Global trends are reshaping how businesses approach sustainability. On one hand, consumers and investors are pushing businesses to raise their standards. On the other hand, technological shifts are generating more and better information faster, enabling unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability.
Nowhere is this clearer then when it comes to management of the world’s forests.
Forests are a vital resource. But, today, they are under tremendous pressure, owing to growing demand for food, fuel, and fiber. Over the past 13 years, the world has lost an average of 50 soccer fields of forests every minute. Poor quality, out-of-date information often poses challenges even for companies with the best intentions.
Just two months after a Border Patrol agent shot her 16-year-old son in Nogales, Sonora, Araceli Rodríguez Salazar sensed silence spreading over the case.
“I’m tired of crying. I’m tired of waiting. I want justice,” she said on a recent afternoon, standing outside her humble home on a downtown hillside.
If the pattern holds, she’ll be waiting much longer.
Even as the number of shootings by agents increases, the system for holding them accountable remains complicated and opaque, leaving the public in the dark about the status of the cases, an Arizona Daily Star investigation has found. One Arizona case has remained secret and “ongoing” for almost three years.
As questions of accountability grow louder, shootings by Border Patrol agents continue - primarily in Arizona. In the last three years agents have shot at least 22 people nationwide. Nine of those cases have been in Southern Arizona - four in the last two months and two just last week.
Since January 2010, there have been at least six cross-border shootings by agents, including the one that killed Rodríguez-Salazar’s son, José Antonio Elena Rodríguez. When killed, he was on a sidewalk across the 36-foot-wide street along the border.
Two people were on the border fence when agents arrived at about 11 p.m. Rocks flew, though police reports leave it unclear who threw them, and at least one agent fired into Mexico.
Elena Rodriguez was hit at least seven times - twice in the head and five times in the back. The walls next to him were pocked with bullet holes.
“What would have happened if a Sonoran police officer had opened fire and shot a 16-year-old walking along the street in Arizona?” asked Kat Rodriguez of the Coalición de Derechos Humanos, a human-rights advocacy group in Tucson. “We all know the response would be very different, and it shouldn’t be.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office oversees the investigation, and local agencies - such as a sheriff’s department - may also investigate whether state laws were broken. In Elena Rodriguez’s case, the local agency was Sonoran state police, who responded on their side of the border.
Who’s in charge, and what happens from there? That’s a tougher question. Even Jim Calle, a Tucson attorney whose job is to defend Border Patrol agents involved in shootings or accused of misconduct, can’t pinpoint the process.
“I’ve been doing this for more than a decade, and it’s still confusing to me,” Calle said. “That’s how the federal government operates. They’re slow. It’s opaque, and they (the investigations) are always difficult.”
Read the whole article. Tim Steller is a good journalist. He also wrote a blog post about non-lethal cases of abuse by Border Patrol agents.
The Department of Homeland Security has an office, the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, that receives complaints of abuse, and the Tucson-based organization No More Deaths has made ample use of it in recent years. They’ve complained especially about suspected abusive behavior by agents in the Border Patrol’s detention facilities.
I spoke with two No More Deaths volunteers, Sarah Roberts and Molly Little, who were main authors of the group’s 2011 report, A Culture of Cruelty: Abuse and Impunity in Short-Term U.S. Border Patrol Custody. They showed me report after report that they made to the DHS civil rights office, only to have that office ask the Tucson Sector Border Patrol to look into it. The Border Patrol would regularly find nothing wrong, Roberts and Miller said.
Data I received from DHS last week backs up their contention that the office has frequently asked the Border Patrol to investigate its own agents.
Under the Romney plan if your insurance lapses (unemployment, jobs switch, school, aged out of parent’s plan, etc. ) then you can can be denied for pre-existing conditions. The older I get the more I realize that you can count on someone getting left out if it’s a GOP plan.
The idea of “continuous coverage” is pretty much what it sounds like: Under the scheme Saul laid out earlier, an individual who kept buying insurance month after month could not be turned away by an insurance company. The goal is to create an incentive for healthy people, who don’t think they really need coverage, to keep paying monthly premiums — ensuring that they would have access to health insurance if their health should take a turn for the worse.
Congress thought it was a good enough idea to make a whole law out of it. The 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act greatly limited the ability of group plans to exclude employees’ pre-existing conditions if they had continuous coverage prior to the new job.
That’s great for an individual who gets a new job. But continuous coverage isn’t so great for the individual who has spent sometime without insurance, perhaps because of difficult financial times. Continuous coverage won’t do much for you in that situation.
That’s different from the health-care law, which stipulates that in 2014, anyone can gain access to health coverage regardless of his or her prior insured status. If Romney wanted to keep that kind of protection against pre-existing insurance in place — but without an individual mandate — insurance premiums would likely increase, as the sick people who planned to use their coverage disproportionately signed up.
When is a hamburger not just a hamburger? When it costs Amtrak $16 to make. They sell it for $9.50, and taxpayers cover the difference — every time. Then it becomes a glaring symbol for spiraling costs, crippling deficits, and the inherent inefficiencies of big government.
Thirty years ago, the idea of Amtrak losing money on food sales was as outrageous as it is today. (Hungry customers on a moving train with nowhere else to go. How hard can it be?) In fact, it was so outrageous that Congress passed a law against it. The Amtrak Improvement Act of 1981 prohibits the government-owned company from selling food at a loss. Nice try. Today, Amtrak is selling more and losing more than ever before.
This month the Government Accountability Office reported that losses on food service exceeded $80 million last year and totaled $834 million during the past decade. Auditors blamed the staggering losses — most of which occur on Amtrak’s 15 long-distance routes — on waste, theft, and lack of oversight. That’s only a fraction of the total losses from long distance operations, but it’s real money nonetheless.
For many of Amtrak’s congressional overseers, a $16 hamburger is a juicy target — an opportunity to grill the company’s managers and rake the bungling operation over the coals. Rail boosters, meanwhile, will rush to the usual defenses — that these are simply the costs of maintaining passenger rail, that the services are essential, and that scaling back Amtrak means scaling back jobs.
During congressional testimony, Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman tried to explain that, if Amtrak didn’t lose so much selling food, fewer people would ride the trains, and the company would lose more money on operations. Such tortured logic makes for a bad business plan. Ridership did reach a record last year, a 5 percent increase over 2010. Unfortunately, operating losses rose by 20 percent, cresting above $500 million.
This is what’s wrong with faith based initiatives in a nutshell. Here’s where I would start cutting the deficit.
It seems some U.S. armed services veterans who recently returned from fighting the War on Terror are facing a new battle at home: federally funded gender discrimination.
According to a complaint filed last week by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a cooperative of 300 churches in Asheville and Buncombe County, N.C., which provides services for the homeless as well as low-income veterans and families, has allegedly been offering very different job-training classes for male veterans than for female.
The Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry receives funding from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Veterans Workforce Investment Program and the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program, according to the SPLC. Recently the group was given $200,000 by the Department of Labor to assist homeless veterans through job training and other services.
But according to an SPLC complaint filed before the Department of Labor, veteran Emily Bagby alleged that women were only allowed to participate in courses that would give them the skills to be homemakers. While men were allowed to learn about truck driving, culinary arts and “green” jobs, women were forced to choose from offerings in knitting, art therapy, yoga, meditation, how to de-clutter a room and self-esteem boosting.
Lost among the overwhelming gender bias alleged in the complaint was another issue: federal funds being used to promote religion. Bagby also alleged that women were offered Bible study classes; unfortunately her complaint does not say whether these classes were also available to men, nor does it offer any details on the courses.
While it is possible that a federally funded Bible study class could be taught in such a way that it would not raise constitutional concerns, it is highly doubtful that a group of churches would even attempt to structure the class in that way. If these charges are true, the co-op is using taxpayer funds not only to discriminate against women, but to indoctrinate them, too.
Our veterans and the public deserve better than this. Federal officials should investigate this matter. If the allegations are deemed accurate, the church co-op should change its ways or lose its tax funding. If the co-op gives up the public support, then it will be free to proselytize all it wants.
This is yet another example of why it’s problematic to give taxpayer funds to religious organizations to operate social programs. Many of these groups can and do use the money appropriately, but we know that some are quick to take the cash and use it in ways that further their theological views.
Until there is better oversight and accountability of religious organizations that receive federal funding, however, stories like this will continue to pop up.
While the current presidential race has predictably devolved into a series food fights over tax returns and awkward speech wordings, the nation’s economy limps weakly along. In addition, the causes of the 2008 financial crisis still remain a dormant threat to the global economy — a point that neither candidate seems interested in addressing. Enter Neil Barofsky, the former Special Investigator General for TARP, the $700 billion bailout fund launched in 2008 in order to stabilize the nation’s financial system and broader economy. Barofsky is out today with a new book Bailout, which he hopes will refocus the national debate towards how little has changed on Wall Street since the shenanigans of too-big-to-fail firms nearly brought down the global economy.
Bailout is an engaging account of the Washington turf wars and power plays that occurred as the Bush and Obama Administrations tried to revive the nation’s economy in the wake of the financial panic of 2008. Barofsky, an Obama-campaign-contributing Democrat, was plucked from a position in the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York City to oversee the government’s $700 billion TARP fund. But when Barofsky got to Washington, he found the Treasury Departments of both the Bush and Obama administration to be populated with those who either share Wall Street’s view that the broader economy is wholly dependent on the thriving of large, multinational banks, or regulators too concerned with their own career prospects to challenge that view. And at every turn, as Barofsky tried to impose more transparency and accountability on banks receiving TARP funds, he found himself met with resistance — most doggedly from Obama Administration Treasury head Timothy Geithner.
This regulatory capture is the main theme of the book. In a phone interview with TIME, Barofsky said exposing this subtle form of corruption was his main motivation for writing the book. And no official gets it worse than Geithner, who, Barofsky argues, “has shown a remarkable deference to the interests of Wall Street, by protecting them at every juncture through the implementation of TARP and the regulatory reform process.” Throughout the narrative, Geithner and other Treasury officials bristle at and obstruct every attempt to turn up the heat on the banks, whether through auditing their use of TARP funds to ensure that they went to increased lending, or to forcibly shrink the banks through bipartisan legislation like the ill-fated SAFE Banking Act, which would have put hard caps on the size of too-big-to-fail banks.
An Alabama congressman told TSA officials this week he’s shocked that people placed on the “No-Fly” list, a post-9/11 Transportation Security Administration initiative, can attend flight school and receive flight certificates.
A House subcommittee chaired by Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, held a hearing Wednesday on a new government report showing weaknesses in the vetting policies of U.S. flight schools. The hearing took an interesting turn after a TSA official said that a U.S. citizen restricted from commercial flying is allowed to train for a pilot license.
“There’s a reason that they’re on the no-flight list,” said Rogers, the chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security. “That means that they are a risk.”
The Government Accountability Office investigated TSA regulations and polices from January 2006 to September 2011, discovering that more than 25,000 foreign nationals applied for airmen certificates. Only trainees who have completed flight training can obtain their flight license, according to GAO testimony.
Some of those foreign students did not go through background security checks.
The trial of Anders Behring Breivik in Oslo is waiting to hear whether prosecutors will ask for him to be sent to prison or into psychiatric care.
They have begun summing up their case, with their decision resting on whether they believe he was sane when he killed 77 people in Norway last year.
Conflicting psychiatric evaluations were presented earlier.
Breivik bombed government buildings in Oslo before shooting young Labour Party supporters at an island camp.
As well as killing 77 people, he injured 242.
Breivik sought to justify his attacks by saying they were necessary to stop the “Islamisation” of Norway.
The defence concludes on Friday, and a verdict is expected in July or August.
One of the prosecutors, Svein Holden, said that under Norwegian law, reasonable doubt should benefit the defendant in cases of criminal guilt.
However, he asked whether that should also apply to the question of the defendant’s accountability.
Continue reading the main story
22 July attacks
8 people killed and 209 injured by bomb in Oslo
69 people killed on Utoeya island, of them 34 aged between 14 and 17
33 injured on Utoeya
Nearly 900 people affected by attacks
Norway attacks: The victims
How the attacks unfolded
Earlier on Thursday, Mr Holden’s colleague Inga Bejer Engh told the court it had always been the prosecution’s clear view that the case should be treated like any other criminal case.
“We must also accept this court will never find all the answers to our questions,” she added.
“How did he become this killing machine? How many did he try to kill on that day?”
Without a hint of regret, she said, Breivik had told the court how he had reloaded his gun while victims sat waiting for him to kill them on the island of Utoeya.
Breivik could be seen smiling at times as he listened to the prosecutor.
No one—not even the love child of Horatio Alger and Ayn Rand—rivals campaign reporters when it comes to worshipping ambition. In the eyes of the press pack, all behavior in the political realm is motivated by a lean and hungry look at the next office. A prime example is how the media handled two acts of Republican apostasy this week relating to the Bush alumni network and family.
Trip Gabriel reported Monday in The New York Times that former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings had dropped her informal role as an outside adviser to Mitt Romney in an understated protest over the candidate’s policies. Spellings, who had worked for George W. Bush as Texas governor, objected to Romney’s preference for vouchers and school choice over federal accountability standards. Since Spellings is not a politician, publications ranging from Politico to National Review treated her defection as a statement of ideological principle.
That same day Jeb Bush told a breakfast for reporters sponsored by Bloomberg View that the GOP’s rightward tilt was so extreme that his father and Ronald Reagan would have trouble fitting into the modern Republican Party. While a Times story by Jim Rutenberg did refer to friends saying that Bush’s comments reflected “a man free from the constraints of electoral politics,” the standard interpretation was that the Florida governor was adroitly positioning himself for a presidential run if Romney were defeated.
Myanmar’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi urged foreign governments not to allow their companies to do joint ventures with the state-owned oil and gas company until it improved transparency and accountability.
Suu Kyi, speaking to the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva on Thursday, said: “The Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE)… with which all foreign participation in the energy sector takes place through joint venture arrangements, lacks both transparency and accountability at present.”
“The (Myanmar) government needs to apply internationally recognised standards such as the IMF code of good practices on fiscal transparency. Other countries could help by not allowing their own companies to partner MOGE unless it was signed up to such codes,” she said.