The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) kept employees on paid administrative leave for years, costing taxpayers more than $1 million.
An “Early Warning” report released by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) on Wednesday revealed that eight employees racked up 20,926 hours of paid administrative leave, including some employees who were paid not to work for four years.
The eight employees cost taxpayers $1,096,868 alone. The report is in response to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) analysis released last month that found government-wide paid administrative leave cost $3.1 billion from 2011 and 2013.
The GAO report detailed that the EPA paid 69 employees to not work for 4,711 days between 2011 and 2013, costing $17,550,100.
The OIG analyzed paid leave for this year, focusing on eight employees who took the most paid leave. Half of the employees were on paid administrative leave for more than a year, including one EPA employee who was paid from May 2010 until September 2014, costing taxpayers $351,300.
The amount of paid leave taken by these employees may be higher, the OIG said, since several were missing timesheets during their period of paid leave.
The OIG report was categorized as addressing the goal of “Embracing EPA as a high-performing organization.”
The EPA allows for paid administrative leave for voting, funerals, donating blood, and bad weather. However, all eight employees were on paid administrative leave for at least four months.
The EPA’s leave manual offers no determination for what is considered an “acceptable amount of administrative leave.”
The OIG pointed out that employees could be placed on long-term paid leave for disciplinary reasons.
“The leave manual also provides that one authorized use of administrative leave is when an employee’s removal or indefinite suspension is proposed, and the employee’s continued presence at the work site during the notice period would constitute a threat to public property or the health and safety of coworkers or the public.”
The EPA has had to deal with employees who have threatened the work environment for their fellow workers before.
The OIG presented its findings to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on Oct. 30, and the agency is currently reviewing background information on the employees in question.
The news was announced early Wednesday November 12, a pseudo climate agreement between the U.S. and China.
Under the deal, the United States would cut its carbon emissions between 26-28% – from levels established in 2005 – by 2025. China would peak its carbon emissions no later than 2030 and would also increase the use of non-fossil fuels to 20% by 2030.
“As the world’s two largest economies, energy consumers and emitters of greenhouse gases, we have a special responsibility to lead the global effort against climate change,” Obama said Wednesday.
Notice in the deal China doesn’t have to start cutting back till 2030 and no cut is outlined just a 20% increase. How could they not agree to that. Their biggest economic competitor has to cut back 25-28% by 2025 and they don’t have to even start cutting for another five years. This isn’t a deal it’s a scam the President can use to sell his executive fiats about climate change. According to Poltico, the President is about to embark on two years of climate-related executive orders, guaranteed to trash the economy.
Does the President really understand what is going on with the climate or is he just promoting the hypothesis because it will result in a worldwide redistribution of income between rich and poor nations? Either way this President is denying the climate facts.
For those of you who want to think for themselves rather than simply listen to the scary speeches of the global warming proponents, I have created a list of a dozen facts about global warming, that those those folks making the scary speeches cannot respond.
Everything below is a fact and I invite the POTUS and /or his climate friends to respond. But they wont. Instead they will call me names like denier or member of the Flat Earth Society (actually there really is a Flat Earth Society and its president believes in the global warming hypothesis so who is the real “flat-earther?)
1) Through Halloween of 2014- The Global Warming Pause has lasted 18 years and one month. Heartland Institute analyst, Peter Ferrara, notes “If you look at the record of global temperature data, you will find that the late 20th Century period of global warming actually lasted about 20 years, from the late 1970s to the late 1990s. Before that, the globe was dominated by about 30 years of global cooling, giving rise in the 1970s to media discussions of the return of the Little Ice Age (circa 1450 to 1850), or worse.” So there was thirty years of cooling followed by 20 years of warming and almost 18 years of cooling… and that’s what the global warming scare is all about.
2) Antarctic Sea Ice is at record levels and the Arctic ice cap has seen record growth. Global sea ice area has been averaging above normal for the past two years. But to get around those facts, the global warming enthusiasts are claiming that global warming causes global cooling (really).
3) Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is not a pollutant it’s what you exhale and it is what “feeds” plants. Without CO2 there would not be a single blade of grass or a redwood tree, nor would there be the animal life that depends on vegetation; wheat and rice, for example, as food. Without CO2 mankind would get pretty hungry. Even worse the global warming proponants keep talking about population control because they don’t want more people around to exhale, and let’s not talk about what they say about stopping methane (no spicy foods, no cows, no fart jokes).
4) There is not ONE climate computer model that has accurately connected CO2 to climate change. In fact CO2 is at its highest levels in 13,000 years and the earth hasn’t warmed in almost 18 years. Approximately 12,750 years ago before big cars and coal plants CO2 levels were higher than today. And during some past ice ages levels were up to 20x today’s levels.
5) Even with the relatively high levels there is very little CO2 in the atmosphere. At 78% nitrogen is the most abundant gas in the Earth’s atmosphere. Oxygen is the second most abundant gas-of-life in the atmosphere at 21%. Water vapor is the third most abundant gas-of-life in the atmosphere; it varies up to 5%. Exhale freely because carbon dioxide is the least abundant gas in the atmosphere at 0.04%.
6) The climate models pushed by the global warming enthusiasts haven’t been right. Think about that one for a second. If you believe what people like Al Gore the polar ice caps should have melted by now (actually by last year), most coastal cities should be underwater and it should be a lot warmer by now. As my Mom always said, Man plans and God laughs. The Earth’s climate is a very complicated system and the scientists haven’t been able to account for all the components to create an accurate model.
7) You are more likely to see the tooth fairy or a unicorn than a 97% consensus of scientists believing that there is man-made global warming. The number is a convenient fraud. Investigative journalists at Popular Technology reported the 97% Study falsely classifies scientists’ papers, according to the scientists that published them. A more extensive examination of the Cook study reported that out of the nearly 12,000 scientific papers Cook’s team evaluated, only 65 endorsed Cook’s alarmist position. That is less than 0.97%. How did they come up with 97%? Well out of all the scientists who had a definite opinion, 97% agreed there was global warming and it was the fault of mankind. And how did the Cook folks determine which scientists believed what? They didn’t ask, they read papers written by these scientists and came up with their own opinion.
8) I changed my mind… this past February, Patrick Moore, a Canadian ecologist, and the co-founder of Greenpeace, the militant environmental group told members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee “There is no scientific proof that human emissions of carbon dioxide are the dominant cause of the minor warming of the Earth’s atmosphere over the past 100 years.” There are more like Moore.
9) Back to Ice Age – predictions. When I took Earth Science in college 38 years ago, the professor explained that the scientific consensus was we are heading toward an ice age. That was just before text books were changed to discuss global warming. That was followed by calling it climate change. Now many scientists claim there is new evidence that the Earth may be heading toward an ice age (please stop crying Mr. Gore).
10) Droughts have not increased. It is misleading and just plain incorrect to claim that disasters associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or droughts have increased on climate timescales either in the United States or globally,” Professor Roger Pielke Jr. said in his testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
In May of 2014 Professor Pielke published a graph that shows the intensity of the planet’s droughts from 1982 to 2012. The graph shows that neither droughts nor their intensity have seen a growth trend during that 30-year period.
11) Polar Bears are alive and well and not dying out. In the Fall 2014 issue of RANGE Magazine Dr. Susan Crockford wrote, “In a recent TV ad campaign, the Center for Biological Diversity said, “global warming is pushing polar bears to the absolute brink.” Results of recent research show this to be a lie – fat, healthy bears like this one from near Barrow, Alaska, are still common and many of the assumptions used by computer models to predict future disasters have turned out to be wrong.” In case you were wondering, walruses are doing fine also.
12) No Increase In Hurricanes: A study published in the July 2012 Journal of the American Meteorological Society concluded unequivocally there is no trend of stronger or more frequent storms, asserting:
We have identified considerable inter-annual variability in the frequency of global hurricane landfalls, but within the resolution of the available data, our evidence does not support the presence of significant long-period global or individual basin linear trends for minor, major, or total hurricanes within the period(s) covered by the available quality data.
Actually to be honest global warming is man-made. While the Earth isn’t warming an the theory and the scare about global warming is entirely man-made.
President Obama leapt directly into the net neutrality fight Monday, urging the Federal Communications Commission to claim expansive new powers over the Internet to enact the “strongest possible” regulations.
“‘Net neutrality’ has been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation – but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted,” Obama said in a video posted on the White House website. “We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas.”
Under his plan, the FCC would classify broadband Internet as a “telecommunications service” under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, a provision the agency already uses to regulate telephone companies. His statement is a huge win for Internet activists, who have been warning the future of the Internet could be at stake unless the FCC invokes stronger authority to prevent abuses by Internet providers.
But broadband providers like Comcast and Verizon have been lobbying fiercely against applying the provision to the Internet, warning it would strangle their industry with utility-style regulations. Shares of major broadband providers sank early Monday following the announcement. Verizon issued a statement saying it supports an “open Internet,” but warned that Obama’s plan would face “strong legal challenges.”
It’s also a confrontational move against congressional Republicans, who just won control of the Senate last week. They consider Title II an archaic provision designed for a time when a single monopoly controlled all telephone service. They warn that using the provision on the Internet would destory jobs and mean slower Internet for everyone. The new GOP Congress will be sure to try to repeal any net neutrality rules the FCC enacts.
Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, tweeted Monday that net neutrality is the the “Obamacare of the Internet” and that the “Internet should not operate at the speed of government.” But Democrats, including Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Anna Eshoo, praised Obama’s statement and urged the FCC to enact the stronger rules.
In his statement, Obama noted that the FCC is an independent agency and that the ultimate decision will be up to Chairman Tom Wheeler and the four other commissioners. But his statement puts tremendous pressure on the Democratic appointees to seize the controversial new powers.
Wheeler thanked Obama for his input Monday, but didn’t explicitly say he would follow the president’s directions. The various net neutrality proposals raise “substantive legal questions,” Wheeler said, and he’ll need more time to develop rules that can hold up in court. The FCC chief had previously said he wanted new rules on the books by the end of the year.
Under Obama’s plan, the FCC would ban Internet providers from blocking websites, throttling Internet service, or creating any special Internet “fast lanes” for websites that pay more. The rules would apply equally to a home Internet connection and mobile devices.
He also said the FCC should consider applying regulations to the interconnection points on the backend of the Internet, which would help Netflix and other companies deliver large video files without having to pay Internet providers for better connections. Traditionally, net neutrality has only covered how Internet providers must handle traffic once its on their networks.
Title II would give the FCC a slew of new powers over the Internet, including the ability to control prices and determine which customers a company has to serve. Obama said the FCC should waive the rate regulation requirements and “other provisions less relevant to broadband services.”
Net neutrality advocates argue that Title II is the only way to enact rules that can survive in court. The FCC first enacted net neutrality regulations in 2010, but a federal court struck them down earlier this year.
Wheeler proposed new rules in May that wouldn’t invoke Title II and would allow for Internet “fast lanes” in some cases, but his proposal prompted a massive backlash and more than 3.7 million people filed comments with the FCC.
Although Obama has long supported the concept of net neutrality, Monday is the first time he outlined which specific legal authority the FCC should use.
Despite what you may have heard, net neutrality is not about protecting consumers from rapacious Internet Service Providers (ISPs). It would not make broadband more available in rural America, or lower prices for small businesses. And it has nothing to do with protecting free speech or dissenting voices. Net neutrality is crony capitalism pure and simple – an effort by one group of private interests to enrich itself at the expense of another group by using the power of the state.
For all the arcane talk about “Title II” and “common carriage,” this is not complicated. The rules favored by net neutrality advocates would ban or restrict payments from one type of business – “edge providers” – to another type of business – broadband ISPs – while placing no limits on what ISPs charge consumers. It is easy to see why edge providers like Netflix would lobby for such rules, but difficult to understand how they would benefit consumers or serve the public interest.
Indeed, the arguments advanced by net neutrality advocates don’t withstand even momentary scrutiny. Do broadband providers enjoy too much market power – are they “monopolists”? Not according to the Federal Communication Commission, which waxes eloquent about the strong performance of the broadband marketplace, citing the billions of dollars invested each year and the rapid increase in speeds and performance. And while much is made of consumers’ limited choices, the broadband market is actually less concentrated than the markets for search engines, social networks, and over-the-top video services: discriminatory regulation of ISPs cannot be justified on the basis of market power.
Other arguments for regulation are just as flawed. For example, net neutrality advocates say that without new regulations, ISPs would discriminate against Internet start-ups. But such discriminatory pricing hasn’t occurred so far, and no one can explain why ISPs would want to impede the ongoing explosion of innovative content and applications that makes their services valuable in the first place – especially since such companies pose no competitive threat to the ISPs. Nor can anyone cite an example of an American (as opposed to Chinese or Russian) ISP muzzling a dissenting voice or limiting free speech. In fact, to the extent that any firms in the Internet ecosystem have issues with free speech, it is the content providers like YouTube and Yahoo, who are under constant pressure (which they mostly, and laudably, resist) to take down “offensive” material.
Finally, there’s the argument about fast lanes and slow lanes, or, in regulatory jargon, “paid prioritization.” The simple reality is that edge providers like Netflix require prioritization for their services to work. It’s just the “paid” part they don’t like.
The key to understanding net neutrality lies in the fact that broadband ISPs operate in what economists call a “two-sided market.” One side consists of consumers, who value access to content and applications; the other side consists of content and application providers, who value using the network to reach the customers. Such markets are not unusual: newspapers, for example, serve both advertisers and subscribers. The challenge for such firms is to set prices for each customer group in such a way as to attract the optimal mix: newspapers need enough advertisers to keep subscription prices low, but they don’t want too many ads because it would drive away readers.
The FCC’s primary theory of net neutrality regulation is that the edge providers generate so much innovation and other “external” benefits that they should be subsidized by the other side (that is, by consumers) through a rule that forces consumers to pay 100 percent of the costs of the network while edge providers pay zero. This is a fine theory – but there is not a scintilla of empirical evidence to support it. Indeed, academic research suggests the external benefits generated by ISP’s investments in broadband infrastructure are likely at least as large as the benefits from innovation at the edge.
At the end of the day, the one unarguable fact about net neutrality regulation is that edge providers, big and small, and those who fund them and profit from their success, have a powerful economic interest in getting the FCC to guarantee free access to the ISPs’ networks.
Many net neutrality supporters are no doubt sincere in believing regulation is needed to “protect the open Internet,” and there is nothing illegal or even immoral about wealthy and well-connected private companies seeking to advance their interests through the use of state power. But the results can prove highly damaging. In the case of net neutrality, the danger is that the dynamic, pragmatic, business-and-engineering-driven approach that has made the Internet such a remarkable success will be replaced by an inevitably static, bureaucratic, politicized regulatory regime, not unlike the one that oversees the U.S. Postal Service.
On the global front, a decision by the U.S. to embrace economic and political control of the Internet would legitimize the efforts of tyrants everywhere to impose far more repressive forms of statist intervention.
From a consumer perspective, net neutrality regulation is just one more government-mandated rip-off – another few bucks out of our pockets to subsidize a politically influential interest group. So, the next time you hear an over-the-top video provider arguing for net neutrality, keep this in mind: there’s nothing neutral about it.
When the FCC isn’t protecting us from bad language, it concerns itself with markets created by and for communication networks. It allocates the airwaves used by old-school television, talk radio, mobile phones and Wi-Fi; it oversees mergers and acquisitions among communications companies such as NBC Universal, Comcast, AT&T, and Sprint; and in the current century it has expended considerable resources on micro-managing the technical operations and business models of broadband Internet Service Providers.
While the agency would seem to be plenty busy carrying out its statutory responsibilities with respect to spectrum and mergers, it has chosen to become embroiled in an extra-curricular affair of its own making, the “net neutrality” controversy. This kerfuffle dates back to philosophical meditations on regulation and innovation before the turn of the current century.
It got real in 2007 when self-styled public interest groups filed a complaint with the FCC alleging that Comcast was picking on piracy-oriented BitTorrent networks to protect its TV business. Although Comcast was actually protecting voice competitor Vonage, it stopped using the offending system as soon as it had a higher-quality alternative. The FCC rapped Comcast’s knuckles anyway, which led the company to give the FCC a shellacking in court. This in turn caused the agency to devise a new set of Internet regulations in 2010, only to have them vacated by the court this January.
Somewhere along the way, most net neutrality wonks stopped caring whether it was good policy for innovators or even what the term means: now it’s all about winning. The FCC has decided it can’t passively accept the status quo and has issued 100 pages of questions on various approaches it might take to satisfy the warring clans in the Internet economy’s Game of Thrones, none of which is broadly popular.
At the heart of the conflict lies a misconception about how the Internet works; this naturally leads to a series of counter-productive prescriptions. The very first of the net neutrality papers, “Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination” by then-Virginia law professor Tim Wu, imagined a magical Black Box connecting ISPs with the Internet. Wu realized that the Internet is rife with “discrimination”, content and services offered at various prices with widely divergent levels of quality and utility. He also recognized that neighborhood broadband networks do a number of different things that depend on discrimination: in addition to connecting to the Internet, they supply cable TV and furnish telephone service.
Wu feared ISPs had incentives to degrade competitors, especially video and voice services that went toe-to-toe with core elements of their business model. So he took the unusual step of granting an effective monopoly to the ISPs for voice and video by making the Black Box favor web surfing over other uses. Wu may have sought to design a system that would make ISPs structurally incapable of bad behavior, but he ended up favoring the Web over emerging Internet applications. Banishing the devils has a way of eliminating the angels as well.
Given that it’s committed to making new rules for the Internet, the FCC has a choice between basing its authority on a terse direction in the law allowing it to promote investment in advanced networks (Section 706) or on another portion pertaining to the traditional telephone network, Title II of the Telecom Act. In either case, the agency seems convinced that the Black Box is a winner, at least at the ballot box.
Networks that can’t discriminate are incapable of supporting the wide range of uses that more agile networks can handle. A Black Box network must necessarily be tuned to a single, dominant application instead of being responsive to a diverse pool of uses. Whatever else we know about the future, it’s certain that the Internet will be expected to do more things for more people ten years from now as it was ten years ago.
If we’re going to have a robust and growing market for network applications in the future that improve quality of life and grow the economy, we’re going to need networks that can move information quickly or cheaply, reliably or pervasively, securely or accurately and in several other modes as well.
Consequently, the locus of concern for regulatory policy must shift from preventing the bad to promoting the good. The FCC can do this by drafting rules consistent with the desire to promote meaningful competition, network investment, and service diversity.
Most of the content we get from the Internet comes to us through a kind of fast lane known as a Content Delivery Network that accelerates our access by placing duplicate copies of the content around the web. It’s a law of engineering that short distances can always be crossed more quickly than long ones. It’s also the case that sensitivity to the fundamental elements of network service quality – information loss and delay – depends on the application in use. Backing up a hard drive is less time sensitive, more loss averse, and more data volume-intensive than making a phone call. Network systems such as Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and 4G/LTE wireless recognize this fact with built-in mechanisms to match network service to application needs.
The Black Box rules these adaptations out of bounds, effectively forcing applications to adapt to the whims of policy makers and an arbitrary network. This approach compromises innovation and economic growth, and ultimately erodes quality of life.
The business practices of network industries need the same sort of anti-trust scrutiny that every industry faces, but they do not need precautionary prescriptions that throw the baby out with the bath water. Twenty years of experience with the commercial Internet has proved that fast-lane services like CDNs are beneficial, so we should be looking for ways to grow the Internet economy by creating more services like them.
Network neutrality is simply a bad idea that has run its course.
NET NEUTRAILTY 101: WHY IT’S TERRIBLE
NET NEUTRAILTY RULING: THE INTERNET WORKS, DON’T ‘FIX’ IT
STEFAN MOLYNEUX: THE TRUTH ABOUT NET NEUTRALITY
The White House and the Defense Department announced today that President Obama will order an additional 1,500 troops to Iraq, more than doubling the 1,400 who are currently there.
On Wednesday, in his first post-election press conference, the president said he will be seeking from Congress a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) to engage in warfare against the Islamic State, which is now operating out of territory it has seized in Iraq and Sryia.
At the end of 2011, as he headed into the 2012 election year, President Obama removed all U.S. troops from Iraq, and declared the war there over.
That war had been authorized by an AUMF that Congress approved on Oct. 11, 2002.
Since Obama declared that Iraq War over, Iraq has seen the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). ISIS is a terrorist group that sprang from al Qaeda, was expelled from al Qaeda, and then went on to take control of a large territory in Iraq and Syria. Its aim is to create a caliphate in the region that now includes Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest announced the troop deployment this afternoon. The additional 1,500 personnel he said will be in “a noncombat role to train, advise, and assist Iraqi Security Forces, including Kurdish forces.”
“U.S. Central Command will establish two expeditionary advise and assist operations centers, in locations outside of Baghdad and Erbil, to provide support for the Iraqis at the brigade headquarters level and above,” Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman told National Public Radio. “These centers will be supported by an appropriate array of force protection.”
On Dec. 14, 2011, Obama traveled to Fort Bragg to announce that he had brought all troop home from Iraq and that he war was over.
“It’s harder to end a war than begin one,” Obama said then. “Indeed, everything that American troops have done in Iraq–all the fighting and all the dying, the bleeding and the building, and the training and the partnering–all of it has led to this moment of success. Now, Iraq is not a perfect place. It has many challenges ahead. But we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people. We’re building a new partnership between our nations. And we are ending a war not with a final battle, but with a final march toward home. This is an extraordinary achievement, nearly nine years in the making.”
In his ensuing reelection campaign, the president repeatedly took credit–at rallies–for fulfilling the promise of his first campaign to end the Iraq war.
“I’ve kept the commitment that I’ve made,” Obama said, for example, at an Oct. 24, 2012 rally in Iowa. “I told you we would win the war in Iraq. We did.”
“I mean what I say and I say what I mean,” Obama said on Nov. 5, 2012. “I said I’d end the war in Iraq. I ended it.”
On Jan. 21 of this year, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, issued an audio statement making a direct and unambiguous threat to the United States.
“Our last message is to the Americans,” he said. “Soon we will be in direct confrontation, and the sons of Islam have prepared for such a day.”
On Wednesday, Obama explained why he believed he needed a new war authorization.
“With respect to the AUMF, we’ve already had conversations with members of both parties in Congress, and the idea is to right-size and update whatever authorization Congress provides to suit the current fight, rather than previous fights,” Obama said Wednesday.
“In 2001, after the heartbreaking tragedy of 9/11, we had a very specific set of missions that we had to conduct, and the AUMF was designed to pursue those missions,” said Obama. “With respect to Iraq, there was a very specific AUMF.”
“We now have a different type of enemy,” said Obama. “The strategy is different. How we partner with Iraq and other Gulf countries and the international coalition–that has to be structured differently. So it makes sense for us to make sure that the authorization from Congress reflects what we perceive to be not just our strategy over the next two or three months, but our strategy going forward.”
As of the end of August, there was no communication between the White House and the Pentagon concerning a strategy to fight the Islamic State, the Department of Defense (DoD) said in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
Not only did the president not have a strategy, as he candidly admitted on August 28, the White House did not talk about developing a strategy with his Defense Department prior to launching airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq on August 8.
This contradicts comments by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest trying to explain Obama telling reporters on August 28, “We don’t have a strategy yet.”
The White House attempted to blame the Pentagon for delaying the development of a strategy.
On August 29, Earnest insisted that what Obama meant is that he was then-waiting for the Pentagon to make recommendations on what to do.
“The Pentagon is developing plans or military options for the president to consider if he decides that it’s necessary to do so,” he said. “But at this point, the president hasn’t made any decisions and hasn’t ordered any military action in Syria.”
In a response to a FOIA request filed by Dr. Larry Kawa as a concerned private citizen, DOD’s Office of Freedom of Information said that as of the end of August, it could not locate any paper or electronic communication documents between the president and the Pentagon mentioning a strategy to fight the Islamic State (IS, ISIS and ISIL).
The Pentagon searched for communication that would have occurred between the beginning of January thru the end of August.
“On August 28, 2014 President Obama stated in a national press conference that he ‘does not have a strategy yet’ in regards to ISIL/ISIS in Syria,” said Kawa in his FOIA request. “He blamed the Pentagon for the delay. I would like clarification of any correspondences in this regard between the Pentagon and the office of the President or executive branch.”
Kawa told Breitbart News that he spoke to the Pentagon FOIA agent in charge of handling his request in an effort to confirm that before the end of August, there was no communication between Obama and the Pentagon concerning a strategy on ISIS.
“Per DOD FOIA agent Charles Marye, any such documents would have appeared. If there were any meetings that were classified, their existence would also have appeared but did not,” said Kawa.
“In conclusion, the Pentagon is 100 percent certain that there have been no discussions either classified or unclassified regarding strategy on ISIS or ISIL,” he continued.
The Pentagon’s FOIA office searched for communication involving the Secretary of Defense, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the White House, and the National Security Council, according to Kawa.
FOIA Agent Marye did not respond to numerous requests for comment.
A federal judge has rejected Washington’s claim that prairie dogs have a “substantial” impact on “interstate commerce,” throwing out a special rule protecting their burrows on private land in Utah and thus allowing property owners there to resume use of their own lands.
The decision was praised by officials with the Pacific Legal Foundation, which argued the case against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others, on behalf of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners.
“This ruling frees the people of Cedar City from unconstitutional regulations that made it impossible for them to build their dream homes, defend their airport, and protect the sanctity of their loved ones’ final resting places,” said PLF staff attorney Jonathan Wood.
“Now, these property owners, and the local governments, needn’t fear the heavy hand of the federal government when they use and maintain their property, and do what most of us take for granted,” he said in a statement released Thursday.
The issue was that federal bureaucrats had designated the Utah prairie dog, a rodent that lives only in Utah but has a population there of tens of thousands of animals, as protected.
That meant that nothing could be done that could “harm” the rodents without special federal permission, such as removing their burrows from cemeteries or airport runways, or building homes where they occupied the land.
Specifically the lawsuit challenged the federal action in applying the Endangered Species Act’s anti-”take” rules to the Utah prairie dog in most areas and circumstances where the species is found. “Take” is defined broadly to include: to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect a member of a protected species.
Fines and prison time are the penalties.
The result was that landowners were prevented from building homes they planned, groups was prevented from doing maintenance on cemeteries, and local governments were even prevented from doing repairs and making other changes to local airports, because of the potential “harm” that could befall an individual Utah prairie dog.
U.S. District Judge Dee Benson, however, threw out the federal agency’s claims that it could impose its rules and restrictions on private land.
“Although the Commerce Clause authorizes Congress to do many things, it does not authorize Congress to regulate takes of a purely intrastate species that has no substantial effect on interstate commerce. Congress similarly lacks authority through the Necessary and Proper Clause because the regulation of takes of Utah prairie dogs is not essential or necessary to the [Endangered Species Act's] economic scheme,” the judge wrote.
“The federal government may take whatever measures it likes on its own property, in order to protect the prairie dog,” Wood continued. “But it can’t violate the U.S. Constitution by taking away the property rights of private citizens or local governments.”
Pacific Legal explained the Utah prairie dog is one of five prairie dog species in North America. Found only in Utah, it feeds on plants and insects, lives in colonies, and digs burrows and networks of tunnels. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates its population at more than 40,000. Nevertheless, the agency lists it as “threatened” on the Endangered Species Act list.
The judge warned of the consequences of deciding any other way.
“If Congress could use the Commerce Clause to regulate anything that might affect the ecosystem (to say nothing about its effect on commerce), there would be no logical stopping point to congressional power under the Commerce Clause.”
The federal government argued there is an impact on interstate commerce – the fact that the animal was protected actually prevented economic development. And the government said the Utah prairie dog “has biological and commercial value” since they “contribute to the ecosystem” and, in fact, are food for eagles and bobcats.
And, the federal government asserted, the prairie dog attracts some interstate tourism.
But the judge said the Supreme Court has limited Commerce Clause arguments to only a few scenarios, none of which was present in this case.
“It is clear that the Commerce Clause does not authorize Congress to regulate takes of Utah prairie dogs on non-federal land,” the judge said.
And, the judge said, claims “purporting to establish a link between Utah prairie dog takes and a substantial effect on interstate commerce are attenuated.”
“The fact that scientific research has been conducted and books have been published about the Utah prairie dog is similarly too attenuated to establish a substantial relation between the take of the Utah prairie dog and interstate commerce,” the judge wrote. “After all, scientific research has also been conducted and books have also been published about both guns and women.
“Nevertheless, the Supreme Court ruled that federal regulation of gun possession and violence against women is beyond Congress’ Commerce Clause power.”
And the judge said government arguments that the rule is authorized under the Necessary and Proper Clause also failed.
“Takes of Utah prairie dogs on non-federal land – even to the point of extinction – would not substantially affect the national market for any commodity regulated by the ESA. The only evidence that suggests that the prairie dog’s extinction would substantially affect such a national market is defendants’ assertion that golden eagles, hawks, and bobcats are ‘known to prey on prairie dogs.’
“However, defendants do not claim that the Utah prairie dog is a major food source for those animals, and those animals are known to prey on many other rodents, birds, and fish,” the judge wrote.
The news media broke (or were given) the story that President Obama penned a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader:
The letter appeared aimed both at buttressing the campaign against Islamic State and nudging Iran’s religious leader closer to a nuclear deal.
Mr. Obama stressed to Mr. Khamenei that any cooperation on Islamic State was largely contingent on Iran reaching a comprehensive agreement with global powers on the future of Tehran’s nuclear program by a Nov. 24 diplomatic deadline, the same people say. The October letter marked at least the fourth time Mr. Obama has written Iran’s most powerful political and religious leader since taking office in 2009 and pledging to engage with Tehran’s Islamist government.
Writing one letter, let alone four, is among the dumbest moves in a foreign policy with far too many blunders in it already. Even worse, Obama seemed to be suggesting just the sort of alliance critics have suspected was his objective all along and which will certainly terrify Israel and our Sunni allies.
Along with outgoing intelligence chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) a number of senators blasted the move:
Senate Armed Services Committee Republicans John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina upbraided Obama’s actions:
“It is outrageous that, while the cries of moderate Syrian forces for greater U.S. assistance fall on deaf ears in the White House, President Obama is apparently urging Ayatollah Khamenei to join the fight against ISIS,” the senators said in a joint statement.
Graham and McCain, frequent critics of the Obama White House foreign policy, added that cooperating with Iran would “harm U.S. national security interests” and allies with Arab partners.
Later Friday, Sen. Ron Johnson said the report further indicated Obama’s “weakness” in foreign affairs.
“It’s just a further demonstration of this president’s weakness on foreign policy,” the Wisconsin Republican said on MSNBC.
They are right to be concerned. Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams told me, “We are casting ourselves as an inferior power pleading with Tehran to be reasonable. That regime respects only power, and its disrespect for the United States must grow and grow.” At a time when we have leverage we seem only to want to throw it away. ” After all, oil prices are dropping through the floor and yet we still importune them?” says Abrams. “In our shoes, they would be squeezing us to death, so they must see this most recent letter as a sure indication we are desperate and are incapable of making life hard for them.”
And to boot, this comes at a time Iran is defying inspection obligations that would be essential to any final deal. The latest International Atomic Energy Agency’s report confirms Iran’s “consistent failure to address inspectors’ concerns” that it had a full-blown nuclear weapons program which “may be on-going today.” Moreover, Iran’s human rights atrocities continue to mount. In an op-ed by Sens. Marc Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) the senators observe:
The world is rightly focused on Iran’s growing nuclear threat and the regime’s destabilizing support for international terrorism. Yet Iran’s state of injustice—the regime’s systematic human rights abuses and suppression of the Iranian people’s aspirations to be free – deserves equal attention.
A new report by the United Nations’ special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, helps cast light on the regime’s dark record.
The Shaheed report blasts Iran’s growing use of executions, with 687 in 2013 and already 411 in the first half of 2014. Under Iranian law, citizens can face executions for a shockingly broad range of non-violent crimes, including “adultery, recidivist alcohol use, drug possession and trafficking” and corruption, in addition to moharebeh (sometimes translated as “enmity against God”). Indeed, the report observes that the regime in Tehran, in practical terms, is disproportionately executing individuals from religious and ethnic minority groups “for exercising their protected rights, including freedom of expression and association.”
We have not heard of any senior official using a barnyard epithet in regard to the mullahs, or even becoming irate about their monstrous regime.
Pro-Israel groups, shell-shocked from this president’s stream of invectives against our ally Israel and worried about a rotten deal, are also up in arms. An official of one group emails, “As has been said, Iran is the arsonist not the firefighter in the region. Any demonstration of obsequiousness to the Supreme Leader will be seen as a clear indication of weakness and will be deeply counterproductive.”
What is so stunning is how little the president has learned in 6 years. “The letter… is the latest of a series of such blunders where the Obama Administration does the exact opposite of what it should to advance U.S. strategic interests,” says the CEO of the pro-Israel group JINSA, Mike Makovsky. “If the reports are true, it is another incident where the Obama Administration: looked weak and a supplicant of Iran, thereby further undermining our leverage with Iran in the nuclear negotiations, linked the nuclear talks with ISIS, suggesting again that we need Iran and thus weakening our hand further with the nuclear talks; reinforced the view of our Israeli and Arab allies that they can’t depend upon us to confront Iran and that we’ve realigned our interests against them and in favor of Iran and its allies; enticed other regional powers on the fence to accommodate Iran; and abandoned our pledge to support the removal of Assad regime and weaken the forces supporting it, which further alienates our Arab allies and complicates help we could use from Turkey.”
Congress, when it returns, should pass a resolution condemning Iran’s failure to cooperate with inspectors and enacting new sanctions that go into effect Nov. 25, if there is no final deal on the deadline the day before. Congress should also make clear that all these schemes for unplugging equipment or relying only on inspections (!) are grossly insufficient and not in the country’s interest.