The chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, announced yesterday that he has asked the FBI and the Justice Department to investigate Planned Parenthood for possible fetal-tissue trafficking law violations.
The investigations stem from last summer's videos of the Center for Medical Progress releasing videos that showed Planned Parenthood allegedly profiting from the sale of fetal tissues and marking up the costs of fetal tissue and misrepresenting the actual sale price.
Several local Planned Parenthood affiliates will be included in the investigation because they were found to have violated the regulations as well.
In addition, as also described in the attached report, it appears that the Planned Parenthood Federation of America learned that its affiliates engaging in paid fetal tissue programs were not following the policies and procedures it had put in place to ensure compliance ... However, instead of exercising its oversight procedures to bring them into compliance, it contacted the affiliates involved and then altered those oversight procedures in a manner that allowed the affiliates’ conduct to continue.
This recommendation comes as Planned Parenthood is scrambling ahead of the likelihood that Congress will cut off funding to the group under President-elect Donald Trump. The group is currently aggressively seeking donations and lobbying legislators at every level. Discuss
A new report by The New York Times shows how much the criminal justice system is still very much for sale, specifically in Dothan, Alabama, a city that nearly borders the Florida panhandle.
Dothan sits in Henry County, which participates in a program called pretrial diversion. Pretrial diversion allows first-time offenders and those accused of a non-violent crime to pay a small fee, in some cases take courses, and otherwise stay out of trouble and their case can be thrown out in order to help overloaded courts and over-crowded jails. While the program sounds ideal, it often comes down to money and who you know—particularly in Henry where Douglas Valeska is the current district attorney—because individual prosectors set the prices and the conditions for who qualifies for diversion.
In this case, Valeska's conditions are stringent and the prices are high—in the realm of the highest in the country, according to the Times.
Dothan often requires people facing charges to pay $750 for a misdemeanor and $1,400 for a felony charge and Valeska requires the money paid up front and assesses each charge a separate fee. The fees can quickly add up—one person paid almost $10,000 for diversion privileges for a case made up of seven drug fraud charges. Valeska's conditions have led to him making over $1 million over the last five years for the DA's office, money Valeska is more than willing to dole out to other law enforcement agencies and counties.
A significant part of the problem is that Valeska does not offer any sort of relief or waiver for poorer defendants, even though they would have received diversion if they had the money. And in Dothan, where black people suffer from poverty at three times the rate as whites, they are disproportionately kept out of enjoying the benefits of diversion. Dothan's population is only one-third black, but two-thirds of arrests were of black people.
The stories of those penalized harshly under Dothan's policies include a young man who was suspected of underage drinking and when asked his last name and social security number, his number was off by two of the digits and he added an "e" in his last name, which doesn't have one. Because of that, which he maintains was just a drunken mistake, he was charged with a felony. He had the opportunity to have diversion, but it cost $3,730 but he only worked part time. The first time around he could only pay $215—the DA's office took his money, but denied him diversion. Later, he saved up about $900 and offered it to the DA while inquiring about payment plans moving forward. Again, his $900 was taken and diversion was rejected again.
The other option for those who can't afford pretrial diversion is to go to trial in a system where many residents say their defense is inadequate due to the money-saving set up of the county's public defense system. The Times even found cases where defendants in jail couldn't reach their lawyers or complained about bad advice.
In this particular case, Valeska has been investigated, opted against running for re-election and will soon be succeeded in January. This problem spreads past Dothan and Henry County, further illustrating the point that justice in the court system throughout the country is often only equal for those who can afford to make it so. Discuss
A new law passed in Oklahoma will require restaurants, all public schools and health-care centers to post signs in their restrooms encouraging pro-life alternatives to anyone with an unwanted pregnancy. The sign will read,
“There are many public and private agencies willing and able to help you carry your child to term and assist you and your child after your child is born, whether you choose to keep your child or to place him or her for adoption. The State of Oklahoma strongly urges you to contact them if you are pregnant."
According to lawmakers, this new regulation is “for the purpose of achieving an abortion-free society.” The Associated Press reports this purpose will not be supported by the government with any designated budget forcing schools and businesses to pay out of pocket for the new signs.
The project will cost an estimated $2.3 million at the expense of business owners, which is drawing criticism. Discuss
You're probably having a better day than Jill Stein. U.S. District Court Judge Paul Diamond just rejected her request to recount ballots in Pennsylvania.
The state was won by President-elect Donald Trump by a 1.3 percent margin—only a 44,000 vote lead in the total 6 million cast. Stein's request sought to verify whether some counties’ voting systems showed signs of hacking.
This is part of a broader effort to eliminate any suspicion of fraud in key swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Diamond's decision comes at the heels of a newly public CIA report determining Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The CIA recently concluded that Russia interfered with the Presidential election in Trump's favor by indirectly sabotaging the Clinton campaign in a combined defamation effort with Wikileaks.
Trump released a statement on Friday dismissing the CIA report, implying an error margin in the report is at play by referencing the intelligence community's fault in suspecting Saddam Hussein of hiding weapons of mass destruction.
As of this morning, the story is still developing. President Obama has ordered an in-depth intelligence review of election hacking suspicions before he leaves the Oval Office in January. Discuss
The Pentagon knowingly hid information from an internal study that found that the Pentagon wasted $125 billion dollars in an effort to keep that money in future Congressional budgets, according to an investigation by The Washington Post.
The 77-page report summary by the Defense Business Board was finished and presented in January 2015 and would have allowed the U.S. Department of Defense to save about $125 billion over a period of five years without having to fire employees or lessen the strength of the military. It would have used early retirements, made changes to contractor deals and used technology more efficiently.
Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work requested the study as a way to increase efficiency in what is known to be the most inefficient bureaucracy; however, when the results came out and the scope of the waste became known, Work seemed to change his mind, telling The Post that saving $125 billion was "unrealistic" and that number came from the Defense Business Board's lack of understanding about the way that would work out in practice versus in theory—citing that Congressmen will not eliminate federal civil service jobs because they "love having them in their districts."
In exchange, Work said that the Pentagon would implement some of the things from the study, but on a much smaller scale, resulting in a savings of $30 billion by 2020.
“We will never be as efficient as a commercial organization,” Work told The Post. “We’re the largest bureaucracy in the world. There’s going to be some inherent inefficiencies in that.”