Published May 31, 2013
What started as a scandal over the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups has broadened, with lawmakers and other critics now questioning whether other kinds of organizations were unfairly flagged for additional scrutiny.
Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., chairman of the House Small Business Committee, wrote a letter to Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel on Friday asking a series of questions about the agency’s audit practices for small businesses.
He made no specific allegation, but said that lawmakers’ investigations to date prompted the letter.
“(Congressional) investigations have only raised more questions as to the extent these practices may have extended beyond conservative groups,” Graves wrote.
Indeed, the scope of the IRS’ heavy auditing and scrutiny appears to go beyond Tea Party groups.
Published May 11, 2013
April 17, 2013: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP)
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ recent push to encourage health care executives and nonprofit organizations to make donations to organizations working to implement ObamaCare is drawing criticism from a key Senate Republican who questions whether she has a conflict of interest.
HHS spokesman Jason Young confirms that Sebelius in recent weeks has asked various charitable foundations, businesses executives, churches and doctors to make financial contributions to nonprofit organizations, such as Enroll America, that are helping to implement President Obama’s health care overhaul.
Young said there is a special section within the Public Health Services Act that allows the HHS secretary to solicit financial support for nonprofit organizations conducting public health work. He said most of the solicitations have occurred through telephone calls, but in some speeches as well.
“For the last several months, the secretary has been working with a full range of stakeholders who share in the mission of getting Americans the help they need and deserve,” Young said. “We have always worked with outside groups and the efforts now ramping up are just one more part of that work.”
The fundraising pitches were first reported by the Washington Post. Young said Sebelius made no fundraising request of entities regulated by HSS, such as drug companies, hospitals or insurers.
Some lawmakers and advocacy groups have voiced concerns in recent weeks that many consumers will have a hard time navigating the health coverage options available to them next year as a mix of government programs and tax credits for private insurance kicks in.
The administration has recently announced it would be directing $200 million to states, private groups and local health centers so that they can hire workers who can help consumers pick the insurance plan best for them. The fundraising pitches appear to be another step along those lines. Beginning Oct. 1, people can start signing up for coverage through new state and federal health exchanges.
But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said that soliciting money from health care executives is absurd.
“Moving forward, I will be seeking more information from the administration about these actions to help better understand whether there are conflicts of interest and if it violated federal law,” Hatch said.
Hatch’s criticism comes as House Republicans plan yet another vote to try to repeal ObamaCare.
In his remarks at a Mother’s Day-themed event at the White House on Friday, Obama said his signature health care law “is here to stay.”
“There’s a lot that this law is already doing for Americans with insurance,” the president said. “There’s a lot more that’s going to happen for folks who don’t have insurance.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Published May 10, 2013
Tea Party leaders refused to accept an apology from the IRS Friday in which the agency acknowledged that it inappropriately flagged conservative groups for additional review during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status. Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, said she wants to see resignations over what she called the “disturbing, illegal and outrageous abuse of government power.”
Republican lawmakers also seized on the acknowledgment, after having complained about the suspected harassment more than a year ago. Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell called for a “government-wide review” to assure “these thuggish practices” are not in use elsewhere. House Republican Leader Eric Cantor later said the House would investigate.
Reaction was swift and harsh after Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups, acknowledged the issue at a conference Friday sponsored by the American Bar Association.
She confirmed that organizations were singled out because they included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications for tax-exempt status.
In some cases, groups were asked for their list of donors, she said.
By Jeffrey Lord on 4.2.13 @ 6:09AM
Blacklash released in paperback as Dr. Ben Carson attacked by Johns Hopkins leftists.
If America were a bus, Deneen Borelli would be the new Rosa Parks.
Borelli is the very model of a human being, an African American and a woman who is just plain tired up to here at all of the back of the bus treatment dished by liberals — black and white alike — to conservatives who happen to be black.
Ms. Borelli has in a figurative sense, as Rosa Parks did in the original and literal sense, sat down in a seat reserved for liberals at the front of the American bus. She won’t get up, she isn’t moving and she most assuredly doesn’t care that liberals don’t like the fact.
And most assuredly, they don’t.
Joseph Menn and Deborah Charles
Posted: March 21, 2013
The U.S. government is expanding a cybersecurity program that scans Internet traffic headed into and out of defense contractors to include far more of the country’s private, civilian-run infrastructure.
As a result, more private sector employees than ever before, including those at big banks, utilities and key transportation companies, will have their emails and Web surfing scanned as a precaution against cyber attacks.
Under last month’s White House executive order on cybersecurity, the scans will be driven by classified information provided by U.S. intelligence agencies — including data from the National Security Agency (NSA) — on new or especially serious espionage threats and other hacking attempts. U.S. spy chiefs said on March 12 that cyber attacks have supplanted terrorism as the top threat to the country.
The Department of Homeland Security will gather the secret data and pass it to a small group of telecommunication companies and cyber security providers that have employees holding security clearances, government and industry officials said. Those companies will then offer to process email and other Internet transmissions for critical infrastructure customers that choose to participate in the program.
DHS as the middleman
By using DHS as the middleman, the Obama administration hopes to bring the formidable overseas intelligence-gathering of the NSA closer to ordinary U.S. residents without triggering an outcry from privacy advocates who have long been leery of the spy agency’s eavesdropping.
The telecom companies will not report back to the government on what they see, except in aggregate statistics, a senior DHS official said in an interview granted on condition he not be identified.
“That allows us to provide more sensitive information,” the official said. “We will provide the information to the security service providers that they need to perform this function.” Procedures are to be established within six months of the order.
The administration is separately seeking legislation that would give incentives to private companies, including communications carriers, to disclose more to the government. NSA Director General Keith Alexander said last week that NSA did not want personal data but Internet service providers could inform the government about malicious software they find and the Internet Protocol addresses they were sent to and from.
“There is a way to do this that ensures civil liberties and privacy and does ensure the protection of the country,” Alexander told a congressional hearing.
Fears grow of destructive attack
In the past, Internet traffic-scanning efforts were mainly limited to government networks and Defense Department contractors, which have long been targets of foreign espionage.
But as fears grow of a destructive cyber attack on core, non-military assets, and more sweeping security legislation remained stalled, the Obama administration opted to widen the program.
Last month’s presidential order calls for commercial providers of “enhanced cybersecurity services” to extend their offerings to critical infrastructure companies. What constitutes critical infrastructure is still being refined, but it would include utilities, banks and transportation such as trains and highways.
Under the program, critical infrastructure companies will pay the providers, which will use the classified information to block attacks before they reach the customers. The classified information involves suspect Web addresses, strings of characters, email sender names and the like.
Not all the cybersecurity providers will be telecom companies, though AT&T is one. Raytheon said this month it had agreed with DHS to become a provider, and a spokesman said that customers could route their traffic to Raytheon after receiving it from their communications company.
As the new set-up takes shape, DHS officials and industry executives said some security equipment makers were working on hardware that could take classified rules about blocking traffic and act on them without the operator being able to reverse-engineer the codes. That way, people wouldn’t need a security clearance to use the equipment.
Civil liberties implications
The issue of scanning everything headed to a utility or a bank still has civil liberties implications, even if each company is a voluntary participant.
Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney with the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, said that the executive order did not weaken existing privacy laws, but any time a machine acting on classified information is processing private communications, it raises questions about the possibility of secret extra functions that are unlikely to be answered definitively.
“You have to wonder what else that box does,” Tien said.
One technique for examining email and other electronic packets en route, called deep packet inspection, has stirred controversy for years, and some cybersecurity providers said they would not be using that. In deep packet inspection, communication companies or others with network access can examine all the elements of a transmission, including the content of emails.
“The signatures provided by DHS do not require deep packet inspection,” said Steve Hawkins, vice president at Raytheon’s Intelligence and Information Systems division, referring further questions to DHS.
The DHS official said the government is still in conversations with the telecom operators on the issue.
The official said the government had no plans to roll out any such form of government-guided close examination of Internet traffic into the communications companies serving the general public.
Copyright 2013 Thomson Reuters.
Limbaugh raves about doctor’s speech: ‘Talk about a tingly feeling up your leg!’
Posted: February 09, 2013
by Drew Zahn Email | Archive
Drew Zahn is a former pastor who cut his editing teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership
, Christianity Today’s professional journal for church leaders. He is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching
, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, “Popcorn and a (world)view.”More ↓
At the National Prayer Breakfast, broadcast live on C-SPAN2, Dr. Ben Carson said he didn’t want to “offend” anyone, but his words nonetheless were likely to have made one distinguished guest in attendance – President Barack Obama – squirm in his seat.
Carson is director of the pediatric neurosurgery division at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md. His inspiring story of growing up the son of an illiterate, single black woman to becoming one of America’s most esteemed doctors has been detailed in the book “Gifted Hands” and the movie of the same name.
At Thursday’s prayer breakfast, Carson took aim at a number of topics that may have caused the man seated two chairs to his right a bit of indigestion, including class-warfare economics.
“Some people say, they say, ‘Well, that’s not fair because it doesn’t hurt the guy who made $10 billion as much as the guy who made 10,’” Carson said. “[But] where does it say you have to hurt the guy? He just put a billion dollars in the pot!
“We don’t need to hurt him,” Carson continued. “It’s that kind of thinking that has resulted in 602 banks in the Cayman Islands. That money needs to be back here, building our infrastructure and creating jobs.”
Jan 22, 2013
The gun control controversy is only the latest of many issues to be debated almost solely in terms of fixed preconceptions, with little or no examination of hard facts.Media discussions of gun control are dominated by two factors: the National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment. But the over-riding factual question is whether gun control laws actually reduce gun crimes in general or murder rates in particular.
If, as gun control advocates claim, gun control laws really do control guns and save lives, there is nothing to prevent repealing the Second Amendment, any more than there was anything to prevent repealing the Eighteenth Amendment that created Prohibition.