News and Headlines: In The News, Politics, World News, Commentary/Opinion.
In The News:
During a Friday news conference in Panama City, Florida, federal authorities described a scheme that defrauded taxpayers of more than $373,000 intended for drought-stricken farmers.
At the center of the federal investigation is a county-level director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, Duane Edward Crawson, who authorities said masterminded “a broad-based conspiracy to steal government drought assistance funds and hide the actions through identify theft, tax evasion, and other federal crimes with a criminal network of more than two dozen other people.”
Authorities said Crawson devised a kickback scheme in which he and his co-conspirators submitted fraudulent drought assistance claims.
The results of the investigation, which covered a period between May thru December of 2017, was submitted to a federal grand jury, which handed down indictments against Crawson and 28 others.
The owner of Play Mountain Place daycare, Carla Faith, 58, is being investigated and three workers were arrested on charges of misdemeanor child abuse relating to neglect. (Those charges were canceled by detectives pending an ongoing investigation.)
When officers arrived on the scene, they did not find any children inside. They attempted to contact Faith at her home, which is on the same property, but the owner refused to cooperate.
Officers, however, could still hear some of the children making noise — directing them to a false wall that led to the basement where they were being held, police officials told Fox 31 Denver.
The recall covers certain trucks from the 2019 and 2020 model years built starting June 24 until Oct. 1.
Ford says the positive battery terminal fastener may not be properly secured. That can cause systems such as power braking or steering assist and instrument panel displays to malfunction.
Engines could stall, and there could be electrical shorts causing smoke or possibly a fire.
“A death sentence is final, and given the doubt surrounding his innocence at this time, I believe our state cannot execute Mr. Reed in good conscience without fully reviewing all evidence,” Texas Rep. Michael T. McCaul wrote in a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Reed was sentenced to death more than 20 years ago. He’s scheduled to be executed November 20.
But Reed and attorneys with the Innocence Project say they have evidence that exonerates him and instead implicates Stites’ fiancé at the time, Jimmy Fennell, who was a police officer.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the investigative unit of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), announced it initiated 4,224 child exploitation cases during the 2019 fiscal year, which began in October 2018 and concluded at the end of September.
Those cases led to a total of 3,771 criminal arrests, and the identification or rescue of 1,066 victims.
The numbers reflected a significant uptick — 18% — from the previous fiscal year. It’s a result, HSI contended, of its commitment to ending crimes against children.
ICE published a short list of individuals arrested by HSI agents in the Pacific Northwest area, who were later convicted of various child exploitation crimes, such as child pornography, and the sexual abuse and molestation of minors.
The news release coincided with the Thursday opening of HSI’s Angel Watch Center in Fairfax, Virginia — an addition to the agency’s Cyber Crimes Center.
When convicted and registered child sex offenders are anticipated to travel to another country, it’s the job of the Angel Watch Center to notify the country’s government.
The overall goal of the facility’s operation is the prevention of child sex tourism — the act of traveling internationally for the purpose of sexually exploiting minors.
In fact, FBI figures for firearm purchase background checks–performed via the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)–show that October 2019 was the third consecutive month of record checks.
There were 2,366,824 checks NICS checks in August 2019, the highest number in any August since the adoption of background checks.
Likewise, there were 2,207,312 in September 2019, setting a record for that month as well.
And October 2019 saw 2,393,609 background checks, for the third consecutive record month this year.
Sentencing has been set for Thursday Feb. 6.
Stone was accused of providing false statements to the House Intelligence Committee about communications having to do with WikiLeaks, obstructing a congressional investigation of Russian election interference by falsely denying that he had evidence to turn over, and witness tampering.
The prosecution argued that Stone intentionally lied about his use of intermediaries to get information about WikiLeaks’ possession and release of hacked Democratic emails. They said he hid the truth to protect Trump’s campaign.
The alleged assault happened during an hourslong drinking session in Miami Beach that ended at about 3 a.m. Wednesday, a local NBC affiliate reported.
Esperanza Gomez, 33, was drinking beers with her boyfriend when a female friend joined them at about midnight, according to the report.
The friend left a short time later — but Gomez became enraged and accused her boyfriend of wanting to bed the woman.
Syria’s Assad claims Jeffery Epstein didn’t commit suicide: ‘He was killed because he knew a lot of vital secrets’
“American billionaire Jeffrey Epstein was killed several weeks ago, they said he had committed suicide in jail,” Newsweek quoted Assad as telling the TASS Russian News Agency.
“However, he was killed because he knew a lot of vital secrets connected with very important people in the British and American regimes, and possibly in other countries as well.”
Assad’s unsolicited take on Epstein came when he was asked for his reaction to the death of James Le Mesurier, the founder of the White Helmets humanitarian volunteer group, which performed emergency response functions in Syria.
Le Mesurier was discovered dead early Monday in Turkey.
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) brought House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s (D-CA) past remarks on the so-called “whistleblower” to the forefront during Friday’s public impeachment hearing, reading excerpts of reports of his previous comments aloud in order to demonstrate the “duplicity and just the abuse of power of that we are continuing to see.”
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, questioned Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, on the role of former vice president Joe Biden’s son Hunter’s role on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian natural gas company.
Stefanik questioned Yovanovitch after Rep. Devin Nunes yielded his time to her.
The impeachment probe centers around a July phone call in which Trump asked the president of Ukraine to investigate former vice president and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son.
Yovanovitch has testified that she was forced out of her position after Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, engineered a smear campaign against her.
“And the exact quote from your testimony, Ambassador, is, quote, the way the question was phrased in this model Q & A was, what can you tell us about Hunter Biden’s, you know, being named to the board of Burisma?” Stefanik said.
“So for the millions of Americans watching, President Obama’s own State Department was so concerned about potential conflicts of interest from Hunter Biden’s role at Burisma that they raised it themselves while prepping this wonderful ambassador nominee before her confirmation.”
“And yet our Democratic colleagues and the chairman of this committee cry fowl when we dare ask that same question the Obama administration was so concerned about,” Stefanik.
“But we will continue asking it.”
The White House.
Rep. Poncho Nevarez, D-Eagle Pass, was arrested, fingerprinted, photographed and then released Thursday, with bond set at $10,000, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
“I do not have anyone to blame but myself,” he said. “I accept this because it is true and it will help me get better.
“In a weird way I am grateful. Grief and addiction were consuming me, but oddly enough, I feel better now than I have in a long time, and I mean that,” Nevarez said. He added that he would seek treatment.
The Democrat chairs the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee in the Texas House, which is in recess until January 2021.
Amid the turmoil, some aides have gone directly to campaign chair Maya Harris, the candidate’s sister, and argued that Rodriguez needs to be replaced if Harris has any hope of a turnaround, according to two officials.
While staff ire centers on Rodriguez, his defenders argue he has stood loyally by the candidate despite being relegated to a role akin to deputy campaign manager to Maya Harris.
They say he’s had to get Maya Harris’ buy-in even on routine decisions, which were often slow to materialize, further undermining staff’s confidence in him as a supervisor.
Maya Harris had helped bring in the first round of hires for that campaign, including several people who were eventually fired, before leaving to run policy for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
When the Harris sisters were building the 2020 staff, they and others were in talks with at least one well-known Democratic strategist whose understanding of the proposed role at the time was to serve alongside Rodriguez given his lack of national campaign experience.
The consultant passed, and no one else emerged in that capacity.
“My message would be, look, you got hired to do a job,” Clinton said during a phone interview with CNN. “You don’t get the days back you blow off. Every day is an opportunity to make something good happen.
“And I would say, ‘I’ve got lawyers and staff people handling this impeachment inquiry, and they should just have at it,'” he continued. “Meanwhile, I’m going to work for the American people. That’s what I would do.”
Commentary/Opinion: As the impeachment inquiry continues, new details are emerging about the whistleblower who started the whole process.
One America’s Jack Posobiec sat down with a former CIA officer to learn more.
Commentary/Opinion: At the risk of gross understatement, the effect won’t be pretty.
Based on what’s happened elsewhere in Europe, the Wall Street Journal opined that America’s economy would suffer.
Karl Smith’s Bloomberg column warns that wealth taxes would undermine the entrepreneurial capitalism that has made the United States so successful.
The bottom line, given the importance of “super entrepreneurs” to a nation’s economy, is that wealth taxes would do considerable long-run damage.
Andy Kessler, in a column for the Wall Street Journal, explains that wealth taxes directly harm growth by penalizing income that is saved and invested.
Schiff repeatedly refused to recognize Jordan, who pointed out Schiff has yet to authorize the release of four transcripts from his secret depositions.
“There are four transcripts that have not been released,” Jordan began.
“The gentleman is not recognized,” Schiff said, prompting a “holy cow” from Jordan.
Schiff said he was “happy” to allow Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-CA) to exceed his opening statement to read the transcript Trump released Friday, but signaled that it was not good enough:
“Mr. Chairman, I want you to release the four transcripts from the depositions,” Jordan began, prompting Schiff to say, “the gentleman will suspend,” wielding the gavel.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals now has seven judges appointed by Republican presidents and six by Democrats.
Democrats flailed about in hysteria over the Menashi nomination, in which he was confirmed 51-41 in a party line vote only excepted by Susan Collins of Main, who voted against Menashi.
Menashi, 40, was viciously attacked by Democrats; Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer raged, “Mr. Menashi is one of the most contemptible nominees to come before the Senate in all my time in this body. He would be a disgrace, a disgrace to the seat once held by the great Thurgood Marshall.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news, the final rule will force hospitals in 2021 to report the rates they strike with individual insurers for all services, including drugs, supplies, facility fees and care by doctors who work for the facility.
The administration will also extend the rule to the $670 billion health-care industry, meaning that insurance companies, including Anthem and Cigna, and group health plans that cover employees will have to disclose negotiate rates and previously paid rates for out-of-network treatment in computer-searchable file formats, the Journal reported.
By making those prices available to consumers, the Trump administration argues that hospitals will be under more pressure to compete, eventually causing prices to fall.
According to a September study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, employer health-plan deductibles are outpacing wage growth and have increased to an average of $1,655 for a single plan. On average, workers contribute $6,015 toward the cost of coverage.
“Digital giants such as Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple have scale and power that renders them more quasi-sovereign states than conventional companies,” the plan reads.
“They’re making decisions on rights that government usually makes, like speech and safety.”
Yang has now joined the growing cacophony of Democrats and Republicans who wish to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act; the landmark legislation protects social media companies from facing certain liabilities for third-party content posted by users online.
As Reason’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown writes, it’s essentially “the Internet’s First Amendment.”
The algorithms developed by tech companies are the root of the problem, Yang says, as they “push negative, polarizing, and false content to maximize engagement.”
All five members of the board of OCE voted to recommend that the House Ethics Committee continue an investigation into Tlaib over $17,500 in payments she received from the campaign after her election win Nov. 6, 2018.
“Because Rep. Tlaib refused to interview with the OCE, the OCE could not address these potentially problematic payments with her. Likewise, the OCE was unable to address these documents with members of her campaign staff given their refusals to interview with the OCE,” the report stated.
OCE released emails showing that Tlaib requested a larger salary from the campaign in order to support her two children.
The emails also show that Tlaib and her campaign staff weighed whether she should resume working part-time at her law firm, Sugar Law Firm, or increase her stipend from the campaign.
A senior State Department official involved in events connected to the surveillance of the Trump 2016 presidential campaign was directly involved in concocting a plan to have Vice President Joe Biden force the firing of the top prosecutor in Ukraine, by threatening to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees, according to the impeachment inquiry testimony of George Kent, a senior State Department official.
Trump took the April 21 call with Volodymyr Zelensky while aboard Air Force One. The conversation predated the highly controversial conversation between the two presidents on July 25, which prompted the House’s impeachment inquiry.
But in the transcript of the call released Friday, much of which is formal congratulations, Trump invites Zelensky to the White House, without any mention of investigations — as was the case in the July 25 phone call.
WH releases transcript of T… by Fox News on Scribd
President Trump releases his first call with Ukraine transcript; Ken Starr and Andy McCarthy react.
Two Ethiopian pastors have been beheaded in Sebeta, near the capital Addis Ababa, in an outburst of violence against Christians at the end of October, reported a Barnabas Fund contact.
The contact said that the situation on the ground has become “quite challenging for Christians” and many churches have been burnt this year.
There is also an unverified report that a group of Christians has been forced out of the majority-Muslim town of Ginir, located 303 miles south-east from the capital.
Ongoing anti-corruption protests in Iraq pose a risk of destabilizing the country, yet again, amid lingering threats by Iran and local terror groups.
This, in turn, may jeopardize U.S. interests in the country.
One America’s Kristian Rouz explains.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s office announced the meeting Friday after months of diplomatic efforts to get all sides to agree on new talks.
Macron’s office said it’s time for a meeting because of “major advances” in negotiations since this summer, including troop withdrawals and prisoner exchanges.
Over the past several weeks, Ukrainian and rebel forces have pulled back from three frontline points.
In September, Russia and Ukraine each released 35 of the others’ nationals who had been imprisoned, including high-profile Ukrainian sailors who had been seized by Russia.
The strikes in the early-morning hours hit a compound, rocket-manufacturing site and headquarters of the Islamic Jihad militant group in the town of Khan Younis, the Associated Press reported, citing a statement from Israel’s army.
As of Friday afternoon, the situation appears to be calm along the Israel-Gaza border, the Associated Press reports.
The Palestinian territory’s Hamas rulers, who kept to the sidelines of this week’s fighting, also canceled the weekly protests they organize along the perimeter fence without explanation — apparently in an effort to preserve the halt in fighting.
Both militant groups are committed to Israel’s destruction, but Islamic Jihad is seen as more radical and has closer ties to Iran.
The Jiangcungou landfill in the northwestern city of Xi-an was constructed in 1994 to serve more than eight million people. It was built to last until the year 2044 and encompassed 7,534,730 square feet, which is nearly the size of 100 football fields.
Instead, China reached the 50-year threshold this year.
Designed to take in 2,500 tons of trash each day, the dump received 10,000 tons of waste per day, the most of any landfill site in China, according to Sixth Tone.
Trash at the site allegedly is piled up 50 stories high in some spots.
The White House confirmed Mr Trump will be among the NATO leaders attending the reception at Buckingham Palace.
In a statement, it said the president “looks forward” to the summit and will be emphasising the need for the alliance to combat cyber threats and terrorism.
The president has repeatedly expressed concerns that other countries are not putting enough funding into the military alliance.
The December summit will mark 70 years of the NATO alliance and is being hosted the week before the UK goes to the polls for a snap general election.
In a statement, the Met Police said: “A woman was taken to hospital by London Ambulance Service suffering an injury to her arm.
“Enquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances. There has been no arrest at this stage.”
The alleged assault follows the death of 22-year-old Alex Chow Tsz-Lok, who died last week in Hong Kong after falling from a car park when police fired tear gas at protesters.
Video footage of the incident shows the minister surrounded by protesters and falling to the ground.
Commentary/Opinion: Anne Marie Waters: Leader, For Britain.
Huda Nasrallah, a 40-year-old human rights lawyer, has stood before three judges since her father passed away last year, demanding an equal share of the property left to her brothers.
Her brothers are in her corner, testifying on her behalf. But officials have ruled against her twice, citing Islamic laws that favor men.
Nasrallah has formulated her case around Christian doctrine that dictates heirs, regardless of their gender, receive equal shares, but the courts have chosen to use Islamic law as their justification.
Dave Rubin of The Rubin Report talks to Donald Trump Jr. about what he thinks the real reason is that Democrats are so upset about the alleged whistleblower’s name being made public.
Donald discusses why the details about the leaker’s identity matter so much for the Trump impeachment inquiry and why it makes him skeptical of the whistleblower complaint.