Corrupt Congressman Resigns Amid Scandals

Originally published on March 19, 2015, at

To avoid a congressional ethics investigation into allegations of corruption, Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinois announced his resignation from Congress on Tuesday. Caught failing to report gifts and charging taxpayers for lavish trips, Schock finally decided to step down when the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) began interviewing people close to the congressman. Although the House Ethics Committee will no longer have jurisdiction over Schock, the Justice Department could file criminal charges against him.

On February 2, The Washington Post published an article describing Rep. Schock’s remodeled office decorated in the style of PBS’s “Downton Abbey.” Because Schock’s interior decorator, Annie Brahler, had offered her services for free, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint accusing Schock of accepting an improper gift. Although Schock eventually paid $40,000 from his personal finances to cover the cost, the media attention and his own self-promotion prompted further investigations into his extravagant lifestyle.

Appearing on the cover of Men’s Health while posting photos of himself on Instagram hiking across glaciers, surfing, and hanging out with Ariana Grande, Schock flagrantly flaunted a lifestyle well beyond his pay grade. Since first running for office in 2008, Schock has raised over $10.8 million in campaign contributions without ever facing a serious opponent. Between December 2009 and February 2010, Schock charged taxpayers more than $100,000 for decorations and renovations to his office.

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LAPD Rookie Wanted for Murder

Originally published on March 17, 2015, at

The Pomona Police Department issued an arrest warrant for murder on Monday for an LAPD rookie officer on the run. Initially considered a person of interest, law enforcement officials now believe LAPD Officer Henry Solis knows he is wanted for murder and is considered armed and dangerous. Although police have found Solis’ car, the probationary officer has been missing since Friday.

According to the Pomona Police Department, officers responded to a homicide reported at 3:30am on Friday at Third and Main streets. While off-duty, LAPD rookie officer Henry Solis had been drinking at the Viva Tequila Lounge and Nightclub in downtown Pomona. After leaving the club, Solis allegedly got into a physical altercation with Salome Rodriguez, Jr.

Solis pulled out a gun and reportedly shot Rodriguez twice in the abdomen, twice in the left leg, and once in the neck. Rodriguez was able to run for about a block before collapsing in a nearby parking lot. An ambulance transported Rodriguez to the USC Medical Center where he later died from his wounds.

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Drunken Secret Service Agents Crash into White House Barricade

Originally published on March 12, 2015, at

In yet another example of misconduct and incompetence, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general has launched an investigation into two Secret Service agents caught on surveillance camera driving drunk and crashing into a White House barricade. Besides driving under the influence, the agents also disturbed an active bomb investigation by possibly driving over the suspicious package. Instead of allowing law enforcement officials to arrest the agents or determine their blood alcohol content, a Secret Service supervisor simply decided to send them home.

Around 10:25pm on March 4, a Pennsylvania woman exited a blue Toyota near the southeast entrance of the White House carrying a package wrapped in a green shirt. As the woman approached a Secret Service agent, she shouted at him that she was holding a bomb. After placing the package on the ground, the woman ran back to her vehicle and jumped inside with the agent in pursuit.

Opening the front passenger door, the agent ordered the woman to exit the vehicle when she put the car in reverse. After the open door struck the agent, he managed to reach inside the car and force it into park. But the woman shifted it back into drive and sped off before the agent could stop her. Officers immediately secured the area with police tape and called the bomb squad to check the package for explosives.

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Ferguson Police Chief Resigns After DOJ Exposes Systemic Racism

Originally published on March 12, 2015, at

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson announced his resignation on Wednesday after a scathing Justice Department report revealed systemic racism throughout the government of Ferguson. Accused of racial discrimination and repeatedly violating civil rights, Chief Jackson has decided to step down along with the city manager, a municipal court judge, and two police officers who immediately resigned in the wake of the Justice Department’s investigation. Although the Department of Justice declined to file charges against Darren Wilson, their investigation exposed a culture of unlawfully targeting black people for profit and ridicule.

“It is with profound sadness that I am announcing I am stepping down from my position as chief of police for the city of Ferguson, Missouri. My resignation will be effective March 19, 2015 to provide for an orderly transition of command,” Chief Jackson wrote in his resignation letter. “I will continue to assist the city in any way I can in my capacity as a private citizen.”

According to the Justice Department report, the police in Ferguson disproportionately stopped, arrested, cited, and used force on black residents while exchanging racist emails between officers and court officials. After analyzing the Ferguson Police Department’s data on stops, searches, and arrests between 2012 and 2014, the DOJ discovered that blacks accounted for 85% of all traffic stops, 90% of citations received, and 93% of people arrested were black. 88% of the cases in which officers reported using force had been against black people, and all 15 people bitten by police dogs were black.

In order to generate revenue for the city, police officers engaged in contests to impose the highest number of unfair fines on black residents. According to Attorney General Eric Holder, officers regularly violated the First, Fourth, and 14th Amendments without consequence while charging black residents with unlawful allegations, including “manner of walking along roadway.”

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Republican Senators Undermine President’s Nuclear Deal with Iran

Originally published on March 11, 2015, at

In a blatant effort to undermine President Obama’s negotiations with Iran over their nuclear program, 47 Republican Senators sent an open letter to Iran’s leaders on Monday threatening to sabotage any agreement reached between the two countries. Fearing Iran’s potential nuclear capabilities and enraged by the president’s utter disdain for them, Republican legislators have adopted casino mogul Sheldon Adelson’s and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rhetoric against diplomatic engagement with the Iranian government.

Drafted by Sen. Tim Cotton of Arkansas, the letter attempts to dissuade Iranian leaders from signing a deal with the president by insulting their understanding of America’s constitutional system. They point out that “the president may only serve two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms. As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then – perhaps decades.”

The senators added, “We will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear-weapons program that is not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei. The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

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Senator Expected to Face Federal Corruption Charges

Originally published on March 7, 2015, at

The Justice Department is preparing to file criminal corruption charges against former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Robert “Bob” Menendez of New Jersey. A federal grand jury began investigating the senator two years ago after the FBI and Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) delved into allegations of Menendez exchanging political favors for lavish gifts from campaign contributor and Florida ophthalmologist, Dr. Salomon Melgen. In exchange for vacation trips and political donations, Menendez has allegedly obstructed a program to improve port security and attempted to interfere with Medicare’s reimbursement policies in order to advance Dr. Melgen’s business prospects.

A month after Sen. Menendez assumed office on January 17, 2006, Dr. Melgen began negotiations to purchase ICSSI, a Dominican company contracted to provide cargo screening in the Dominican Republic. In 2002, ICSSI had acquired a contract to provide screening throughout the country, but the government suspended the deal claiming the contract was too expensive and the bidding was too uncompetitive. Intent on purchasing ICSSI, Dr. Melgen fought to reinstate the contract, which was reportedly worth $500 million over 20 years.

During this time, Menendez began pushing legislation to require screening all ship containers headed to the U.S. In 2006, the Department of Homeland Security donated an x-ray scanning device to the Dominican Republic. Inspectors working at the Dominican port at Multimodal Caucedo found 5,000lbs of cocaine in a cargo container of peaches during the first week of operating the device.

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Former CIA Director Agrees to Plead Guilty to Leaking Classified Material

Originally published on March 5, 2015, at

Retired four-star general and former CIA Director David Petraeus entered a plea bargain agreeing to plead guilty to leaking highly classified material to his former mistress and biographer, Paula Broadwell. In his plea deal, Gen. Petraeus also admitted to violating several Non-Disclosure Agreements with the Department of Defense (DOD), making false statements to the FBI during the course of a criminal investigation, and retaining classified documents after resigning from office. Although the Obama administration has a record of aggressively prosecuting conscientious whistleblowers, the Justice Department has been lenient on high-ranking officials responsible for leaking sensitive information.

After returning from the war in Afghanistan, Gen. Petraeus spoke with Broadwell about the location of sensitive documents referred to as the black books. In their conversation, recorded on August 4, 2011, Petraeus acknowledged that the black books contained highly classified material before eventually agreeing to lend her the journals. On August 28, 2011, Petraeus delivered the black books to a private residence in Washington, D.C., where Broadwell was staying for a week.

The black books consisted of eight sensitive notebooks possessing the identities of covert agents, war strategy, intelligence mechanisms, diplomatic discussion, notes from high-level National Security Council meetings, and Petraeus’ private discussions with President Obama. At the time, Broadwell was writing a biography of Petraeus titled “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus” while engaging in a sexual relationship with the married four-star general.

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Videos Capture LAPD Killing Homeless Man on Skid Row

Originally published on March 3, 2015, at

Responding to a 911 call on Sunday, LAPD officers fatally gunned down a homeless man resisting arrest on Skid Row. While attempting to subdue the suspect on the ground, officers opened fire at least five times when he allegedly grabbed one of their weapons. After a witness recorded the shooting and uploaded the video online, the LAPD began searching for footage of the incident recorded on witnesses’ cell phones, nearby surveillance cameras, and the two body cameras worn by officers involved in the shooting.

According to Officer Jack Richter, spokesman for the LAPD, officers assigned to the LAPD’s Central Division and Safer Cities Initiative had been dispatched to the area of East Sixth Street and South San Pedro Street in Downtown Los Angeles around 11:36am on Sunday. Although Richter initially reported that the officers had been responding to a 911 call about two people fighting on Skid Row, Sgt. Barry Montgomery announced during a later news conference that the officers were investigating a report of a robbery.

Eyewitnesses recalled seeing a homeless man known as “Africa” fighting with someone else inside his tent when the officers confronted him. According to a witness named Dennis Horne, officers ordered Africa to exit his tent but he refused. After several officers dragged him out of the tent, Africa resisted arrest and began struggling with them.

Concerned about the homeless man’s safety, a bystander named Anthony Blackburn took out his cell phone and recorded the rest of the incident.

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Former Russian Deputy Prime Minister Assassinated

Originally published on March 1, 2015, at

Hours after criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin on the radio and promoting an anti-war rally in Moscow this weekend, former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov was gunned down on Friday while crossing a bridge near the Kremlin. Recognized as an economic reformer and outspoken political leader critical of Putin’s rampant corruption, Nemtsov feared the Russian president would have him killed because of his opposition to the war in Ukraine. Since Putin assumed the presidency on December 31, 1999, over a hundred Russian journalists, authors, and activists have been killed.

Shortly before midnight on Friday, Nemtsov was crossing the Bolshoi Kamenny Bridge accompanied by a Ukrainian woman when a white car approached them. Conflicting accounts do not agree on what happened next. According to Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the Russian Investigative Committee, at least seven shots were fired from the passing car. But according to Russian-language news website Meduza, several people had exited the car before shooting Nemtsov.

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Yelena Alexeeva announced that Nemtsov had been shot four times in the back, while his female companion remained unharmed. Six shell casings were found at the crime scene, which is located only 500ft from the Kremlin. Investigators believe Nemtsov’s murder was the result of a drive-by shooting.

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Chicago Police Accused of Operating CIA-style Black Site

Originally published on February 27, 2015, at

According to British newspaper The Guardian, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) has been detaining U.S. citizens at a secure facility while denying access to defense attorneys and committing human rights abuses. Accused of using excessive force to coerce confessions and leaving detainees shackled for prolonged periods, the CPD has denied breaking any laws or violating suspects’ rights. But marred with a history of abuse and corruption, law enforcement officials within the CPD have been caught torturing people for decades.

In an article published this week, The Guardian exposed a detention facility located within a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s West Side known as Homan Square. Formerly owned by Sears, Roebuck & Co., the building also houses CPD’s Evidence Recovered Property Section, Bureau of Organized Crime, SWAT unit evidence technicians, and ballistics lab. But according to arrestees and defense attorneys, suspects are detained at the site while kept out of official booking databases and denied access to legal counsel.

On May 16, 2012, the CPD arrested Brian Jacob Church, a protester known as one of the “NATO 3,” and detained him at Homan Square. Instead of entering Church’s arrest into an official booking database, officers reportedly left his wrist cuffed to a bench with his legs shackled together for approximately 17 hours. Denying him access to his attorney, the police repeatedly interrogated Church without informing him of his Miranda rights to remain silent.

“I had essentially figured, ‘All right, well, they disappeared us and so we’re probably never going to see the light of day again,’” Church recalled.

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