a privatization deal struck in December are banned from the facilities for misconduct, and prison staff feel the company that now runs the kitchens has focused on its own profits over inmate safety and nutrition, emails obtained by the Detroit Free Press reveal.

Lawmakers turned over Michigan’s prison kitchens to Aramark Corrections in December after the company convinced the state that it could save taxpayers $12 million. But since then, the state has fined the company nearly $100,000 for various violations including unauthorized menu changes, insufficient nutrition for inmates, and staff misconduct that endangers both guards and prisoners. Last month, the state warned Aramark that it would begin enforcing nutritional rules more strictly, and hinted that it could rescind the contract entirely if the company didn’t shape up.

Now, far more details of the company’s shortcomings and Department of Corrections officials’ frustration with Aramark are public thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Free Press. The paper received more than 3,000 emails from state and Aramark officials. The messages paint a grim picture:

–74 of the roughly 300 Aramark employees who are supposed to work on the contract have been banned from Michigan prison facilities for violations including showing up drunk to work, having sexual contact with inmates, and attempting to smuggle drugs into the prisons.

–”Aramark officials were upset” that a prison employee told inmates to report problems with the food to staff to ensure that the company was held accountable to the standards in the contract.

–Prison officials and Aramark workers were concerned that a batch of meatballs smelled rotten after the freezer where they were stored broke down for a few days, but the company served the meat anyway after a supervisor reportedly told them “it only smelled funny because part of it was turkey, and they should serve it.” About 100 inmates at another facility fell ill with “an as-yet-undetermined bug,” according to the newspaper.

–Despite publicly downplaying problems with menu substitutions and meals that fall short of nutritional requirements, Aramark emails show the company was far more distressed in private. A January email from an Aramark Vice President to subordinates indicated that the nutritional problems were occurring daily despite repeated warnings to tighten up the company’s operation, and warned the recipients that “Enough is enough.”

–A prison official said Aramark’s top priority was counting the number of meals served, which is the basis for what the company gets paid, and as a result guards were left to cover other tasks that should be part of the food service operation, such as monitoring the food line to make sure inmates weren’t stealing food.

“I’m at my wit’s end,” the Department of Corrections official in charge of monitoring the contract emailed to a colleague in March. “Bottom line is lay down with dogs, get up with fleas,” the colleague replied.

From Aramark’s perspective, though, prisons operations are a bright spot on the accounting sheet. Its most recent quarterly report praised corrections contracts as a primary growth area in the multinational company’s portfolio.

The profit stream may be good news for shareholders and executives, but the company’s track record in the prison food business is not so great for incarcerated people, guards, and taxpayers. The company’s poor handling of a food contract was blamed for causing riots in a Kentucky prison in 2009, and issues similar to the ones Michigan officials report have cropped up in Aramark-run prison kitchens in Florida, Ohio, and Indiana.

The post Emails Reveal Extensive Failures In Michigan Prison Food Privatization Scheme appeared first on ThinkProgress.