Archives for News

A muddled history of media probes by government

It was a rare moment in relations between the media and the government: In 2008, FBI Director Robert Mueller called the top editors at The New York Times and The Washington Post to apologize because the bureau had improperly obtained reporters’ telephone records four years earlier. The extraordinary call was an admission that the FBI’s actions violated Justice Department policy about seeking journalists’ phone records. But nothing about what the FBI did in 2004 appeared to run afoul of any law. The Justice Department’s latest effort to examine whom journalists are talking to — the secret subpoena of Associated Press
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Final decisions near on immigration bill

The Senate Judiciary Committee hopes to nail down an elusive compromise on high-tech visas and may punt a controversy over gay marriage to the full Senate as it makes final drafting decisions on immigration legislation that grants a shot at citizenship to millions living in the country illegally. The high-tech issue involves a negotiation at arm’s length between industry, which relies on ever-increasing numbers of skilled foreigners, and organized labor, which represents American workers, according to lawmakers and officials close to the talks. As drafted, the bill would raise the current cap on so-called H-1B visas from 65,000 annually to
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Military sexual abuse victims seek help from VA

More than 85,000 veterans were treated last year for injuries or illness stemming from sexual abuse in the military, and 4,000 sought disability benefits, underscoring the staggering long-term impact of a crisis that has roiled the Pentagon and been condemned by President Barack Obama as “”shameful and disgraceful.” A Department of Veterans Affairs accounting released in response to inquiries from The Associated Press shows a heavy financial and emotional cost involving vets from Iraq, Afghanistan and even back to Vietnam, and lasting long after a victim leaves the service. Sexual assault or repeated sexual harassment can trigger a variety of
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Immigration vote set for Senate committee this week

The Senate Judiciary Committee is aiming this week to pass a landmark immigration bill to secure the border and offer citizenship to millions, setting up a high-stakes debate on the Senate floor. First, the committee must resolve a few remaining disputes. One involves amendments over high-skilled immigrant visas sought by the high-tech industry but opposed by labor unions. The bill as written increases the availability of these visas, but includes restrictions aimed at ensuring U.S. workers get the first crack at jobs. Silicon Valley companies view some of the restrictions as too onerous and are lobbying to soften them. Sen.
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Lowered deficit forecasts also lowers drive for budget deal

The chances of a deal between Democratic and Republican lawmakers that would overhaul the tax system, trim government spending and reform safety net spending programs appear to be fading. A sudden improvement in the outlook for the government deficit over the next decade has alleviated some of the pressure on lawmakers to act. And a spate of scandals, involving the Internal Revenue Service, security for the U.S. mission in Benghazi and the seizure of phone records from the Associated Press news agency, has distracted Congress and the White House. For those who believe there needs to be radical reform to
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Tea Party hopes IRS debacle will give a needed boost

Is the tea party getting its groove back? Shouts of vindication from around the country suggest the movement’s leaders certainly think so. They say the IRS acknowledgement that it had targeted their groups for extra scrutiny — a claim that tea party activists had made for years — is helping pump new energy into the coalition. And they are trying to use that development, along with the ongoing controversy over the Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attacks and the Justice Department’s secret seizure of journalists’ phone records, to recruit new activists incensed about government overreach. “This is the defining moment to say
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Marines screw the pooch by failing to report water threat

A simple test could have alerted officials that the drinking water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated, long before authorities determined that as many as a million Marines and their families were exposed to a witch’s brew of cancer-causing chemicals. But no one responsible for the lab at the base can recall that the procedure — mandated by the Navy — was ever conducted. The U.S. Marine Corps maintains that the carbon chloroform extract (CCE) test would not have uncovered the carcinogens that fouled the southeastern North Carolina base’s water system from at least the mid-1950s until wells were capped in
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Obama”s budget: Higher, then lower deficits?

Near-term U.S. deficits under President Barack Obama’s 2014 budget plan would be higher than those forecast by the Congressional Budget Office this week but would be $1.1 trillion lower over the coming decade, CBO said on Friday. The non-partisan congressional budget referee agency said that due to proposed spending increases, Obama’s budget proposal would lead to a $669 billion deficit for fiscal 2013 and a $675 billion deficit for fiscal 2014 year starting October 1. That was a combined $142 billion higher than the CBO estimates for those years based on current tax and spending laws. Obama’s budget plan has
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Obama seems to be weathering scandals, controversies

Despite Democratic fears, predictions of the demise of President Barack Obama’s agenda appear exaggerated after a week of cascading controversies, political triage by the administration and party leaders in Congress and lack of evidence to date of wrongdoing close to the Oval Office. “Absolutely not,” Steven Miller, the recently resigned acting head of the Internal Revenue Service, responded Friday when asked if he had any contact with the White House about targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status for special treatment. The president’s re-election campaign?” persisted Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif. “No,” said Miller. The hearing took place at the end of
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Will White House scandals hurt Obamacare?

Political scandals have strange ways of causing collateral damage, and Republicans are hoping the furor over federal tax enforcers singling out conservative groups will ensnare their biggest target: President Barack Obama’s health care law. But no one appears to have connected the factual dots yet, and it’s unclear whether they will. The Internal Revenue Service has a major role in carrying out the health care law, because financial assistance to help the uninsured afford coverage will be funneled through the tax system. At the same time, the IRS is also responsible for penalties on individuals and employers who fail to
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