‘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

Obama_Cawl.jpg

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.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/07/30/exclusive-report-reveals-disturbing-trend-brazen-attacks-against-border/

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

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    AP

  • Exam message comp.jpg

    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

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/

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

Obama_Cawl.jpg

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

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/

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/

FIERCE GAZA FIGHTING Market, UN school hit despite cease-fire efforts

 

An Israeli four-hour cease-fire for parts of Gaza ended Wednesday, during which Gaza militants fired 27 rockets at Israel, and Palestinians claimed a strike hit a crowded market.

Hamas dismissed the “humanitarian” window and Israel said it would not halt fire in areas where the military is searching for tunnels used by Hamas militants. 

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said it lacked any “value” because it excluded border areas from where Hamas wanted to evacuate the wounded.

Palestinian authorities claimed that an Israeli airstrike hit a crowded Gaza shopping area during the window, killing at least 16 people and wounding 150. The strike occurred in Shijaiyah, an area that was not included in the cease-fire. 

Gaza health ministry official Ashraf al-Kidra and witnesses said the shopping area was busy because residents thought a cease-fire was in place. The Palestinian Red Crescent confirmed the death toll. 

The Israeli military had no immediate comment and said it was investigating the report. 

Earlier Wednesday Palestinian authorities said that a United Nations school was hit by Israeli tank shells, resulting in 15 deaths, and about 90 injuries, while the Israeli military said it fired after its soldiers were targeted by mortars operating from the vicinity of the school. 

“In response, soldiers fired toward the origins of fire. And we’re still reviewing the incident,” the military said in a statement.

The United States condemned the shelling of the U.N. school, but did not say who was responsible. 

White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said the U.S. is also “extremely concerned” that thousands of Palestinians aren’t safe in the U.N.-designated shelters in Gaza. The agency is sheltering more than 200,000 people displaced by the fighting at dozens of U.N. schools in Gaza. 

Meehan said the U.S. also condemns those responsible for hiding weapons in U.N. facilities in Gaza, and the escalation shows the need for a cease-fire as soon as possible. 

Abu Hasna, the U.N. agency spokesman called for the international community to step in. 

“It’s the responsibility of the world to tell us what we shall do with more than 200,000 people who are inside our schools, thinking that the U.N. flag will protect them,” he said. “This incident today proves that no place is safe in Gaza.” 

Tank shells hit the U.N. school in Jebaliya refugee camp early Wednesday, Hasna said. 

Starting at around 4:30 a.m., several shells hit the compound of the Abu Hussein school, a few minutes apart, said the principal, Fayez Abu Dayeh. He said shells hit two classrooms and a bathroom.

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.”

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

Four of the dead were killed just outside the school compound, two in their home and two who were struck in the street after returning from pre-dawn prayers, their relatives said.

The shelling came amid the heaviest air and artillery assault by Israel against targets in Gaza since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge earlier this month.

The IDF claimed Wednesday it hit 75 sites, including five mosques it said were being used by militants to hide weapons and gain access to tunnels that extend into Israel. Hamas militants have used the tunnels to slip across the border between Israel and Gaza and attack Israeli soldiers and civilians. The IDF also claimed that it had destroyed three such tunnels in the previous 24 hours. In total, the Israeli army says that 32 tunnels have been located. However, it is not clear how many remain.

Health officials in Gaza say that at least 1,284 people have been killed in the violence, with more than 7,100 wounded. It is not clear how many of the Palestinian dead are civilians and how many are militants. Israel has lost 53 soldiers and three civilians.

Israel has vowed to stop the Hamas rocket and mortar fire that has reached increasingly deeper into its territory and to destroy a sophisticated network of Hamas military tunnels used for attacks in Israel.

The military said that since fighting began July 8, Israeli forces have hit 4,100 targets in Gaza, about one-third connected to the militants’ ability to launch rockets at Israel. Over the same period, the IDF says, Hamas has fired over 2,670 rockets at Israeli civilians.

Israel says Hamas militants often launch rockets from crowded residential areas, thus endangering nearby civilians. The army says it has also given civilians a chance to leave dangerous areas by sending warnings in phone calls and leaflets.

On Wednesday, aircraft dropped leaflets over Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood. “The Israeli Defense Forces are going into a new phase in the coming operation and does not want to harm civilians,” the leaflet said. “The army is warning residents in the areas where the operation will take place that for your safety, you have to keep away from terrorists and the locations from which they operate.”

Hamas has so far rejected cease-fire efforts unless its demands are met, including a lifting of a punishing blockade.

Click for more from The Times of Israel.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/07/30/palestinians-accuse-israel-striking-un-school-in-gaza/

UGLY TURN IN DISPUTE Longshore union accused of harassing, violent threats

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In this Port of Vancouver surveillance video footage from 2013, a member from ILWU Local 4 is seen trying to open the door of a state grain inspectors vehicle after confronting the official for trying to enter the facility.

A labor dispute at the Port of Vancouver, Wash., that has locked out longshore union members for more than a year appears to have taken an aggressive and disturbing turn, with accusations of menacing confrontations and violent threats.    

Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 4 have been accused of violently approaching security officers and harassing workers at the export terminal for United Grain Corp. at the Port of Vancouver, Wash., which is across the Columbia River from Portland, Ore.

Even more disturbing, union members are accused of threatening to rape a manager’s daughter and harm another executive’s children.

The dockworkers have maintained a picket line at the Vancouver export terminal since February 2013, when they were locked out in a labor dispute with United Grain.

The accusations are documented in legal filings by Ronald Hooks, the National Labor Relations Board’s regional director in Seattle.

“It is a situation that has evolved, or devolved, depending on your definition,” Hooks told FoxNews.com. “It is something that both sides are going to have to work out.”

The allegations against Local 4 surfaced in Hooks’ court filing, which accuses United Grain of unjustly locking out the dockworkers. But the report’s most shocking revelations involve the workers’ retaliatory tactics.

FoxNews.com obtained an NLRB filing in the case, dated Feb. 28, 2014, that contains a litany of allegations involving Local 4 since March 2013 at the United Grain facility, across the Columbia River from Portland.

The filing accuses Local 4 members of:

  • Confronting a United Grain manager at a mall in Vancouver in April 2013, and preventing him from leaving.

 

  • Shining spotlights into vehicles carrying managers and security personnel on several occasions in an attempt to blind them as they entered the port facility, and causing permanent eye damage to one security officer. The filing claims the dockworkers also tailed and “recklessly pursued” those vehicles and vendor trucks onto nearby highways after they left the port.

 

  • Threatening to throw 10 United Grain managers off a dock into the Columbia River.

 

  • Carrying heavy metal chains in an incident in March 2013 during which they threatened that they would “f— [the managers] up,” warned that they knew where the managers lived and said they would rape one manager’s daughter.

 

  • Hurling racial slurs at black security personnel and threatening to “beat” them.

 

  • Harassing a manager repeatedly, including a specific incident on April 30, 2013, when the dockworkers threatened to “wring [his] f—ing neck” and told him his family was in danger. They allegedly toyed with him for months afterward, asking, “Are [your] children OK today?”

Officials for ILWU Local 4 did not reply to a request for comment.

The battle between United Grain and Local 4 began in February 2013, when the company accused a local union leader of sabotaging its operations at the Port of Vancouver by not matching contract deals between the ILWU and the Export Grain Terminal in nearby Longview, Wash. United Grain locked out the longshoremen as a result and replaced them with other workers. Local 4 has denied the company’s allegations.

“Since the previous contract expired in September 2012, United Grain and the two other export terminal operators that coordinate their bargaining with ILWU have been seeking a contract with the union that matches the provisions of the contract ILWU signed with the EGT terminal in Longview, WA., in early 2012,” United Grain spokesman Pat McCormick said in a statement to FoxNews.com.

“The dispute has never been about wages and benefits, but work rules the union approved that have given EGT a significant competitive cost advantage….

“Union behavior at United Grain in Vancouver and Columbia Grain in Portland led to lockouts of ILWU workers,” he continued. “Picket line misbehavior and incidents at the homes and offices of company executives have led to arrests and citations.”

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/07/30/labor-war-longshore-union-shows-aggression-in-washington-port-dispute/

‘—HOLES’ AND ‘CRAZIES’ Emails show ex-IRS official Lerner Republican-bashing

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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/

MISSING MOM MYSTERY Oregon mom bought pills, trail mix before vanishing

 

The father of a missing Oregon mother said she “probably went for a walk” after leaving her home to run errands, a day after detectives discovered she had purchased trail mix, Gatorade and non-lethal sleeping pills at a pharmacy shortly before her disappearance. 

Bill Turner, Jennifer Huston’s father and a former homicide investigator, declined to say whether he thought foul play was suspected and said the 38-year-old mother of two may have taken a walk somewhere before she vanished nearly a week ago.

“She probably went for a walk,” Turner told Fox News on Wednesday. “And she’s unable to come home at this point in time.”

“I don’t want to even go there,” he said, when asked about the possibility of foul play.

Huston, of Dundee, Ore., left her home around 5:45 p.m. on Thursday to run errands, according to her husband. Detectives say she withdrew a small sum of money from an ATM before purchasing items at a pharmacy and then filling her 1999 dark green Lexus LX 470 up with gas. She has not been seen or heard from since. 

Huston’s husband, Kallen, who passed a polygraph test, said his wife had complained of a headache for “several days” prior to her disappearance.

Detectives released new images Tuesday night of Huston, a stay-at-home mom, entering a Rite Aid drug store about 3 miles from her home. She used the cash she had just withdrawn from the Oregon First Community Credit Union in Newberg to purchase items, which included over-the-counter sleeping pills. Police said the amount of sleeping pills she purchased would not be enough for a lethal dose.

Kallen Huston said earlier this week that his wife might have driven off the road and urged motorists to look for any signs of his wife and her vehicle. 

“I have a feeling maybe she’s in a ditch somewhere,” he said. “We’ve exercised every option that we can think of right now.”

Turner told FoxNews.com that authorities are poring over security footage taken from several businesses along a Portland-area highway for any clues into Huston’s disappearance.

“A number of businesses up and down the highway have video that captures what happens on the road,” Turner said. “They’re looking for directional information.”

The gas station security footage shows Huston purchasing gas between 6:10 and 6:22 p.m. on Thursday. Turner said he reviewed the footage with police and that it did not show anyone inside the vehicle with his daughter.

“There was nobody in the passenger’s seat,” Turner said. “We went through all the different camera angles and there was also no movement in the backseat.”

Capt. Jeff Kosmicki of the Newberg-Dundee Police Department confirmed that no one is seen inside the vehicle with Jennifer, but noted the footage “is not the best quality.”

“She just handed her debit card over and the attendant pumped the gas for her,” Kosmicki said of Huston, who has two sons, ages 3 and 6.

Kosmicki said that about 20 to 25 minutes after Huston left the gas station her cell phone “stopped sending any information to the cell tower.”

“I don’t know if the phone was turned off or if it ran out of battery,” he said.

Kosmicki also said surveillance video taken from the bank showed Jennifer withdrawing cash from an ATM just before 6 p.m.

“It’s a much better video. You can clearly see her facial details,” he said. “Based on her actions, she seemed pretty calm.” He said the video showed her opening the door slightly to finish her transaction.

Turner, who once worked with the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Command investigating murders and suicides, described his son-in-law as “solid as a rock.”

“He and Jennifer met through mutual friends. The best description I have of their relationship is two old souls,” Turner told FoxNews.com. “Kallen is the most incredibly patient person I know. They get along. There’s no discord in the home whatsoever.

No activity has been recorded on Huston’s bank cards, according to police. Authorities said an aerial search conducted Sunday in Yamhill County turned up no trace of this young mother. Kosmicki noted that Huston’s vehicle did not have a tracking device.

A Facebook page set up in the search for Huston says she was last seen wearing black and pink Nike shoes and black yoga pants. Her vehicle, a 1999 Lexus LX 470, has an Oregon license plate of WXH 011.

Anyone with information is urged to call the Newberg-Dundee Police Department at 503-538-8321.

FoxNews.com’s Cristina Corbin contributed to this report. 

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/07/30/missing-oregon-mom-purchased-sleeping-pills-prior-to-disappearance-police-say/

Head of Benghazi probe says no witnesses off limits – European countries reportedly paying millions in ransoms to Al Qaeda

 

The Republican head of the Benghazi Select Committee warned Tuesday that no witnesses would be off limits in its upcoming probe and that he would consider going to court, if necessary, to compel testimony.

“I can’t skip over a witness that I think we ought to talk to simply because there is an assertion of either privilege or immunity,” Chairman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina told Fox News in an exclusive interview.

He said that while he has received good cooperation to date, and the issue had not yet arisen, “if you mean to say that ‘not only can they not talk, they don’t have to come,’ you have to litigate that.”

Gowdy said the investigation will be driven by facts, characterizing as strongly bipartisan his work with the committee’s ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, to review documents and identify witnesses.

He also said he anticipates the first public hearing will be held in September and will focus on the State Department investigation into the 2012 attack and whether its recommendations have been implemented.

Asked whether he wants Hillary Clinton to testify, Gowdy said, “I want everyone who has access to relevant information, and it is, I think, impossible to argue that the secretary of State at the time would not have access to relevant information…”

Gowdy said he was not trying to single out any particular witness. He insisted he was just as interested in the former acting director of the CIA, Michael Morell, who was accused of misleading Congress over the flawed “talking points” that blamed a protest for the assault, as he was in the unnamed CIA public information officer who made a significant edit of the points.

“Either talk to all of them,” Gowdy said, “Or concede you are not interested in getting all the facts.”

Gowdy also said he hoped former CIA Director David Petraeus, who remains under FBI investigation nearly two years after he resigned, would participate voluntarily.

“This is going to be serious, fact-centric. There are not going to be leaks. There are not going to be selective releases,” he said. “Hopefully, if the investigation is still ongoing, he (Petraeus) may conclude, he has an absolute right to conclude, that he is still going to participate.”

Asked if the scope would extend to other current and former government and Congressional figures, including presidential adviser Ben Rhodes, former UN ambassador Susan Rice, and D.C.consulting group Beacon Global Strategies, Gowdy replied, “how can I run an investigation and at the end say that it was thorough and complete and fact-centric and fair if I began to rule out people that we’re going to talk to?”

Beacon Global Strategies members include Clinton’s principal gatekeeper, Philippe Reines, her former adviser for political and military affairs at State, Andrew Shapiro, the former chief of staff to Leon Panetta at CIA and the defense department, Jeremy Bash, as well as Michael Allen, the former staff director for the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee that investigated Benghazi.

The online bios of its founders and managing directors suggest no group knows more about the terrorist attack and the Obama administration’s response as well as having a vested interested in the scandal’s impact on Clinton’s presidential ambitions.

Gowdy said the fact-driven approach has derailed any attempts to minimize the importance of the committee’s work. “The initial efforts to marginalize us as just a political exercise dedicated to drumming up the base, those efforts were not successful…Democrats are not only cooperating. They are suggesting, in some instances, other ideas for hearings. “

While the committee, which now stands at 13 staff but should reach its target of 20 by September, is focused on a detailed timeline to identify gaps in the facts, Gowdy said he believes closed or private depositions of witnesses as opposed to open hearings would provide the most information.

“Five minutes has proven time and time again to be an inadequate amount of time to get to the truth,”Gowdy explained. “I’m certainly not good enough in five minutes to unlock all the mysteries in the world. I might not be doing five hours but I would rather use whatever investigatory tool allows me the most amount of time with a witness or potential witness and I think that will be depositions as opposed to public hearings.”

On Tuesday, the committee members met behind closed doors with the victims’ relatives including Pat Smith, the mother of foreign service officer Sean Smith.

“It’s the one thing that I wanted was this investigation to get the answers,” Smith said. “And the people say that they’re gonna do their best so this is what I’m hoping for.”

 

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/30/head-benghazi-probe-says-no-witnesses-off-limits-including-clinton/

IN SEARCH OF SEXISM Taxpayers shell out $200G to study Wikipedia ‘bias’

wikipedia_apgraphics_660.jpg

AP

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is spending over $200,000 to find out why Wikipedia is sexist.

The government has awarded two grants for collaborative research to professors at Yale University and New York University to study what the researchers describe as “systematic gender bias” in the online encyclopedia.

“Wikipedia was launched in 2001 and has since become the world’s single most important reference tool and information clearinghouse,” the grant states. “Unlike traditional encyclopedias, which are controlled by experts, Wikipedia was supposed to have democratized knowledge.”

“Yet an emerging body of research indicates that Wikipedia suffers from systematic gender bias with respect to both contributors and content,” it continues. “How and why is this bias produced?”

A $132,000 grant was awarded to Julia Adams, a sociology professor at Yale, followed by $70,000 to Hannah Brueckner, the associate dean of social sciences at NYU Abu Dhabi.

Click for more from The Washington Free Beacon

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/30/government-spending-200000-to-study-gender-bias-on-wikipedia/

DEADLY WATERS Swimmer dies in Florida from ‘flesh-eating’ bacteria

A Florida resident has died after contracting “flesh-eating bacteria,” officials confirmed Tuesday.

The unidentified patient was middle-aged and had chronic health problems, a Florida Department of Health spokesperson told MyFoxTampaBay.com.

The victim contracted the bacteria after saltwater entered an open wound, the spokesperson said. It is not clear when the incident occurred, and officials did not release what body of water the patient contracted the bacteria in.

The bacteria, called vibrio vulnificus, is potentially fatal for victims with chronic health conditions.

“For someone who is immune-compromised, or has chronic liver disease, it could be a life-threatening situation. And it’s as simple as going in the water with open cuts or wounds to your skin,” Steve Huard, a spokesperson for the Hillborough County Health Department told MyFoxTampaBay.com.

Florida officials released a warning for swimmers and consumers of raw oysters amid concerns about the bacteria thriving in warmer water during the summer, the news station reported.

According to Florida Health Department officials, 41 people contracted the bacteria in 2013, resulting in 11 deaths. Officials have recorded 11 cases in 2014, with 3 fatalities.

Click for more from MyFoxTampaBay.com.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/07/30/florida-resident-dies-from-flesh-eating-bacteria-officials-confirm/

DEADLY WATERS Swimmer dies in Florida from ‘flesh-eating’ bacteria

A Florida resident has died after contracting “flesh-eating bacteria,” officials confirmed Tuesday.

The unidentified patient was middle-aged and had chronic health problems, a Florida Department of Health spokesperson told MyFoxTampaBay.com.

The victim contracted the bacteria after saltwater entered an open wound, the spokesperson said. It is not clear when the incident occurred, and officials did not release what body of water the patient contracted the bacteria in.

The bacteria, called vibrio vulnificus, is potentially fatal for victims with chronic health conditions.

“For someone who is immune-compromised, or has chronic liver disease, it could be a life-threatening situation. And it’s as simple as going in the water with open cuts or wounds to your skin,” Steve Huard, a spokesperson for the Hillborough County Health Department told MyFoxTampaBay.com.

Florida officials released a warning for simmers and consumers of raw oysters amid concerns about the bacteria thriving in warmer water during the summer, the news station reported.

According to Florida Health Department officials, 41 people contracted the bacteria in 2013, resulting in 11 deaths. Officials have recorded 11 cases in 2014, with 3 fatalities.

Click for more from MyFoxTampaBay.com.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/07/30/florida-resident-dies-from-flesh-eating-bacteria-officials-confirm/

Israel calls 4-hour cease-fire for parts of Gaza amid claims UN school hit

  • israel-un-school-strike.jpg

    July 30, 2014: Palestinians collect body parts in a classroom at Abu Hussein U.N. school in Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, hit by an Israeli strike. A Palestinian health official says 13 people were killed after tank shells hit the U.N.-run school where hundreds of Palestinians had taken refuge from Israeli attacks. Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for a U.N. aid agency, says tank shells hit the U.N. school around 4:30 a.m.AP

  • Mideast Israel Palest_Cham(25)640.jpg

    July 30, 2014: A Palestinian girl carries belongings as she and her family leave the Abu Hussein U.N. school in the Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Palestinian authorities claimed that a United Nations school was hit by Israeli tank shells early Wednesday, resulting in the deaths of 15 people and injuring 90, while Israel announced a four-hour cease-fire for parts of the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military said it fired after its soldiers were targeted by mortars operating from the vicinity of the school.

“In response, soldiers fired toward the origins of fire. And we’re still reviewing the incident,” the military said in a statement.

The shelling came amid the heaviest air and artillery assault by Israel against targets in Gaza since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge earlier this month.

On Wednesday afternoon, Israel’s military declared a four-hour cease-fire in some areas of the Gaza Strip, saying it’s for humanitarian reasons. The cease-fire began at 3 p.m. local time. Hamas militants in Gaza had no immediate reaction.

Earlier Wednesday, the IDF claimed it hit 75 sites, including five mosques it said were being used by militants to hide weapons and gain access to tunnels that extend into Israel. Hamas militants have used the tunnels to slip across the border between Israel and Gaza and attack Israeli soldiers and civilians. The IDF also claimed that it had destroyed three such tunnels in the previous 24 hours.

In total, the Israeli army says that 32 tunnels have been located. However, it is not clear how many remain.

Health officials in Gaza say that at least 1,284 people have been killed in the violence, with more than 7,100 wounded. It is not clear how many of the Palestinian dead are civilians and how many are militants. Israel has lost 53 soldiers and three civilians.

Tank shells hit the U.N. school in the Jebaliya refugee camp early Wednesday, said Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. The agency is sheltering more than 200,000 people displaced by the fighting at dozens of U.N. schools in Gaza.

Ashraf al-Kidra, a Gaza health official, said at least 15 people were killed and about 90 wounded in the school strike. In all, 55 Palestinians were killed by airstrikes and tank shelling in different areas of Gaza on Wednesday, he added.

Starting at around 4:30 a.m., several shells hit the compound of the Abu Hussein school, a few minutes apart, said the principal, Fayez Abu Dayeh. He said shells hit two classrooms and a bathroom.

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.”

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

About two hours after the strike, hundreds of people still crowded the courtyard, some dazed, others wailing.

Aishe Abu Darabeh, 56, sat on the ground with her relatives, just a few meters from the destroyed classroom.

“Where will we go?” she asked. “Where will we go next? We fled and they (the Israelis) are following us.”

Four of the dead were killed just outside the school compound, two in their home and two who were struck in the street after returning from pre-dawn prayers, their relatives said.

The bodies of two members of the al-Najar family, 56-year-old Shaher and his 41-year-old brother, Bassem, were laid out in one of the rooms of their small home, surrounded by wailing relatives.

Outside the gate, another relative held on to his crying son, hugging him tight and saying: “I’m here, I’m not going anywhere.”

Abu Hasna, the U.N. agency spokesman, said the international community must step in.

“It’s the responsibility of the world to tell us what we shall do with more than 200,000 people who are inside our schools, thinking that the U.N. flag will protect them,” he said. “This incident today proves that no place is safe in Gaza.”

In the southern town of Khan Younis, 10 members of one family were killed when an airstrike hit a relative’s home where they had sought refuge from the fighting, al-Kidra said.

After the strike, relatives climbed over large piles of debris, surveying shattered windows and demolished walls.

“When the strike happened, I was sleeping, me and my brother and one of my relatives, we were sleeping. And we tried to look through the window to see what happened. But we couldn’t see anything because of the smoke. And when we came down, we saw everything was damaged,” said Mohammed al-Astal, a relative.

In the Gaza City neighborhood of Tufah, shelling killed at last seven members of another family, including four children, said Ayman Sahabani, the head of the emergency room at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital.

Israel has vowed to stop the Hamas rocket and mortar fire that has reached increasingly deeper into its territory and to destroy a sophisticated network of Hamas military tunnels used for attacks in Israel.

The military said that since fighting began July 8, Israeli forces have hit 4,100 targets in Gaza, about one-third connected to the militants’ ability to launch rockets at Israel. Over the same period, the IDF says, Hamas has fired over 2,670 rockets at Israeli civilians.

Israel says Hamas militants often launch rockets from crowded residential areas, thus endangering nearby civilians. The army says it has also given civilians a chance to leave dangerous areas by sending warnings in phone calls and leaflets.

On Wednesday, aircraft dropped leaflets over Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood. The leaflets urged residents to stay away from Hamas militants and to report possible rocket launches. The leaflet gave a contact phone number and email.

“The Israeli Defense Forces are going into a new phase in the coming operation and does not want to harm civilians,” the leaflet said. “The army is warning residents in the areas where the operation will take place that for your safety, you have to keep away from terrorists and the locations from which they operate.”

Hamas has so far rejected cease-fire efforts unless its demands are met, including a lifting of a punishing blockade.

Click for more from The Times of Israel.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/07/30/palestinians-accuse-israel-striking-un-school-in-gaza/

LETTING THEM STAY? Obama reportedly mulls cutback in deportations

 

President Obama is considering executive actions to reduce the number of illegal immigrant deportations, including issuing work permits to some of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the U.S., according to a published report. 

The Wall Street Journal, citing a White House official, reported that an announcement on any executive action is expected to take place soon after Labor Day. The paper also reported that the president began considering such an action after congressional Republicans said that they would not take up immigration reform during this session.

Obama has already exempted from deportation approximately 500,000 illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. The Journal reports that any new action could expand the protections to their parents or other illegal immigrants, such as those whose children have become U.S. citizens, who have been in the U.S. for a certain amount of time, or who have gainful employment. 

The latest turn in the administration’s immigration policy comes amid a surge of unaccompanied Central American minors arriving at the southern border. Obama has said that many of those children would likely be sent back to their countries of origin. 

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives unveiled a slimmed-down bill Tuesday that calls for National Guard troops to be sent to the southern border to aid the deportation of illegal immigrant children.  A vote on the $659 million bill is scheduled for Thursday, and is certain to be rejected by the Democratic-run Senate.

But there was no guarantee House Speaker John Boehner would be able to count on enough support to pass the bill as he aimed for a vote Thursday.

Many conservatives remained skeptical, and Reid fomented those concerns by threatening to use the House bill as a vehicle to attach the Senate’s comprehensive immigration overhaul bill, which the House has rejected.

Boehner responded angrily, accusing Reid of “making a deceitful and cynical attempt to derail the House’s commonsense solution.”

“So let me be as clear as I can be with Sen. Reid: The House of Representatives will not take up the Senate immigration reform bill or accept it back from the Senate in any fashion,” Boehner said in a statement.

According to The Journal, the Obama administration is currently debating the extent of its legal authority to change deportation policy. Any such action could result in a legal challenge, and rumors of executive action have drawn condemnation from congressional Republicans. 

“It would be an affront to the people of this country which they will never forgive, it would be a permanent stain on your presidency,” Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. said on the Senate floor Monday, while urging language to block such executive action be made part of any legislation to address the border crisis.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., announced plans to use an oversight hearing on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency Tuesday to raise questions about Obama’s plans, which he warned could “worsen the border crisis and encourage many more to come.”

On the other side, some Democrats have debated the best timing for Obama to take executive action, raising questions as to whether acting before the midterms could hurt vulnerable Senate Democrats in close races while boosting turnout among the GOP base.

But liberal advocates noted that Obama’s move on deferred action two years ago gave him a boost heading into his re-election and could help this year with Latino voters discouraged over the failure of immigration reform legislation and record-high deportations on Obama’s watch.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click for more from The Wall Street Journal.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/30/obama-reportedly-weighs-cutting-back-on-illegal-immigrant-deportations/

DEADLY WATERS Swimmer dies in Florida from ‘flesh-eating’ bacteria

A Florida resident has died after contracting “flesh-eating bacteria,” officials confirmed Tuesday.

The unidentified patient was middle-aged and had chronic health problems, a Florida Department of Health spokesperson told MyFoxTampaBay.com.

The victim contracted the bacteria after saltwater entered an open wound, the spokesperson said. It is not clear when the incident occurred, and officials did not release what body of water the patient contracted the bacteria in.

The bacteria, called vibrio vulnificus, is potentially fatal for victims with chronic health conditions.

“For someone who is immune-compromised, or has chronic liver disease, it could be a life-threatening situation. And it’s as simple as going in the water with open cuts or wounds to your skin,” Steve Huard, a spokesperson for the Hillborough County Health Department told MyFoxTampaBay.com.

Florida officials released a warning for simmers and consumers of raw oysters amid concerns about the bacteria thriving in warmer water during the summer, the news station reported.

According to Florida Health Department officials, 41 people contracted the bacteria in 2013, resulting in 11 deaths. Officials have recorded 11 cases in 2014, with 3 fatalities.

Click for more from MyFoxTampaBay.com.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/07/30/florida-resident-dies-from-flesh-eating-bacteria-officials-confirm/

RACE AGAINST TIME Conservatives concerned over VA reform bill’s cost

 

House and Senate leaders are trying to pull a massive Veterans Affairs reform bill across the finish line before the August recess, amid opposition from fiscal conservatives concerned over the cost of the legislation. 

The full House is expected to debate and vote on the bill Wednesday after it was approved by a 28-member conference committee late Monday, and the Senate could vote as early as that night. The goals of the bill include ensuring veterans will no longer face long wait times for care, hiring more medical staff and putting protections in place for whistleblowers.

However, fiscal conservatives are expressing doubts over the bill’s steep price tag, which 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.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said Tuesday he is concerned that the bill has not yet been scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to determine its long-term effects.

“It looks very weak financially and it is very troubling the bill is moving forward without a score,” Sessions, R-Ala., told Fox News, adding, “It’s bad policy for Congress to jam bills through without members understanding what’s at stake.”

Sen. Bob Corker, who last week demanded the bill be scored by the CBO before it was brought to a vote, echoed Sessions’ concerns.

“I can’t imagine the bill has been constructed in a way I can support it,” Corker, R-Tenn., said.

Fiscal conservatives are also raising a red flag over the bill’s provision that would allow veterans who live 40 miles from a VA facility or cannot get a prompt appointment to see a private doctor. This provision means the costs of the bill could continue past its initial three-year window.

“Conservatives have always been concerned about the cost,” said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.,the top Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

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 resulting election-year firestorm forced former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign in late May.

Florida Rep. Jeff Miller, who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said he is confident he can sell the reform bill to fellow Republicans, including Tea Party members, despite the high cost.

“Taking care of our veterans is not an inexpensive proposition, and our members understand that,” Miller said Monday. “The VA has caused this problem and one of the ways that we can help solve it is to give veterans a choice, a choice to stay in the system or a choice to go out of the system” to get government-paid health care from a private doctor.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, the Senate unanimously confirmed former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new VA secretary. He will replace Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson, who took over in May after Shinseki resigned.

McDonald, 61, of Cincinnati, has pledged to “transform” the VA and address a series of “systematic failures,” including patient access to health care, transparency, accountability and integrity.

McDonald told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee last week he plans to take a series of actions over his first 90 days “to deliver the needed reforms our veterans deserve.”

Fox News’ Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/30/conservatives-express-concern-over-high-cost-va-reform-bill/

Israel steps up Gaza bombardment, Palestinians claim UN school hit

  • israel-un-school-strike.jpg

    July 30, 2014: Palestinians collect body parts in a classroom at Abu Hussein U.N. school in Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, hit by an Israeli strike. A Palestinian health official says 13 people were killed after tank shells hit the U.N.-run school where hundreds of Palestinians had taken refuge from Israeli attacks. Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for a U.N. aid agency, says tank shells hit the U.N. school around 4:30 a.m.AP

  • Mideast Israel Palest_Cham(25)640.jpg

    July 30, 2014: A Palestinian girl carries belongings as she and her family leave the Abu Hussein U.N. school in the Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Palestinian authorities claimed that a United Nations school was hit by Israeli tank shells early Wednesday, resulting in the deaths of 15 people and injuring 90, as Israel’s military continued to bombard Hamas targets in Gaza.

The Israeli military said it fired after its soldiers were targeted by mortars operating from the vicinity of the school.

“In response, soldiers fired toward the origins of fire. And we’re still reviewing the incident,” the military said in a statement.

The shelling came amid the heaviest air and artillery assault by Israel against targets in Gaza since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge earlier this month.

On Wednesday, the IDF claimed it hit 75 sites, including five mosques it said were being used by militants to hide weapons and gain access to tunnels that extend into Israel. Hamas militants have used the tunnels to slip across the border between Israel and Gaza and attack Israeli soldiers and civilians. The IDF also claimed that it had destroyed three such tunnels in the previous 24 hours.

In total, the Israeli army says that 32 tunnels have been located. However, it is not clear how many remain.

Health officials in Gaza say that at least 1,284 people have been killed in the violence, with more than 7,100 wounded. It is not clear how many of the Palestinian dead are civilians and how many are militants. Israel has lost 53 soldiers and three civilians.

Tank shells hit the U.N. school in the Jebaliya refugee camp early Wednesday, said Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. The agency is sheltering more than 200,000 people displaced by the fighting at dozens of U.N. schools in Gaza.

Ashraf al-Kidra, a Gaza health official, said at least 15 people were killed and about 90 wounded in the school strike. In all, 55 Palestinians were killed by airstrikes and tank shelling in different areas of Gaza on Wednesday, he added.

Starting at around 4:30 a.m., several shells hit the compound of the Abu Hussein school, a few minutes apart, said the principal, Fayez Abu Dayeh. He said shells hit two classrooms and a bathroom.

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.”

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

About two hours after the strike, hundreds of people still crowded the courtyard, some dazed, others wailing.

Aishe Abu Darabeh, 56, sat on the ground with her relatives, just a few meters from the destroyed classroom.

“Where will we go?” she asked. “Where will we go next? We fled and they (the Israelis) are following us.”

Four of the dead were killed just outside the school compound, two in their home and two who were struck in the street after returning from pre-dawn prayers, their relatives said.

The bodies of two members of the al-Najar family, 56-year-old Shaher and his 41-year-old brother, Bassem, were laid out in one of the rooms of their small home, surrounded by wailing relatives.

Outside the gate, another relative held on to his crying son, hugging him tight and saying: “I’m here, I’m not going anywhere.”

Abu Hasna, the U.N. agency spokesman, said the international community must step in.

“It’s the responsibility of the world to tell us what we shall do with more than 200,000 people who are inside our schools, thinking that the U.N. flag will protect them,” he said. “This incident today proves that no place is safe in Gaza.”

In the southern town of Khan Younis, 10 members of one family were killed when an airstrike hit a relative’s home where they had sought refuge from the fighting, al-Kidra said.

After the strike, relatives climbed over large piles of debris, surveying shattered windows and demolished walls.

“When the strike happened, I was sleeping, me and my brother and one of my relatives, we were sleeping. And we tried to look through the window to see what happened. But we couldn’t see anything because of the smoke. And when we came down, we saw everything was damaged,” said Mohammed al-Astal, a relative.

In the Gaza City neighborhood of Tufah, shelling killed at last seven members of another family, including four children, said Ayman Sahabani, the head of the emergency room at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital.

Israel has vowed to stop the Hamas rocket and mortar fire that has reached increasingly deeper into its territory and to destroy a sophisticated network of Hamas military tunnels used for attacks in Israel.

The military said that since fighting began July 8, Israeli forces have hit 4,100 targets in Gaza, about one-third connected to the militants’ ability to launch rockets at Israel. Over the same period, the IDF says, Hamas has fired over 2,670 rockets at Israeli civilians.

Israel says Hamas militants often launch rockets from crowded residential areas, thus endangering nearby civilians. The army says it has also given civilians a chance to leave dangerous areas by sending warnings in phone calls and leaflets.

On Wednesday, aircraft dropped leaflets over Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood. The leaflets urged residents to stay away from Hamas militants and to report possible rocket launches. The leaflet gave a contact phone number and email.

“The Israeli Defense Forces are going into a new phase in the coming operation and does not want to harm civilians,” the leaflet said. “The army is warning residents in the areas where the operation will take place that for your safety, you have to keep away from terrorists and the locations from which they operate.”

Hamas has so far rejected cease-fire efforts unless its demands are met, including a lifting of a punishing blockade.

Click for more from The Times of Israel.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/07/30/palestinians-accuse-israel-striking-un-school-in-gaza/

LETTING THEM STAY? Obama reportedly mulls cutting back on deportations

 

President Obama is considering executive actions to reduce the number of illegal immigrant deportations, including issuing work permits to some of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the U.S., according to a published report. 

The Wall Street Journal, citing a White House official, reported that an announcement on any executive action is expected to take place soon after Labor Day. The paper also reported that the president began considering such an action after congressional Republicans said that they would not take up immigration reform during this session.

Obama has already exempted from deportation approximately 500,000 illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. The Journal reports that any new action could expand the protections to their parents or other illegal immigrants, such as those whose children have become U.S. citizens, who have been in the U.S. for a certain amount of time, or who have gainful employment. 

The latest turn in the administration’s immigration policy comes amid a surge of unaccompanied Central American minors arriving at the southern border. Obama has said that many of those children would likely be sent back to their countries of origin. 

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives unveiled a slimmed-down bill Tuesday that calls for National Guard troops to be sent to the southern border to aid the deportation of illegal immigrant children.  A vote on the $659 million bill is scheduled for Thursday, and is certain to be rejected by the Democratic-run Senate.

But there was no guarantee House Speaker John Boehner would be able to count on enough support to pass the bill as he aimed for a vote Thursday.

Many conservatives remained skeptical, and Reid fomented those concerns by threatening to use the House bill as a vehicle to attach the Senate’s comprehensive immigration overhaul bill, which the House has rejected.

Boehner responded angrily, accusing Reid of “making a deceitful and cynical attempt to derail the House’s commonsense solution.”

“So let me be as clear as I can be with Sen. Reid: The House of Representatives will not take up the Senate immigration reform bill or accept it back from the Senate in any fashion,” Boehner said in a statement.

According to The Journal, the Obama administration is currently debating the extent of its legal authority to change deportation policy. Any such action could result in a legal challenge, and rumors of executive action have drawn condemnation from congressional Republicans. 

“It would be an affront to the people of this country which they will never forgive, it would be a permanent stain on your presidency,” Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. said on the Senate floor Monday, while urging language to block such executive action be made part of any legislation to address the border crisis.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., announced plans to use an oversight hearing on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency Tuesday to raise questions about Obama’s plans, which he warned could “worsen the border crisis and encourage many more to come.”

On the other side, some Democrats have debated the best timing for Obama to take executive action, raising questions as to whether acting before the midterms could hurt vulnerable Senate Democrats in close races while boosting turnout among the GOP base.

But liberal advocates noted that Obama’s move on deferred action two years ago gave him a boost heading into his re-election and could help this year with Latino voters discouraged over the failure of immigration reform legislation and record-high deportations on Obama’s watch.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click for more from The Wall Street Journal.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/30/obama-reportedly-weighs-cutting-back-on-illegal-immigrant-deportations/

BENGHAZI PROBE GOP committee head says no witnesses off-limits

 

The Republican head of the Benghazi Select Committee warned Tuesday that no witnesses would be off limits in its upcoming probe and that he would consider going to court, if necessary, to compel testimony.

“I can’t skip over a witness that I think we ought to talk to simply because there is an assertion of either privilege or immunity,” Chairman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina told Fox News in an exclusive interview.

He said that while he has received good cooperation to date, and the issue had not yet arisen, “if you mean to say that ‘not only can they not talk, they don’t have to come,’ you have to litigate that.”

Gowdy said the investigation will be driven by facts, characterizing as strongly bipartisan his work with the committee’s ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, to review documents and identify witnesses.

He also said he anticipates the first public hearing will be held in September and will focus on the State Department investigation into the 2012 attack and whether its recommendations have been implemented.

Asked whether he wants Hillary Clinton to testify, Gowdy said, “I want everyone who has access to relevant information, and it is, I think, impossible to argue that the secretary of State at the time would not have access to relevant information…”

Gowdy said he was not trying to single out any particular witness. He insisted he was just as interested in the former acting director of the CIA, Michael Morell, who was accused of misleading Congress over the flawed “talking points” that blamed a protest for the assault, as he was in the unnamed CIA public information officer who made a significant edit of the points.

“Either talk to all of them,” Gowdy said, “Or concede you are not interested in getting all the facts.”

Gowdy also said he hoped former CIA Director David Petraeus, who remains under FBI investigation nearly two years after he resigned, would participate voluntarily.

“This is going to be serious, fact-centric. There are not going to be leaks. There are not going to be selective releases,” he said. “Hopefully, if the investigation is still ongoing, he (Petraeus) may conclude, he has an absolute right to conclude, that he is still going to participate.”

Asked if the scope would extend to other current and former government and Congressional figures, including presidential adviser Ben Rhodes, former UN ambassador Susan Rice, and D.C.consulting group Beacon Global Strategies, Gowdy replied, “how can I run an investigation and at the end say that it was thorough and complete and fact-centric and fair if I began to rule out people that we’re going to talk to?”

Beacon Global Strategies members include Clinton’s principal gatekeeper, Philippe Reines, her former adviser for political and military affairs at State, Andrew Shapiro, the former chief of staff to Leon Panetta at CIA and the defense department, Jeremy Bash, as well as Michael Allen, the former staff director for the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee that investigated Benghazi.

The online bios of its founders and managing directors suggest no group knows more about the terrorist attack and the Obama administration’s response as well as having a vested interested in the scandal’s impact on Clinton’s presidential ambitions.

Gowdy said the fact-driven approach has derailed any attempts to minimize the importance of the committee’s work. “The initial efforts to marginalize us as just a political exercise dedicated to drumming up the base, those efforts were not successful…Democrats are not only cooperating. They are suggesting, in some instances, other ideas for hearings. “

While the committee, which now stands at 13 staff but should reach its target of 20 by September, is focused on a detailed timeline to identify gaps in the facts, Gowdy said he believes closed or private depositions of witnesses as opposed to open hearings would provide the most information.

“Five minutes has proven time and time again to be an inadequate amount of time to get to the truth,”Gowdy explained. “I’m certainly not good enough in five minutes to unlock all the mysteries in the world. I might not be doing five hours but I would rather use whatever investigatory tool allows me the most amount of time with a witness or potential witness and I think that will be depositions as opposed to public hearings.”

On Tuesday, the committee members met behind closed doors with the victims’ relatives including Pat Smith, the mother of foreign service officer Sean Smith.

“It’s the one thing that I wanted was this investigation to get the answers,” Smith said. “And the people say that they’re gonna do their best so this is what I’m hoping for.”

 

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/30/head-benghazi-probe-says-no-witnesses-off-limits-including-clinton/

ASSAD MUST GO? Obama’s Syria demand fades as casualties grow

Mideast Syria_Assad_AP_660.jpg

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syria’s President Bashar Assad reviews an honor guard upon his arrival at the presidential palace to take the oath of office for his third seven-year term in Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, July 16, 2014.AP

The rise of ISIS militants in Syria and Iraq, and the unwillingness of Americans to see their military involved in another foreign conflict, appear to have cooled President Obama’s once-strident rhetoric demanding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “must go” — even as the death toll in the three-year-old civil war tops 170,000.

“Syria is a mess and Assad has managed to hold onto power,” Chris Preble, Cato Institute’s vice president for foreign policy studies, told FoxNews.com.

“I’m not convinced that President Obama gave up on the idea” of forcing Assad from power, Preble said. “He just realized how unpopular it was,” adding, “America has very limited ability to affect the outcome in Syria.”

Still, as new crises appear on the Obama administration’s radar seemingly every week, and with foreign fighters and Islamic radicals streaming into the region, the Syrian death toll mounts as the administration is being accused of easing off its pledge to help rebel fighters — and considering a policy of backing the lesser of evils.

A report Monday from the Obama administration’s own State Department reveals that the Syrian civil war effectively has driven out the country’s Christian population. In the city of Homs, alone, the Christian population has declined from 160,000, to barely 1,000.

And fresh casualty figures from the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, as reported by Reuters, say at least 700 people were killed in a 48-hour period two weeks ago that represented “the bloodiest fighting since the civil war began in 2011.”

That same group put casualties at more than 171,509, as of July 8 — though they believe the actual number could be much higher.

And 56,495 — or one-third of total casualties — are listed as civilians, including 9,092 children.

Frustration over the situation within the Obama administration spilled over last February with the resignation of America’s ambassador to Damascus, Robert Ford, who said he no longer could defend the administration’s Syria policy. Since then, Ford has stepped up his criticism, claiming the administration is failing to address the conflict’s root causes while haphazardly addressing the escalation of violence.

“The situation in Syria has gone from bad to very bad to still worse, and the measures we have taken have been, in most cases, too little and too late,” Ford told NPR in a radio interview.

And Obama’s “Assad must go” rhetoric appears to have lost its influence on Capitol Hill lawmakers.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., have been among the most vocal to accuse the White House of being too passive in Syria. During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing last week, Corker shrugged off the idea of funneling another $500 million to aid the Syrian opposition.

“I question how effective that’s  gonna be,” he told Elissa Slotkin, a Defense Department official, at the hearing. “Did the administration really, truly think it could move the needle?”

Slotkin countered, “Sir, you can’t fight something with nothing.”

“Can you fight something with almost nothing?” Corker shot back.

Slotkin said the plan was to “start small and move up significantly in scale and numbers,” but her answers were met with a collective eye-roll by panel members.

State Department and other officials are continuing to pledge U.S. support for certain members of the opposition, but lately it’s been more talk than action.

Asked during a July 24 State Department briefing if the U.S. was satisfied with the pace of progress and aid going to the Syrian rebels, spokeswoman Marie Harf seemed to indicate it was.

“We know they are fighting very big challenges on several fronts, both from the regime and from ISIS and Nusra and the terrorists that we’ve seen there,” Harf said. “So it’s a huge challenge. We’re continuing to increase our assistance.”

Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki also insisted last week that, despite Assad’s Damascus inauguration, he “has no more credibility now than he did before the so-called presidential election.”

Still, it would appear at least that the ongoing slaughter in Syria has been pushed into the administration’s foreign policy background, replaced by such recent crises as the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza.

And that lack of attention appears to have helped stabilize Assad’s position — along with the support of Syria’s long-time ally Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has worked behind the scenes to diminish America’s global voice in the Syrian crisis.

When the U.S. -­ with the backing of other Western countries -­ called on Assad to back down, Putin responded by sending Assad’s army cash and weapons.

And when Assad crossed Obama’s so-called “red line” on chemical weapons use, it was Putin ­- not Obama ­- who stepped up and brokered a solution in which the U.S. backed away from air strikes in return for Syria handing over its chemical weapons stockpile.

Assad, meanwhile, used his inauguration to declare victory against the U.S.-backed push to oust him — a reality that Lebanese commentator Hisham Melhem believes could have widespread consequences.

“We may never know for sure if Putin’s decisions in Ukraine were encouraged by Obama’s passivity in Syria,” Melhem said in an article posted on the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights website. “What we know for sure, is that the Russian president was not deterred because of anything the American president did in Syria.”

Melhem believes those “less charitable” to Obama would say his inability to oust Assad sent a message that the U.S. and its allies were incapable of extinguishing growing problems in the region.

“The collapse of the Geneva process on Syria is a serious defeat for U.S. diplomacy that will not go unnoticed in the region and beyond,” Melhem predicts.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/29/administration-focus-syria-death-toll/

ASSAD MUST GO? Obama’s Syria demand fades as casualties grow

Mideast Syria_Assad_AP_660.jpg

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syria’s President Bashar Assad reviews an honor guard upon his arrival at the presidential palace to take the oath of office for his third seven-year term in Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, July 16, 2014.AP

The rise of ISIS militants in Syria and Iraq, and the unwillingness of Americans to see their military involved in another foreign conflict, appear to have cooled President Obama’s once-strident rhetoric demanding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “must go” — even as the death toll in the three-year-old civil war tops 170,000.

“Syria is a mess and Assad has managed to hold onto power,” Chris Preble, Cato Institute’s vice president for foreign policy studies, told FoxNews.com.

“I’m not convinced that President Obama gave up on the idea” of forcing Assad from power, Preble said. “He just realized how unpopular it was,” adding, “America has very limited ability to affect the outcome in Syria.”

Still, as new crises appear on the Obama administration’s radar seemingly every week, and with foreign fighters and Islamic radicals streaming into the region, the Syrian death toll mounts as the administration is being accused of easing off its pledge to help rebel fighters — and considering a policy of backing the lesser of evils.

A report Monday from the Obama administration’s own State Department reveals that the Syrian civil war effectively has driven out the country’s Christian population. In the city of Homs, alone, the Christian population has declined from 160,000, to barely 1,000.

And fresh casualty figures from the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, as reported by Reuters, say at least 700 people were killed in a 48-hour period two weeks ago that represented “the bloodiest fighting since the civil war began in 2011.”

That same group put casualties at more than 171,509, as of July 8 — though they believe the actual number could be much higher.

And 56,495 — or one-third of total casualties — are listed as civilians, including 9,092 children.

Frustration over the situation within the Obama administration spilled over last February with the resignation of America’s ambassador to Damascus, Robert Ford, who said he no longer could defend the administration’s Syria policy. Since then, Ford has stepped up his criticism, claiming the administration is failing to address the conflict’s root causes while haphazardly addressing the escalation of violence.

“The situation in Syria has gone from bad to very bad to still worse, and the measures we have taken have been, in most cases, too little and too late,” Ford told NPR in a radio interview.

And Obama’s “Assad must go” rhetoric appears to have lost its influence on Capitol Hill lawmakers.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., have been among the most vocal to accuse the White House of being too passive in Syria. During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing last week, Corker shrugged off the idea of funneling another $500 million to aid the Syrian opposition.

“I question how effective that’s  gonna be,” he told Elissa Slotkin, a Defense Department official, at the hearing. “Did the administration really, truly think it could move the needle?”

Slotkin countered, “Sir, you can’t fight something with nothing.”

“Can you fight something with almost nothing?” Corker shot back.

Slotkin said the plan was to “start small and move up significantly in scale and numbers,” but her answers were met with a collective eye-roll by panel members.

State Department and other officials are continuing to pledge U.S. support for certain members of the opposition, but lately it’s been more talk than action.

Asked during a July 24 State Department briefing if the U.S. was satisfied with the pace of progress and aid going to the Syrian rebels, spokeswoman Marie Harf seemed to indicate it was.

“We know they are fighting very big challenges on several fronts, both from the regime and from ISIS and Nusra and the terrorists that we’ve seen there,” Harf said. “So it’s a huge challenge. We’re continuing to increase our assistance.”

Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki also insisted last week that, despite Assad’s Damascus inauguration, he “has no more credibility now than he did before the so-called presidential election.”

Still, it would appear at least that the ongoing slaughter in Syria has been pushed into the administration’s foreign policy background, replaced by such recent crises as the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza.

And that lack of attention appears to have helped stabilize Assad’s position — along with the support of Syria’s long-time ally Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has worked behind the scenes to diminish America’s global voice in the Syrian crisis.

When the U.S. -­ with the backing of other Western countries -­ called on Assad to back down, Putin responded by sending Assad’s army cash and weapons.

And when Assad crossed Obama’s so-called “red line” on chemical weapons use, it was Putin ­- not Obama ­- who stepped up and brokered a solution in which the U.S. backed away from air strikes in return for Syria handing over its chemical weapons stockpile.

Assad, meanwhile, used his inauguration to declare victory against the U.S.-backed push to oust him — a reality that Lebanese commentator Hisham Melhem believes could have widespread consequences.

“We may never know for sure if Putin’s decisions in Ukraine were encouraged by Obama’s passivity in Syria,” Melhem said in an article posted on the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights website. “What we know for sure, is that the Russian president was not deterred because of anything the American president did in Syria.”

Melhem believes those “less charitable” to Obama would say his inability to oust Assad sent a message that the U.S. and its allies were incapable of extinguishing growing problems in the region.

“The collapse of the Geneva process on Syria is a serious defeat for U.S. diplomacy that will not go unnoticed in the region and beyond,” Melhem predicts.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/07/29/administration-focus-syria-death-toll/