Stupid Pentagon Budget Tricks

EDITORIAL

Stupid Pentagon Budget Tricks
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD New York Times MAY 23, 2015

Presidents do not often veto defense budget bills, which annually set spending levels for the huge military structure intended to keep the country safe. But President Obama has threatened to do just that this year, and he should follow through if Congress doesn’t make significant changes in the legislation now under consideration.

There are many problems with how the military spending plan for 2016 is shaping up, including budget gimmickry, political chicanery and a refusal to make the right choices. Republicans and Democratic hawks are determined to pour billions of additional dollars into the Pentagon (the House passed a nearly $612 billion defense authorization bill this month), but Republicans also want to pretend they are being fiscally careful. So lawmakers are using any trick to make it look as if both goals are being accomplished.

President Obama began the military budget discussion by proposing a $39 billion increase over the spending cap. That seems high, but Republican leaders did not confront the question of fiscal imprudence. Instead, they took roughly the same amount and stuffed it into a special $89 billion war-fighting account that is off-budget, is not subject to mandatory caps and essentially functions as a Pentagon slush fund.

This shell game dates to the compromise in 2011 that was supposed to force lawmakers to negotiate deficit reduction measures by threatening them with draconian across-the-board cuts in military and nonmilitary programs. The cuts were never supposed to take effect, especially in military programs; it was assumed that members of Congress would be forced to negotiate smarter deficit reductions. They never did, so in 2013 a sequester went into effect, with cuts that have taken a toll on programs that assist the most vulnerable Americans, including the elderly, the disabled and impoverished families with children.

The Pentagon says it has been hurt by the sequester, too. But military hawks from both parties did not want to actually cut military spending. And Republicans did not want to invest in domestic programs or consider new taxes to cover costs, so the taxpayers were left with a charade.

After the White House said Mr. Obama “will not support a budget that locks in sequestration and he will not fix defense without fixing nondefense spending,” 143 Democrats and eight Republicans voted against the House Pentagon bill. Speaker John Boehner then played the phony patriotism card, suggesting that Democrats don’t support American troops.

The truth is that some Republicans are uncomfortable with their leaders’ tactics, but they know their party has no intention of repealing the budget caps, so they agreed to stuff the “war-fighting fund” with money for basic Pentagon expenses, as well as money for waging war.

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More spending, balanced budget amendment and no new taxes should be a death spiral for the Republican party. The fact that it isn’t shows…
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This editorial is nice, but you’d do a lot more with regular front page stories comparing the cost of the military to unfulfilled domestic…
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What a horrible waste – all of this. $348 billion for modernizing nuclear weapons? F-35 jets that are only marginally better than their…

That is not the only budgetary sleight of hand. The measure passed by the House tries to protect the new Ohio-class nuclear submarines, estimated at $8 billion each, by shifting the funding from the Navy’s regular shipbuilding account to another. Not only is that bad budgeting practice, but it avoids the hard choices that the military should be making about what military equipment is needed and what is not. The plan to build 12 more Ohio-class subs is excessive; the number could be cut by at least two.

Under the House bill, the overinvestment in modernizing the country’s nuclear weapons, which is expected to cost $348 billion over the next decade, would continue. That would make it harder to pay for the conventional weapons that America actually uses. The bill would supply more military equipment than the administration has requested — including the over-budget and technically challenged F-35 jet fighters.

The House bill invests millions of extra dollars in a questionable missile defense program. It continues to prohibit Mr. Obama from shutting down the Guantánamo Bay military prison in Cuba. And it fails to address some of the sensible reforms pushed by a diverse group of defense experts, like reducing the number of private contractors working for the Pentagon and closing excess military bases in the United States. These could save billions of dollars.

The country faces daunting security challenges — from the Islamic State to Russia in Ukraine and China in the South China Sea. But throwing money at the military doesn’t guarantee security, especially when it is spent on programs that don’t make the country safer and is denied to programs that enhance security.

Defense Chief Blames Iraqi Troops for ISIS Victories

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said Sunday that Iraqi forces had demonstrated “no will to fight” against the Islamic State, blaming them for a retreat that led to the terrorist group’s victory in capturing the Iraqi city of Ramadi.

While that critical assessment of Iraqi security forces has been voiced in Congress and by policy research institutes, Mr. Carter’s remarks on CNN’s “State of the Union” were some of the administration’s strongest language to date about Iraq’s repeated inability to hold and take back territory from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

“They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force and yet they failed to fight and withdrew from the site,” he said. “That says to me and, I think, to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves.”

Some members of Congress, including Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, have called on President Obama to authorize American troops to accompany Iraqi forces on the battlefield to call in specific locations for bombing.

The administration is focused on continuing to bolster the Iraqi forces, who will ultimately win or lose the fight, Mr. Carter said.

“If there comes a time when we have to change the kinds of support we give, we will make that recommendation,” Mr. Carter said. “But what happened in Ramadi was a failure of the Iraqi forces to fight, and so our efforts now are devoted to providing their ground forces with the equipment, the training, and encouraging their will to fight so that our campaign enabling them can be successful — both in defeating ISIL and keeping ISIL defeated in a sustained way.”

The comments come as the Islamic State appears to be surging, tightening its grip on Anbar Province in Iraq and parts of Syria after American and Iraqi officials last month highlighted the group’s setbacks.

Mr. McCain, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on Sunday repeated his call to send American ground troops, including Special Operations forces, into Iraq.

“We need to have a strategy,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “There is no strategy. And anybody that says that there is I’d like to hear what it is. Because it certainly isn’t apparent now.”

Representative Mac Thornberry, the Texas Republican who heads the House Armed Services Committee, spoke on the ABC program “This Week” and emphasized the need for more and better intelligence.

“The other thing we’ve got to do is improve our intelligence capability,” he said. “We, I think, know less today than we knew five or six years ago about what terrorists around the world are doing for a variety of reasons, but the key way to know what they’re doing, to prevent them from getting a nuclear, chemical, biological weapon, is to augment our intelligence capability and then you’ve got to act.”

Obama’s Plan to Save the Honey Bee and Monarch Butterfly

Insects such as the honey bee and monarch butterfly contribute as much as $15 billion to the US economy through pollination. Can the agriculture industry survive their decline?
By Rowena Lindsay, Staff Writer Christian Science Monitor MAY 19, 2015

President Barack Obama has announced a plan to increase the dwindling population of honey bees and monarch butterflies by making federal land more suitable to the unsung workers that support American agriculture.

The Obama administration has a multi-pronged approach: planting more diverse vegetation on millions of acres of federal land, allocating $82.5 million of federal funds for research, and pushing a reduction in the use of pesticides.

However, some scientists say that these measures aren’t enough to save the bees, or the US farm economy.

The Obama administration hopes to combat Colony Collapse Disorder, an as-yet unexplained syndrome that causes entire colonies of bees to die, leaving its queen bee, honey, and immature bees behind. Bee populations are also weakened by malnutrition, which is caused by a lack of agricultural diversity on lands that grow only one crop, and by exposure to pesticides.

Meanwhile, monarch butterflies face a similar problem as the milkweed, their natural food source, has declined as a result of farming practices.

“Pollinators are struggling,” John P. Holdren, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, wrote in a White House blog post. “Last year, beekeepers reported losing about 40% of honey bee colonies, threatening the viability of their livelihoods and the essential pollination services their bees provide to agriculture.”

Holdren also estimates that, through pollination, bees provide $15 billion of service to the US economy. Honey bees and monarch butterflies are two of the most productive pollinating species, a vital service to agriculture. In 2013, agriculture and agriculture-related industries contributed $789 billion to the US gross domestic product (GDP), a 4.7-percent share.

Many in the environmental community appreciate that the president has taken up an issue many would dismiss as inconsequential.

“Here, we can do a lot for bees, and other pollinators,” University of Maryland entomology professor Dennis van Englesdorp, who led the federal bee study that outlined the scale of last year’s loss, told the Associated Press. “This I think is something to get excited and hopeful about. There is really only one hope for bees and it’s to make sure they spend a good part of the year in safe healthy environments. The apparent scarcity of these areas is what’s worrying. This could change that.”

Others think the administration should be pushing harder on agricultural producers to grow diverse crops and discontinue pesticide use, rather than putting the onus on the federal government.

“If you don’t change farming and you don’t change pesticide use, you’re not going to make substantial changes in the health of pollinators,” Simon Fraser University biology professor Mark Winston told the Washington Post.

Mr. Obama has begun a symbolic effort to save the bees in his own back yard, signing off on a beehive and a pollinator’s’ garden on the White House’s South Lawn. And when May Berenbaum, the National Medal of Science winner thanked Obama for caring about bees, he shook her hand and said “I do care about bees — and we’re going to fix them!”

Bill Gross Thinks the End is Near

You had a tough 2014. In September, you left Pimco, the investment firm you founded in 1971, where you became known as “the bond king.” What was the hardest part about the past year for you? The fact that I was fired. That was hard — very hard — for me, because I’m sensitive. I’m just sensitive to negative criticism — which I think was unfair and unjust. You haven’t been divorced yet, have you?

Nope. I’m happily married. Sorry, the “yet” was not appropriate. Just to explain, it’s sort of like divorce. You don’t want to get up and get out of bed. It is depressing, and it was a hard period of time and sort of still is. But it gets better every day. Like when you’re divorced, you have to meet new people, and life goes on.

You have to deal with the market and your business and then your personal life. Are you good at compartmentalizing? I think I’ve been able to do that really well. I don’t know if that’s a positive, but I think I can separate it. I went through a nasty divorce years ago and powered through it while building a business and doing well in the market. Maybe that doesn’t speak to being a well-rounded human being. I don’t know.

As an undergraduate at Duke, you majored in psychology. Do you use what you learned there when you invest? You don’t need a degree in psychology to understand human nature. There was an old dude, Jesse Livermore, who wrote a great book that said the most important thing in investing was to know yourself — your weaknesses, your flaws and your strengths.

The big question on Wall Street right now is when the Fed will raise interest rates. When do you think they’ll go up? Probably sometime this year. You know, if you’re sick in bed, you’re lying around for 24 hours, at some point you just want to get out of bed and walk around the house for a while. And I think the Fed wants to get off zero, if only to get a sense as to whether they can begin the process of getting healthy again.

Do you think that this low-interest-rate environment has helped or hurt the economy? The savings side of the economy has been damaged. At 2 or 3 percent interest rates, there’s no way insurance companies and pension funds can justify their liabilities and guarantees going forward. Same thing with Mom and Dad and their expectations for education, retirement and so on.

So what’s the average person supposed to do? Save more. An investor could also take on more risk. I wouldn’t recommend that, but that is something investors are doing, which suggests there’s a bubble.

Now you’ve joined Janus Capital Management as portfolio manager. You’re 71. What motivates you to keep doing this? I have an obsessive quality to me. When I left Pimco — or, put it this way, when Pimco left me — it was important to me to prove that they made a mistake.

Are you going to do this forever? Well, my wife tells me she married me for better or worse — but not for lunch.

Republican Rivals Skirt Specifics on Plans to Fight Isis

Republican Rivals Skirt Specifics on Plans to Fight ISIS
By PATRICK HEALY and ASHLEY PARKER MAY 23, 2015 New York Times

Among the Republican presidential hopefuls, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has offered the most detailed ideas about how to fight the Islamic State.

Graham and Rick Santorum want to deploy 10,000 American troops in Iraq as part of a coalition with Arab nations against Islamic State militants, and will settle for nothing less than “destroying the caliphate,” in Mr. Graham’s words.

Jeb Bush believes those additional American soldiers would have prevented the Islamic State from gathering strength in recent years. But an American-led force now? “I don’t think that will work,” he said in an interview Friday, his latest sign of wariness at the prospect of becoming the third President Bush to dispatch ground troops to the Middle East.

With Victories, ISIS Dispels Hope of a Swift Decline MAY 23, 2015

Marco Rubio describes his strategy against the Islamic State with a line from the action movie “Taken” — “we will look for you, we will find you, and we will kill you” — yet he is more inclined to provide “the most devastating air support possible” rather than send in American troops. Scott Walker and Rick Perry are more open to a combat mission, while Rand Paul wants boots on the ground — as long as they are “Arab boots on the ground.”

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has been ambiguous at times about his position on dispatching American ground troops to the Middle East.
As President Obama grapples with the unnerving territorial gains of the Islamic State last week, the Republicans eyeing the White House are struggling to put forward strategies of their own. The most detailed ideas have come from Mr. Graham, a United States senator from South Carolina who is on the Armed Services Committee, yet he ranks so low in polls that it is unclear if he will qualify to participate in the coming candidate debates. Mr. Bush, a former governor of Florida, and Mr. Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, draw more support from voters at this point, yet seem less sure of their war footing, saying they would rely on guidance from military advisers.

Based on recent interviews with several declared and likely candidates, as well as their foreign policy speeches and off-the-cuff remarks, a picture emerges of a Republican field that sounds both hawkish and hesitant about fighting the Islamic State — especially before its warriors find ways to bring the fight to American soil, a threat that Mr. Bush, Mr. Walker and Mr. Graham foresee. (Those three men, as well as Mr. Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, and Mr. Perry, a former governor of Texas, plan to announce their presidential intentions soon.)

Yet most of the Republicans are also reluctant and even evasive when it comes to laying out detailed plans, preferring instead to criticize Mr. Obama’s war strategy.

The fallout from the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 has cast a specter over Republicans as they contemplate new deployments there, restraining some of them while tripping up others. Several say they favor some muscular policies, such as intensifying airstrikes (Mr. Rubio, Mr. Graham, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas) and providing weapons to Kurdish fighters (Mr. Graham, Mr. Cruz, Mr. Huckabee and Carly Fiorina, a former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard). But most have not been bold about trying to sell these ideas to voters.

Putting forward a plan of attack carries sizable risks for the Republicans. While the hopefuls might win votes in the 2016 primaries with aggressive postures against the Islamic State, they could also turn off some independent and war-weary voters whose support will be needed in the 2016 general election.

At the same time, no one wants to get ahead of events in the Middle East over the next eight months, before the first ballots are cast in Iowa and New Hampshire. Publicly committing to an American ground presence this far in advance poses hazards: Such a candidate, if elected, would become a war president immediately upon taking office in January 2017 and would be obliged to face the challenges of the Islamic State (assuming the fight were still underway) even if other pressing matters emerged, like the economy or a nuclear Iran.

Who Is Running for President (and Who’s Not)?
Mr. Bush is among the most elusive. At times he sounds bellicose: “Restrain them, tighten the noose, and then taking them out is the strategy” against the Islamic State, he said in February. The next month he endorsed creating “a protected zone in northeast Syria where you could allow for an army to be built, both a Syrian free army and international soldiers with air power from the United States.” Yet Mr. Bush has not laid out substantive details for such aggressive actions.

At other times, he sounds uncertain: He recently floundered for days about whether he would have invaded Iraq in 2003 — and then found himself defending President George W. Bush, his brother, from a college student’s charge that he “created” the Islamic State by disbanding Saddam Hussein’s powerful army.

As for the role of American ground troops in the Middle East, Mr. Bush was more ambiguous than adamant last week.

“Whether we need more than 3,000, which is what we have now, I would base that on what the military advisers say,” Mr. Bush said Wednesday in New Hampshire. On Friday, after a speech in Oklahoma City, he said former military officials had told him that American forces “should embed in the Iraqi military.”

“The Canadians and French do,” he continued, “but we’re prohibited. That’s just remarkable.”

Mr. Rubio said in an interview that as part of a “strategic overhaul,” he would consider sending American special forces to work with Iraqi troops to weaken the Islamic State’s recruitment effort by “demoralizing them, embarrassing them, humiliating them through strategic and high-profile defeats.”

Some Republicans who have tended to be vague, like Mr. Walker, still lack expertise on foreign affairs. Mr. Walker said in an interview on Thursday that he would not “rule anything out” in battling the Islamic State and that he would allow American soldiers to act as so-called spotters near combat lines in Iraq to call in highly specific coordinates for airstrikes. (Several Republicans are open to this; the Obama administration has relied mostly on Iraqi and Canadian forces.)

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Anne-Marie Hislop 1 minute ago
It is easy when one is not running things and has no difficult decisions to make to be full of bravado and rhetoric to get up the dander of…
Wizarat 3 hours ago
Is it so difficult to figure out for these so called presidential candidates or they are just trying to appease the Saudi Wahhabi buddy of…
Leigh 3 hours ago
Mr. Bush, a former governor of Florida, and Mr. Walker…seem less sure of their war footing, saying they would rely on guidance from…
“We need to empower the forces and individuals we have there connected to the military to more fully engage,” said Mr. Walker, who in the past has compared the Islamic State to “a virus in the computer” that needs to be wiped out in the Middle East before it spreads to the United States.

Several Republicans believe that the videotaped beheadings by Islamic State militants were a tipping point for many voters. In the view of advisers to these presidential hopefuls, the butchery elevated the Islamic State into a source of fear for Americans and turned the acronym ISIS into a widely recognized name — much like Al Qaeda after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The executions of hostages of different faiths in Syria, Egypt and Libya have been mentioned by voters at town-hall-style meetings and private fund-raisers for Mr. Bush, Mr. Rubio, Mr. Walker and others this spring.

As a result, a grim outlook prevails: A New York Times/CBS News poll this month found that 64 percent of respondents said the American military fight against ISIS was going “somewhat badly” or “very badly.” Eight in 10 Republicans held these views, as did half of the Democrats surveyed. (At the same time, fewer than 20 percent of Republicans and Democrats said foreign policy would matter more than domestic issues in deciding how to vote for president.)

Rather than make military commitments, most of the presidential contenders have pledged to pursue diplomatic options to counter the Islamic State. Democrats have, too: Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that Iraqi soldiers had to lead the fight against the Islamic State, adding that “there is no role whatsoever for American soldiers on the ground to go back, other than in the capacity as trainers and advisers.” Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has ruled out American combat forces.

And even though many of the Republicans’ foreign policy advisers believe the United States must ultimately take a leading role in a coalition against the Islamic State, most in the 2016 field, for now, are taking the relatively safe route of expounding on the need for stronger alliances with Arab nations.

“When allies lose confidence in us, they take matters into their own hands,” Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said last week. “I think it’s better for America to extend a helping hand — and help manage events.”

Mr. Christie’s language, including calling for “rolling back the shadow of ISIS,” was less loaded than that of many other Republicans. On Thursday, for instance, Mr. Santorum declared, “If ISIS wants to bring back a seventh-century version of Islam, then we need to load up our bombers and bomb them back into the seventh century, where they belong.”

But like many of his rivals, Mr. Santorum left many of the precise details and potential fallout of that declaration largely unaddressed.

Nick Corasaniti and Jonathan Martin contributed reporting.

GM Inquiry Said to Find Criminal Wrong Doing

G.M. Inquiry Said to Find Criminal Wrongdoing
By DANIELLE IVORY, BEN PROTESS and BILL VLASIC MAY 22, 2015,
New York Times

The ignition switch of a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt. In February 2014, the automaker began recalling Cobalts and other small cars with faulty ignitions. Credit Molly Riley/Associated Press

Justice Department investigators have identified criminal wrongdoing in General Motors’ failure to disclose a defect tied to at least 104 deaths, and are negotiating what is expected to be a record penalty, according to people briefed on the inquiry.

A settlement could be reached as soon as this summer. The final number is still being negotiated, but it is expected to eclipse the $1.2 billion paid last year by Toyota for concealing unintended acceleration problems in its vehicles, said the people, who did not want to be identified because the negotiations weren’t complete.

G.M.’s eagerness to resolve the investigation — a strategy that sets it apart from Toyota, which fought prosecutors — is expected to earn it so-called cooperation credit, one of the people said. That credit could translate into a somewhat smaller penalty than if G.M. had declined to cooperate.

G.M. to Invest $5.4 Billion to Modernize Factories APRIL 30, 2015
Mark Hood analyzed ignition switches in Chevrolet Cobalts and discovered that in 2006 or early 2007 they had been changed.Ruling Shields G.M. From Ignition Suits APRIL 15, 2015
Deal Professor: General Motors’ Stock Buyback Follows a Worrying Trend MARCH 17, 2015
“I hate excuses,” Mary T. Barra, G.M.’s chief executive, said. “We have to be quick and have to respond, and I’m committed to driving G.M. to be the company we know we can be.”General Motors Chief Pledges to Move Beyond Recalls JAN. 8, 2015
Former G.M. employees, some of whom were dismissed last year, are under investigation as well and could face criminal charges. Prosecutors and G.M. are also still negotiating what misconduct the company would admit to.

Fatal Flaws: Crisis in Auto Safety
The New York Times has exposed missteps and delays by automakers and federal safety regulators in responding to deadly defects in automobiles during what became a record year for recalls.

OPEN INTERACTIVE FEATURE
For more than a year, federal prosecutors in Manhattan and the F.B.I. have homed in on whether the company failed to comply with laws requiring timely disclosure of vehicle defects and misled federal regulators about the extent of the problems, the people who were briefed on the inquiry said. The authorities also examined whether G.M. committed fraud during its bankruptcy proceedings in 2009 by not disclosing the defect.

An agreement with the Justice Department, which could still fall apart, would represent a crucial step as G.M. tries to move past a scandal-laden year that tainted its reputation for quality and safety and damaged its bottom line.

“We are cooperating fully with all requests,” the automaker said in a statement. “We are unable to comment on the status of the investigation, including timing.”

In February 2014, the automaker began recalling 2.6 million Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars with faulty ignitions that could unexpectedly turn off the engine, disabling power steering, power brakes and the airbags. The switch crisis prompted a wave of additional recalls by G.M. for various safety issues. All told, G.M. recalled more than 30 million vehicles worldwide last year — a record for the automaker.

G.M.’s aggressive expansion of its recalls after the disclosure contrasted to the approach of Toyota, which kept unsafe cars on the road despite signs of trouble, a decision that underpinned the criminal case against it. The case against Toyota was a warning shot to the automotive industry, which has been quicker to issue recalls ever since.

The case also led prosecutors in Manhattan, under Preet Bharara, the United States attorney, to secure control over the subsequent G.M. investigation as well. While federal prosecutors in Detroit wanted to run the investigation, people briefed on the matter said, Mr. Bharara’s office pointed to its experience in the Toyota case and noted that G.M.’s bankruptcy filing came in New York.

A Record Year for Auto Recalls
More vehicles, including old models, have been recalled in the United States in 2014 than ever before. Explore the size and scope of the recalls, and find out if your car has been affected.

Yet the Justice Department in Washington, which mediates turf disputes, steered another prominent auto investigation, into the airbag maker Takata, to Detroit. Mr. Bharara’s office initially investigated how the Japanese supplier had handled a defect that could cause its airbags to deploy violently and send metal shards into the passenger compartment of vehicles, the people said. But the investigation is now being run by prosecutors in Detroit and the Justice Department’s criminal division in Washington. On Tuesday, Takata, under pressure from safety regulators, agreed to declare nearly 34 million vehicles defective, doubling the size of its recall in the United States and making it the largest automotive recall in American history.

The penalty from Mr. Bharara’s office would be the latest in a long line of expenses for G.M.

The company has spent an estimated $3 billion on recalls and other safety issues in the last year, including setting aside $600 million to compensate switch-related accident victims and their families. In addition, G.M. paid a $35 million penalty to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the federal auto safety regulator, for failing to report the switch recall in a timely manner. The company has been required to report regularly to regulators about its safety practices since last May.

A penalty exceeding Toyota’s penalty last year would be the largest levied against any automaker by the Justice Department. In the Toyota case, the agency agreed to defer prosecuting the Japanese automaker for wire fraud if it complied with a continuing review of its safety practices by regulators. If Toyota meets all conditions set by the government for three years, the charge could be dismissed.

It is unclear whether G.M. will also receive a deferred-prosecution agreement, or if prosecutors will force it to plead guilty to a crime. A guilty plea would carry the symbolic weight of making G.M. a felon.

Even if it reaches an agreement with the Justice Department, G.M. still faces numerous consumer fraud investigations by state attorneys general, and numerous wrongful-death and personal injury lawsuits.

For Ken Rimer, who lost his 18-year-old stepdaughter, Natasha Weigel, in a 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt crash, some recognition from the Justice Department of G.M.’s criminal wrongdoing would offer some peace of mind because it might prevent similar tragedies.

“Is it going to be closure? No,” he said. “But it’s going to be a little bit of justice.”

Senate Blocks Bill on NSA Collection of Phone Records

Senate Blocks Bill on N.S.A. Collection of Phone Records
By JENNIFER STEINHAUER MAY 23, 2015, New York Times

WASHINGTON — After vigorous debate and intense last-minute pressure by Republican leaders, the Senate on Saturday rejected legislation that would end the federal government’s bulk collection of phone records.

With the death of that measure — passed overwhelmingly in the House earlier this month — senators then scrambled to hastily pass a short-term measure to keep the program from going dark when it expires June 1 but failed. The disarray in Congress appeared to significantly increase the chances that the government will lose systematic access to newly created calling records by Americans, at least temporarily, after June 1.

“This is a high-threat period,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, who was felled in his efforts to extend the program even for a few days by the junior senator for his home state, Rand Paul.

Speaker John A. Boehner, at right, strongly supports the measure to end the government’s bulk collection of phone records, which puts him at odds with the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.House Votes to End N.S.A.’s Bulk Phone Data Collection MAY 13, 2015
The entrance to a National Security Agency data collection center in Bluffdale, Utah.N.S.A. Collection of Bulk Call Data Is Ruled Illegal MAY 7, 2015
The Senate will reconvene on May 31 to try again. But any extension is far from certain to get approval from the House, which is in recess until June 1, with at least one member threatening to block it.

“Any extension is going to be problematic in the House,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Mr. Schiff noted that many of the votes against the measure in the House were by members who didn’t think it went far enough. The matter is likely to come up after the one-week recess.

Under the bipartisan House bill, which passed 338 to 88 last week, the Patriot Act would be changed to prohibit bulk collection by the National Security Agency of metadata charting telephone calls made by Americans.

However, while the House version of the bill would take the government out of the collection business, it would not deny it access to the information.

The measure failed in the Senate 57 to 42, with 12 Republicans voting for it, shortly after midnight because Mr. Paul, a candidate for the White House, dragged the procedure out as he promised to do in fund-raising tweets and emails.

Another bill, which would have extended the program for two months, also failed.

Even if both chambers do agree to an extension of the statute, the program might still lapse. President Obama would have to make the legal and political decision to ask the nation’s intelligence court for a new order authorizing the bulk phone logs program, and a Federal District Court judge on the court would have to agree that he was authorized to issue such an order, even though a federal appeals court recently ruled that the statute cannot be legitimately interpreted to permit bulk collection.

Still, while a short-term lapse in the bulk phone records collection could have large political repercussions, it might have only a limited operational impact on counterterrorism investigations. Throughout the lifetime of the once-secret program, which began in October 2001, it has never been the difference maker in thwarting any terrorist attack, according to testimony and government reports.

Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, slowly and painstakingly brought nearly every member of his caucus to support the House bill, losing only Senator Angus King, an independent representing Maine. But Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, who was the point man for his side of the aisle, was unable to convince a handful of wavering Republicans to support the bill and defy Mr. McConnell, who with many senior Republicans on the Intelligence Committee spoke out against the measure.

Mr. McConnell wanted to extend the program as it exists, but realized this week that he had nowhere near the votes to get that done. On Friday, he held a last-minute session before an extensive vote on a trade package to twist senators’ arms and to convince them that a short-term extension would allow a compromise to be hammered out in June.

The debate over the federal program, which became intense after the government’s extensive surveillance efforts were exposed by Edward J. Snowden, was complicated by a federal appeals court ruling last week that found the N.S.A.’s bulk collection of phone records illegal.

Democrats rose to complain angrily after the vote Friday. “Let’s be clear,” said Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California. “We tried to protect this country and Republicans rejected it.”

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The Iraq War Will Never End Until U.S. Agencies Come Clean with the American Public

Ever wonder why the Bush family keeps blaming them for the Iraq invasion of 2003? Bush number 2 has said if I had only known, and Bush 3, the candidate
who mistakenly said he was running last week—can’t do that without coming under the federal election rules—was cornered and finally squeezed into saying he, too wouldn’t have invaded, “had he known what he knows now” That covers the brothers if you believe what NSA and the CIA are telling you. Ever wonder who
these people are who gave such wrong information and have since failed to come
forward with an explanation why 7-thousand innocent American soldiers and Marines were sent to their graves and an estimated 150-thousand more who will need medical and/or psychiatric care for the next 50 or so years? “Easy to start a war, but hard to end it.” Our school kids are taught the Civil War ended at Appomattox, Virginia Court House on April 9, 1865, with Confederate General Robert E. Lee signing surrender papers to U.S. General Ulysses S. Grant, but the war continued with the last battle in Palmito Ranch, Texas more than a month later. Battles against Northern troops continued in many parts of the South for years. A hundred-fifty years later we again are fighting a never-ending war in Iraq. “Easy to start a war, but…” Bush-2’s Adminstration and the neocons that came 2 years before were beating the war drums, finding transparent excuses to invade. In interviews Vice President Cheney claimed to the public, that this would be a quickie, estimating it would be all over in 3 weeks. Patriotic Americans bought into the Bush administration’s orchestration that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was the brains behind 9-11 and he had to be stopped before another 9-11. Angry Americans over 9-11 were easily directed to anybody accused of invading our land, and unnamed FBI, CIA and NSA agents were quoted with untrue but scary statements such as “Bin laden determined to strike the United States,” May 18, 2002. And that’s exactly what Bush 2 wanted. Then a guy we only know as CIA analyst “Joe,” saying aluminum tubes bought by Iraq “can only be for nuclear centrafuges, (August 10,2003.) Our National Security Advisor Condolessa Rice backed that up telling the American Public: “Tubes are clear evidence of Iraq’s nuclear program.” The Energy Department was silenced when it disagreed. No Americans seemed to want to question: Wait a minute! How many tubes are there. Where did they come from or even where are Saddam’s centrifuges? No American seemed to think Saddam’s scary nuke talk was directed at his number-one enemy, Iran which had just ended a 7 and a half year’s stalemated war and did indeed have centrifuges running overtime for nuclear weapons. If NSA didn’t consider this, it was just another part of the big Bush lie that came to us over the years. Story after story by unidentifiable American secret agents who will not come forward to this day. One of the biggest lies was to get a solid connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam. Americans of course knew it was Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda that brought down the World Trade Center. There is no controversy over that. But the Bush Administration grabbed at any rumor of a connection as fact. It didn’t matter British intelligence had found there was no such Prague meeting between Mohamed Atta, the leader of the 9-11 attack and Iraqi intelligence. As Dick Cheney insists to this day, the meeting happened, proving “they are all one in the same,” Iraq and Al Qaeda, proving in Cheney’s reasoning, the US is justified in invading Iraq. We do what we want to believe whether it be true or not. Even the Czechs and CIA deny such a meeting. In early 2002, President Bush-2 approved blanket surveillance of American citizens without a warrant, court approval, or an OK from the Justice Department. The public was informed of the so-called Freedom of Information Act, 3 years later, December 16, 2005. While we are no longer actively fighting with thousands of American troops in Iraq, this most UN-American Freedom of Information Act is still in effect. It means police and those secret agents who won’t come forward admitting their lies that got us in a seemingly endless war, have the authority to pick you and me up while we are walking down an American street and fly us to a hidden jail in a Polish woods forever.
No trial, no day in court. These secret agents caused such harm. They mistakenly did what they thought was right, true but ironically have destroyed what
we once called American freedom. There’s little of that anymore, unfortunately.

This blog is dedicated to bringing back the commitment of professional journalism. As a former network news editor, major market news director and anchor, BILL DEANE gives you the inside story often missed by media more interested in Hollywood gossip. OUR MISSING NEWS gets into the WHY of the day's significant events.