‘COMPLETE THIS MISSION’ Israel calls up reservists as PM vows to destroy tunnels

 

Israel’s military announced Thursday that it had called up 16,000 reservists as the country’s Prime Minister vowed to destroy tunnels used by the Islamic militant group Hamas to attack soldiers and civilians inside Israel.

“We have neutralized dozens of terror tunnels and we are committed to complete this mission, with or without a cease-fire,” Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday. “Therefore I will not agree to any offer that does not allow the military to complete this important mission for the security of the people of Israel.”

Israel said that most of the 32 tunnels it has uncovered have now been demolished and that getting rid of the remainder will take no more than a few days.

The latest call-up brings the total number of reserve troops called up by Israel to 86,000.

An Israeli defense official — speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to discuss the matter with media — told the Associated Press that the purpose of the latest call-up was to provide relief for troops currently on the Gaza firing line. However, Israeli officials have also said they do not rule out broadening operations in the coming days.

The Associated Press also reported that Egyptian officials met Thursday with an Israeli envoy about Israel’s conditions for a cease-fire, including disarming Hamas, according to a high-ranking Egyptian security official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to discuss the delicate diplomatic efforts.

The Times of Israel reported that Egypt is refusing to host a Palestinian delegation unless Hamas ceases fire. For its part, Hamas has said it will only halt fire once it receives guarantees that a seven-year-old Gaza border blockade by Israel and Egypt will be lifted. Meanwhile, The Times of Israel reported that Israeli’s Security Cabinet met Wednesday and approved ongoing strikes against Hamas.

Israeli strikes in the strip continued Thursday, with witnesses saying that munitions hit the Omar Ibn al-Khatab mosque next to a U.N. school in the northern town of Beit Lahiya.

The strike in Beit Lahiya early Thursday damaged water tanks on the roof of a building near the mosque, sending shrapnel flying into the adjacent school compound, where dozens of Palestinians displaced by the fighting had taken shelter.

“The shrapnel from the strike on the mosque hit people who were in the street and at the entrance of the school,” said Sami Salebi, an area resident.

Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said at least 15 people were wounded, with three of them in critical condition.

Kifah Rafati, 40, was being treated for shrapnel injuries at the nearby Kamal Adwan Hospital. She said she and her six children had been sleeping in a classroom facing the mosque when the explosion went off. “There is no safety anywhere,” she added.

Israel’s military said it would investigate whether tank shells struck a United Nations-run school in a Gaza refugee camp Wednesday in an event that drew condemnation from the U.S. and the U.N.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told the BBC that Israel would issue an apology if it determined that fire from its troops struck the school.

“We have a policy; we don’t target civilians,” Regev said. “It’s not clear to us that it was our fire, but we know for a fact there was hostile fire on our people from the vicinity of the school.”

Pierre Kraehenbuehl, chief of the U.N. aid agency for Palestinian refugees, told the Associated Press that Israel must try harder to ensure that civilians are not hurt, especially in Gaza, where 1.7 million people are squeezed into a small coastal territory. His agency has opened 80 of its schools to more than 200,000 Palestinians fleeing the violence.

“What maybe the world forgets … is that the people of Gaza have nowhere to go,” he said. “So when the fighting starts and they move, it is not as if they can cross a border to somewhere.”

Israel has accused Hamas of using residents of Gaza as human shields by launching rockets from the territory’s most densely populated cities.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, using somewhat less diplomatic language that Kraehenbuehl, called the school shelling “outrageous” and “unjustifiable,” and demanded an immediate humanitarian cease-fire, adding, “Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children.”

The U.N. Security Council was meeting Thursday to discuss the violence in Gaza, after calling on both sides earlier this week to reach a long-lasting cease-fire.

Gaza health authorities say at least 16 people were killed in the school attack and 1,360 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the offensive, though it is unclear how many were civilians and how many were Hamas militants. Fifty-six Israeli soldiers have died since the start of the offensive, as well as two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker.  

On Wednesday, White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters the Obama administration expected a “full, prompt, and thorough investigation” into the shelling, but stopped short of directly blaming Israel.

“We are extremely concerned that the thousands of internally displaced Palestinians, who have been called on by the Israeli military to evacuate their homes, are not safe in these UN-designated shelters in Gaza,” Schultz told reporters. “We also condemn those responsible for hiding weapons in the United Nations facilities in Gaza. All of these actions violate the international understanding of the UN’s neutrality.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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‘COMPLETE THIS MISSION’ Israel calls up reservists as PM vows to destroy tunnels

 

Israel’s military announced Thursday that it had called up 16,000 reservists as the country’s Prime Minister vowed to destroy tunnels used by the Islamic militant group Hamas to attack soldiers and civilians inside Israel.

“We have neutralized dozens of terror tunnels and we are committed to complete this mission, with or without a cease-fire,” Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday. “Therefore I will not agree to any offer that does not allow the military to complete this important mission for the security of the people of Israel.”

Israel said that most of the 32 tunnels it has uncovered have now been demolished and that getting rid of the remainder will take no more than a few days.

The latest call-up brings the total number of reserve troops called up by Israel to 86,000.

An Israeli defense official — speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to discuss the matter with media — told the Associated Press that the purpose of the latest call-up was to provide relief for troops currently on the Gaza firing line. However, Israeli officials have also said they do not rule out broadening operations in the coming days.

The Associated Press also reported that Egyptian officials met Thursday with an Israeli envoy about Israel’s conditions for a cease-fire, including disarming Hamas, according to a high-ranking Egyptian security official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to discuss the delicate diplomatic efforts.

The Times of Israel reported that Egypt is refusing to host a Palestinian delegation unless Hamas ceases fire. For its part, Hamas has said it will only halt fire once it receives guarantees that a seven-year-old Gaza border blockade by Israel and Egypt will be lifted. Meanwhile, The Times of Israel reported that Israeli’s Security Cabinet met Wednesday and approved ongoing strikes against Hamas.

Israeli strikes in the strip continued Thursday, with witnesses saying that munitions hit the Omar Ibn al-Khatab mosque next to a U.N. school in the northern town of Beit Lahiya.

The strike in Beit Lahiya early Thursday damaged water tanks on the roof of a building near the mosque, sending shrapnel flying into the adjacent school compound, where dozens of Palestinians displaced by the fighting had taken shelter.

“The shrapnel from the strike on the mosque hit people who were in the street and at the entrance of the school,” said Sami Salebi, an area resident.

Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said at least 15 people were wounded, with three of them in critical condition.

Kifah Rafati, 40, was being treated for shrapnel injuries at the nearby Kamal Adwan Hospital. She said she and her six children had been sleeping in a classroom facing the mosque when the explosion went off. “There is no safety anywhere,” she added.

Israel’s military said it would investigate whether tank shells struck a United Nations-run school in a Gaza refugee camp Wednesday in an event that drew condemnation from the U.S. and the U.N.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told the BBC that Israel would issue an apology if it determined that fire from its troops struck the school.

“We have a policy; we don’t target civilians,” Regev said. “It’s not clear to us that it was our fire, but we know for a fact there was hostile fire on our people from the vicinity of the school.”

Pierre Kraehenbuehl, chief of the U.N. aid agency for Palestinian refugees, told the Associated Press that Israel must try harder to ensure that civilians are not hurt, especially in Gaza, where 1.7 million people are squeezed into a small coastal territory. His agency has opened 80 of its schools to more than 200,000 Palestinians fleeing the violence.

“What maybe the world forgets … is that the people of Gaza have nowhere to go,” he said. “So when the fighting starts and they move, it is not as if they can cross a border to somewhere.”

Israel has accused Hamas of using residents of Gaza as human shields by launching rockets from the territory’s most densely populated cities.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, using somewhat less diplomatic language that Kraehenbuehl, called the school shelling “outrageous” and “unjustifiable,” and demanded an immediate humanitarian cease-fire, adding, “Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children.”

The U.N. Security Council was meeting Thursday to discuss the violence in Gaza, after calling on both sides earlier this week to reach a long-lasting cease-fire.

Gaza health authorities say at least 16 people were killed in the school attack and 1,360 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the offensive, though it is unclear how many were civilians and how many were Hamas militants. Fifty-six Israeli soldiers have died since the start of the offensive, as well as two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker.  

On Wednesday, White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters the Obama administration expected a “full, prompt, and thorough investigation” into the shelling, but stopped short of directly blaming Israel.

“We are extremely concerned that the thousands of internally displaced Palestinians, who have been called on by the Israeli military to evacuate their homes, are not safe in these UN-designated shelters in Gaza,” Schultz told reporters. “We also condemn those responsible for hiding weapons in the United Nations facilities in Gaza. All of these actions violate the international understanding of the UN’s neutrality.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/07/31/israel-calls-up-16000-reservists-vows-to-investigate-strike-on-un-school-in/

MURDER MYSTERY Two in custody after search connected to teen’s killing

4312026_G.jpg

This undated photo shows 14-year-old April Millsap, who was found dead in a ditch near Armada, Mich. July 24 (Courtesy MyFoxDetroit.com)

FBI agents and Michigan State Police troopers took two men into custody Wednesday after executing a search warrant relating to the death of a 14-year-old girl, MyFoxDetroit.com reported.

April Millsap’s body was found by joggers off the side of a walking trail in northern Macomb County on July 24. Local media reported on the case, but it gained national attention when it was revealed that a text message was sent from her phone that read, “Omg…I think I’m being kidnapped.”

It is unclear who sent the message, and police made clear that there has been no arrests in her murder. The text message was sent to her boyfriend, who is not considered a suspect.

In the intervening days police have released a composite sketch of a suspect and indicated that they were interested in speaking to the owner of a blue and white motorcycle.

On Wednesday, the search warrant was served in the town of Goodells, approximately 15 miles west of Port Huron. A neighbor told MyFoxDetroit that one of the residents of the home being searched had a blue and white motorcycle.

“He’s lived here for, like, nine years,” Rhonda O’Donnell said. “And you would see [the motorcycle] parked out what used to be a four-car garage, and they turned it into an apartment. But I haven’t seen it in a while and I didn’t even really think twice about it.”

Authorities told the station that the two arrests were connected to an illegal marijuana growing operation.

Public records show that one of the home’s residents, 66-year-old James Van Callis, is a registered sex offender.

A family that lives across the street from the home told MyFoxDetroit that police had been watching the home for a couple days and had asked to stake out the property from their driveway the night before the warrant was served. 

The Detroit Free Press reported that police ruled the death a homicide, but have not released details on her death. The paper said police declined to comment on news reports that the girl was beaten. 

Click for more from MyFoxDetroit.com.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/07/31/police-say-two-people-in-custody-after-search-connected-to-michigan-teen-murder/

MURDER MYSTERY Two in custody after search connected to teen’s killing

4312026_G.jpg

This undated photo shows 14-year-old April Millsap, who was found dead in a ditch near Armada, Mich. July 24 (Courtesy MyFoxDetroit.com)

FBI agents and Michigan State Police troopers took two men into custody Wednesday after executing a search warrant relating to the death of a 14-year-old girl, MyFoxDetroit.com reported.

April Millsap’s body was found by joggers off the side of a walking trail in northern Macomb County on July 24. Local media reported on the case, but it gained national attention when it was revealed that a text message was sent from her phone that read, “Omg…I think I’m being kidnapped.”

It is unclear who sent the message, and police made clear that there has been no arrests in her murder. The text message was sent to her boyfriend, who is not considered a suspect.

In the intervening days police have released a composite sketch of a suspect and indicated that they were interested in speaking to the owner of a blue and white motorcycle.

On Wednesday, the search warrant was served in the town of Goodells, approximately 15 miles west of Port Huron. A neighbor told MyFoxDetroit that one of the residents of the home being searched had a blue and white motorcycle.

“He’s lived here for, like, nine years,” Rhonda O’Donnell said. “And you would see [the motorcycle] parked out what used to be a four-car garage, and they turned it into an apartment. But I haven’t seen it in a while and I didn’t even really think twice about it.”

Authorities told the station that the two arrests were connected to an illegal marijuana growing operation.

Public records show that one of the home’s residents, 66-year-old James Van Callis, is a registered sex offender.

A family that lives across the street from the home told MyFoxDetroit that police had been watching the home for a couple days and had asked to stake out the property from their driveway the night before the warrant was served. 

The Detroit Free Press reported that police ruled the death a homicide, but have not released details on her death. The paper said police declined to comment on news reports that the girl was beaten. 

Click for more from MyFoxDetroit.com.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/07/31/police-say-two-people-in-custody-after-search-connected-to-michigan-teen-murder/

MURDER MYSTERY Two in custody after search connected to teen’s killing

4312026_G.jpg

This undated photo shows 14-year-old April Millsap, who was found dead in a ditch near Armada, Mich. July 24 (Courtesy MyFoxDetroit.com)

FBI agents and Michigan State Police troopers took two men into custody Wednesday after executing a search warrant relating to the death of a 14-year-old girl, MyFoxDetroit.com reported.

April Millsap’s body was found by joggers off the side of a walking trail in northern Macomb County on July 24. Local media reported on the case, but it gained national attention when it was revealed that a text message was sent from her phone that read, “Omg…I think I’m being kidnapped.”

It is unclear who sent the message, and police made clear that there has been no arrests in her murder. The text message was sent to her boyfriend, who is not considered a suspect.

In the intervening days police have released a composite sketch of a suspect and indicated that they were interested in speaking to the owner of a blue and white motorcycle.

On Wednesday, the search warrant was served in the town of Goodells, approximately 15 miles west of Port Huron. A neighbor told MyFoxDetroit that one of the residents of the home being searched had a blue and white motorcycle.

“He’s lived here for, like, nine years,” Rhonda O’Donnell said. “And you would see [the motorcycle] parked out what used to be a four-car garage, and they turned it into an apartment. But I haven’t seen it in a while and I didn’t even really think twice about it.”

Authorities told the station that the two arrests were connected to an illegal marijuana growing operation.

Public records show that one of the home’s residents, 66-year-old James Van Callis, is a registered sex offender.

A family that lives across the street from the home told MyFoxDetroit that police had been watching the home for a couple days and had asked to stake out the property from their driveway the night before the warrant was served. 

The Detroit Free Press reported that police ruled the death a homicide, but have not released details on her death. The paper said police declined to comment on news reports that the girl was beaten. 

Click for more from MyFoxDetroit.com.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/07/31/police-say-two-people-in-custody-after-search-connected-to-michigan-teen-murder/

‘COMPLETE THIS MISSION’ Israel calls up reservists as PM vows to destroy tunnels

 

Israel’s military announced Thursday that it had called up 16,000 reservists as the country’s Prime Minister vowed to destroy tunnels used by the Islamic militant group Hamas to attack soldiers and civilians inside Israel.

“We have neutralized dozens of terror tunnels and we are committed to complete this mission, with or without a cease-fire,” Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday. “Therefore I will not agree to any offer that does not allow the military to complete this important mission for the security of the people of Israel.”

Israel said that most of the 32 tunnels it has uncovered have now been demolished and that getting rid of the remainder will take no more than a few days.

The latest call-up brings the total number of reserve troops called up by Israel to 86,000.

An Israeli defense official — speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to discuss the matter with media — told the Associated Press that the purpose of the latest call-up was to provide relief for troops currently on the Gaza firing line. However, Israeli officials have also said they do not rule out broadening operations in the coming days.

The Associated Press also reported that Egyptian officials met Thursday with an Israeli envoy about Israel’s conditions for a cease-fire, including disarming Hamas, according to a high-ranking Egyptian security official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to discuss the delicate diplomatic efforts.

The Times of Israel reported that Egypt is refusing to host a Palestinian delegation unless Hamas ceases fire. For its part, Hamas has said it will only halt fire once it receives guarantees that a seven-year-old Gaza border blockade by Israel and Egypt will be lifted. Meanwhile, The Times of Israel reported that Israeli’s Security Cabinet met Wednesday and approved ongoing strikes against Hamas.

Israeli strikes in the strip continued Thursday, with witnesses saying that munitions hit the Omar Ibn al-Khatab mosque next to a U.N. school in the northern town of Beit Lahiya.

The strike in Beit Lahiya early Thursday damaged water tanks on the roof of a building near the mosque, sending shrapnel flying into the adjacent school compound, where dozens of Palestinians displaced by the fighting had taken shelter.

“The shrapnel from the strike on the mosque hit people who were in the street and at the entrance of the school,” said Sami Salebi, an area resident.

Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said at least 15 people were wounded, with three of them in critical condition.

Kifah Rafati, 40, was being treated for shrapnel injuries at the nearby Kamal Adwan Hospital. She said she and her six children had been sleeping in a classroom facing the mosque when the explosion went off. “There is no safety anywhere,” she added.

Israel’s military said it would investigate whether tank shells struck a United Nations-run school in a Gaza refugee camp Wednesday in an event that drew condemnation from the U.S. and the U.N.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told the BBC that Israel would issue an apology if it determined that fire from its troops struck the school.

“We have a policy; we don’t target civilians,” Regev said. “It’s not clear to us that it was our fire, but we know for a fact there was hostile fire on our people from the vicinity of the school.”

Pierre Kraehenbuehl, chief of the U.N. aid agency for Palestinian refugees, told the Associated Press that Israel must try harder to ensure that civilians are not hurt, especially in Gaza, where 1.7 million people are squeezed into a small coastal territory. His agency has opened 80 of its schools to more than 200,000 Palestinians fleeing the violence.

“What maybe the world forgets … is that the people of Gaza have nowhere to go,” he said. “So when the fighting starts and they move, it is not as if they can cross a border to somewhere.”

Israel has accused Hamas of using residents of Gaza as human shields by launching rockets from the territory’s most densely populated cities.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, using somewhat less diplomatic language that Kraehenbuehl, called the school shelling “outrageous” and “unjustifiable,” and demanded an immediate humanitarian cease-fire, adding, “Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children.”

Gaza health authorities say at least 16 people were killed in the school attack and 1,360 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the offensive, though it is unclear how many were civilians and how many were Hamas militants. 56 Israeli soldiers have died since the start of the offensive, as well as two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker.  

On Wednesday, White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters the Obama administration expected a “full, prompt, and thorough investigation” into the shelling, but stopped short of directly blaming Israel.

“We are extremely concerned that the thousands of internally displaced Palestinians, who have been called on by the Israeli military to evacuate their homes, are not safe in these UN-designated shelters in Gaza,” Schultz told reporters. “We also condemn those responsible for hiding weapons in the United Nations facilities in Gaza. All of these actions violate the international understanding of the UN’s neutrality.”

At the State Department, spokeswoman Marie Harf described a purported leaked transcript of a weekend call between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “complete crap,” claiming that the intention of the leak to hurt the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

“I don’t know toward what end. I don’t know who did it,” she said. “But I don’t know what other conclusion you can draw from that.” Both the U.S. and Israeli government deny the authenticity of the transcript, which came amid stinging reports in some Israeli media outlets accusing Kerry of aligning himself too closely to Hamas and being dismissive of Israeli complaints.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/07/31/israel-calls-up-16000-reservists-vows-to-investigate-strike-on-un-school-in/

MURDER MYSTERY Two in custody after search connected to teen’s killing

4312026_G.jpg

This undated photo shows 14-year-old April Millsap, who was found dead in a ditch near Armada, Mich. July 24 (Courtesy MyFoxDetroit.com)

FBI agents and Michigan State Police troopers took two men into custody Wednesday after executing a search warrant relating to the death of a 14-year-old girl, MyFoxDetroit.com reported.

April Millsap’s body was found by joggers off the side of a walking trail in northern Macomb County on July 24. Local media reported on the case, but it gained national attention when it was revealed that a text message was sent from her phone that read, “Omg…I think I’m being kidnapped.”

It is unclear who sent the message, and police made clear that there has been no arrests in her murder. The text message was sent to her boyfriend, who is not considered a suspect.

In the intervening days police have released a composite sketch of a suspect and indicated that they were interested in speaking to the owner of a blue and white motorcycle.

On Wednesday, the search warrant was served in the town of Goodells, approximately 15 miles west of Port Huron. A neighbor told MyFoxDetroit that one of the residents of the home being searched had a blue and white motorcycle.

“He’s lived here for, like, nine years,” Rhonda O’Donnell said. “And you would see [the motorcycle] parked out what used to be a four-car garage, and they turned it into an apartment. But I haven’t seen it in a while and I didn’t even really think twice about it.”

Authorities told the station that the two arrests were connected to an illegal marijuana growing operation.

Public records show that one of the home’s residents, 66-year-old James Van Callis, is a registered sex offender.

A family that lives across the street from the home told MyFoxDetroit that police had been watching the home for a couple days and had asked to stake out the property from their driveway the night before the warrant was served. 

The Detroit Free Press reported that police ruled the death a homicide, but have not released details on her death. The paper said police declined to comment on news reports that the girl was beaten. 

Click for more from MyFoxDetroit.com.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/07/31/police-say-two-people-in-custody-after-search-connected-to-michigan-teen-murder/

THE NATURAL? Truck driver with 100 mph fastball gets shot at dream

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This undated photo shows Brandon Poulson.AP

In one of their craziest scouting experiences, the Minnesota Twins have reached a deal with a 24-year-old pitching prospect who has thrown 100 mph fastballs but has never been drafted.

Brandon Poulson was pitching earlier this month for the Healdsburg Prune Packers in a collegiate summer league. His manager was Joey Gomes, the brother of big leaguer Jonny Gomes.

Now, the Twins are about to give him $250,000.

“It’s a great story,” Twins West Coast scouting supervisor Sean Johnson said Tuesday. “This kid came out of nowhere.”

The Twins knew about Poulson from his recent season with Academy of Art University, where he had an 8.38 ERA for the San Francisco school.

‘I went to work with my father and didn’t want to gamble with sports anymore’

- Brandon Poulson

Poulson played there after taking a couple of years off to work in his father’s business — John’s Excavating — with the thought he’d take it over someday and leave athletics behind for good.

The 6-foot-6 right-hander previously played baseball and football at Santa Rosa Junior College.

“I played for the Prune Packers summer of ’13, but missed nearly three-fourths of the games because I was busy working,” said Poulson, who didn’t make his high school baseball team as a freshman.

The Twins are giving him about 10 times more than an undrafted player would typically receive as a bonus. Poulson will begin as a reliever.

Poulson traveled to Minneapolis last week to undergo a physical at Target Field before returning to Northern California, then was cleared Tuesday. He is set to travel Wednesday to the Twins’ rookie club in the Appalachian League in Elizabethton, Tenn.

Poulson will sign his contract once he reports. He could pitch in a game as soon as this weekend.

Until last fall, Poulson was operating heavy machinery — driving 18-wheelers, front-loaders and backhoes. All the while, he played baseball in a Sunday night men’s league, fittingly called the “Wine Country” league.

“I went to work with my father and didn’t want to gamble with sports anymore,” Poulson said.

He later changed his mind and decided to give baseball one last chance, spending months retooling his delivery with Prune Packers pitching coach Caleb Balbuena.

Poulson’s stats this summer: 31 strikeouts and six hits in 12-1/3 innings, with four saves in 12 appearances.

The Twins consider him among the best athletes they have pursued: A health nut, Poulson weighs 240 pounds and ran a 6.6-second 60-yard dash. He has a 40-inch vertical leap.

The San Francisco Giants wanted to sign Poulson, who also drew interest from the Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies. Those teams didn’t have enough money remaining in their draft pool to match Minnesota.

“He’s a physical specimen. He’s got the best pure arm strength I’ve ever seen,” Twins scout Elliott Strankman said.
Strankman is the only member of the organization who watched Poulson pitch. It took all of 18 throws to convince him.

“We’re cautiously optimistic because we don’t want to put a bunch of pressure on the kid. He could be pretty good.

This is uncharted territory for us,” he said.

At Academy of Art’s scout day, only the position players were running 60-yard dashes until Poulson turned up and insisted on sprinting. He hadn’t warmed up and was wearing socks, no shoes.

“I had cold legs,” he said. “Maybe I would have run it faster.”

Strankman went to see him pitch for the Prune Packers on July 15. Poulson reached agreement on a contract two days later.

This week, Poulson is headed for the minor leagues.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I know it’s just the first step of what the real goal is to make it in the bigs.”

Poulson said one of his first purchases will be a therapy device to help his father with his diabetes.

Poulson went 0-0 with a high ERA in 14 appearances and 19-1/3 innings for Academy of Art this season. He struck out 24, walked 24 and opponents hit .189 against him.

The Twins, who selected shortstop Nick Gordon with the fifth overall pick in last month’s draft, had the financial flexibility to pull this off.

“It was a group effort. You just don’t see stuff like this every day,” Strankman said. “It’s one of those great days as a scout you hope you have every five years.”

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2014/07/30/twins-add-undrafted-pitching-prospect-with-100-mph-fastball-out-nowhere/

Israel calls up 16,000 reservists as Netanyahu vows to destroy tunnels

 

Israel’s military announced Thursday that it had called up 16,000 reservists as the country’s Prime Minister vowed to destroy tunnels used by the Islamic militant group Hamas to attack soldiers and civilians inside Israel. 

“We have neutralized dozens of terror tunnels and we are committed to complete this mission, with or without a cease-fire,” Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday. “Therefore I will not agree to any offer that does not allow the military to complete this important mission for the security of the people of Israel.”

 Israel says that most of the 32 tunnels it has uncovered have now been demolished and that getting rid of the remainder will take no more than a few days.

The latest call-up brings the total number of reserve troops called up by Israel to 86,000. Speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to discuss the matter with the press, an Israeli defense official told the Associated Press that the purpose of the latest call-up was to provide relief for troops currently on the Gaza firing line. However, Israeli officials have also said they do not rule out broadening operations in the coming days.

The Associated Press also reported that Egyptian officials met Wednesday with an Israeli envoy about Israel’s conditions for a cease-fire, including disarming Hamas, according to a high-ranking Egyptian security official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to discuss the delicate diplomatic efforts.

The Times of Israel reported that Egypt is refusing to host a Palestinian delegation unless Hamas ceases fire. For its part, Hamas has said it will only halt fire once it receives guarantees that a seven-year-old Gaza border blockade by Israel and Egypt will be lifted. Meanwhile, The Times of Israel reported that Israeli’s Security Cabinet met Wednesday and approved ongoing strikes against Hamas. 

The troop announcement also came as Israel’s military said it would investigate whether tank shells struck a United Nations-run school in a Gaza refugee camp, an event that drew condemnation from the U.S. and the U.N. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told the BBC that Israel would issue an apology if it determined that fire from its troops struck the school. 

“We have a policy; we don’t target civilians,” Regev told the BBC, before adding “It’s not clear to us that it was our fire, but we know for a fact there was hostile fire on our people from the vicinity of the school.”

Pierre Kraehenbuehl, chief of the U.N. aid agency for Palestinian refugees, told the Associated Press that Israel must try harder to ensure that civilians are not hurt, especially in Gaza, where 1.7 million people are squeezed into a small coastal territory. His agency has opened 80 of its schools to more than 200,000 Palestinians fleeing the violence.

“What maybe the world forgets … is that the people of Gaza have nowhere to go,” he said. “So when the fighting starts and they move, it is not as if they can cross a border to somewhere.” 

Israel has accused Hamas of using residents of Gaza as human shields by launching rockets from the territory’s most densely populated cities. 

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, using somewhat less diplomatic language that Kraehenbuehl, called the school shelling “outrageous” and “unjustifiable,” and demanded an immediate humanitarian cease-fire, adding, “Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children.”

Gaza health authorities say at least 16 people were killed in the school attack and 1,360 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the offensive, though it is unclear how many were civilians and how many were Hamas militants. 56 Israeli soldiers have died since the start of the offensive, as well as two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker.  

On Wednesday, White House spokesman Eric Schutlz told reporters the Obama administration expected a “full, prompt, and thorough investigation” into the shelling, but stopped short of directly blaming Israel. 

“We are extremely concerned that the thousands of internally displaced Palestinians, who have been called on by the Israeli military to evacuate their homes, are not safe in these UN-designated shelters in Gaza,” Schultz told reporters. “We also condemn those responsible for hiding weapons in the United Nations facilities in Gaza. All of these actions violate the international understanding of the UN’s neutrality.”

At the State Department, spokeswoman Marie Harf described a purported leaked transcript of a weekend call between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “complete crap,” claiming that the intention of the leak to hurt the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

“I don’t know toward what end. I don’t know who did it,” she said. “But I don’t know what other conclusion you can draw from that.” Both the U.S. and Israeli government deny the authenticity of the transcript, which came amid stinging reports in some Israeli media outlets accusing Kerry of aligning himself too closely to Hamas and being dismissive of Israeli complaints.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Click for more from The Times of Israel.

Click for more from the BBC.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/07/31/israel-calls-up-16000-reservists-vows-to-investigate-strike-on-un-school-in/

‘BILLIONAIRE’S CLUB’ Report: Green causes funded by ‘shady’ network

glacier_Reuters_660.jpg

The Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is seen in this undated NASA image.Reuters/NASA/Handout via Reuters

An “elite” group of liberal “millionaires and billionaires” is pumping money into an elaborate network of environmental groups to influence EPA policies, even using “shady” donations from a foreign company to fund their efforts, according to a lengthy report by Senate Republicans.

The 92-page report was released Wednesday by Republicans on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The study endeavors to expose an alleged “far-left environmental machine” that Republicans say exerts “tremendous sway” over policies that hurt the economy.

“There is an unbelievable amount of money behind the environmental movement and far too much collusion between far-left environmental groups and the Obama EPA. This report really gets to the core of tracking the money and exposing the collusion,” Sen. David Vitter, R-La., top Republican on the committee, said in a statement.

The report on the so-called “billionaire’s club” highlights a host of individuals and foundations and nonprofit groups — some of which benefit from favorable tax treatment — that work together on environmental causes. According to the report, well-known advocacy groups like the Sierra Club are the face of the movement, but provide “cover” for “secretive foundations” that provide the money, sometimes through intermediaries.  

The report highlights about a dozen of these private foundations, backed by members of the “billionaire’s club,” that the authors say hold sway over the movement.

They include the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (run by members of the famed Rockefeller family); the Schmidt Family Foundation (launched by Google executive Eric Schmidt and his wife); and the Heinz Family Foundation (led in part by Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Secretary of State John Kerry).  

Several of these foundations have been around for a long time, and fund a variety of causes, not limited to the environment. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, for instance, was founded in 1940 and, aside from environmental causes, focuses on democracy promotion and conflict prevention abroad.  

The environmental left also does not have a monopoly on well-heeled donors and foundations. Pro-oil and gas interests likewise have a robust funding network. 

The report, though, makes particular note of the Sea Change Foundation, which is led by hedge fund power couple Nathaniel Simons and Laura Baxter-Simons – and receives millions from foreign company Klein Ltd., based in Bermuda. Sea Change then donates that money to a variety of other environmental groups. 

The report says the San Francisco-based group was the sixth largest donor to environmental issues in 2011 – giving over $43 million in grants — but little public information about the group is available. Its website includes only a logo and a brief mission statement. And the donations from Klein Ltd. are anonymous, which the report calls problematic. 

Further, the report alleges that the environmental groups have forged deep ties with the Obama EPA, and notes that top officials in the agency come from groups like the National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council and divisions of the Sierra Club.

Nathaniel Simons and the foundations cited above have not returned requests for comment from FoxNews.com.

Dan Epstein, director of the conservative Cause of Action, said in a statement that the report also speaks to a problem of “fiscal sponsorship” – where charities effectively sell nonprofit status to others, in turn receiving charitable donations for another group.

“Cause of Action has asked the IRS to take simple steps to define the rules for fiscal sponsorship, but they refused to do so, protecting their political friends, while targeting their political enemies,” Epstein said.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/30/republican-report-alleges-billionaires-club-funding-environmental-causes/

Israel calls up 16,000 reservists, vows to investigate strike on UN school

 

Israel’s military announced Thursday that it had called up 16,000 reservists to potentially join its ongoing offensive against Hamas militants in Gaza. 

The call-up, which brings the total number of troops called up by Israel to 86,000, could signal a potential widening of Operation Protective Edge, which began July 8 as an effort to halt rocket attacks by Hamas against southern Israel and destroy tunnels used by Hamas militants to cross from Gaza into Israel for the purpose of attacking soldiers and civilians. 

A lasting cease-fire in the region appears no nearer. The Associated Press reported that Egyptian officials met Wednesday with an Israeli envoy about Israel’s conditions for a cease-fire, including disarming Hamas, according to a high-ranking Egyptian security official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to discuss the delicate diplomatic efforts.

The Times of Israel reported that Egypt is refusing to host a Palestinian delegation unless Hamas ceases fire. For its part, Hamas has said it will only halt fire once it receives guarantees that a seven-year-old Gaza border blockade by Israel and Egypt will be lifted. Meanwhile, The Times of Israel reported that Israeli’s Security Cabinet met Wednesday and approved ongoing strikes against Hamas. 

The troop announcement also came as Israel’s military said it would investigate whether tank shells struck a United Nations-run school in a Gaza refugee camp, an event that drew condemnation from the U.S. and the U.N. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told the BBC that Israel would issue an apology if it determined that fire from its troops struck the school. 

“We have a policy; we don’t target civilians,” Regev told the BBC, before adding “It’s not clear to us that it was our fire, but we know for a fact there was hostile fire on our people from the vicinity of the school.”

Pierre Kraehenbuehl, chief of the U.N. aid agency for Palestinian refugees, told the Associated Press that Israel must try harder to ensure that civilians are not hurt, especially in Gaza, where 1.7 million people are squeezed into a small coastal territory. His agency has opened 80 of its schools to more than 200,000 Palestinians fleeing the violence.

“What maybe the world forgets … is that the people of Gaza have nowhere to go,” he said. “So when the fighting starts and they move, it is not as if they can cross a border to somewhere.” 

Israel has accused Hamas of using residents of Gaza as human shields by launching rockets from the territory’s most densely populated cities. 

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, using somewhat less diplomatic language that Kraehenbuehl, called the school shelling “outrageous” and “unjustifiable,” and demanded an immediate humanitarian cease-fire, adding, “Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children.”

Gaza health authorities say at least 16 people were killed in the school attack and 1,360 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the offensive, though it is unclear how many were civilians and how many were Hamas militants. 56 Israeli soldiers have died since the start of the offensive, as well as two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker.  

On Wednesday, White House spokesman Eric Schutlz told reporters the Obama administration expected a “full, prompt, and thorough investigation” into the shelling, but stopped short of directly blaming Israel. 

“We are extremely concerned that the thousands of internally displaced Palestinians, who have been called on by the Israeli military to evacuate their homes, are not safe in these UN-designated shelters in Gaza,” Schultz told reporters. “We also condemn those responsible for hiding weapons in the United Nations facilities in Gaza. All of these actions violate the international understanding of the UN’s neutrality.”

At the State Department, spokeswoman Marie Harf described a purported leaked transcript of a weekend call between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “complete crap,” claiming that the intention of the leak to hurt the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

“I don’t know toward what end. I don’t know who did it,” she said. “But I don’t know what other conclusion you can draw from that.” Both the U.S. and Israeli government deny the authenticity of the transcript, which came amid stinging reports in some Israeli media outlets accusing Kerry of aligning himself too closely to Hamas and being dismissive of Israeli complaints.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Click for more from The Times of Israel. 

Click for more from the BBC. 

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/07/31/israel-calls-up-16000-reservists-vows-to-investigate-strike-on-un-school-in/

‘BILLIONAIRE’S CLUB’ Report: Green causes funded by ‘shady’ network

glacier_Reuters_660.jpg

The Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is seen in this undated NASA image.Reuters/NASA/Handout via Reuters

An “elite” group of liberal “millionaires and billionaires” is pumping money into an elaborate network of environmental groups to influence EPA policies, even using “shady” donations from a foreign company to fund their efforts, according to a lengthy report by Senate Republicans.

The 92-page report was released Wednesday by Republicans on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The study endeavors to expose an alleged “far-left environmental machine” that Republicans say exerts “tremendous sway” over policies that hurt the economy.

“There is an unbelievable amount of money behind the environmental movement and far too much collusion between far-left environmental groups and the Obama EPA. This report really gets to the core of tracking the money and exposing the collusion,” Sen. David Vitter, R-La., top Republican on the committee, said in a statement.

The report on the so-called “billionaire’s club” highlights a host of individuals and foundations and nonprofit groups — some of which benefit from favorable tax treatment — that work together on environmental causes. According to the report, well-known advocacy groups like the Sierra Club are the face of the movement, but provide “cover” for “secretive foundations” that provide the money, sometimes through intermediaries.  

The report highlights about a dozen of these private foundations, backed by members of the “billionaire’s club,” that the authors say hold sway over the movement.

They include the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (run by members of the famed Rockefeller family); the Schmidt Family Foundation (launched by Google executive Eric Schmidt and his wife); and the Heinz Family Foundation (led in part by Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Secretary of State John Kerry).  

Several of these foundations have been around for a long time, and fund a variety of causes, not limited to the environment. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, for instance, was founded in 1940 and, aside from environmental causes, focuses on democracy promotion and conflict prevention abroad.  

The environmental left also does not have a monopoly on well-heeled donors and foundations. Pro-oil and gas interests likewise have a robust funding network. 

The report, though, makes particular note of the Sea Change Foundation, which is led by hedge fund power couple Nathaniel Simons and Laura Baxter-Simons – and receives millions from foreign company Klein Ltd., based in Bermuda. Sea Change then donates that money to a variety of other environmental groups. 

The report says the San Francisco-based group was the sixth largest donor to environmental issues in 2011 – giving over $43 million in grants — but little public information about the group is available. Its website includes only a logo and a brief mission statement. And the donations from Klein Ltd. are anonymous, which the report calls problematic. 

Further, the report alleges that the environmental groups have forged deep ties with the Obama EPA, and notes that top officials in the agency come from groups like the National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council and divisions of the Sierra Club.

Nathaniel Simons and the foundations cited above have not returned requests for comment from FoxNews.com.

Dan Epstein, director of the conservative Cause of Action, said in a statement that the report also speaks to a problem of “fiscal sponsorship” – where charities effectively sell nonprofit status to others, in turn receiving charitable donations for another group.

“Cause of Action has asked the IRS to take simple steps to define the rules for fiscal sponsorship, but they refused to do so, protecting their political friends, while targeting their political enemies,” Epstein said.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/30/republican-report-alleges-billionaires-club-funding-environmental-causes/

‘BILLIONAIRE’S CLUB’ Report: Green causes funded by ‘shady’ network

glacier_Reuters_660.jpg

The Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is seen in this undated NASA image.Reuters/NASA/Handout via Reuters

An “elite” group of liberal “millionaires and billionaires” is pumping money into an elaborate network of environmental groups to influence EPA policies, even using “shady” donations from a foreign company to fund their efforts, according to a lengthy report by Senate Republicans.

The 92-page report was released Wednesday by Republicans on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The study endeavors to expose an alleged “far-left environmental machine” that Republicans say exerts “tremendous sway” over policies that hurt the economy.

“There is an unbelievable amount of money behind the environmental movement and far too much collusion between far-left environmental groups and the Obama EPA. This report really gets to the core of tracking the money and exposing the collusion,” Sen. David Vitter, R-La., top Republican on the committee, said in a statement.

The report on the so-called “billionaire’s club” highlights a host of individuals and foundations and nonprofit groups — some of which benefit from favorable tax treatment — that work together on environmental causes. According to the report, well-known advocacy groups like the Sierra Club are the face of the movement, but provide “cover” for “secretive foundations” that provide the money, sometimes through intermediaries.  

The report highlights about a dozen of these private foundations, backed by members of the “billionaire’s club,” that the authors say hold sway over the movement.

They include the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (run by members of the famed Rockefeller family); the Schmidt Family Foundation (launched by Google executive Eric Schmidt and his wife); and the Heinz Family Foundation (led in part by Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Secretary of State John Kerry).  

Several of these foundations have been around for a long time, and fund a variety of causes, not limited to the environment. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, for instance, was founded in 1940 and, aside from environmental causes, focuses on democracy promotion and conflict prevention abroad.  

The environmental left also does not have a monopoly on well-heeled donors and foundations. Pro-oil and gas interests likewise have a robust funding network. 

The report, though, makes particular note of the Sea Change Foundation, which is led by hedge fund power couple Nathaniel Simons and Laura Baxter-Simons – and receives millions from foreign company Klein Ltd., based in Bermuda. Sea Change then donates that money to a variety of other environmental groups. 

The report says the San Francisco-based group was the sixth largest donor to environmental issues in 2011 – giving over $43 million in grants — but little public information about the group is available. Its website includes only a logo and a brief mission statement. And the donations from Klein Ltd. are anonymous, which the report calls problematic. 

Further, the report alleges that the environmental groups have forged deep ties with the Obama EPA, and notes that top officials in the agency come from groups like the National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council and divisions of the Sierra Club.

Nathaniel Simons and the foundations cited above have not returned requests for comment from FoxNews.com.

Dan Epstein, director of the conservative Cause of Action, said in a statement that the report also speaks to a problem of “fiscal sponsorship” – where charities effectively sell nonprofit status to others, in turn receiving charitable donations for another group.

“Cause of Action has asked the IRS to take simple steps to define the rules for fiscal sponsorship, but they refused to do so, protecting their political friends, while targeting their political enemies,” Epstein said.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/30/republican-report-alleges-billionaires-club-funding-environmental-causes/

‘BILLIONAIRE’S CLUB’ Report: Green causes funded by ‘shady’ network

glacier_Reuters_660.jpg

The Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is seen in this undated NASA image.Reuters/NASA/Handout via Reuters

An “elite” group of liberal “millionaires and billionaires” is pumping money into an elaborate network of environmental groups to influence EPA policies, even using “shady” donations from a foreign company to fund their efforts, according to a lengthy report by Senate Republicans.

The 92-page report was released Wednesday by Republicans on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The study endeavors to expose an alleged “far-left environmental machine” that Republicans say exerts “tremendous sway” over policies that hurt the economy.

“There is an unbelievable amount of money behind the environmental movement and far too much collusion between far-left environmental groups and the Obama EPA. This report really gets to the core of tracking the money and exposing the collusion,” Sen. David Vitter, R-La., top Republican on the committee, said in a statement.

The report on the so-called “billionaire’s club” highlights a host of individuals and foundations and nonprofit groups — some of which benefit from favorable tax treatment — that work together on environmental causes. According to the report, well-known advocacy groups like the Sierra Club are the face of the movement, but provide “cover” for “secretive foundations” that provide the money, sometimes through intermediaries.  

The report highlights about a dozen of these private foundations, backed by members of the “billionaire’s club,” that the authors say hold sway over the movement.

They include the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (run by members of the famed Rockefeller family); the Schmidt Family Foundation (launched by Google executive Eric Schmidt and his wife); and the Heinz Family Foundation (led in part by Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Secretary of State John Kerry).  

Several of these foundations have been around for a long time, and fund a variety of causes, not limited to the environment. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, for instance, was founded in 1940 and, aside from environmental causes, focuses on democracy promotion and conflict prevention abroad.  

The environmental left also does not have a monopoly on well-heeled donors and foundations. Pro-oil and gas interests likewise have a robust funding network. 

The report, though, makes particular note of the Sea Change Foundation, which is led by hedge fund power couple Nathaniel Simons and Laura Baxter-Simons – and receives millions from foreign company Klein Ltd., based in Bermuda. Sea Change then donates that money to a variety of other environmental groups. 

The report says the San Francisco-based group was the sixth largest donor to environmental issues in 2011 – giving over $43 million in grants — but little public information about the group is available. Its website includes only a logo and a brief mission statement. And the donations from Klein Ltd. are anonymous, which the report calls problematic. 

Further, the report alleges that the environmental groups have forged deep ties with the Obama EPA, and notes that top officials in the agency come from groups like the National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council and divisions of the Sierra Club.

Nathaniel Simons and the foundations cited above have not returned requests for comment from FoxNews.com.

Dan Epstein, director of the conservative Cause of Action, said in a statement that the report also speaks to a problem of “fiscal sponsorship” – where charities effectively sell nonprofit status to others, in turn receiving charitable donations for another group.

“Cause of Action has asked the IRS to take simple steps to define the rules for fiscal sponsorship, but they refused to do so, protecting their political friends, while targeting their political enemies,” Epstein said.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/30/republican-report-alleges-billionaires-club-funding-environmental-causes/

Senate poised to follow House by approving post-scandal VA overhaul

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The Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix is seen Wednesday May 28, 2014.AP

The House approved a $17 billion package Wednesday aimed at fixing the scandal-scarred Department of Veterans Affairs, boosting the chances that Congress can finalize the bipartisan legislation before lawmakers leave for the August recess.

Fiscal conservatives remain concerned about the cost of the package and its impact on the deficit. But the bill nevertheless passed on a strong 420-5 vote Wednesday afternoon in the House.

The Senate is expected to take up the same legislation soon, as lawmakers rush to complete their work before leaving town this weekend for a five-week recess. 

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, called the plan an “honest solution to an urgent problem,” and urged the Senate to follow suit for the sake of fixing a “broken bureaucracy.” 

The measure is intended help veterans avoid long waits for health care, hire more doctors and nurses to treat them, and make it easier to fire senior executives at the Veterans Affairs Department.

The House vote came just one day after the Senate confirmed former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald to lead the sprawling agency, which provides health care to nearly 9 million enrolled veterans and disability compensation to nearly 4 million veterans.

McDonald will replace Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson, who took over in May after Eric Shinseki resigned amid a growing uproar over reports of long veterans’ waits for health care and VA workers falsifying records to cover up delays. McDonald has pledged to transform the VA and promised that “systematic failures” must be addressed. 

In order to be successful, McDonald “will need to take swift and decisive action to discipline employees responsible for mismanagement, negligence and corruption that harms veterans while taking bold steps to replace the department’s culture of complacency with a climate of accountability,” Miller said.

Miller is a co-sponsor of the VA overhaul bill, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., his counterpart on the Senate veterans panel.

The measure includes $10 billion in emergency spending to help veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to obtain outside care; $5 billion to hire doctors, nurses and other medical staff; and about $1.5 billion to lease 27 new clinics across the country.

Miller and Sanders say the bill will require about $12 billion in new spending after accounting for about $5 billion in unspecified spending cuts from the VA’s budget.

Despite the steep cost, Miller said he was confident he could sell the bill to fellow Republicans, including Tea Party members.

The VA has been rocked by reports of patients dying while awaiting treatment and mounting evidence that workers falsified or omitted appointment schedules to mask frequent, long delays.

The compromise measure would require the VA to pay private doctors to treat qualifying veterans who can’t get prompt appointments at the VA’s nearly 1,000 hospitals and outpatient clinics, or those who live at least 40 miles from one of them. Only veterans who are enrolled in VA care as of Aug. 1 or live at least 40 miles away would be eligible to get outside care.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/31/house-approves-veterans-affairs-overhaul-after-scandal-senate-poised-to-vote/

Management failure led to ObamaCare website woes, watchdog report finds

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Oct. 2, 2013: A man looks over the Affordable Care Act signup page on the HealthCare.gov website in New York.Reuters

A failure of management by the Obama administration led to the disastrous rollout of the ObamaCare website and has caused the government to incur tens of millions in additional costs, according to a congressional watchdog report released Wednesday.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded after a months-long investigation into the rocky rollout of Healthcare.gov that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ failure to establish “effective planning or oversight practices” was to blame for website’s myriad problems after it was launched.

Among the issues, investigators found that the administration kept changing the contractors’ marching orders for the HealthCare.gov website, creating widespread confusion and adding tens of millions of dollars in costs. Changes were ordered seemingly willy-nilly, including 40 times when government officials did not have the initial authority to incur additional costs.

As a result, the government has spent $840 million on Healthcare.gov and its supporting systems, according to the report.

“(The government incurred) significant cost increases, schedule slips and delayed system functionality,” William Woods, a GAO contracting expert, said in testimony prepared for a hearing Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The “cost increases” include those for the glitchy computerized sign-up system for consumers, which ballooned from $56 million to more than $209 million from Sept. 2011 to Feb. 2014. The cost of the electronic backroom for verifying applicants’ information jumped from $30 million to almost $85 million. A contract for fixes to the website, also grew from $91 million in January to $175 million as of last month.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, one of the lawmakers who requested the investigation, said in a statement Wednesday that the report “confirms our worst fears.”

“Millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted to build a website that didn’t work, all because of bureaucratic incompetence,” he said.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spokesman Aaron Albright told the Associated Press that the administration takes its responsibility for contract oversight seriously and has already started carrying out improvements that go beyond GAO’s recommendations. The congressional investigators recommended a cost control plan and other changes to establish clear procedures and improve oversight.

According to the report, the two contractors that initially took the lead building the system were Virginia-based CGI Federal, which built HealthCare.gov, and Maryland-based QSSI, which was responsible for an electronic back office that helps verify personal and financial information.

The consumer end of the system locked up the day it was launched, Oct. 1, and was down most of that initial month. The electronic back office had fewer problems.

A few months before the launch, the CMS agency notified CGI it was so dissatisfied that it would start withholding payments. Then it rescinded that decision.

CMS ultimately paid nearly all of CGI’s $12.5 million in fees, withholding only $267,000, the report said. The agency later ended its contract with CGI. Another contractor, Accenture, was brought in to make website fixes.

Confronted with a public relations disaster, the White House sent in a troubleshooter, management consultant Jeff Zients. He removed CMS as project leader, relegating it to a supporting role. CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner later personally apologized to Congress saying that “the website has not worked as well as it should.”

Zients’ rescue operation got the site working by early December. Eventually, some 8 million people managed to sign up, far exceeding expectations.

Nonetheless, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped down amid complaints by White House officials that the president was blind-sided by the problems.

The original contractors testified to Congress that they did not have nearly enough time to test the system before it went live.

Indeed, Tavenner took the unusual step of signing the operational security certificate for HealthCare.gov herself, after CMS security professionals balked. The site has since passed full security testing.

The GAO’s findings added to earlier conclusions in a report by Zients after his team got the website to work.

Beyond a maze of technical problems, Zients said he found “inadequate management oversight and coordination” that “prevented real-time decision making and efficient responses.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/30/failures-in-management-led-to-obamacare-website-woes-investigation-finds/

ELECTION YEAR BATTLE House OKs suing Obama for alleged abuse of power

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July 30, 2014: President Barack Obama speaks about the economy, , at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City, Mo.

The House on Wednesday approved a highly contentious lawsuit against President Obama over his alleged abuse of executive power, teeing up an election-year legal battle sure to spill onto the midterm campaign trail.

The House backed the lawsuit resolution on a vote of 225-201, with all Democrats opposed.

Republicans say the lawsuit is necessary to keep the president in constitutional check, after he allegedly exceeded his authority with unilateral changes to the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats branded the effort a political charade aimed at stirring up GOP voters for this fall’s congressional elections. They also said it’s an effort by top Republicans to mollify conservatives who want Obama to be impeached — something House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he has no plans to do.

“We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans. Listen, it’s all a scam, started by Democrats at the White House,” Boehner said Tuesday.

Following the vote, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden issued  a statement saying, “President Obama swore an oath to uphold the Constitution—an oath he has not fully lived up to. Today, the House took an important step to defend the Constitution and hold the president accountable.”

White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer sent an email saying, “The House of Representatives just took a vote — and it wasn’t to raise the minimum wage, put in place equal pay, create jobs, or reform our broken immigration system.

Instead, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives just voted to sue the President for using his executive authority. This lawsuit will waste valuable time and potentially millions of taxpayer dollars.”

Republicans said their planned legal action was warranted because, they argue, Obama has violated his constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws. They say that instead, he has enforced laws as he wants to, dangerously shifting power to the presidency from Congress.

“The people’s representatives will not turn a blind eye to the lawlessness of this president,” said Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo. “We will do whatever it takes to hold him and future occupants of the Oval Office accountable.”

Democrats dismissed the proposed lawsuit as a legally groundless exercise that could end up costing taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees and other expenses. But they’ve tried linking the suit to impeachment talk by conservatives like former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and turning it into a fundraising device.

Democrats have sent pleas for contributions to their supporters warning that the GOP is out to impeach Obama and ruin his presidency. Using that pitch, Democrats raised $1 million Monday, according to the head of the House Democratic campaign organization, Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y.

The lawsuit will focus on how Obama has carried out his health care overhaul.

Republicans say Obama has illegally changed the law using executive actions. The White House and Democrats say he’s acted legally and within the latitude he’s empowered to use as chief executive.

In particular, Republicans have objected that Obama has twice delayed the law’s so-called employer mandate, which he did under pressure from business groups. The provision requires companies with 50 or more employees working at least 30 hours weekly to offer health care coverage or pay fines, while businesses with fewer than 50 workers are exempt.

The requirement was initially to take effect this year. Now, companies with 50 to 99 employees have until 2016 to comply, while bigger companies have until next year.

Republicans say there are other examples of Obama exceeding his powers. These include failing to notify Congress in advance when he traded five Taliban members held at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the captive Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, and unilaterally preventing the deportation of some children who illegally immigrated to the U.S.

They also point to Obama’s comments in January that 2014 would be a “year of action” to implement his priorities, which he said he would do “with or without Congress” by using his “pen and the phone.”

“Such a shift in power should alarm members of both political parties because it threatens the very institution of the Congress,” said a GOP-written report accompanying the legislation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

 

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/30/house-approves-lawsuit-against-obama-over-alleged-abuse-executive-power/

EXCLUSIVE Brazen gangs of smugglers take aim at US border cops

EXCLUSIVE: A game warden hit in the head with a rock while trying to seize a raft. Police officers wounded in an hours-long standoff with a gang member wanted for murder. Criminals spewing obscenities and death threats at local cops before asking for – and receiving – medical treatment.

And that was just last week.

A weekly report distributed by a Texas state agency to senior law enforcement officials paints a grim picture of the Mexican border, where authorities regularly confront illegal immigrant gang members and draw automatic gunfire from across the Rio Grande, and where local, state and federal authorities fight a never-ending battle against drug smugglers.

The most recent Border Operations Sector Assessment report compiled by the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Border Security Operations Center, dated July 25 and obtained by FoxNews.com, details local and federal authorities encountering smugglers carrying millions of dollars’ worth of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine, some of which was found in vehicles filled with biblical passages and religious items; federal agents being assaulted and shot at; gang members brazenly approaching people in their homes; and ranch workers witnessing men crossing into the U.S. wearing camouflage and carrying long guns and automatic weapons.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REPORT

“In recent weeks the traffic appears to have slowed slightly, yet assaults on law enforcement have increased. This is a disturbing trend that needs to be addressed,” Chris Cabrera, vice president of the National Border Patrol Union, Rio Grande Valley Sector, told FoxNews.com.

“It is paramount that we get this problem under control. It is evident that we need more agents in the field to address the various threats posed to law enforcement as well as to our nation.”

The Austin-based Border Security Operations Center serves as the focal point for the six Joint Operations and Intelligence Centers located along Texas’ border with Mexico. Officials there analyze intelligence from state, local and federal law enforcement agencies in an effort to facilitate communication among them.

In the week of July 16-23 alone, according to the report, U.S. authorities apprehended 6,028 illegal immigrants, 4,152 of whom were not from Mexico. Most came from Central America. But there also were people from Russia, Morocco, China, Cuba and India, among other nations.

Cabrera, the union rep for the Rio Grande Valley Sector, the most heavily trafficked portion of the border, was shown a copy of the report by FoxNews.com. He contends the increase in attacks against law enforcement and the compilation of such events–including the game warden assault that occurred in Cabrera’s sector — should have been shared with him and his colleagues. But only higher-up officials receive the weekly reports, he said.

A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety declined to respond on the record; Border Patrol did not return FoxNews.com’s request for comment.

The 83-page report for July 16-23 reveals, among other things, that authorities seized $478,879 in U.S. currency, recovered more than seven tons of marijuana (street value: $6.35 million) and turned up more than a million dollars’ worth of cocaine and methamphetamine.

Most of the marijuana was found in an abandoned stash house, resulting in no arrests, while most of the other drugs were found inside vehicles stopped by law enforcement.

The report also revealed Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens routinely encountered illegal immigrants and gang members, and detained hundreds to be turned over to Border Patrol agents. One reported being hit in the head with a rock while trying to seize a raft used to ferry illegal immigrants across the river. “A Game Warden attempted to seize a raft and was assaulted on the head with a rock that was thrown from the MX river bank,” the report reads. “The subject surrounded himself with children to avoid counter measures. Wardens patrolling the river heard approximately 15 rds of automatic gunfire in MX. A total of 55 IAs were detained,” the report says.  

Game wardens also reported seeing people wearing black uniforms and armed with rifles on the Mexican side of the river, and they said gunshots from automatic weapons were heard throughout the night on at least four different occasions.

Last week FoxNews.com reported that Border Patrol agents patrolling the Rincon Peninsula, south of Mission, Texas, and across the river from Reynosa, Mexico, had been forced to run for cover when rounds of .50 caliber gunfire were shot from the Mexican side to the U.S. side of the Rio Grande. Without any protection from such high-caliber rounds, the agents were forced to hide until the barrage stopped. Federal and state sources who work in the area said they believe the gunfire continued for about 15 minutes.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT THIS INCIDENT

“This happens all the time. We’re out on the border, often we are alone, and all you hear is gunfire,” a Border Patrol agent working an overnight shift along the Rio Grande said last week.

“We are sitting ducks, and it’s only getting worse. Every night, it gets worse.”

Sources interviewed on the border in recent weeks echoed his statement and said they believe the real situation along the border is not being told. All asked that their names not be revealed, due to strict orders not to speak with the media. FoxNews.com has confirmed that senior Border Patrol officials have sent out memos to employees warning them that they can be fired for speaking to reporters.

On July 16, game wardens found a floating body at the Hidalgo County Pump Station. The body of a child was found floating in the river the previous week, too, sources told FoxNews.com.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE OF FOXNEWS.COM’S REPORTING FROM THE BORDER

The Border Security Operations Center report also includes encounters with gang members and cartel gunmen during the same week, including:

- The Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office arrested 32 members of gangs that included the Valluco, Texas Chicano Brothers, Sureño 13, Texas Syndicate, Tango Blast and Latin Kings.

- U.S. Border Patrol agents detained a dozen suspected gang members trying to cross the border, including alleged members of the infamous Salvadoran gang MS-13.

- A homeowner called Rio Grande City police to report three men who said they’d crossed into the U.S. were at her door asking for water. When cops arrived, one admitted to being an active MS-13 gang member.

- Two Edinburg, Texas, officers were shot and wounded by a Texas Syndicate gang member wanted for murder during a multiagency, hours-long standoff in La Joya.

- American reporters were threatened by rifle-toting smugglers from across the river.

- Dozens of photos and mugshots of illegal immigrants – some of them juveniles – proudly displaying gang-related tattoos.

The report also notes significant events in Mexico. A section included reports of mass graves found; an oil pipeline explosion likely due to illegal siphoning; cartel extortion of migrants heading toward the U.S. border, imposing tolls on all those who use the highways; and the murders of Mexican law enforcement agents.

Also of note: Salvadorans riding a train called “The Beast” to the U.S. border reportedly told authorities they had been told to take the long way into America – through New Mexico, not Texas, which is the far more direct route – because they had heard that Texas Gov. Rick Perry was sending 1,000 National Guardsmen down to help secure the border.

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BAR EXAM FAIL Law grads unable to submit tests due to software glitch

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    AP

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    UNC Law School graduate Satie Munn, tweeted a picture of the message she received on Tuesday after she was unable to upload her essay answers for the North Carolina Bar Exam.(twitter.com/satiem)

It’s Bar-magedon!

Law students across the country endured their own exam hell this week after a glitch in a widely used system to upload bar exam answers and essays temporarily failed, meaning their answers were not uploaded or sent to various state websites.

ExamSoft, the management platform software that handles digital bar exam submissions for multiple states, experienced a severe technical meltdown on Tuesday, leaving many graduates temporarily unable to complete the exams needed to practice law. The snafu also left bar associations from nearly 20 states with no choice but to extend their submission deadlines.

Frustrated law students took to Twitter in the wake of the disaster to air their frustration with ExamSoft, creating hashtag topics like #Barghazi and #Barmagedon and likening the system failure to that of Obamacare website glitches late last year.

“Are the folks at #examsoft the same who did the Obamacare website,” reads one tweet from a Twitter user named @Huerts31.

“Thanks #examsoft for turning the first day into Barghazi,” said one exam taker under the Twitter handle @nickdaisydaisy.

“This is why it’s a good idea to bring your 1946 Smith Corona ‘silent’ portable typewriter with you. For backup. #Barmageddon #examsoft,” reads another tweet from @Qwertz0.

Tuesday’s testing session was for the essay portion of the two-day long examination period and normally takes six hours to complete. Some test takers say it took them just as long to attempt to send in their completed tests.

“There’s a lot of stress with this exam. It’s on your mind throughout law school,” Recent UNC Law School grad Satie Munn said to FoxNews.com. “Tension is already high on that first day after all the time you put in preparing. It’s like an instant panic attack when you are unable to send your essays in. I think it was sort of a breaking point for a lot of people.” 

It’s not clear how many exam takers were affected but officials for Florida-based ExamSoft issued an apology for the issues along with an explanation for the cause.

“We apologize to the affected exam takers for the delay in processing their answer files last night, Ken Knotts, a spokesman for ExamSoft, said in a statement to FoxNews.com. “We understand that it is a stressful time for bar exam takers, and their experience last night was unacceptable to us.

“Due to a technical reason that we are still investigating, it took us approximately six hours longer than usual to process all of the exam takers’ answers onto our servers. As of very early this morning, the backlog of answers was nearly fully processed and those who are uploading their exam files are not currently experiencing a delay.”

Many exam takers took to social media Wednesday afternoon, saying they were still having trouble uploading their answers.

The digital system for the exam works on users’ personal laptop, which they bring to the testing facility, where they download the company’s application to the computers they use to take the tests. At the end of the exam, the file closes and locks. When the user is able to connect to the Internet, the file uploads. Users cannot make changes to the file after the conclusion of the test.

ExamSoft has assured the grads that their answers were not deleted from their computers or the system and would be able to submit them in time for the extended deadlines.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/07/30/bar-exam-fail-law-grads-unable-to-submit-completed-tests-due-to-software-glitch/

‘BILLIONAIRE’S CLUB’ Report: Green causes funded by ‘shady’ network

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The Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is seen in this undated NASA image.Reuters/NASA/Handout via Reuters

An “elite” group of liberal “millionaires and billionaires” is pumping money into an elaborate network of environmental groups to influence EPA policies, even using “shady” donations from a foreign company to fund their efforts, according to a lengthy report by Senate Republicans.

The 92-page report was released Wednesday by Republicans on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The study endeavors to expose an alleged “far-left environmental machine” that Republicans say exerts “tremendous sway” over policies that hurt the economy.

“There is an unbelievable amount of money behind the environmental movement and far too much collusion between far-left environmental groups and the Obama EPA. This report really gets to the core of tracking the money and exposing the collusion,” Sen. David Vitter, R-La., top Republican on the committee, said in a statement.

The report on the so-called “billionaire’s club” highlights a host of individuals and foundations and nonprofit groups — some of which benefit from favorable tax treatment — that work together on environmental causes. According to the report, well-known advocacy groups like the Sierra Club are the face of the movement, but provide “cover” for “secretive foundations” that provide the money, sometimes through intermediaries.  

The report highlights about a dozen of these private foundations, backed by members of the “billionaire’s club,” that the authors say hold sway over the movement.

They include the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (run by members of the famed Rockefeller family); the Schmidt Family Foundation (launched by Google executive Eric Schmidt and his wife); and the Heinz Family Foundation (led in part by Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Secretary of State John Kerry).  

Several of these foundations have been around for a long time, and fund a variety of causes, not limited to the environment. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, for instance, was founded in 1940 and, aside from environmental causes, focuses on democracy promotion and conflict prevention abroad.  

The environmental left also does not have a monopoly on well-heeled donors and foundations. Pro-oil and gas interests likewise have a robust funding network. 

The report, though, makes particular note of the Sea Change Foundation, which is led by hedge fund power couple Nathaniel Simons and Laura Baxter-Simons – and receives millions from foreign company Klein Ltd., based in Bermuda. Sea Change then donates that money to a variety of other environmental groups. 

The report says the San Francisco-based group was the sixth largest donor to environmental issues in 2011 – giving over $43 million in grants — but little public information about the group is available. Its website includes only a logo and a brief mission statement. And the donations from Klein Ltd. are anonymous, which the report calls problematic. 

Further, the report alleges that the environmental groups have forged deep ties with the Obama EPA, and notes that top officials in the agency come from groups like the National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council and divisions of the Sierra Club.

Nathaniel Simons and the foundations cited above have not returned requests for comment from FoxNews.com.

Dan Epstein, director of the conservative Cause of Action, said in a statement that the report also speaks to a problem of “fiscal sponsorship” – where charities effectively sell nonprofit status to others, in turn receiving charitable donations for another group.

“Cause of Action has asked the IRS to take simple steps to define the rules for fiscal sponsorship, but they refused to do so, protecting their political friends, while targeting their political enemies,” Epstein said.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/30/republican-report-alleges-billionaires-club-funding-environmental-causes/

House Republicans forge ahead with lawsuit against Obama

Last Updated Jul 30, 2014 6:30 PM EDT

Amid several outstanding domestic and foreign policy crises Congress must tackle by the end of the week, House Republicans are finalizing their plans to sue President Obama.

The House voted 225 to 201 Wednesday afternoon to authorize House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to go forward with the lawsuit. It alleges that the president has overreached on his executive authority by unilaterally changing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

The vote was almost split along party lines, with all Democrats voting “no.” Five Republicans also voted against the measure. Four Republicans and three Democrats did not vote.

The president’s response to Congress, in a campaign-style speech from Kansas City, was to ask House Republicans to “stop just hatin’ all the time.”

“We could do so much more if Congress would just come on and help out a little bit,” Mr. Obama said after he laid out all the ways he had unilaterally taken steps he says help all Americans. “Stop being mad all the time. Stop just hatin’ all the time.”

“I know they’re not that happy that I’m president, but that’s okay,” he said. “I’ve only got a couple of years left. Come on, let’s get some work done. Then you can be mad at the next president.”

He reminded the audience that their tax dollars would fund the suit – which likely wouldn’t even take effect until after he has left office.

“It’s not a productive thing to do,” the president concluded.

The suit has sparked days of bickering between the House GOP and the White House as they argue over who is responsible for fanning the flames of suggestion that the House might impeach the president.

Boehner called it a “scam started by Democrats in the White House” on Tuesday, pointing to the fundraising success the party’s campaign arm enjoyed over the weekend after sending out scores of frantic emails warning that impeachment in the works.

“We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans,” Boehner said.

In response to Boehner, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he suspected that several Republicans “didn’t receive the memo,” calling out by name some of House members who have used the I-word in public recently.

The White House’s hope, according to the Washington Post, is that voters will be put off by those efforts now, like they were when Congress worked to impeach former President Bill Clinton and handed Democrats five new seats during the 1998 midterm elections.

In just two days, Mr. Obama will be the lone voice from Washington on the national stage as lawmakers leave town for their districts. He’ll continue to work to motivate Democratic voters by pitching ideas like closing tax loopholes that benefit large companies even if the House and Senate are expected to do barely any legislating between now and November.

During some of his past out-of-town trips he has met with Americans who wrote to him describing their struggles and successes at getting ahead.

At Arthur Bryant’s, an iconic Kansas City barbeque joint, Mr. Obama bought dinner for some of those letter-writers and mingled with local patrons, including the Glenview, Ill., Titans, a fast-pitch softball team.

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Deadly Israeli strikes hit U.N. school, market area

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Israeli strikes hit a crowded shopping area in Gaza City Wednesday, hours after tank shells tore through the walls of a U.N. school crowded with war refugees in the deadliest of a series of air and artillery attacks that pushed the Palestinian death toll above 1,360 in more than three weeks of fighting.

The bloodshed came on the heels of an escalation by both sides fighting in the embattled coastal territory, further dimming prospects for a sustainable cease-fire despite international diplomatic efforts.

The attack on the U.N. school in the Jebaliya refugee camp was the second deadly strike on a U.N. compound in a week. Tank shells slammed into the compound before dawn, said Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, which is sheltering more than 200,000 people displaced by the fighting at dozens of U.N. schools across Gaza.

Gaza health ministry official Ashraf al-Kidra said at least 17 people were killed and about 90 wounded in the school strike. Four of the dead were killed just outside the school compound, two in their home nearby and two in the street, after returning from pre-dawn prayers, their relatives said.

The Israeli military said it fired back after its soldiers were targeted by mortar rounds launched from the vicinity of the school.

Assad Sabah said he and his five children were huddling under desks in one of the classrooms because of the constant sound of tank fire throughout the night.

“We were scared to death,” he said. “After 4:30 a.m., tanks started firing more. Three explosions shook the school.”

“One classroom collapsed over the head of the people who were inside,” he said.

In one classroom, the front wall was blown out, leaving debris and bloodied clothing. Another strike tore a large round hole in the ceiling of a second-floor classroom.

Hundreds of people crowded the school courtyard after the strike, some dazed, others wailing.

“Where will we go?” asked Aishe Abu Darabeh, 56. “Where will we go next? We fled and they (the Israelis) are following us.”

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“We should kill the Israeli women and children, just like they are killing ours,” one woman told CBS News.

“It is enough,” cried another. “Have mercy!”

In all, 1,361 Palestinians have been killed – 116 on Wednesday – and more than 7,600 wounded since the July 8 start of fighting, al-Kidra said.

The Israeli military said three of its soldiers were killed when a booby-trapped house collapsed after they identified an entrance to a tunnel inside, raising to 56 the number killed since a ground war began earlier this month. Three civilians also have been killed on the Israeli side.

The U.N. said it was the sixth school to be hit since the conflict began, and the second to cause deaths. At least 15 civilians also were killed last Thursday when the courtyard of a U.N. school in Gaza City was hit. Israel has acknowledged that troops fired a mortar shell that hit the courtyard but said aerial footage shows the yard was empty at the time and that the shell could not have killed anyone.

“I reached levels of anger and indignation about the fact that despite all the efforts that we have put in, to ensure that places like these would be respected, that people in them would be protected when they were there – that this was not the case is intolerable,” said Pierre Kraehenbuehl, the UNRWA commissioner general.

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Wednesday’s trike “outrageous” and “unjustifiable,” and demanded an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas.

“Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children,” Ban said on his arrival in San Jose, Costa Rica. He added that “all available evidence points to Israeli artillery as the cause” and noted that Israeli military authorities had received the coordinates of the school from the United Nations 17 times, including on Tuesday night.

The White House also condemned the deadly shelling. White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan also said the U.S. is “extremely concerned” that thousands of Palestinians aren’t safe in U.N.-designated shelters, despite being told by Israel’s military to leave their homes. Israel has been warning civilians by phone and leaflet to leave dangerous areas ahead of strikes on militant targets.

The mortar shells were fired from a distance of some 200 yards from the school, said an Israeli military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Yomtov Tamir, a retired Israeli general, said he was not familiar with Wednesday’s strike but said that even though tank fire is generally “very accurate” it can miss its target for a variety of reasons.

“One – it might have gone through a target. Two – it might be a mistake in identification, that they intended to hit something specific but that it was actually something other than what the person aiming intended,” he said.

Hours later, several Israeli shells hit a crowded shopping area in the Shijaiyah district in Gaza City, killing at least 16 people, including local Palestinian photographer Rami Rayan, who was wearing a press vest at the time, and wounding more than 200 people, Gaza health officials said. A witness had previously described airstrikes, but a Civil Defense official said the area was hit by shelling.

Al-Kidra and witnesses said the shopping area was busy because residents, and many who had taken shelter in the area from fighting elsewhere, thought a cease-fire was in place. The Palestinian Red Crescent confirmed the death toll.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment on the strike on the shopping area, saying it was investigating the report.

Israel had earlier announced a “humanitarian window” in certain parts of the territory. But it said it would not halt fire in other areas, including in Shijaiyah, where the strike took place. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri dismissed the cease-fire, saying it lacked any “value” because it excluded border areas from where Hamas wanted to evacuate the wounded.

“People were in the street and in the market, mostly women and kids. Suddenly more than 10 shells landed in the area, the market, in the Turkman area, and next to the gas station,” said Salim Qadoum, 26, who witnessed the strike.

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Blood stained the streets near the strike and limbs were strewn across the floor. Some survivors were yelling in shock. Scores of wounded were brought to Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital where the emergency room quickly overflowed. Some of the wounded were treated on the blood-smeared floor.

An earlier strike also hit a warehouse in the Shijaiyah district, which has been frequently targeted by Israel. That caused a fire and sent a large cloud of black smoke billowing into the sky as firefighters and ambulances arrived at the scene.

Brig. Gen. Mickey Adelstein, a senior military official, said the structure was a clinic operated by the U.N. but the U.N. said it could not confirm that.

Gaza militants also fired 84 rockets at Israel Wednesday, including more than 26 after the cease-fire was announced, the military said.

Israel says its Gaza operation is meant to stop Hamas rocket and mortar fire that has reached increasingly deeper into its territory and to destroy a sophisticated network of tunnels used for attacks inside Israel. Hamas has steadfastly refused efforts to forge a truce, insisting its demands including the lifting of an Israeli and Egyptian blockade must be met first.

Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman, the head of the army’s southern command, said Israel was “a few days” away from destroying the 32 tunnels it has located so far. More than two-thirds of those have been demolished, according to Adelstein, the senior military official.

“Hamas could have built two hospitals, 20 schools, 20 clinics and 100 kindergartens with the amount of cement they used to build the tunnels,” Turgeman said.

Gaza militants have fired more than 2,600 rockets toward Israel over the past three weeks, according to the Israeli army. Over the past 23 days, Israeli forces have hit 4,100 targets in Gaza, about one-third connected to rocket launching, a statement said.

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General Motors sued on behalf of hundreds of plaintiffs

DETROIT - A Texas lawyer has filed a lawsuit against General Motors (GM) on behalf of 658 people who were injured or killed in crashes allegedly caused by faulty ignition switches.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan in New York City names 29 people who were killed in crashes and 629 who were hurt. All the crashes occurred after GM emerged from bankruptcy protection in July of 2009. That makes them exempt from GM’s efforts to shield itself from claims due to crashes that occurred before the bankruptcy, attorney Robert Hilliard said in a statement.

Hilliard also said he will ask judges for permission to file another 248 cases from before the bankruptcy, including 21 deaths.

“It’s certainly not a legal given that GM will be successful in its attempts to use this ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ bankruptcy card,” said Hilliard, of Corpus Christi, Texas.

The lawsuit alleges that GM knew about the defective switches that can cause engines to stall since as early as 2001, yet it didn’t recall any cars until this year. The switches can cut off the engine, knocking out power steering and brakes and disabling the air bags, which wouldn’t protect people in a crash. The lawsuit seeks in excess of $75,000 in damages for each plaintiff.

The filing comes just days before compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg is to start taking injury and death claims on behalf of GM. Feinberg, who handled claims for the BP Gulf Oil Spill and the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, has said GM has placed no limit on the total amount of money he can spend to compensate victims. Feinberg is to start taking claims on Friday and will accept applications through the end of the year. Those who settle with Feinberg must give up their right to sue.

GM recalled 2.6 million small cars such as the Chevrolet Cobalt for defective switches starting in February, touching off a recall crisis at the company that has ballooned to 29 million recalled vehicles. Of those, 17.3 million are to fix defective ignition switches. But only owners of the original 2.6 million small cars are eligible for compensation through Feinberg.

GM says the small-car switches have caused at least 54 crashes and 13 deaths.

Hilliard’s lawsuit includes crashes involving the original 2.6 million cars as well other cars with faulty switches. He called the exclusion of some ignition switches from the compensation fund “GM madness at its best.”

GM spokesman Jim Cain wouldn’t comment on Hilliard’s lawsuit, but said the company wants to do the right thing for people harmed by ignition switch issues with the Cobalt and other recalled small cars. “That’s why we engaged Kenneth Feinberg to independently design and administer a compensation program,” Cain’s statement said.

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ELECTION YEAR BATTLE House OKs suing Obama over alleged abuse of power

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July 30, 2014: President Barack Obama speaks about the economy, , at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City, Mo.

The House on Wednesday approved a highly contentious lawsuit against President Obama over his alleged abuse of executive power, teeing up an election-year legal battle sure to spill onto the midterm campaign trail.

The House backed the lawsuit resolution on a vote of 225-201, with all Democrats opposed.

Republicans say the lawsuit is necessary to keep the president in constitutional check, after he allegedly exceeded his authority with unilateral changes to the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats branded the effort a political charade aimed at stirring up GOP voters for this fall’s congressional elections. They also said it’s an effort by top Republicans to mollify conservatives who want Obama to be impeached — something House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he has no plans to do.

“We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans. Listen, it’s all a scam, started by Democrats at the White House,” Boehner said Tuesday.

Republicans said their planned legal action was warranted because, they argue, Obama has violated his constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws. They say that instead, he has enforced laws as he wants to, dangerously shifting power to the presidency from Congress.

“The people’s representatives will not turn a blind eye to the lawlessness of this president,” said Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo. “We will do whatever it takes to hold him and future occupants of the Oval Office accountable.”

Democrats dismissed the proposed lawsuit as a legally groundless exercise that could end up costing taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees and other expenses. But they’ve tried linking the suit to impeachment talk by conservatives like former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and turning it into a fundraising device.

Democrats have sent pleas for contributions to their supporters warning that the GOP is out to impeach Obama and ruin his presidency. Using that pitch, Democrats raised $1 million Monday, according to the head of the House Democratic campaign organization, Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y.

The lawsuit will focus on how Obama has carried out his health care overhaul.

Republicans say Obama has illegally changed the law using executive actions. The White House and Democrats say he’s acted legally and within the latitude he’s empowered to use as chief executive.

In particular, Republicans have objected that Obama has twice delayed the law’s so-called employer mandate, which he did under pressure from business groups. The provision requires companies with 50 or more employees working at least 30 hours weekly to offer health care coverage or pay fines, while businesses with fewer than 50 workers are exempt.

The requirement was initially to take effect this year. Now, companies with 50 to 99 employees have until 2016 to comply, while bigger companies have until next year.

Republicans say there are other examples of Obama exceeding his powers. These include failing to notify Congress in advance when he traded five Taliban members held at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the captive Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, and unilaterally preventing the deportation of some children who illegally immigrated to the U.S.

They also point to Obama’s comments in January that 2014 would be a “year of action” to implement his priorities, which he said he would do “with or without Congress” by using his “pen and the phone.”

“Such a shift in power should alarm members of both political parties because it threatens the very institution of the Congress,” said a GOP-written report accompanying the legislation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

 

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/30/house-approves-lawsuit-against-obama-over-alleged-abuse-executive-power/

‘BILLIONAIRE’S CLUB’ Report: Green causes funded by ‘shady’ network

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The Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is seen in this undated NASA image.Reuters/NASA/Handout via Reuters

An “elite” group of liberal “millionaires and billionaires” is pumping money into an elaborate network of environmental groups to influence EPA policies, even using “shady” donations from a foreign company to fund their efforts, according to a lengthy report by Senate Republicans.

The 92-page report was released Wednesday by Republicans on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The study endeavors to expose an alleged “far-left environmental machine” that Republicans say exerts “tremendous sway” over policies that hurt the economy.

“There is an unbelievable amount of money behind the environmental movement and far too much collusion between far-left environmental groups and the Obama EPA. This report really gets to the core of tracking the money and exposing the collusion,” Sen. David Vitter, R-La., top Republican on the committee, said in a statement.

The report on the so-called “billionaire’s club” highlights a host of individuals and foundations and nonprofit groups — some of which benefit from favorable tax treatment — that work together on environmental causes. According to the report, well-known advocacy groups like the Sierra Club are the face of the movement, but provide “cover” for “secretive foundations” that provide the money, sometimes through intermediaries.  

The report highlights about a dozen of these private foundations, backed by members of the “billionaire’s club,” that the authors say hold sway over the movement.

They include the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (run by members of the famed Rockefeller family); the Schmidt Family Foundation (launched by Google executive Eric Schmidt and his wife); and the Heinz Family Foundation (led in part by Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Secretary of State John Kerry).  

Several of these foundations have been around for a long time, and fund a variety of causes, not limited to the environment. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, for instance, was founded in 1940 and, aside from environmental causes, focuses on democracy promotion and conflict prevention abroad.  

The environmental left also does not have a monopoly on well-heeled donors and foundations. Pro-oil and gas interests likewise have a robust funding network. 

The report, though, makes particular note of the Sea Change Foundation, which is led by hedge fund power couple Nathaniel Simons and Laura Baxter-Simons – and receives millions from foreign company Klein Ltd., based in Bermuda. Sea Change then donates that money to a variety of other environmental groups. 

The report says the San Francisco-based group was the sixth largest donor to environmental issues in 2011 – giving over $43 million in grants — but little public information about the group is available. Its website includes only a logo and a brief mission statement. And the donations from Klein Ltd. are anonymous, which the report calls problematic. 

Further, the report alleges that the environmental groups have forged deep ties with the Obama EPA, and notes that top officials in the agency come from groups like the National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council and divisions of the Sierra Club.

Nathaniel Simons and the foundations cited above have not returned requests for comment from FoxNews.com.

Dan Epstein, director of the conservative Cause of Action, said in a statement that the report also speaks to a problem of “fiscal sponsorship” – where charities effectively sell nonprofit status to others, in turn receiving charitable donations for another group.

“Cause of Action has asked the IRS to take simple steps to define the rules for fiscal sponsorship, but they refused to do so, protecting their political friends, while targeting their political enemies,” Epstein said.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/30/republican-report-alleges-billionaires-club-funding-environmental-causes/

EBOLA VIRUS FEARS Missionary groups order personnel to leave Liberia

 

Two missionary groups have ordered the evacuation of their non-essential personnel from the West African country of Liberia after a doctor and a missionary contracted the Ebola virus last week.

SIM USA President Bruce Johnson announced Tuesday that his group and Samaritan’s Purse decided on the evacuation following an upsurge in the number of Ebola cases in Liberia. Johnson said the logistics of the evacuation are being determined.

Spokesman Palmer Holt told the Associated Press approximately 60 employees were to be evacuated. A statement from SIM says none of the evacuees is displaying any symptoms of Ebola, but all are being monitored continually.

Dr. Kent Brantly, of Fort Worth, Texas, and Nancy Writebol, of Charlotte, are being treated for the deadly virus in a hospital on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. 

“The next few days are critical in assessing the recovery of these Ebola crisis responders,” Johnson said in a statement. “SIM and Samaritan’s Purse invite people to pray for the full restoration of our two workers and for the stemming of the spread of this virus across Liberia and other nations of West Africa.”

Dr. Brantly’s wife, Amber, said in a statement released by Samaritan’s Purse Tuesday that her husband was “very physically weak but his spirit has been determined throughout this ordeal.”

“As people with a deep faith in Jesus, we sincerely thank the thousands of people worldwide who have lifted up Kent and this dreadful situation in prayer,” the statement said. “We continue to lean on that faith and take great consolation in our God in these times.”

On Wednesday, Samaritan’s Purse released an update saying both Brantly and Writebol “have shown slight improvement in the past 24 hours. However, both remain in serious condition…” The group asked for people to continue to pray for those affected by Ebola.

Amber Brantly and the couple’s two children, aged 3 and 5, had departed Liberia for Texas to attend a wedding days before Brantly fell ill. They are staying with family in Abilene and, while not subject to quarantine, are monitoring their temperatures for an early sign of viral infection, a City of Abilene spokeswoman told the Associated Press.

The current Ebola outbreak is the largest in history, with over 670 deaths blamed on the disease in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria. The disease has no vaccine and no specific treatment, with a fatality rate of at least 60 percent.

Also on Tuesday, the West African regional airline ASKY said it was temporarily halting flights not only to Monrovia but also to Freetown, Sierra Leone. Flights will continue to the capital of the third major country where people have died — Guinea — though passengers departing from there will be “screened for signs of the virus.”

Passengers at the airline’s hub in Lome, Togo also will be screened by medical teams, it said.

The measures came amid concern by health officials that a 40-year-old U.S. citizen named Patrick Sawyer may have passed the virus to other travelers while flying one of the airline’s planes between Liberia, Ghana, Togo, and Nigeria, where he died of the virus July 25. 

At the Liberian Finance Ministry, where Sawyer worked, officials announced they were temporarily shutting down operations. All employees who came into contact with Sawyer before he left for Nigeria were being placed under surveillance, it said.

The World Health Organization says the risk of travelers contracting Ebola is considered low because it requires direct contact with bodily fluids or secretions such as urine, blood, sweat or saliva, experts say. Ebola can’t be spread like flu through casual contact or breathing in the same air.

Patients are contagious only once the disease has progressed to the point they show symptoms, according to the WHO. And the most vulnerable are health care workers and relatives who come in much closer contact with the sick.

Still, the early symptoms of Ebola — fever, aches and sore throat — mirror many other diseases including malaria and typhoid, experts say. Only in later stages of Ebola do patients sometimes experience severe internal bleeding and blood coming out of their mouth, eyes or ears.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/07/30/missionary-groups-order-non-essential-personnel-to-leave-liberia-over-fears/

‘—HOLES AND CRAZIES’ Ex-IRS chief Lerner’s emails reveal disdain for GOP

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This May 22, 2013 file photo shows Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official Lois Lerner on Capitol Hill in Washington.AP

House Republicans have dug up emails from Lois Lerner in which the former IRS official refers to some in the Republican Party as “—holes” and “crazies” – an exchange they say shows her “animus” toward conservatives.

The November 2012 emails were released Wednesday by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., as part of his renewed call for the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to investigate. Lerner is the ex-IRS official who led the unit accused of targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status for extra scrutiny.

In the email exchange, Lerner appears to be chatting with another unidentified individual about a vacation in Great Britain. She describes how she overheard “some ladies” talking about how America is “going down the tubes.”

The person she tells this to responds that “you should hear the whacko wing of the GOP. The US is through; too many foreigners sucking the teat; time to hunker down, buy ammo and food, and prepare for the end. The right wing radio shows are scary to listen to.”

Lerner responds: “Great. Maybe we are through if there are that many —holes.”

After another email to her about how “rabid” the radio show callers are, Lerner responds: “So we don’t need to worry about alien teRrorists. (sic) It’s our own crazies that will take us down.” 

The emails are being used by Camp to make the case that Lerner had a bias against conservatives – something congressional Republicans have long suggested as they push for the Justice Department to get more involved in reviewing the IRS scandal, and Lerner herself.

“In light of this new information, I hope DOJ will aggressively pursue this case and finally appoint a special counsel, so the full truth can be revealed and justice is served,” Camp said in a statement.

Camp and other GOP committee leaders have been after the IRS lately over the agency’s admission that it lost a trove of Lerner emails due to an apparent computer crash.

Incidentally, a separate email chain from February 2012 released by Camp details another problem with her home computer. Camp claims the emails show Lerner may have kept work information on that home computer, raising concerns that taxpayer information may have been compromised. It’s not clear from the email exchange, however, whether that is the case.

In the November chain, Lerner also makes an off-color comment about class.

She describes visiting an “Edwardian English village” full of large houses — “which have been ruined by letting the hoi paloi live there!” (Hoi polloi is a term for common people.)

“These people have ruined everything with their equality push!” she writes.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/30/emails-show-ex-irs-official-lerner-using-derogatory-terms-for-republicans/

THE FIX IS IN? Veterans Affairs overhaul glides through House

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The Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix is seen Wednesday May 28, 2014.AP

The House approved a $17 billion package Wednesday aimed at fixing the scandal-scarred Department of Veterans Affairs, boosting the chances that Congress can finalize the bipartisan legislation before lawmakers leave for the August recess.

Fiscal conservatives remain concerned about the cost of the package and its impact on the deficit. But the bill nevertheless passed on a strong 420-5 vote Wednesday afternoon in the House.

The Senate is expected to take up the same legislation soon, as lawmakers rush to complete their work before leaving town this weekend for a five-week recess. 

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, called the plan an “honest solution to an urgent problem,” and urged the Senate to follow suit for the sake of fixing a “broken bureaucracy.” 

The measure is intended help veterans avoid long waits for health care, hire more doctors and nurses to treat them, and make it easier to fire senior executives at the Veterans Affairs Department.

The House vote came just one day after the Senate confirmed former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald to lead the sprawling agency, which provides health care to nearly 9 million enrolled veterans and disability compensation to nearly 4 million veterans.

McDonald will replace Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson, who took over in May after Eric Shinseki resigned amid a growing uproar over reports of long veterans’ waits for health care and VA workers falsifying records to cover up delays. McDonald has pledged to transform the VA and promised that “systematic failures” must be addressed. 

In order to be successful, McDonald “will need to take swift and decisive action to discipline employees responsible for mismanagement, negligence and corruption that harms veterans while taking bold steps to replace the department’s culture of complacency with a climate of accountability,” Miller said.

Miller is a co-sponsor of the VA overhaul bill, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., his counterpart on the Senate veterans panel.

The measure includes $10 billion in emergency spending to help veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to obtain outside care; $5 billion to hire doctors, nurses and other medical staff; and about $1.5 billion to lease 27 new clinics across the country.

Miller and Sanders say the bill will require about $12 billion in new spending after accounting for about $5 billion in unspecified spending cuts from the VA’s budget.

Despite the steep cost, Miller said he was confident he could sell the bill to fellow Republicans, including Tea Party members.

The VA has been rocked by reports of patients dying while awaiting treatment and mounting evidence that workers falsified or omitted appointment schedules to mask frequent, long delays.

The compromise measure would require the VA to pay private doctors to treat qualifying veterans who can’t get prompt appointments at the VA’s nearly 1,000 hospitals and outpatient clinics, or those who live at least 40 miles from one of them. Only veterans who are enrolled in VA care as of Aug. 1 or live at least 40 miles away would be eligible to get outside care.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/30/house-approves-veterans-affairs-overhaul-after-scandal-senate-poised-to-vote/

SPEAKING OF MONEY… Questions over $48M Bill earned while Hillary at State

A joint investigation by the Washington Examiner and the nonprofit watchdog group Judicial Watch found that former President Clinton gave 215 speeches and earned $48 million while his wife presided over U.S. foreign policy, raising questions about whether the Clintons fulfilled ethics agreements related to the Clinton Foundation during Hillary Clinton‘s tenure as secretary of state.

According to documents obtained by Judicial Watch and released Wednesday in an ongoing Freedom of Information Act case, State Department officials charged with reviewing Bill Clinton’s proposed speeches did not object to a single one.

Some of the speeches were delivered in global hotspots and were paid for by entities with business or policy interests in the U.S.

The documents also show that in June 2011, the State Department approved a consulting agreement between Bill Clinton and a controversial Clinton Foundation adviser, Doug Band.

Click for more from WashingtonExaminer.com

 

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/29/state-department-approved-215-bill-clinton-speeches-controversial-consulting/

U.S. Peace Corps volunteers exposed to Ebola

Last Updated Jul 30, 2014 3:45 PM EDT

Two Peace Corps volunteers in Liberia have been isolated for exposure to the Ebola virus, CBS News has learned.

They are currently showing no signs of sickness. The incubation period for the disease can be up to 21 days. The names of the isolated Americans have not been released.

A Peace Corps spokeswoman confirmed to CBS News that the two “had contact with an individual who later died of the Ebola virus.”

So far, health officials have only monitored Ebola spreading through body fluids.

As a result of the growing spread of the deadly, incurable virus, Peace Corps is temporarily evacuating its volunteers from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the three worst-hit countries.

There are currently 102 volunteers in Guinea working in the areas of education, agriculture and health; and 108 volunteers in Liberia and 130 volunteers in Sierra Leone working in education, according to the Peace Corps.

There are at least three U.S. citizens known to have contracted the disease. Two are medical workers in Liberia, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol.

Another American citizen, Patrick Sawyer, died after flying from Liberia to Lagos in Nigeria. He had been a consultant with Liberia’s finance ministry and was originally from that country.

Brantly’s wife said Wednesday he “remains very physically weak” but they “believe God will deliver” him from the deadly virus.

Brantly and the couple’s 3- and 5-year-old children left Liberia for a scheduled visit to the United States on July 20. Days later, Kent Brantly quarantined himself in the isolation ward of a hospital where he had been treating Ebola patients after testing positive for the disease. His host organization Samaritan’s Purse has recalled non-essential employees from Liberia.

Amber Brantly and the children are in Abilene, Texas, under a 21-day fever watch but are not believed to have contracted the illness.

Samaritans Purse said on Wednesday that Brantly and Writebol had shown slight improvement but were still in serious condition.

Wrtiebol’s son said Wednesday she is able move around the home where she’s in isolation and has been able to get plenty of fluids.

As of July 23, Liberia had recorded 129 of the 672 deaths blamed on Ebola across Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, according figures released by the World Health Organization.

The White House said Wednesday there are no plans to change or cancel an upcoming summit of African leaders in the U.S. despite the Ebola outbreak.

More than 40 African leaders are set to meet with President Barack Obama in Washington next week.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz says the U.S. is aware of reports that American citizens have been diagnosed with Ebola but notes that the Centers for Disease Control has determined there’s no significant risk to the U.S.

Schultz says Obama is getting regular updates on the outbreak. He says U.S. agencies are providing equipment and other support and that the U.S. is working closely with governments in the region to prevent the virus from spreading.

On Wednesday, the Liberian government announced it had shuttered all schools and that it had quarantined several communities where the outbreak was bad in its ongoing efforts to combat the disease.

Security forces across the country have been ordered to enforce the new measures, part of a new action plan that included placing all non-essential government workers on 30-day compulsory leave, according to Reuters.

Ebola has a fatality rate of at least 60 percent and as high as 90 percent, although a patient’s chances of survival increase when the disease is spotted and treated early, which was the case with both Brantly and Writebol.

The World Health Organization said the current outbreak is the largest ever recorded.

Source Article from http://feeds.cbsnews.com/~r/CBSNewsMain/~3/Fs8E8lV_rKY/