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The chaos in Texas underscores the US government's level of unpreparedness for natural disasters

February 20, 2021 in Blogs

By Meaghan Ellis

The disturbing series of events that unfolded in the state of Texas underscore a greater issue the United States government is tasked with. The Washington Post has released an analysis of the winter storm that battered the southern region of the United States, the aftermath that followed in Texas, and how it correlates with the federal government’s disaster response.

Over the last several years, natural disasters including intensifying hurricanes, forest fires, and winter storms have battered various parts of the United States. However, there was one common occurrence with most of the disasters: Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) inability to respond in an effective and timely manner.

While the natural disaster in Texas left millions of the state’s residents in freezing temperatures with no electricity and food for several days, there are a number of factors that actually made the situation worse.

The publication notes that the disaster in Texas “provides the latest example of the chronic lack of disaster preparedness that over the years has plagued government at all levels. The rare combination of winter snowstorms and record cold temperatures brought death, property destruction, and hardship as millions lost power, suffered water shortages, or were under orders to boil their water before using it.”

The debacle surrounding the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’ (ERCOT) handling of the winter storm is a prime example of how a failure to plan leads to serious consequences. Back in 2010 when Texas suffered from Superstorm Sandy, energy experts warned of the possibility of catastrophic power grid issues if another natural disaster were to hit the state.

That the warnings in Texas were ignored is often typical with the kinds of recommendations produced by outside experts or voices within the bureaucracy whose ideas are unheard or unheeded by those at the top. As many government officials have said, there is little incentive and almost no political reward for investing money to head off a crisis, especially when budgets are tight.

However, the state will likely pay the cost now but in various different ways but hopefully this time the government heeds the warning before the next natural disaster strikes.

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Federal judge reveals her son's killer also had a dossier on Justice Sonia Sotomayor

February 20, 2021 in Blogs

By Meaghan Ellis

A federal judge whose family was caught in the midst of an attempt on her life has revealed the assailant also had a dossier on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

According to USA Today, highlights of U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas’ upcoming “60 Minutes” interview include details about the dossier Roy Den Hollander allegedly crafted to target Judge Sotomayor.

“They found another gun, a Glock, more ammunition,” Salas told the CBS News program. “But the most troubling thing they found was a manila folder with a workup on Justice Sonia Sotomayor.”

The latest news comes nearly one year after the deadly encounter at Salas’ home. At the time, Den Hollander, a then-72-year-old lawyer employed with an intelligence company, posed as a delivery man when he arrived at Salas’ home in North Brunswick, N.J. Salas’ 20-year-old son, Daniel Anderl was killed and her husband, attorney Mark Anderl, was injured.

Following the death of her son, Salas began advocating for more legislation to incorporate better measures to protect judges’ personal information. According to Salas, the internet contributes to the discovery of lots of information and she believes there should be limitations.

“Who knows what could have happened? But we need to understand that judges are at risk,” Salas told 60 Minutes. “That we put ourselves in great danger every day for doing our jobs.”

The publication reports that a spokeswoman for the U.S. Supreme Court has not yet commented on the report Salas discussed.

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Source: ALTERNET

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'The other Manafort': The biggest misinformation peddler in Trumpworld might be someone you've never heard of

February 20, 2021 in Blogs

By Meaghan Ellis

During former President Donald Trump’s time in office, he had a number of allies that contributed to the massive spread of disinformation that circulated on social media while cutting not-so-credible business deals behind closed doors. Now, a report highlighting the efforts of one man has been made public.

According to The Daily Beast, that man is Imaad Zuberi. The publication reports that the U.S. government believes Zuberi’s unlawful foreign influence propoundment is considered to be “among the most wide-ranging ever prosecuted.”Zuberi’s unlawful foreign influence propoundment is considered to be “among the most wide-ranging ever prosecuted.

With Zuberi’s attempts to become more involved with the Trump campaign along with his efforts to evade taxes, his situation is noted to have a number of instances similar to Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s case.

The Beast notes that “much like Manafort, Zuberi also rubbed elbows with Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian gas baron now living in exile in Austria after federal prosecutors indicted him on corruption charges.”

The mafia-affiliated gas magnate was noticed multiple times during Trump’s presidency, including when the former president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani contacted Firtash to locate incriminating information on President Joe Biden’s family. However, there are distinct ways in which Zuberi’s situation differs.

The publication outlines the difference.

The heart of the government’s allegations against Zuberi is that he failed to register as a foreign agent when carrying out lobbying on behalf of his clients in Bahrain, Turkey, Libya, Ukraine, and Pakistan. Then he lied about the fortune it made him when it came time to pay his taxes.

Zuberi, who caught the attention of the publication with his seven-figure donation to Trump’s inaugural committee and his questionable foreign ties, may have also had a substantial role in the inaugural committee’s fundraisers.

On Thursday, Feb. 18, Zuberi was sentenced to 12 years behind bars by a federal judge. The prison sentence is due to his involvement in a “stunning campaign of illegal lobbying that included a quarter-million dollars worth of illegal campaign contributions, straw donations to American campaigns on behalf of foreign donors, and skipping out on the tax tab when it came time to account for the money it brought him.”

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Source: ALTERNET

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Pennsylvania police officer charged in Capitol riots says he has 'no regrets'

February 20, 2021 in Blogs

By Meaghan Ellis

A Pennsylvania police officer has been hit with felony charges for his participation in the Capitol riots and now details about his Facebook posts are also coming to light.

According to the HuffPost, Joseph Fischer, a patrolman for the North Cornwall Township Police Department, is facing a string of charges including “obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder, knowingly entering a restricted building without lawful authority, violent entry and conduct on Capitol grounds, and obstruction of justice/Congress.”

He was aware that he might lose his job and face consequences from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). However, Fischer suggested that did not matter to him.

Under a social media account with the handle “SV Spindrift,” Fischer posted footage of himself running toward a line of police officers at the Capitol screaming, “Charge!” He also noted that there were four rows of officers and he’d “made it to level two” which suggests he made it beyond two rows of the officers.

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Trump's 'big lie' about voter fraud still lingers weeks after his departure from the White House

February 20, 2021 in Blogs

By Meaghan Ellis

The Democratic Party managed to prevail in the 2020 presidential election, but the massive voter fraud lies perpetrated by former President Donald Trump and the Republican Party will likely linger for years to come. However, now those lies are taking on a different form.

According to a new analysis published by CNN, Republican lawmakers have already waged war on voting systems with newly proposed bills to make it far more difficult for American citizens to vote, an initiative described as a “‘direct attack on democracy’ and on Black voters.”

The reason behind this initiative? Trump’s unfounded claims of voter fraud that he started circulating after he launched massive misinformation campaigns and voter fraud conspiracies following his election loss to President Joe Biden. Although he is no longer in the White House, Republican lawmakers are standing on that big lie with the hope of silencing voters.

With demographics changing in many states that are notably red, Republicans could be facing election nightmares in the upcoming primary and 2024 elections. So, Trump’s big lie is a way to justify their push for changes in election laws.

“We need to make sure that our citizens have confidence in the elections, that they have the ability to vote,” said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). “We want, obviously, everyone to vote. But we don’t want anyone to cheat. And we want to make sure that we strike that appropriate balance.”

Georgia voting rights advocacy groups are already pushing back against a bill that has been proposed in the southern state. Amid the presidential election, the state of Georgia became a key focal point that led to Biden’s victory. It also became an area of contention for Republican lawmakers and voters who attempted to delegitimize the state’s election results. Despite multiple recounts and election results being certified by the state’s Republican elected officials, Trump and his allies repeatedly insisted the election was rigged.

The latest bill in Georgia underscores Republicans’ latest strategy to “curb, restrict and more closely monitor voting practices like mail-in ballots that, along with distaste for now-former President Donald Trump and frustration with his policies, fueled record turnout in 2020.”

A group, comprised of Georgia’s Republican state legislators and state secretaries, has also unveiled their new commission to examine election laws. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, a group that maintains records of voting-related legislation has noted an influx in proposed …read more

Source: ALTERNET