Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Sheldon Silver Convicted in Federal Corruption Trial

Former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was convicted Monday in a $5 million corruption case that took down one of New York's most powerful politicians and stunned a capital that had become accustomed to scandal.

The jury verdict came after a three-week trial in which federal prosecutors claimed that the 71-year-old Democrat traded favors to enrich himself and then lied about it. The defense countered that the government was trying to criminalize the longtime routines of Albany politicians.

Even in a state capital where more than 30 lawmakers have left office facing criminal charges or allegations of ethical misconduct since 2000, the case against Silver was an extraordinary turn. An assemblyman since 1976, Silver was one of Albany's most storied political figures, a consummate backroom operator with the power to decide the fate of legislation single-handedly. 

Click here for the full article and video.

Source: NBC News, I-Team Investigations 

Defense Secretary Carter: Special Ops Force to Iraq to Fight ISIS

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Tuesday the U.S. military will deploy a "specialized expeditionary targeting force" to Iraq to launch "unilateral" raids and "put even more pressure" on ISIS.

In his opening statement to the House Armed Services Committee, Carter said the "special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture" ISIS leaders.

According to senior defense officials interviewed by NBC News, the operations will follow the October 
special ops raid alongside Kurdish fighters in Northern Iraq that freed 70 prisoners being held by ISIS. One US Special Operations commando was killed in the raid.

Note: This is a breaking news story, so check the NBC News website for updates. 

Click here for the full article. 

Source: NBC News

French Employers’ Group, Newspaper, Warn Against Far-Right Vote

 Pierre Gattaz

Reuters, 01/12 16:29 CET

By Ingrid Melander

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s employers’ group chief warned voters on Tuesday against backing the far-right in regional elections this weekend, a rare move he said was justified because the National Front’s economic agenda was not a “responsible” one.

A newspaper and the Green party also urged voters not to vote for the FN, a measure of growing concern at polls that show the FN likely to win in two or three of 13 mainland French regions.

The anti-Europe, anti-euro FN’s economic agenda is “exactly the opposite of what we need to kickstart economic growth in this country,” Pierre Gattaz, head of France’s employers’ group Medef, told Le Parisien daily in an interview.

The FN’s economic agenda includes increasing import taxes, organising a referendum on leaving the euro, and reducing retirement age. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: Euronews

In Erdogan’s Turkey, Dissent May Be Bad for Business


Reuters, 01/12 16:24 CET

By Asli Kandemir

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – The head of one of Turkey’s biggest retailers, once consigned by Tayyip Erdogan to the ranks of “riff-raff”, might be forgiven for having sensed the hand of the president recently when Istanbul Stock exchange raised alarm with a terse warning to his company.

Cem Boyner’s department store company joined a list of companies that have faced legal or regulatory pressure after falling out with Erdogan or the ruling AK Party he founded. Investors are increasingly worried that in Turkey, dissent is bad for business.

“At risk are companies that are perceived to be close to opposition forces, or firms whose bosses’ public remarks may have antagonised the government,” said Wolfango Piccoli, managing director of Teneo Intelligence.

Erdogan has raised concern at home and in the European Union Turkey seeks to join, with his open conflict with media firms and business heads. The president, still the most popular leader in decades, says he is fighting domestic and foreign attempts to slur him with graft accusations and undermine the country. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: Euronews

900 Saudi Women Running for Office

Source: Euronews

Merkel’s Cabinet Backs German Role in Fight Against Islamic State Militants

Source: Euronews

Africa at the Forefront of Climate Change Gets its Day in Paris

Source: Euronews

Putin: Turkey Shot Down Jet to Protect ISIL Oil Trade

Source: Euronews

Prisoner Swap Frees Lebanese Soldiers and ISIL Leader’s Ex-Wife

Source: Euronews

Belgium’s PM Michel Calls for a European CIA

Source: Euronews

Japan’s Whaling Fleet Sets Sail Despite UN Condemnation

Source: Euronews

Monday, November 30, 2015

Gayle Smith Confirmed as Administrator of USAID

  Gayle E. Smith

The following statement was issued today by National Security Advisor Susan Rice. 

At a time when continued U.S. leadership in addressing humanitarian crises around the globe is a matter of the greatest urgency, it is critically important that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) be led by an Administrator of the best possible qualifications. That is why we are so pleased that Senators of both parties came together today to confirm Gayle Smith as Administrator of USAID. In Gayle, the dedicated professionals at USAID gain a humanitarian and a leader of the highest caliber, with a track record of success to lead them as they continue their crucial work. Whether through her longstanding commitment to shaping global development policy, to her leadership in promoting food security and improving global health, to her work on the Administration's Power Africa initiative and the Ebola response, Gayle has already transformed the lives of many of the world's most vulnerable. As the Administrator of USAID, I am certain Gayle will build on her remarkable record to tackle global challenges and move us closer to a world where all people can reach their full potential. 

Note: The complete Senate session can be viewed here

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

Politics in Action: H.R. 8

H.R. 8 - North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015
(Rep. Upton, R-MI)

The Administration is committed to taking responsible steps to modernize the Nation's energy infrastructure in a way that addresses climate change, promotes clean energy and energy efficiency, drives innovation, and ensures a cleaner, more stable environment for future generations.  The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 8 because it would undermine already successful initiatives designed to modernize the Nation's energy infrastructure and increase our energy efficiency.

Increased energy efficiency offers savings on energy bills, provides opportunities for more jobs, and improves industrial competitiveness.  H.R. 8 would stifle the Nation's move toward energy efficiency by severely hampering the Department of Energy's (DOE) ability to provide technical support for building code development and State implementation.  In addition, the bill would undercut DOE's ability to enforce its appliance standards and would weaken section 433 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which requires a reduction in fossil fuel-generated energy in Federal buildings.

H.R. 8 includes a provision regarding certain operational characteristics in capacity markets operated by Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) and Independent System Operators (ISOs).  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and RTOs and ISOs are already well positioned, especially as technologies change over time, to ensure that capacity market structures adequately provide for the procurement of sufficient capacity to efficiently and reliably fulfill the resource-adequacy function that these markets are intended to perform.

H.R. 8 includes new, unnecessary provisions that would broaden FERC's authority to impose deadlines on other Federal agencies reviewing the environmental implications of natural gas pipeline applications.  H.R. 8 also would unnecessarily curtail DOE's ability to fully consider whether natural gas export projects are consistent with the public interest. 

Further, H.R. 8 would undermine the current hydropower licensing regulatory process in place under the Federal Power Act that works to minimize negative impacts associated with the siting of hydropower projects, including negative impacts on safety, fish and wildlife, water quality and conservation, and a range of additional natural resources and cultural values.  Among the ways that H.R. 8 would undermine this process would be by creating a new exemption from licensing that would undercut bedrock environmental statutes, including the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Endangered Species Act. 

Finally, H.R. 8 presents certain constitutional concerns.  Sections 1104 and 3004 would impermissibly interfere with the President's authorities with regard to the conduct of diplomacy and in some cases diplomatic communications, and sections 1109 and 1201 raise concerns under the Recommendations Clause.

If the President were presented with H.R 8, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill

Source: The Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget

The Obama Nominations: Steven Nathan Berk and Judge Elizabeth Carroll Wingo


WASHINGTON, DC - Today, President Obama nominated Steven Nathan Berk and Judge Elizabeth Carroll Wingo to serve on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

“I am pleased to nominate Mr. Berk and Judge Wingo to serve on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia,” said President Obama. “I am confident they will serve the District of Columbia with integrity and a steadfast commitment to justice.”

Steven Nathan Berk: Nominee for the Superior Court for the District of Columbia   
Steven Nathan Berk is a principal and founder of Berk Law, where he litigates consumer protection issues on behalf of consumers and represents whistleblowers in cases under the False Claims Act.  Prior to starting his own practice, Berk was a partner at several Washington, D.C. law firms including Chavez & Gertler LLP (2007 – 2009), Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca, LLP (2005 – 2007), and Jenner & Block LLP (1996 – 2002).  In addition, from 2002 to 2004, Berk served as Founder and Chief Executive Officer of iHappen Interactive, a social networking platform.  He served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia from 1990 to 1995, and he worked as staff attorney in the Office of the General Counsel for the Securities and Exchange Commission from 1989 to 1990.  From 1987 to 1989, Berk was an associate in the Chicago office of Jenner & Block LLP.  Berk began his career as an associate at Isham, Lincoln & Beale, then a law firm in Chicago, Illinois.  He received his J.D. cum laude from Boston College Law School in 1985, his M.Sc. from the London School of Economics in 1982, and his A.B. with honors from Washington University in St. Louis in 1981.

Judge Elizabeth Carroll Wingo: Nominee for the Superior Court for the District of Columbia
Judge Elizabeth Carroll Wingo has served as a Magistrate Judge on the Superior Court for the District of Columbia since 2006.  From 2004 to 2006, she served as Chief of the Criminal Section in the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, and in 2006, she served as the Assistant Deputy Attorney General for Public Safety.  Before joining the Office of the Attorney General, from 1999 to 2004, Judge Wingo served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.  From 1998 to 1999, she served as a law clerk to the Honorable T.S. Ellis, III of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.  Judge Wingo began her career as an associate in the Washington, D.C. office of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP.  She received her J.D. from Yale Law School in 1997 and her A.B. from Dartmouth College in 1992. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

State Department Briefing

Spokesman Elizabeth Trudeau briefs reporters and responds to questions on a variety of international topics. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

'First Lady Functions': 2015 Holiday Decor at the White House

On December 2, at 1 p.m., First Lady Michelle Obama will host a preview of the 2015 holiday decor at the White House.  After delivering remarks in the East Room, the First Lady will be joined in the State Dining Room by White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford, White House Executive Pastry Chef Susan Morrison, and White House Chief Floral Designer Roshan Ghaffarian, who will demonstrate holiday crafts and treats. 
As part of the Joining Forces initiative, the First Lady will welcome military families to the White House for the first viewing of the 2015 holiday decorations. As in years past, many of the White House holiday decorations will honor military families. 

Source: The White House, Office of the First Lady