By Robert A. Vella
Today, we’ll take another look at how the U.S. intelligence community sees the Trump administration as a national security risk. Instead of taking direct legal action, Democratic Party leaders in the House of Representatives are issuing a lot of idle threats towards administration officials ordered by President Trump to refuse to testify before their committees. Yes, these officials are legally bound to testify. Yes, Trump’s order is an obstruction of Congress’ constitutional authority. But, if Dems aren’t willing to backup their threats, it will only make them look like the wimps that they truly are and Trump will evade their investigations. Trump is whiplashing the Border Patrol to be more aggressive towards the “dangerous” migrants trying to escape misery in Central America. Unfortunately for him, many agents no longer want to do it. Republican legislators in Florida are getting closer to circumventing the will of the people by suppressing the vote given to former felons in the last election. A new study details widespread police misconduct in America. The U.S. Navy has changed its policy for reporting UFO sightings in response to an angry backlash from pilots. The Rohingya crisis gets worse. Researchers are reporting a massive loss of tropical forests in 2018.
Trump is a risk
WASHINGTON — The Mueller report’s narrative of secret meetings between members of Donald Trump’s orbit and Russian operatives — contacts that occurred both before and after the 2016 election — portrays a political campaign that left itself open to a covert Russian influence operation, former intelligence officials and other experts say.
While finding no criminal conspiracy, the report shows that Trump associates met with Russians after the intelligence community said in October 2016 that Russia was interfering in the presidential election, and even after the Obama administration announced a set of post-election sanctions to punish Russia for that behavior.
The 448-page report, written as a prosecutorial document, was not meant to assess, and does not say, whether U.S. national security was put at risk through those contacts. But former FBI and CIA officials and people who study Russian intelligence say the report describes a counterintelligence minefield — senior members of a presidential campaign and transition holding secret talks with a sophisticated foreign adversary, without the benefit of State Department and intelligence community counsel.
WASHINGTON, April 24 (Reuters) – The Democratic chairman of the U.S. House Oversight Committee on Wednesday accused President Donald Trump of a “massive, unprecedented, and growing pattern of obstruction” after he ordered federal employees not to comply with congressional investigations.
The Republican president ordered officials not to obey legal requests from the Democratic-led House of Representatives, which is carrying out multiple investigations of his administration, including his tax returns, White House security clearances and the probe of Russian interference in U.S. politics.
“President Trump and Attorney General (William) Barr are now openly ordering federal employees to ignore congressional subpoenas and simply not show up – without any assertion of a valid legal privilege,” Representative Elijah Cummings, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement.
“This is a massive, unprecedented, and growing pattern of obstruction,” Cummings added, warning federal employees to “think very carefully about their own legal interests” in refusing to comply with the panel’s requests.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced Wednesday that it is offering a 5 percent pay bump to agents willing to stay on the job another year as the agency grapples with a surge in families crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on CBP released earlier this year found that the agency’s attrition rate outpaced its hiring rate. CBP, at the time, was reportedly mulling giving agents a 10 percent raise, the government watchdog wrote.
“According to Border Patrol documentation, these incentives, if implemented, could help reduce Border Patrol’s attrition rate-which has consistently outpaced its hiring rate-by helping retain agents who may have otherwise left Border Patrol for similar positions in OFO, ICE, or other law enforcement agencies,” the GAO wrote.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After hours of debate, the Florida House on Wednesday passed along party lines its version of a bill implementing Amendment 4, which was supposed to restore the right to vote to more than a million former felons.
The 71-45 vote sets up a potential dispute with the state Senate over whether court fines, fees and restitution should be required before felons can vote.
The creators of Amendment 4 have argued that the bill is self-implementing. The amendment restored the right to vote to felons who have completed “all terms of their sentence including parole or probation.”
It did not mention fines, fees or restitution, but Republicans in the Legislature have used the supporters’ own words to interpret it to include such costs.
Among the findings:
Most misconduct involves routine infractions, but the records reveal tens of thousands of cases of serious misconduct and abuse. They include 22,924 investigations of officers using excessive force, 3,145 allegations of rape, child molestation and other sexual misconduct and 2,307 cases of domestic violence by officers.
Dishonesty is a frequent problem. The records document at least 2,227 instances of perjury, tampering with evidence or witnesses or falsifying reports. There were 418 reports of officers obstructing investigations, most often when they or someone they knew were targets.
Less than 10% of officers in most police forces get investigated for misconduct. Yet some officers are consistently under investigation. Nearly 2,500 have been investigated on 10 or more charges. Twenty faced 100 or more allegations yet kept their badge for years.
A recent uptick in sightings of unidentified flying objects — or as the military calls them, “unexplained aerial phenomena” — prompted the Navy to draft formal procedures for pilots to document encounters, a corrective measure that former officials say is long overdue.
“Since 2014, these intrusions have been happening on a regular basis,” Joseph Gradisher, spokesman for office of the deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare, told The Washington Post on Wednesday. Recently, unidentified aircraft have entered military-designated airspace as often as multiple times per month. “We want to get to the bottom of this. We need to determine who’s doing it, where it’s coming from and what their intent is. We need to try to find ways to prevent it from happening again.”
In some cases, pilots — many of whom are engineers and academy graduates — claimed to observe small spherical objects flying in formation. Others say they’ve seen white, Tic Tac-shaped vehicles. Aside from drones, all engines rely on burning fuel to generate power, but these vehicles all had no air intake, no wind and no exhaust.
“It’s very mysterious, and they still seem to exceed our aircraft in speed,” he said, calling it a “truly radical technology.”
According to Mellon, awestruck and baffled pilots, concerned that reporting unidentified flying aircraft would adversely affect their careers, tended not to speak up. And when they did, he said, there was little interest in investigating their claims.
Criminal gangs and militants are increasing their grip on Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, committing killings and abductions with “impunity”, International Crisis Group said in a new report Thursday.
About 740,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar for Bangladesh after a military crackdown in August 2017, joining huge numbers already confined to the camps after earlier violence across the border.
With no prospect in sight of the Rohingya returning to their homes in Myanmar, the international community must also now help Bangladesh to house the refugees for years ahead, ICG said.
Last year humanity destroyed an expanse of tropical forest nearly the size of England, the third largest decline since global satellite data become available in 2001, researchers reported Thursday.
The pace of the loss is staggering — the equivalent of 30 football fields disappearing every minute of every day, or 12 million hectares a year.
Almost a third of that area, some 36,000 square kilometres (14,000 square miles), was pristine primary rainforest, according to the annual assessment from scientists at Global Forest Watch, based at the University of Maryland.