Monday, April 30, 2012

Non-Federal Employee Whistleblower Protection Act Clears Committee



On Friday Project on Government Oversight  (POGO) reported:
On Wednesday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) passed a bill that would expand much-needed whistleblower protections to all non-federal recipients of federal funds. If passed, it means that any contractor, subcontractor, or grantee who speaks out against the misuse of federal funds may not be discharged, demoted, or otherwise discriminated against as reprisal for blowing the whistle.
POGO has long advocated to protect federal contract whistleblowers and taxpayers, and we have been supporting this legislation since it was first introduced by Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Jim Webb (D-VA). If passed, the Non-Federal Employee Whistleblower Protection Act of 2011 (S.241) will become one of the most broad-ranging government accountability reforms in history.
“I think we’ve learned over and over and over again that whistleblowers are taxpayers’ best friend,” McCaskill said on the floor on Wednesday, “and we are really missing the boat if we isolate whistleblowers within the government from whistleblowers within the contracting community.”
POGO agrees wholeheartedly.
On Monday, POGO and other good government organizations including the Government Accountability Project (GAP), OpenTheGovernment.org, and National Taxpayers Union (NTU) sent a letter of strong support for the Non-Federal Employee Whistleblower Protection Act to the Chairman, Ranking Member, and Members of HSGAC. We applaud the Committee for passing this important bill.
In December, POGO’s Director of Public Policy Angela Canterbury testified on S.241 before the Senate Subcommittee on Government Contracting. She pointed to the gaping accountability loopholes in the existing patchwork of laws, protecting only some contractors and federal fund recipient employees who blow the whistle, and only under very limited circumstances. Canterbury said S.241 would protect the most common disclosures made by employees seeking to fix a problem—those made to a supervisor or internal compliance program. Inspectors General would investigate claims of retaliation, and whistleblowers would have access to effective remedies (including compensatory damages) if reprisal is confirmed.
In sum, S.241 would ensure strong protections for those on the front lines against waste, fraud, abuse of taxpayer dollars, and threats to public health and safety. This is extremely effective public policy that will result in far more accountability.
The next step to make S.241 law is for Senate to pass the bill, and you can be sure POGO will be keeping a watchful eye during the coming weeks.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

2008: Sonia Sanchez — Middle Passage

From her official website:
Sinua Sanchez is a Poet. Mother. Professor. National and International lecturer on Black Culture and Literature, Women’s Liberation, Peace and Racial Justice. Sponsor of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Board Member of MADRE. Sonia Sanchez is the author of over 16 books including Homecoming, We a BaddDDD People, Love Poems, I’ve Been a Woman, A Sound Investment and Other Stories, Homegirls and Handgrenades, Under a Soprano Sky, Wounded in the House of a Friend (Beacon Press, 1995), Does Your House Have Lions? (Beacon Press, 1997), Like the Singing Coming off the Drums(Beacon Press, 1998), Shake Loose My Skin (Beacon Press, 1999), and most recently, Morning Haiku (Beacon Press, 2010). In addition to being a contributing editor toBlack Scholar and The Journal of African Studies, she has edited an anthology, We Be Word Sorcerers: 25 Stories by Black Americans.http://soniasanchez.net/bio/

Friday, April 27, 2012

Maya Angelou Poem "The Mask"

From her official website:
Dr. Maya Angelou is a remarkable Renaissance woman who is hailed as one of the greatest voices of contemporary literature.  As a poet, educator, historian, best-selling author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, producer and director, she continues to travel the world, spreading her legendary wisdom.  Within the rhythm of her poetry and elegance of her prose lies Angelou's unique power to help readers of every orientation span the lines of race.  Angelou activates audiences through the vigor and sheer beauty of her words and lyrics.

Marine sergeant booted for criticism of Obama


President of the United States of America
and  Commander in Chief

On Thursday Stars and Stripes reported:
SAN DIEGO — A Marine sergeant who criticized President Barack Obama on Facebook pages is being dismissed from the service with an other-than-honorable discharge, the Marine Corps announced Wednesday.
Brig. Gen. Daniel Yoo accepted the unanimous recommendation of an Administrative Separation Board at Camp Pendleton that Sgt. Gary Stein be dismissed for making disparaging comments about the commander in chief that were disruptive to “good order and discipline” and violated military law.
Stein, 26, a nine-year veteran who served in Iraq, had called Obama a coward and an enemy, vowed not to salute him and called for his defeat in this year’s election. One of the websites was an Armed Forces Tea Party page on Facebook that was created by Stein, who sought to sell bumper stickers printed with “NOBAMA 2012.”
Stein’s civilian lawyers had sought to have his discharge blocked in federal court on grounds that his First Amendment rights were being violated by the Marine Corps. A federal judge in San Diego refused their request but the lawyers have vowed to appeal to the 9th Circuit.
Stein was informed of the general’s decision Wednesday. It will take at least a week for the administrative paperwork to be completed, a Marine spokesman said.
Yoo is commanding general of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. A weather forecaster, Stein had recently lost his security clearance and was working as a scheduler on the rifle range at Camp Pendleton.
A Marine spokesman said Yoo “found the (separation) board was conducted in accordance with law and regulation, that the findings of misconduct were supported by the evidence of record, and thus approved the board’s recommendation.”
Stein is being demoted to lance corporal. His discharge status will make him ineligible for veterans benefits. The separation board was comprised of a lieutenant colonel, a major and a sergeant major.

Food for thought:
It looks like this young Marine forgot he was in the military, where it's a violation of military law to criticize the military's Commander in Chief!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Eva Longoria Shares Why She Supports President Obama - Get Involved at L...

ALERT- FAKE EMAIL ADDRESS



    Several days ago I blogged about an online smear campaign involving a USA Today editor and reporter, the blog post is titled "Tax dollars used towards a Pentagon online "Smear Campaign"

    Someone recently created a yahoo email account using my full name and sent someone an email of a sexually suggestive nature. 

    The email address is syneedapenland@yahoo.com

     I decided to blog about this just in case you receive an email from this account from someone falsely claiming to be me!

    My only response to this person is "You're Slipping"!! 








      "But he that filches from me my good name/Robs me of that which not enriches him/And makes me poor indeed."
      - Shakespeare, Othello, act iii. Sc. 3.
      IDENTITY THEFT
      The short answer is that identity theft is a crime. Identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain. 

      Unlike your fingerprints, which are unique to you and cannot be given to someone else for their use, your personal data ­ especially your Social Security number, your bank account or credit card number, your telephone calling card number, and other valuable identifying data ­ can be used, if they fall into the wrong hands, to personally profit at your expense.  http://www.justice.gov/


Military Rape Speech 17 by Congresswoman Jackie Speier.mp4

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen 1st Class Matthew Cook on trial for alleged RAPE



Yesterday Navy Times reported:
"Court-martial begins for mid accused of rape"

Top of Form
Bottom of Form
A male Naval Academy midshipman raped a female classmate while she was unconscious in her dorm room at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, R.I., after a night of binge drinking, prosecutors argued Tuesday during court-martial proceedings at the Washington Navy Yard.

Midshipman 1st Class Matthew Cook, a senior at the academy, is charged with aggravated sexual assault and wrongful sexual contact. His graduation was delayed pending the results of his court-martial.

While assigned as a trainer for incoming NAPS students that summer, prosecutors said Cook slipped into a fellow detailer’s room at King Hall after 2 a.m. Aug. 14, 2010, and startled her when she returned. They said the woman had no relationship with Cook, didn’t consent to sex and passed out from drinking after returning to her room.

She woke up in the middle of intercourse because his motions were violently banging her head against a desk nearby, but that she lacked the strength to stop him before passing out, prosecutors said.

“This is not a case of drunk sex,” Lt. Cmdr. Rachel Trest, said in her opening statement. “He knew she was too drunk to have sex and not interested but he did it anyways.”

Trest estimated the alleged victim consumed nine to 12 alcoholic drinks that night, as part of a larger celebration at Newport’s Rhino Bar because it was their last day on the detail.

Navy Times, as a policy, does not identify the alleged victims of sexual assault without their permission.

Cook and the victim had kissed two weeks prior to the night the alleged assault occurred, but the two had broken off contact in the weeks since and there was no more relationship, sexual or otherwise, Trest said. The victim, who has since graduated and is now an ensign, is expected to testify in the court-martial.

The defense said they would show that varying details about the night in question and the victim’s inability to recall all of it would add up to a reasonable doubt that Cook assaulted his classmate.

The devil is in the details,” lead defense attorney Christopher Drewniak said in his opening remarks to the seven jurors, all of whom are naval officers. By the end of the court-martial, he continued, “You’ll find that the differing accounts ... create considerable doubt about what, if anything, happened that night.”

Drewniak telegraphed one of his likely strategies at the first day’s proceedings, while the jurors were sent out: The victim reported the alleged assault to officials for disciplinary action in March of 2011 — seven months after it supposedly occurred.

Drewniak asked a witness about why the victim may have reported it at that time, a question that was overruled.

But in closed session, Drewniak told judge Capt. Eric Price that he wanted the witness, a fellow senior on the NAPS detail, to say whether he heard any rumors about why the victim may have come forward then — namely embarrassment for having other students see Cook emerging from her room the following morning.
Prosecutors successfully argued that the answer to this question would be hearsay.

Cook sat quietly at the defense table all day, only saying “Yes, sir” seven times in answer to the judge’s questions at the end of the day’s session. He is a burly young man — he was a power-lifter at the academy and lifted in the 242 pounds weight class, a classmate testified — who put on his black wire-rimmed glasses occasionally to read during the court-martial.

Cook sat motionless while classmate Ens. Jonathan Luetkenhoelter testified that he had walked in the next morning and seen both Cook and the victim lying naked on a twin bed. Yet Luetkenhoelter, who lived in the room next to the victim, said he hadn’t heard any noise or banging from the previous night.

Drinking after hours was common on NAPS detail, and that night was no different, testified fellow detailer Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Timothy Berry, who said he was a friend of Cook’s who had also attended NAPS. Berry, then Cook’s roommate, said Cook left the room to make a phone call and didn’t return.

Two months later, Cook told him that he had spent that night with the victim in her room. Asked if he recalled Cook saying if the victim had been drunk and passed out, Berry responded: “I believe so.”


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

John Edwards Trial Expected to Set Precedents for Campaign-Finance Law

Tax dollars used towards a Pentagon online "Smear Campaign"


Several Days ago, USA Reported: "Misinformation campaign targets USA TODAY reporter, editor"

The full story:
WASHINGTON – A USA TODAY reporter and editor, investigating Pentagon propaganda contractors, have themselves been subjected to a propaganda campaign of sorts, waged on the Internet through a series of bogus websites. 

Fake Twitter and Facebook accounts have been created in their names, along with a Wikipedia entry and dozens of message board postings and blog comments. Websites were registered in their names.

The timeline of the activity tracks USA TODAY's reporting on the military's "information operations" program, which spent hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns that have been criticized even within the Pentagon, as ineffective and poorly monitored.

For example, Internet domain registries show the website TomVandenBrook.com was created Jan. 7 — just days after Pentagon reporter Tom Vanden Brook first contacted Pentagon contractors involved in the program. Two weeks after his editor Ray Locker's byline appeared on a story, someone created a similar site, RayLocker.com, through the same company.

If the websites were created using federal funds, it could violate federal law prohibiting the production of propaganda for domestic consumption.

"We're not aware of any participation in such activities, nor would it be acceptable," said Lt. Col. James Gregory, a Pentagon spokesman.

A Pentagon official confirmed that the military had made inquiries to information operations contractors to ask them about the Internet activity. All denied it, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the inquiries were informal and did not amount to an official investigation.

The websites were taken down following those inquiries. Various other sites and accounts were removed for violating their providers' terms of service.

"I find it creepy and cowardly that somebody would hide behind my name and presumably make up other names in an attempt to undermine my credibility," Vanden Brook said.

The activity is the work of what online reputation expert Andy Beal calls a "determined detractor."

"It's like a machine gun approach. They're trying to generate as much online content as they can," he said. "The person who's behind this, we can give them a lot of credit here and assume they're very sophisticated about reputation attacks."

It can cost $10 to register a domain name, but $50 to pay for a proxy service to hide the owner's identity, as was done with two of the websites. A third was registered to a non-existent address in Pueblo, Colo.

"This is the work of somebody who knows what they're doing. They have some experience of covering their tracks. This is probably not the first time they've done something like this," said Beal, CEO of Trackur, an online reputation tracking service.

Some postings merely copied Vanden Brook's and Locker's previous reporting. Others accused them of being sponsored by the Taliban. "They disputed nothing factual in the story about information operations," Vanden Brook said.

On Feb. 8, as Vanden Brook continued to ask questions of contractors, a new Wikipedia user attempted to create an entry on him, alleging he "gained worldwide notoriety" for his "misreporting" of the 2006 Sago Mine disaster in West Virginia.

Early reports from the scene, relying on faulty information from the governor and mine operators — said 12 of 13 miners were found alive, when in fact only one was. Many news outlets — including the Associated Press, The New York Times and USA TODAY — conveyed the inaccurate reports in early editions.

Wikipedia took down the page and banned the user, but similar comments started populating Internet message boards and blogs. In one case, the fake @Tomvandenbrook Twitter account defended his Sago reporting to another apparently fake account.

Vanden Brook said he's continuing to pursue the propaganda story. "If they thought it would deter me from writing about this, they're wrong."

"This is a clear attempt at intimidation that has failed," Locker said.
http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/story/2012-04-19/vanden-brook-locker-propaganda/54419654/1?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&dlvrit=206567

Monday, April 23, 2012

Police: Marine stabs and kills another Marine in nation's capital

 On Saturday (CNN) reported -- A U.S. Marine allegedly stabbed another Marine to death after a bar fight early Saturday morning across the street from the Marine Barracks in the nation's capital, police said.

The accused attacker has been arrested.

"Information uncovered during the course of the preliminary investigation indicates that there was a verbal exchange, and during the exchange a homophobic slur was heard from the suspect prior to the stabbing," Washington's Metropolitan Police Department said in a statement.

The fight began in a bar and spilled into the street, according to Capt. Jack Morton, a spokesman for the Marine Barracks. Two Marine guards on duty outside the Marine Barracks saw the fight and moved in to break it up. They subdued the alleged attacker and helped police take him into custody, Morton said.

D.C. police identified the stabbing victim as 23-year-old Philip Bushong. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Michael Joseph Poth, 23, was named as the suspect.

Police did not release other details.

A Marine official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the victim was based at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, and that the alleged attacker is stationed at the Marine Barracks.

The Marine Barracks, located in southeast Washington D.C., is the residence of Marines stationed there who serve as guards at the White House and other locations. The commandant of the Marine Corps also lives on its grounds.

Friday, April 20, 2012

VA to hire 1,600 Mental Health Care Providers

Army Times recently reported:
The Veterans Affairs Department announced Thursday that it plans to hire 1,600 nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers to bolster its staff of mental health providers.
As part of an “ongoing review of VA’s mental health operations,” officials said they plan to launch an immediate recruiting and hiring effort in its 21 service networks.
“History shows that the costs of war will continue to grow for a decade or more after the operational missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have ended. As more veterans return home, we must ensure that all veterans have access to quality mental health care,” VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said.
VA has come under fire from advocacy groups and members of Congress for its shortcomings in accommodating veterans’ behavioral health care needs.
Reports of veterans having problems getting appointments or receiving adequate long-term care have vexed lawmakers responsible for overseeing VA.
“With suicide rates that continue to be high and an influx of new veterans into the system, these barriers to mental health care are completely unacceptable,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairwoman, said Thursday.
According to Murray, VA announced the hiring initiative in advance of the release of a VA Inspector General’s report on appointment waiting times, expected before next Wednesday.
“I am pleased that VA has taken this desperately needed step toward providing timely access to mental health care,” she said.
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said more needs to be done to fill vacancies at VA medical centers nationwide. In some areas, he said, the vacancy rates for mental health practitioners are as high as 23 percent.
“There is a surge of veterans coming home, and VA must be prepared to meet their needs. If they are unable to do so, it is imperative that VA find community-based providers to match the right treatment for each veteran. Right now, too many veterans fall through the cracks,” Miller said.
VA currently employs 20,590 mental health specialists and clerical staff. The new hires, plus 300 planned clerical support staff, would represent a 9 percent increase in mental health workers at VA.
The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will hold a hearing April 25 on barriers for veterans in obtaining mental health care.

As an Human Rights Advocate, "I support Equal Rights for "ALL" Americans"


Advocate.com reported: 

Poll: Voters Least Concerned With Marriage Equality

The environment, the War in Afghanistan, and health care reform are ranked as higher priorities for voters than banning marriage equality, a new poll shows.

VOTERS ELECTION X390 (PHOTO) | ADVOCATE.COM
A new poll shows that marriage equality is the least important issue for voters in this upcoming presidential election, with the economy, jobs, and the budget deficit being the most important issues. 

The Human Rights Campaign says that results from an April Pew Research Center poll show that support for LGBT rights is strengthening. The data also suggests that African-American and Latino support for gay rights is increasing. 

“Americans care about job creation and providing for their families. This latest data reinforces the fact that supporting LGBT equality is not a divisive wedge issue, but rather just common sense,” HRC president Joe Solmonese said in a statement Thursday. “Fair-minded people are increasingly aware that extending rights, benefits, and protections to their LGBT neighbors strengthens the communities they live and work in. To suggest otherwise is a strategy that will fail with voters.”

The survey also shows that people who support environmental, health care, and education improvements favor Obama by double digits. He also has a majority of support from women, college graduates, blacks, Latinos, and lower income voters. Those who rank our relationship with Iran and reducing the federal budget as a high priority favor Romney by double digits.  Romney is also leading among independent voters, whites, men, Protestants, and Catholics.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

President Obama: ‘I Wasn’t Born With A Silver Spoon In My Mouth’

On Tuesday,  TPM  reported: President Obama brought out the knives Wednesday, so to speak, by bringing up a spoon.
In a speech in which he stressed the need for education and opportunity, he contrasted his own life story with that of his likely GOP rival.
“I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Michelle wasn’t. Somebody gave us a chance. Just like these folks up here are looking for a chance.” Obama said.
Obama has been touting his economic and social vision for America — a plan that includes an emphasis on the Buffet Rule, which would require high-earning Americans to pay more in taxes — but the line was just as much a personal dig at Romney, who was born into privilege. Romney’s father, George Romney, ran the American Motors Company and eventually became governor of Michigan. One of Obama’s best attributes as a candidate, recent polls indicate, is his likeability, his empathy for the struggles of others and as having risen from a single-parent home to be president. And Obama knows he can wield that factor in his favor against Romney, who has made several wealth-related gaffes on the campaign trail.
That Romney happens to be wealthy is a gift that Obama isn’t likely to squander. But his and Michelle’s personal stories are also being used to push an economic and social vision for the country that is integral to his campaign: that society is about helping each other out, not going it alone.
I also agree with our first Republican president, a guy named Abraham Lincoln, who said that true government, we should be able to do together what we can’t do as well on our own. There is some things we don’t do well on our own.
That’s why we got a strong military to keep us safe. That’s why we have fire departments because we never know when we might have a fire. That’s why we have public schools to educate our children.
Obama said the GOP budget does the opposite — it would gut public investment in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy, another subtle reminder that Romney’s personal wealth is always lurking in the campaign shadows.
Romney, for his part, has spent the primary trying to cast himself as a self-made man whose business expertise would help get the country on sound economic footing. Despite saying on the trail that he owns multiple Cadillacs and pals around with NASCAR team owners, Romney maintains that his wealth is a product of his success, not the family he was born into. “Guess what? I made a lot of money,” he told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly in March. “I’ve been very successful. I’m not going to apologize for that.”