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Lawsuit reveals new allegations against PG&E contractor accused of fraud after Camp Fire

February 28, 2021 in Blogs

By Scott Morris

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

Series:
Pollution Profiteers

Inside California’s Toxic Hauling Industry

Utility giant Pacific Gas & Electric accused two of its former employees of accepting bribes to funnel business to a waste-hauling company after the Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in California history.

This story was originally published by ProPublica.

One supervisor for PG&E allegedly had his driveway paved on the power company’s dime. A subordinate is accused of having received a bribe in an unorthodox property transfer of a multimillion-dollar house in a wealthy suburb of San Francisco.

A new court filing by PG&E alleges that in exchange for these kickbacks, the employees provided lucrative clean-up jobs to Hayward-based Bay Area Concrete Recycling.

The allegations track closely with the results of an investigation last year by ProPublica and the Bay City News Foundation, which found that PG&E had overlooked numerous warning signs when it hired Bay Area Concrete. The company is owned and managed by the husband-wife team Yadwinder “Kevin” Singh and Preet Johal, according to local and state documents. The firm was tied to illegal dumping on federally protected wetlands and had engaged in a long conflict with regulators in the city of Hayward, where Bay Area Concrete operates a dump. Later, the news agencies revealed a suspicious real estate transaction that connected Singh and one of the PG&E employees. Singh did not respond to requests for comment.

PG&E’s filing is in response to a breach of contract lawsuit filed against the utility in October by Bay Area Concrete. Dawn Sweatt, an attorney for Bay Area Concrete, said her clients “vehemently deny” the allegations by PG&E. “The allegations are patently false and not supported by the evidence,” she said. “The litigation process will make this clear in time.”

The accused PG&E employees, Ronald Huggins Jr. and Ryan Kooistra, did not respond to requests for comment. Huggins retired, and Kooistra sold his home and moved out of state after being confronted by PG&E investigators, the counterclaim by PG&E said.

In a statement, PG&E spokesperson James Noonan called the alleged actions of Bay Area Concrete “completely unacceptable.”

“We will pursue every available action to …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'Democrats will lose in 2022': Anger Grows as Biden bows to un-elected parliamentarian on $15 minimum wage

February 28, 2021 in Blogs

By Common Dreams

After the Democrats in the House approved a far-reaching Covid-19 relief package early Saturday with all but two members of the caucus on board, progressive anger and despair escalated over the Biden administration’s refusal thus far to make sure the $15 minimum wage increase remains in the bill as it heads to the U.S. Senate.

As journalist David Sirota, founder of the The Daily Poster and former staffer for the 2020 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, put it on Saturday: “If you were writing a Dickensian novel, it would be about millions of desperately poor people being promised a $15 starvation wage, and then watching their millionaire senators tell them that a parliamentary adviser in the palace said no.”

While Biden and his administration have made clear they will not move to use Harris’ authority as presiding officer of the Senate to disregard or overrule the Parliamentarian’s determination, the anger on the progressive left—both inside and outside of Congress—has only grown since Thursday.

Winnie Wong, political strategist and another Sanders campaign alumnus, said the choices for Biden and Harris are now quite stark and suggested the stakes are much higher than many top Democrats appear to understand or acknowledge:

On Sunday morning, the national advocacy and organizing group Women’s March tweeted:

Addressing the issue Saturday morning on MSNBC, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Democrats have no choice but to “muscle it through” the Senate given the campaign promises made to voters leading up to last year’s elections.

“We can’t back to voters in two years,” explained Jayapal, “and say, ‘You know, we made you a promise—you delivered us the House, the White House, and the Senate—but a parliamentarian …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Former CPAC chair: 'The Republican party really no longer stands for any kind of principles'

February 28, 2021 in Blogs

By Aldous Pennyfarthing

It’s fitting that this year’s CPAC conference is being held in Orlando, a land of make-believe where thousands of folks travel each year to gawk at a surly, splotchy whale flailing around with no real purpose other than to wow a small cross-section of Americans who’ve grown bored with taunting the three-legged goat at their local petting zoo.

I mean, one of the speakers is a high-profile member of a right-wing Japanese cult that believes its leader is the reincarnated spirit of an alien from Venus who created all life on Earth millions of years ago. Sure, that’s still less bonkers than believing Donald Trump was a good president, but it gives you some idea of the kinds of people they’re letting in these days.

I mean, larval-stage Brundlefly would have given a better speech than Ted Cruz did Friday, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t welcomed with open arms. (Okay, with icy stares, sneering contempt, and the bemused expressions of weary, forlorn souls who are more or less resigned to getting odd, clammy hugs from Batboy‘s less photogenic uncle, but he was there. That says a lot.)

But while you’re sure to find an enthusiastic cohort of EverTrumpers in Orlando this weekend, what you won’t find much of is reality—as evidenced by the conference’s seven panel discussions on the “stolen” 2020 election.

In fact, they’re so far off the deep end these days, a former CPAC chair even slammed the conference and its slouch into death cultism in an interview on Friday.

Huffington Post:

Mickey Edwards — who led the American Conservative Union, which organizes the event, for five years until 1983 — ripped Republicans attending this year’s CPAC in Orlando for their devotion to former President Donald Trump.

[...]

“The Republican party really no longer stands for any kind of principles, conservative or otherwise,” Edwards told [CNN's Erin] Burnett on Friday.

“The party seems now to be completely following the lead of one man wherever he goes, which is the definition of a cult,” he continued. “Now all that matters is, ‘Trump is for this, we’re …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Devin Nunes bizarrely suggests Kamala Harris is behind secret plot to 'eliminate' Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom

February 28, 2021 in Blogs

By David Edwards

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) on Sunday floated a conspiracy theory claiming Governors Gavin Newsom (CA) and Andrew Cuomo (NY) are being “eliminated” by the Democratic Party so that Vice President Kamala Harris can run for office unopposed in 2024.

Nunes made the claim during an interview with Fox News host Maria Bartiromo.

“This whole throwing Newsom, throwing Cuomo under the bus from Democrats, you say that is a larger theme,” Bartiromo asked.

“I think it’s real easy,” Nunes explained. “The Democratic Party is really a socialist party with a politburo system. That’s how it runs out in California.”

“You know, Kamala Harris never really had to run for anything,” the Republican lawmaker continued. “So, what they’re doing here, what I believe they’re doing here is that Cuomo and Newsom are expendable now. They’re a threat to the politburo system, they’re a threat to Harris.”

He added: “This is all about eliminating the opposition so that she has a free run in 2024 and isn’t challenged by, you know, prominent governors from two of the biggest states.”

“Yeah, that makes sense,” Bartiromo agreed.

Watch the video below from Fox News.


Devin Nunes floats conspiracy theory that Kamala Harris is trying to ‘eliminate’ Cuomo and Newsom

www.youtube.com

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Wisconsin Republicans in a panic over possible loss of Ron Johnson's Senate seat: report

February 28, 2021 in Blogs

By Tom Boggioni

According to a report from NBC, Republicans in Wisconsin are looking at the 2022 election, when the Senate seat held by Sen. Ron Johnson (R) will be on the ticket, with no idea who will be their nominee that year.

And that has them worried.

With Johnson — who has closely allied himself with ex-president Donald Trump — staying mum over whether he will run for a third term, the Wisconsin Republican Party is weighing their options for a new candidate when many of the stars of the party in the state have moved on or suffered defeat in recent elections.

“The uncertainty weighs heavily over a state party transitioning from its glory days to a post-Trump era,” NBC’s Henry Gomez wrote. “Paul Ryan, the former vice presidential nominee and speaker of the House, decamped to the private sector in 2018. Scott Walker, whose fight with public-employee unions made him a hero on the right, joined him there after losing a bid for a third term as governor.”

The report notes that those two politicians –along with Johnson — were part of the Republican “Cheesehead Revolution of the 2010s” and there isn’t much of a bench for the party to turn to in a state that went for Joe Biden in 2020.

One possible option might be Reince Priebus, the former Republican National Committee chairman and, briefly, White House chief of staff to Trump.

His candidacy, should Johnson choose to not run, would also have the unpopular Trump looming over it.

“Johnson is one of Trump’s most ardent defenders. As chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, he indulged Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen. And in a recent radio interview, Johnson said the deadly Jan. 6 riot that Trump supporters led on the Capitol to block certification of the election results ‘didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me,’” the report states before adding, “It’s difficult to assess who besides Priebus or Johnson might draw Trump into the race with an endorsement or disruptive presence. In past elections it was good enough to be closely aligned with Ryan or Walker.:

According to Andrew Hitt, the chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, the state “has been a very close, purple state for a long time now,” with Ben Wikler, his counterpart with the Wisconsin Democratic Party, adding: “It’s pretty clear that …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Texas doctor defends himself after being fired for giving away expiring COVID vaccine doses

February 27, 2021 in Blogs

By Meaghan Ellis

A fired Texas doctor now facing charges for stealing coronavirus vaccines is speaking out and defending his decision not to allow doses of the vaccine to expire.

During an interview on CBS News, Hasan Gokal, who was previously employed as a doctor for the Harris County Public Health Department and served as the medical director overseeing the county’s COVID vaccine distribution, explained why he made the decision. Gokal noted that the COVID vaccine doses would have, subsequently, led to supply going to waste if he had not taken them.

This is a 5-million person county and we had the first 3,000 thousand doses. There was no room for throwing any of it out. Ever,” Gokal said. “When you have something so precious, life-saving, it would hurt you to throw it away.”

“At that point, I start going through my phone list, thinking of who might” qualify for the vaccine, Gokal told CBS News. He also noted that guidance provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services suggested that they “always try to find eligible people in that tier when there are leftovers vaccine doses at the end of a shift.”

According to Gokal, the public health agency’s message was quite clear: “We don’t want any doses wasted. Period,” Gokal said. At the time, Gokal managed to locate a total of nine people, all of whom were older in age or had some form of pre-existing conditions that placed them in the high-risk category. Just before the vaccines were set to expire, Gokal also administered one of the vaccines to his wife.

Despite Gokal’s arguments, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg insists he did not follow protocol and broke the rule of law. “He abused his position to place his friends and family in line in front of people who had gone through the lawful process to be there,” Ogg said in a statement. “What he did was illegal and he’ll be held accountable under the law.”

Although the charges against Gokal were dropped and the case was dismissed by a federal judge, Ogg still plans to escalate the case to a grand jury.

As of Saturday, Feb. 27, the United States has reported 29.1 million coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic. A total of 523,325 victims have died of complications of coronavirus.

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Politico reporter backs down after facing Twitter storm for sexist Kamala Harris post

February 27, 2021 in Blogs

By Meaghan Ellis

A Politico reporter has expressed deep regret after facing heightened criticism on Twitter for a tweeted insult toward Vice President Kamala Harris.

According to Mediaite, after spending hours on the social network defending himself, Politico reporter Marc Caputo conceded and apologized for the insulting meme. On Friday, Feb. 26, Caputo sparked a heated debate after retweeting a meme from a now-deactivated Twitter account with a post that featured a picture of a stripper and a caption that read, “Kamala Harris on the Senate’s $15/hour minimum wage legislation.”

Caputo retweeted the post with a caption that read, “Sitting.”

Although Caputo has removed the tweet, screenshots continue to circulate on the social network. It also did not take long for Twitter users to fire back at the reporter.

According to the publication, the theme behind the meme centers on “progressive critics’ idea that VP Harris can unilaterally decide the fate of the $15 an hour minimum wage provision that will likely be stripped from the Senate version of the Covid relief package on procedural grounds.”

Despite the initial tweets firing back at Caputo’s post, he initially attempted to defend himself, the publication reports. One Twitter user named Michelle B. Young wrote, “I’m glad you think misogynoir is funny you lowlife.” In a now-deleted tweet, Caputo replied, “1) that’s not this. 2) who intentionally follows a “low life”?”

In other tweets, Caputo insisted the meme was “funny” as he fired back at critics. “It was funny,” Caputo tweeted. “But as I’ve said before: Twitter is where humor goes to die of abuse and neglect.” In another tweet, he wrote, “I RT lots of people and I even reply to people with 10 followers.”

Political consultant Julia Zebrak also tweeted, “This is incredibly disrespectful and sexist. If you can’t cover women in politics, then find a new beat.

Yet again, Caputo defended himself. “This is a reaction among many of a regular non-political person on Twitter who happens also to be a Kamala Harris fan (below) I would find it hard to call him “sexist” or his tweet …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Trump fumes over McCarthy again as his big night at CPAC approaches: report

February 27, 2021 in Blogs

By Meaghan Ellis

For the first time since leaving office, former President Donald Trump will speak publicly at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and he is expected to deliver scathing remarks leveling attacks on the Republican lawmakers who did not back him amid during his second impeachment trial.

So, what lawmakers are on Trump’s attack list? According to Politico, advisors close to the former president have revealed the list changes by the day. However, there is one name that remains on the list: Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

The publication reports that three insiders have revealed Trump is “stewing anew” over McCarthy and “it’s become so frequent that his advisers think the House minority leader may be in for a public reprimand. That’s even after the powwow at Mar-a-Lago where McCarthy tried to patch things up after he denounced Trump for the violence on Jan. 6.”

Trump’s ire toward McCarthy reportedly centers on Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), a long-time Trump critic who still has the ability to publicly lambast the former president from her top-ranking post within the House chamber. According to the publication, each time Cheney speaks, Trump is reportedly reminded of McCarthy’s role in her maintaining her post despite voting in favor of the impeachment.

Each time Cheney criticizes Trump from her leadership post as the No. 3 House Republican, he’s reminded that it was McCarthy who pleaded with his conference to keep her on as chair — despite her vote to impeach Trump. The latest trigger came Wednesday, when Cheney said at a press conference that Trump should not lead the party going forward while McCarthy awkwardly stood by.

While it remains unclear which lawmakers Trump will go after, specifically, an aide close to the former president has revealed he reportedly intends to cover all the bases by refuting the Republican Party “altogether.” The aide said, Trump plans “to downplay the extent of the rift in his CPAC speech by dismissing the GOP establishment altogether,” reports the publication.

“The only divide in the Republican Party is between the grassroots and a half a dozen Beltway insiders,” Trump is reportedly expected to say. The CPAC may very well set the tone of the Republican Party’s near future.

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio suggests he may be 'running for office'

February 27, 2021 in Blogs

By Meaghan Ellis

Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio recently suggested that he may take matters into his own hands to confront the grievances he has with lawmakers and the U.S. government.

During an interview with CNN, Tarrio expressed interest in overthrowing the current U.S. government as he revealed his interest in running for public office. “I think right now is the time to go ahead and overthrow the government by becoming the new government and running for office,” Tarrio said, according to Newsweek.

He went on to discuss the civil unrest that erupted at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Since Tarrio was apprehended hours prior to the deadly riots, he was not present at the Capitol but members of the Proud Boys were. But despite their unlawful entrance into the federal building, Tarrio criticized the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Justice as he argued that members of right-wing organizations were treated unfairly.

“They need a head to roll. They need heads on pikes,” Tarrio said. “The FBI and the DOJ [are] using the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers as their go-to, to show the people that they did something.”

Tarrio’s latest remarks come just weeks after the siege on the U.S. Capitol. Shortly after the disturbing incident, members of the Proud Boys took to Telegram to boast about leaving lawmakers in “absolute terror” after the federal building was breached. However, Tarrio made it clear he is not concerned with lawmakers or how they felt amid the deadly riots.

“I’m not going to worry about people that their only worry is to be reelected, Tarrio told CNN. “I’m not gonna cry about people who don’t give a crap about their constituents. I’m not going to sympathize with them.

Tarrio added, “When they support drone-bombing children in the Middle East … [and] those people are dead and they’re just cowering because a group of misfits came into the Capitol, I’m not going to be sympathetic.”

Despite investigative reports about the Capitol siege, Tarrio claims “the Proud Boys ‘absolutely’ did not have a plan to try and overthrow the government on January 6.” He also condemned the actions of fellow Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola who was caught on camera bashing in a window with a police shield.

“I don’t think that he should have done that. I think it was completely wrong,” Tarrio said. “But the other seven individuals …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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CPAC signals a new disturbing era for the Republican Party

February 27, 2021 in Blogs

By Meaghan Ellis

While some Republican lawmakers are fighting to return to some form of traditional political normalcy, other lawmakers and members of the political party are pushing for a new direction.

The first night of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which featured some of the most contentious Republican lawmakers like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), signals the Trump era may be far from over. When Cruz took the stage, he made his perspective quite clear as he suggested that he will remain a Trump loyalist for years to come.

“There’s a whole lot of voices in Washington that want to just erase the past four years, want to go back to the world before,” Cruz said. “Let me tell ya right now: Donald J. Trump ain’t goin’ anywhere.”

Hawley expressed similar remarks. While he admitted that he is aware of the fact that he is not the most popular lawmaker, he and other conservatives like him are not going anywhere.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Hawley proclaimed as he insisted the “radical left, their corporate allies [and] the liberal media to cancel me.” He added, “I’m here today, I’m not going anywhere and I’m not backing down, not a chance!”

According to Hawley, Republicans like him are the future of the political party. “I just want to say to those people who say to us, ‘Oh, you’re the past, your moment has passed, it’s over, it’s Joe Biden‘s America now,’ we’re not the past, we’re the future, we represent the future of this country,” the junior senator said. “We’re not going to back down to the woke mob, we’re not going to back down to the cancel culture, we’re not going to be told what we can say or do.”

A new editorial published by The New York Times notes how the first night of the CPAC underscores the uncertainty of the Republican Party’s future. The publication notes that “in recent years, CPAC has evolved from a family reunion of Republican libertarians, social conservatives and a hawkish foreign policy establishment into Trump-chella.”

This year has been no exception, with speaker after speaker focusing on the pet issues of the former president. “Are your votes being distorted?” one ominous video asked, flashing photos of President Biden on the big screen. Mr. Trump plans to address the crowd on Sunday and anything he …read more

Source: ALTERNET