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No Tit for Tat Say Northeastern Lawmakers

August 30, 2017 by Dan Kazan in News and Media

NJ Gov Chris Christie

Despite Texas lawmaker’s negative response to giving aid to the northeastern states hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy in the fall of 2012, northeastern representatives will vote for aid to Texas after the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey.

During the days after the destruction of Superstorm Sandy, Texas Republicans were almost completely united in their stand to vote against a funding bill for billions of dollars in aid to those hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy, one of the worst storms in US history, in terms of damage caused. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas claimed the funding was “a Christmas tree” which included billions of dollars in “extraneous goodies.”

Republicans from New Jersey and New York still remember the pain the disapproval caused, but have decided to vote for a massive aid package anyway, possible embarrassing Texas lawmakers.

“The congressional members in Texas are hypocrites, and I said back in 2012 they’d be proven to be hypocrites. It was just a matter of time,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said on Monday. “We were the disaster that was the longest in waiting in terms of federal aid, and I hope that’s not what happens to the folks in Texas.”

This is a clear example of why disaster relief has traditionally been a bi-partisan issue. No one knows when his district will be the one needing the aid, so how can a lawmaker vote against aid for anyone else, when next time it can easily be you?

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, New Jersey Representative Frank LoBiondo, New York Representative Peter King, and Representative Jim Himes of Connecticut, all expressed their intention to vote for aid to Texas even though Ted Cruz and others from Texas were willing to withhold aid from them in 2012.

Its still too early to know what Texas and surrounding areas will need to help recover from the unprecedented flooding caused by Harvey. But it is clear the bill will pass with votes from those who say they do not hold a grudge.

Trump Calls CNN Reporter “Fake News”

August 15, 2017 by Dan Kazan in News and Media

Jim Acosta speaking at a campaign rally for Donald Trump at the South Point Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

Last week President Donald Trump promised reporters that he would hold a “pretty big” news conference when he returned to Washington, DC after his “working vacation” at a golf course in New Jersey.

Trump made the promise last Friday, saying that he would hold the news conference when he announced a call for an investigation into China’s questionable practices towards intellectual property rights. Instead of the announcement and the conference Trump condemned violence from the White House in the wake of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that resulted in the death of three people.

During a different event on Monday in which Trump signed a memorandum which launched the trade investigation, there was still no sign of a news conference.

Jim Acosta, a reporter for CNN, asked President Trump why he did not mention the hate groups by name in his condemnation over the weekend. Trump’s answer was:

“They’ve been condemned. They have been condemned.”

Acosta then asked the President why no press conference had taken place as had been promised at the end of last week. Trump’s answer: “We had a press conference. We just had a press conference.”

Not letting Trump off so easily, Acosta asked another question: whether the press corps could ask him more questions. Trump replied that more questions would not bother him “at all.”

“But, you know, I like real news, not fake news,” Trump told Acosta as the president pointed toward the CNN reporter. “You’re fake news.”

Cycle of Retaliation?

August 7, 2017 by Dan Kazan in News and Media

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivers remarks at a press availability, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC., April 19, 2017.

When it was definitively proven that Russia interfered in the presidential elections of 2016, an appropriate retaliatory response was developed in Congress by both Houses. In a bi-partisan and overwhelming vote of 98-2 by the Senate and 419-3 in the House, US lawmakers decided to punish Russia with sanctions that take aim at Russia’s energy and defense sectors.

Seriously peeved, Russia decided to enact its own punishing edict against the United States, ordering 755 members of the American diplomatic team to remove themselves from Russian soil.

In response to the Russian demand, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that he will be taking a course of action to retaliate. What that action will be has not yet been decided, but Tillerson promises it will be announced before September 1.

Tillerson met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergy Lavrov in the Philippines on Sunday morning before his announcement that he was planning an answer to the Russian eviction of US embassy staff. The secretary said that the Russians have expressed interest in ending violence now going on in Eastern Ukraine, where Russian troops have been stationed ever since the 2014 revolution that overthrew the pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Judge Orders FBI to Speed Up Delivery of FOIA Request

July 30, 2017 by Gail Nussbaum in News and Media

Kent State University – May 4th Memorial: Historical Marker. Photo courtesy of Andrew Borgen.

When documentary filmmaker Nina Seavey requested documents from the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act, she was told that it would take 17 years for all the documents she needs to be released.

Seavey, a professor and documentarian at George Washington University, took her case to court. Siding with Seavey, US District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that it was unacceptable for Seavey to have to wait until the year 2034 to get the requested FBI records connected to surveillance of anti-war and civil rights activists during the 1960s and 1970s.

The policy for releasing documents under the FOIA by the FBI is 500 pages per day. Since the request is for 110,000 pages, the last page won’t be in Seavey’s hands for 17 years. Not acceptable, says Seavey, since she is already 60 years old.

The FBI, and the Justice Department testified that if they gave over documents more quickly than the 500 pages per month rate, the agency’s work flow would be disrupted. It is even possible that just a few large requests for documents could shut down the entire FOIA operation.

Kessler rejected the agency’s arguments saying:

“Neither proffered justification is persuasive,” Judge Kessler wrote. “In the name of reducing its own administrative headaches, the FBI’s 500-page policy ensures that larger requests are subject to an interminable delay in being completed. Under the 500-page policy, requestors must wait 1 year for every 6,000 potentially responsive documents, and those who request tens of thousands of documents may wait decades.”

“The agency’s desire for administrative convenience is simply not a valid justification for telling Professor Seavey that she must wait decades for the documents she needs to complete her work,” the judge added.

The judge’s final decision was that the FBI process 2,850 pages per month. At that rate Seavey will have all the documents in about three years.

Seavey is planning to make a documentary focusing on what she calls the “ripple effects” of the shooting of four student protestors at Kent State University in Ohio by national guardsmen on May 4, 1970. She is already going through documents that she received from the CIA and the National Archives.

“What I’m finding in this material is really astonishing,” she said. “I’d say it’s worth the wait, but I probably started this ten years ago.”