America Is On The Same Glide Path As The Fatal Germanwings Flight
The pilot was locked out of the cockpit. That phrase finally revealed the full horror of the crash of Germanwings flight 9525.
Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz waited for the pilot to leave the cockpit then locked the door to prevent his re-entry. After which Lubitz, for reasons unknown and perhaps unknowable, deliberately steered the jet into a harrowing 8-minute plunge, ending in an explosive 434 mph impact with a rocky mountainside. One hundred fifty men, women and children met an immediate, unthinkably violent death.
Lubitz, in his single-minded madness, couldn’t be stopped because anyone who could change the jet’s disastrous course was locked out.
It’s hard to imagine the growing feelings of fear and helplessness that the passengers felt as the unforgiving landscape rushed up to meet them. Hard, but not impossible.
America is in very deep trouble and we feel the descent in the pits of our stomachs. We hear the shake and rattle of structures stressed beyond their limits. We don’t know where we’re going anymore, but do know it isn’t good. And above all, we feel helpless because Barack Obama has locked us out.
He locked the American people out of his decision to seize the national healthcare system.
He locked us out when we wanted to know why the IRS was attacking conservatives.
He locked us out of having a say in his decision to tear up our immigration laws and to give over a trillion dollars in benefits to those who broke those laws.
Obama locked out those who advised against premature troop withdrawals. He locked out the intelligence agencies who issued warnings about the growing threat of ISIS.
He locked out anyone who could have interfered with his release of five Taliban terror chiefs in return for one U.S. Military deserter.
And, of course, Barack Obama has now locked out Congress, the American people, and our allies as he strikes a secret deal with Iran to determine the timeline (not prevention) of their acquisition of nuclear weapons.
Was Andreas Lubitz depressed, insane, or abysmally evil when he decided to lock that cockpit door and listen to no voices other than those in his head? Did he somehow believe himself to be doing the right thing? The voice recordings from the doomed aircraft reveal that as the jet began its rapid descent, the passengers were quiet. There was probably some nervous laughter, confusion, a bit of comforting chatter with seat mates, followed by a brief period in which anxiety had not yet metastasized into terror. It was only near the end of the 8-minute plunge that everyone finally understood what was really happening. Only near the end when they began to scream.
Like those passengers, a growing number of Americans feel a helpless dread as they come to the inescapable conclusion that our nation’s decline is an act of choice rather than of chance.
The choice of one man who is in full control of our 8-year plunge. I wonder when America will begin to scream.
Obama’s Brother Speaks Out Against Obama And His Deception
There’s no arguing that there is a shroud of mystery surrounding Barack Obama, as countless statements released by the president have been proven to be lies. However, Obama’s brother recently dropped a bombshell so extreme, that it may just be enough to topple the man for good.
The remarks were made during an interview between Joel Gilbert – the man who produced the film, “Dreams From My Real Father: A Story of Reds and Deception” – and Obama’s brother, Malik Obama. During a 12-minute clip that was made from the Q&A session, Malik informs the public of many truths – or mistruths – relevant to Obama.
As pointed out by Gilbert, the American people feel a bit more than deceived when it comes to the current president on account of several promises he’s broken in order to pursue personal agendas. After being asked about Obama failing to cut the deficit, support Israel, and when he lied saying “Obamacare is not a tax,” Malik’s response said it all:
“Well, the way that he’s turned and become a different person with the family is the same way that I see him behaving politically. He says one thing and then he does another. He’s not been an honest man, as far as I’m concerned, in who he is and what he says and how he treats people.”
After being asked how it felt being the eldest brother of the leader of the free world, Malik simply replied, “Disappointed… disappointed, used, used and also betrayed. In the beginning, I didn’t think that he was a schemer. His real character, his real personality, the real him, is coming out now.”
However, Malik then noted that Obama’s own family can’t stand him as they too have turned their backs on him in disgust. “I don’t understand how somebody who claims to be a relative or a brother can behave the way that he’s behaving, be so cold and ruthless, and just turn his back on the people. He said were his family,” said Malik.
Perhaps the most critical accusation comes as Malik claims that Obama has lied about everything since being in the public spotlight, including who his father was. Alleging that his father was actually his Communist mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, many think it a plausible reality.
In fact, even Obama explained in his memoir how much time he spent with “Frank,” and how much he learned – specifically about racial issues (no surprise there).
It’s unfortunate that the sheep of this nation continue to leave their blindfolds on, but the real question stands; how many lies can you tell before all trust is lost? Beyond Malik’s claims – some of which cannot be verified – Obama has been exposed enough times with his pants down for common sense folk to see right through his deceit.
As the liberal lapdog media continues to praise him and give off the idea that the man can literally do no wrong on account of his skin tone, feeble minds continue to support all things Obama.
President Obama never used the words “executive action” until nearly three years into his presidency. Now announcements of executive actions have become a routine, almost daily occurrence.
(Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — As President Obama stood in an Everglades swamp to speak on climate change Wednesday, the White House rolled out a package of eight executive actions, implemented by seven government agencies, to “protect the people and places that climate change puts at risk.”
The announcement contained no executive orders, sweeping directives, legislative proposals or bill signings.
Instead, the actions include smaller-bore staples of a “pen-and-phone” strategy that shows no sign of letting up: a report on the value of parks to the environment, a proclamation declaring National Parks Week, and conservation efforts in Florida, Hawaii, Puget Sound and the Great Lakes.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the actions were an effort to deal with the impacts of climate change “even in the face of pretty significant opposition from Republicans in Congress.”
Indeed, the actions have a political component, part of a White House strategy to work around Congress and force Republicans to respond to the president’s agenda.
“Since the election, the president has had a pretty explicit strategy,” said Brian Deese, a senior Obama adviser. “And it has consisted of trying to stay on offense, trying to push where he can to move the agenda through executive action. You’re going to keep seeing the president in that posture going forward.”
“Executive action” — a phrase Obama never uttered publicly in the first two and a half years of his presidency — has now become so routine that new announcements come several times a week.
The actions can take many forms, from formal executive orders and presidential memoranda to more routine reports, meetings and internal bureaucratic changes. That makes any definitive count of lower-level executive actions difficult.
But by one measure, such policy rollouts are actually increasing in pace. The White House often announces executive actions with a fact sheet from the press office, and those spiked last year during what Obama called the “Year of Action.” The White House issued 228 fact sheets in 2014, more than the first three years of his presidency combined.
This year, the White House has already issued three more fact sheets than last year at the same time.
The Obama strategy on executive actions closely parallels that of the Clinton White House. In Bill Clinton’s last two years in office, chief of staff John Podesta launched what would become known as “Project Podesta.” In an effort to flex presidential authority, Podesta canvassed executive agencies for actions Clinton could take without going to Congress.
Podesta came back to the Obama White House last year, and when he departed forHillary Clinton’s presidential campaign his responsibility for climate policy fell to Deese.
“One of the ways that the White House plays a role is to think forward and challenge the agencies to be proactive in saying, ‘What more can we do? And what more can we do that’s consistent with certain themes?’ ” Deese said.
This year, the major theme is “middle-class economics.” The Obama White House has also used executive action to lower mortgage insurance premiums and regulate retirement accounts. And coming soon: new overtime regulations from the Department of Labor, which Obama ordered in a presidential memorandum last year.
The actions often don’t originate in the White House. “Sometimes an agency has a particular initiative that they want to push that would benefit from getting a higher profile, or the president making a very concrete call to action,” Deese said.
Executive action wasn’t part of Obama’s strategy when he first came into office.
“I sort of see it as flowing from the failure of the grand bargain negotiations in 2011,” said Andrew Rudalevige, a presidency scholar at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. That’s when Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, tried to reach a permanent budget agreement but instead came up with a “Supercommittee” that failed to reach agreement, triggering across-the-board budget cuts.
“He gets shellacked in the midterm, and then sets up a position where he could actually cooperate — a triangulation strategy, channeling Bill Clinton,” Rudalevige said. “Instead of channeling Bill Clinton, he started channeling Harry Truman taking on the ‘Do Nothing’ Congress.”
In the fall of 2011, Obama went on a “We Can’t Wait” road tour, meant to put pressure on Congress leading up to the 2012 elections. It was during that tour that Obama used the words “executive action” in public for the first time as president.
“I’ve told my administration to keep looking every single day for actions we can take without Congress, steps that can save consumers money, make government more efficient and responsive, and help heal the economy,” Obama said in an October 2011 speech in Las Vegas. “And we’re going to be announcing these executive actions on a regular basis.”
In the 2014 congressional election cycle, that strategy was called the “Year of Action.” It brought often controversial executive actions on climate, immigration and Cuba.
“I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone. And that’s all I need,” he said in 2014. “Because with a pen, I can take executive actions.”
Not all Obama’s executive actions get congressional attention, and many involve “soft” powers — like convening meetings, issuing reports or writing internal rules — that are clearly within the president’s authority. But for Republicans in Congress, executive action become synonymous with presidential overreach.
“One of the important roles of Congress is to serve as a check and a balance against the administration, and we’ve seen from this Obama administration many, many times where they’ve overstepped their legal authority,” House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said Wednesday. “In fact, 20 different times the Obama administration has had the Supreme Court rule unanimously against executive actions that they’ve taken, that they’ve actually gone before the Court on.”
As the Obama presidency heads into its final furlong, White House officials say their focus is increasingly on getting all those executive actions implemented.
“We will continue to announce more executive actions, but the president is also holding us to account to execute on the executive orders we’ve already announced,” said White House economic adviser Jeff Zients.
With as busy as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was walking guns across the border to murderous Mexican drug cartels in an attempt to stem the flow of firearms into Mexico, Barack Obama’s most loyal minion still found the time to come up with ways to prevent American citizens from legally owning firearms.
Although Obama’s executive orders successfully kept roughly 64,000 incriminating documents from being released, the U.S. Department of Justice was soon ordered to hand them over, and since then, the revelations just keep on coming, including one that would be too ridiculous to believe if it wasn’t for the Obama administration.
FrontPage Magazine’s Daniel Greenfield captured the Obama administration’s sentiment towards our veterans when he wrote that if the Japanese had conquered American in WW2, we would still probably have a more pro-veteran government than we do now.
This claim was backed up when veterans’ healthcare and U.S. soldiers’ meals were significantly cut to spend on other failed liberal programs, but a recently exposed list has gone too far at targeting our vets, especially with the dangers they face by Islamic jihadists here in the U.S.
According to The Washington Times, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee wants Holder to explain why the DOJ gun ban list has a “mental defective” category, consisting almost entirely of veterans and their dependents.
“According to the Congressional Research Service, as of June 1, 2012, 99.3% of all names reported to the NICS list’s ‘mental defective’ category were provided by the Veterans Administration (VA) even though reporting requirements apply to all federal agencies,” wrote Sen. Chuch Grassley (R-IA) in a letter addressed to Holder.
“It’s disturbing to think that the men and women who dedicated themselves to defending our freedom and values face undue threats to their fundamental Second Amendment rights from the very agency established to serve them,” Grassley continued in his statement Wednesday. “A veteran or dependent shouldn’t lose their constitutional rights because they need help with bookkeeping.”
Federal agencies are required to report names of individuals who are considered a danger to themselves or others to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System’s “mental defective” category so that they may be prevented from obtaining a firearm.
This means that veterans “are particularly singled out,” Grassley argued, adding that veterans should not be forced by the Department of Veterans Affairs “to prove that they have the ability to exercise their Second Amendment rights.”
“Instead VA reports individuals to the gun ban list if an individual merely needs financial assistance managing VA benefits. Although the VA process is not designed to regulate firearm ownership, it results in veterans and their loved ones being barred from exercising their fundamental, Constitutionally-guaranteed Second Amendment rights,” he explained.
Only in the West are we so tolerant that we are quick to criminalize the very individuals who protect from the truly intolerant. We have imams preaching hundreds of violent verses of the Quran that incite hate and violence against us, yet they are free to warmonger completely unmonitored for fear of offending them.
Our men and women return from defending Western democracy only to be met with less pay and benefits than illegal drug runners and criminals who sneak across our borders.
We have Muslims returning from slaughtering unbelievers with the Islamic State in Syria, and they are welcomed back into the welfare system with open arms, yet the soldiers who’ve risked everything and sacrificed much return to find that the weapons they were worthy enough to fight with for our nation’s benefit, but not worthy enough to protect themselves and their own families.
The book does not hit shelves until May 5, but already the Republican Rand Paul has called its findings “big news” that will “shock people” and make voters “question” the candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” by Peter Schweizer — a 186-page investigation of donations made to the Clinton Foundation by foreign entities — is proving the most anticipated and feared book of a presidential cycle still in its infancy.
The book, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, asserts that foreign entities who made payments to the Clinton Foundation and to Mr. Clinton through high speaking fees received favors from Mrs. Clinton’s State Department in return.
“We will see a pattern of financial transactions involving the Clintons that occurred contemporaneous with favorable U.S. policy decisions benefiting those providing the funds,” Mr. Schweizer writes.
His examples include a free-trade agreement in Colombia that benefited a major foundation donor’s natural resource investments in the South American nation, development projects in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake in 2010, and more than $1 million in payments to Mr. Clinton by a Canadian bank and major shareholder in the Keystone XL oil pipeline around the time the project was being debated in the State Department.
In the long lead up to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign announcement, aides proved adept in swatting down critical books as conservative propaganda, including Edward Klein’s “Blood Feud,” about tensions between the Clintons and the Obamas, and Daniel Halper’s “Clinton Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine.”
But “Clinton Cash” is potentially more unsettling, both because of its focused reporting and because major news organizations including The Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have exclusive agreements with the author to pursue the story lines found in the book.
Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which includes Mr. Paul and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, have been briefed on the book’s findings, and its contents have already made their way into several of the Republican presidential candidates’ campaigns.
Conservative “super PACs” plan to seize on “Clinton Cash,” and a pro-Democrat super PAC has already assembled a dossier on Mr. Schweizer, a speechwriting consultant to former President George W. Bush and a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution who has contributed to the conservative website Breitbart.com, to make the case that he has a bias against Mrs. Clinton.
And the newly assembled Clinton campaign team is planning a full-court press to diminish the book as yet another conservative hit job.
A campaign spokesman, Brian Fallon, called the book part of the Republicans’ coordinated attack strategy on Mrs. Clinton “twisting previously known facts into absurd conspiracy theories,” and he said “it will not be the first work of partisan-fueled fiction about the Clintons’ record, and we know it will not be the last.”
Mr. Schweizer and a spokeswoman for HarperCollins, which is owned by News Corporation and is publishing the book, declined to comment.
The timing is problematic for Mrs. Clinton as she begins a campaign to position herself as a “champion for everyday Americans.”
From 2001 to 2012, the Clintons’ income was at least $136.5 million, Mr. Schweizer writes, using a figure previously reported in The Post. “During Hillary’s years of public service, the Clintons have conducted or facilitated hundreds of large transactions” with foreign governments and individuals, he writes. “Some of these transactions have put millions in their own pockets.”
The Clinton Foundation has come under scrutiny for accepting foreign donations while Mrs. Clinton served as secretary of state. Last week, the foundation revised its policy to allow donations from countries like Germany, Canada, the Netherlands and Britain but prohibit giving by other nations in the Middle East.
Mr. Schweizer’s book will be released the same day former President Bill Clinton and the Clintons’ daughter, Chelsea, will host the Clinton Global Initiative gathering with donors in Morocco, the culmination of a foundation trip to several African nations. (A chapter in the book is titled “Warlord Economics: The Clintons Do Africa.”)
There is a robust market for books critical of the Clintons. The thinly sourced “Blood Feud,” by Mr. Klein, at one point overtook Mrs. Clinton’s memoir “Hard Choices” on the best-seller list.
But whether Mr. Schweizer’s book can deliver the same sales is not clear. He writes mainly in the voice of a neutral journalist and meticulously documents his sources, including tax records and government documents, while leaving little doubt about his view of the Clintons.
His reporting largely focuses on payments made to Mr. Clinton for speeches, which increased while his wife served as secretary of state, writing that “of the 13 Clinton speeches that fetched $500,000 or more, only two occurred during the years his wife was not secretary of state.”
In 2011, Mr. Clinton made $13.3 million in speaking fees for 54 speeches, the majority of which were made overseas, the author writes.
The Baltimore Police Department has used an invasive and controversial cellphone tracking device thousands of times in recent years while following instructions from the FBI to withhold information about it from prosecutors and judges, a detective revealed in court testimony Wednesday.
The testimony shows for the first time how frequently city police are using a cell site simulator, more commonly known as a “stingray,” a technology that authorities have gone to great lengths to avoid disclosing.
The device mimics a cellphone tower to force phones within its range to connect. Police use it to track down stolen phones or find people.
Until recently, the technology was largely unknown to the public. Privacy advocates nationwide have raised questions whether there has been proper oversight of its use.
Baltimore has emerged in recent months as a battleground for the debate. In one case last fall, a city detective said a nondisclosure agreement with federal authorities prevented him from answering questions about the device. The judge threatened to hold him in contempt if he didn’t provide information, and prosecutors withdrew the evidence.
The nondisclosure agreement, presented for the first time in court Wednesday, explicitly instructs prosecutors to drop cases if pressed on the technology, and tells them to contact the FBI if legislators or judges are asking questions.
Detective Emmanuel Cabreja, a member of the Police Department’s Advanced Technical Team, testified that police own a Hailstorm cell site simulator — the latest version of the stingray — and have used the technology 4,300 times since 2007.
Cabreja said he had used it 600 to 800 times in less than two years as a member of the unit.
Nate Wessler, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said 4,300 uses is “huge number.” He noted that most agencies have not released data.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says its officers have used the device about 1,800 times. Police in Tallahassee say they have used it more than 250 times; police in Tacoma, Wash., 170 times.
Former U.S. Judge Brian L. Owsley, a law professor at Indiana Tech, said he was “blown away” by the Baltimore figure and the terms of the nondisclosure agreement. “That’s a significant amount of control,” he said.
Agencies have invoked the nondisclosure agreement to keep information secret. At a hearing last year, a Maryland State Police commander told state lawmakers that “Homeland Security” prevented him from discussing the technology.
Wessler said the secrecy is upending the system of checks and balances built into the criminal justice system.
“In Baltimore, they’ve been using this since 2007, and it’s only been in the last several months that defense attorneys have learned enough to start asking questions,” he said. “Our entire judicial system and constitution is set up to avoid a ‘just trust us’ system where the use of invasive surveillance gear is secret.”
Cabreja testified Wednesday during a pretrial hearing in the case of Nicholas West, 21, and Myquan Anderson, 17. West and Anderson were charged in October 2013 with armed carjacking, armed robbery, theft and other violations stemming from an attack on a man in Federal Hill.
Cabreja took what he said was a copy of the nondisclosure agreement to court. It was dated July 2011 and bore the signatures of then-Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III and then-State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein.
Defense attorney Joshua Insley asked Cabreja about the agreement.
“Does this document instruct you to withhold evidence from the state’s attorney and Circuit Court, even upon court order to produce?” he asked.
“Yes,” Cabreja said.
Cabreja did not comply with a defense subpoena to produce the device in court. He said he was barred from doing so by the nondisclosure agreement.
An FBI spokesman declined to comment on the technology or the document.
The signatories to the document agree that disclosing the existence of the stingray would “reveal sensitive technological capabilities possessed by the law enforcement community and may allow individuals who are the subject of investigation … to avoid detection.”
They agree that “disclosure of this information could result in the FBI’s inability to protect the public from terrorism and other criminal activity” by rendering the technology useless for investigations.
The signatories agree that if they receive a public records request or an inquiry from judges or legislators, they will notify the FBI immediately to allow “sufficient time for the FBI to intervene.”
Cabreja testified Wednesday that his unit received information about a stolen cellphone. He said detectives obtained a court order to get the phone’s general location using cellphone towers from a cellphone company.
With that information, detectives ventured out to the Waverly neighborhood with the Hailstorm. The device is portable and can be used from a moving vehicle. Cabreja likened it to a metal detector for cellphone signals.
The device forces cellphones to connect to it. In this case, it was a Verizon phone, so identifying information from every Verizon customer in the area was swept up.
Cabreja said the data was collected but “not seen.” Detectives were interested only in the target phone.
Cabreja said the device allows police to make a stronger signal emanate from the phone to help them find it.
“It, on screen, shows me directional arrows and signal strength, showing me the phone’s direction,” he testified.
The detectives traced the phone to a group home and knocked on the door. They told the woman who answered that they were conducting a general criminal investigation and asked to come inside, Cabreja said, and the woman agreed.
Seven detectives entered the home, he said. They used the Hailstorm to make the phone ring before anyone knew why they were really there.
Amid growing questions about the stingray, details of the technology have been trickling out of some jurisdictions, and it is now relatively easy to find descriptions online of what it does.
Insley, the defense attorney, called it the “worst-kept secret,” and questioned why local police continue to be gagged.
Cabreja took notes with him to court that he said came from a discussion last week in which the FBI coached him on what to say in court.
The talking points included: “Data is not retained.”
Cabreja did not refuse to answer any of Insley’s questions, but he said his answers were constrained by the nondisclosure agreement.
Defense attorneys and privacy advocates express concern about the scope of the stingray’s powers, and whether the courts are equipped to provide proper oversight of the police who use it. They argue that the use of the device amounts to a search and requires a warrant.
Baltimore police obtain court orders under the state’s “pen register” statute. Insley says that law authorizes police to capture only the numbers that are called or received by a phone, not the more detailed metadata and location information the stingray collects.
He said those orders also require a lower standard of proof than a search warrant, and judges are not aware of what they are authorizing.
“They’re basically duping these judges into signing authorizations to use stingrays,” Insley said. “If they can increase the signal strength of your phone or make it ring, they can pretty much make it do anything.”
But prosecutors say the language in the orders authorizes real-time GPS location, and Cabreja testified that police only use the stingray to find “target” phones and not to spy on the innocent.
In Maryland U.S. District Court last fall, an argument about the stingray device was cut short when the suspects took plea deals. And on Wednesday, following Cabreja’s testimony, prosecutors and defense attorneys entered into plea negotiations instead of debating the merits of the stingray further.
In cases where the stingray becomes a sticking point, Wessler said, “defense attorneys are being able to get really good deals for their clients, because the FBI is so insistent on hiding all of these details.”
“There are likely going to be a lot of defense attorneys in Baltimore who may have an opportunity to raise these issues,” Wessler said. “They are on notice now that their clients may have some arguments to make in these cases.”
More Police Brutality: AZ Man On Horse Tased By Deputies Then Repeated Beaten (Video)
Sheriff Orders Immediate Internal Investigation Into Arrest Seen on “Disturbing” Video
This time its a white man but no “White Lives Matter” protest
San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon ordered an immediate internal investigation Thursday into an arrest by deputies after a horse pursuit caught on camera by NewsChopper4.
Deputies appeared to use Tasers to stun a man and then beat him after the pursuit in San Bernardino County Thursday afternoon.
Aerial footage showed the man falling off the horse, and then being stunned with a Taser by a sheriff’s deputy.
The man appeared to fall to the ground with his arms outstretched. Two deputies immediately descended on him and began punching him in the head and kneeing him in the groin.
San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies beat and kicked a man who had stolen a horse and led them on a pursuit. Tony Shin reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 9, 2015. (Published Thursday, Apr 9, 2015)
In the two minutes after the man was stunned with a Taser, it appeared deputies kicked him 17 times, punched him 37 times and struck him with batons four times. Thirteen blows appeared to be to the head. The allegedly stolen horse stood idly nearby.
The man did not appear to move from his position lying on the ground for more than 45 minutes. He did not appear to receive medical attention while deputies stood around him during that time.
The man, identified as Francis Jared Pusok, 30, of Apple Valley, was hospitalized with unknown injuries, authorities said.
Exclusive aerial footage showed a group of up to five sheriff’s deputies kicking and punching a man who led deputies on a pursuit in the Deep Creek area of Apple Valley before 3 p.m. Thursday, April 9, 2015. (Published Thursday, Apr 9, 2015)
His girlfriend, Jolene Bindner, said she hasn’t been able to get answers from the Sheriff’s Department about Pusok’s condition, let alone what hospital he’s at.
“They have not told me a thing,” she said. “How can you be tased and still feel it’s necessary to beat him like that? I don’t understand.
Three deputies were injured during the search. Two suffered dehydration and a third was injured when kicked by the horse. All three were taken to a hospital for treatment.
McMahon told NBC4 he was launching an internal investigation into the actions of the deputies.
“I’m not sure if there was a struggle with the suspect,” McMahon said. “It appears there was in the early parts of the video. What happens afterwards, I’m not sure of but we will investigate it thoroughly.”
The series of events started when deputies from the Victor Valley station went to a home on Zuni Road to serve a search warrant in an identity theft investigation, authorities said in a news release.
The suspect took off in a vehicle and deputies initiated a pursuit through unincorporated Apple Valley, the town of Apple Valley and unincorporated Hesperia. The area is more than 80 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.
Pusok allegedly abandoned the vehicle 40 miles away from Hesperia in a place called Bowen Ranch where he took off running.
During a search on foot, with off-road vehicles and by helicopter, deputies learned the suspect had stolen a horse and rode it on dirt trails through rugged, steep terrain, causing numerous injuries to the horse.
A sheriff’s helicopter inserted a team of deputies to take the suspect into custody. As deputies made contact with Pusok, the horse threw him off.
Deputies said the Taser was ineffective due to his loose clothing and a use of force occurred.
“I can certainly understand the concerns in the community based on what they saw on the video,” McMahon said. “I’m disturbed by what I see in the video. But I don’t need to jump to conclusions at this point, until we do a complete and thorough investigation. If our deputy sheriff’s did something wrong, they’ll be put off work and they’ll be dealt with appropriately, all in accordance with the law as well as our department policy.”
San Bernardino Superior Court records show Pusok has convictions for resisting arrest, animal cruelty, disturbing the peace, attempted robbery and failure to provide evidence of financial responsibility.
The American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement that while they understand police officers are authorized to use force, they “are deeply troubled by the video images that appear to show San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies beating a man after he surrendered.”
President Obama has long known that the real decision maker in Iran is Ayatollah Khamenei, the so-called supreme leader. While other Iranian officials have negotiated with Western powers over the mullahs’ nuclear program, Khamenei’s opinion is the only one that really counts. It is for this reason that Obama began writing directly to Khamenei early in his presidency.
Earlier today, Khamenei broke his silence on the supposed “framework” the Obama administration has been trumpeting as the basis for a nuclear accord. Khamenei’s speech pulled the rug out from underneath the administration.
Khamenei accused the Obama administration of “lying” about the proposed terms, being “deceptive,” and having “devilish” intentions, according to multiple published accounts of his speech, as well as posts on his official Twitter feed.
Khamenei also disputed the key terms Obama administration officials have said were agreed upon in principle. Economic sanctions will not be phased out once Iran’s compliance has been “verified,” according to the Ayatollah. Instead, Khamenei said that if the U.S. wants a deal, then all sanctions must be dropped as soon as the agreement is finalized. Khamenei also put strict limits on the reach of the inspectors who would be tasked with this verification process in the first place.
Beginning earlier this month and in the days since, Obama and his advisers have attempted to portray the negotiations as major step forward. During an appearance in the Rose Garden on April 2, Obama said the U.S. and its allies have “reached a historic understanding with Iran.”
Khamenei does not agree. “There was no need to take a position” on the supposed deal before today, Khamenei said. “The officials are saying that nothing has been done yet and nothing is obligatory. I neither agree nor disagree [with any deal].”
“What has been done so far does not guarantee an agreement, nor its contents, nor even that the negotiations will continue to the end,” Khamenei elaborated.
“I neither support nor oppose it,” Khamenei reportedly said of the proposed deal. “Everything is in the details; it may be that the deceptive other side wants to restrict us in the details.”
It gets much worse.
When Obama announced that a “framework” for the deal was in place earlier this month, the administration released a fact sheet purportedly showing the agreed upon “parameters.” The White House said the terms outlined in the fact sheet “reflect the significant progress that has been made in discussions between the P5+1, the European Union, and Iran.”
Khamenei would beg to differ.
“The White House put out a statement just a few hours after our negotiators finished their talks…this statement, which they called a ‘fact sheet’, was wrong on most of the issues,” Khamenei said, according to Reuters. Khamenei added that the fact sheet, which doesn’t match Iran’s understanding, exposes America’s “devilish” intentions.
Khamenei’s social media team emphasized many of these points on his official Twitter feed, which published quotes from his speech. One tweet reads: “It’s all about the details. The disloyal side may want to stab #Iran in the back over the details; It is too early to congratulate. #IranTalks.”
VA makes little headway in fight to shorten waits for care
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A year after Americans recoiled at new revelations that sick veterans were getting sicker while languishing on waiting lists — and months after the Department of Veterans Affairs instituted major reforms costing billions of dollars — government data shows that the number of patients facing long waits at VA facilities has not dropped at all.
No one expected that the VA mess could be fixed overnight. But The Associated Press has found that since the summer, the number of vets waiting more than 30 or 60 days for non-emergency care has largely stayed flat. The number of medical appointments that take longer than 90 days to complete has nearly doubled.
Nearly 894,000 appointments completed at VA medical facilities from Aug. 1 to Feb. 28 failed to meet the health system’s timeliness goal, which calls for patients to be seen within 30 days.
That means roughly one in 36 patient visits to a caregiver involved a delay of at least a month. Nearly 232,000 of those appointments involved a delay of longer than 60 days — a figure that doesn’t include cancellations, patient no-shows, or instances where veterans gave up and sought care elsewhere.
A closer look reveals deep geographic disparities.
Many delay-prone facilities are clustered within a few hours’ drive of each other in a handful of Southern states, often in areas with a strong military presence, a partly rural population and patient growth that has outpaced the VA’s sluggish planning process.
Of the 75 clinics and hospitals with the highest percentage of patients waiting more than 30 days for care, 12 are in Tennessee or Kentucky, 11 are in eastern North Carolina and the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, 11 more are in Georgia and southern Alabama, and six are in north Florida.
Seven more were clustered in the region between Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Those 47 clinics and hospitals represent just a fraction of the more than 1,000 VA facilities nationwide, but they were responsible for more than one in five of the appointments that took longer than 60 days to complete, even though they accounted for less than 6 percent of patient visits.
That has meant big headaches for veterans like Rosie Noel, a retired Marine gunnery sergeant who was awarded the Purple Heart in Iraq after rocket shrapnel slashed open her cheek and broke her jaw.
Noel, 47, said it took 10 months for the VA to successfully schedule her for a follow-up exam and biopsy after an abnormal cervical cancer screening test in June 2013.
First, she said, her physician failed to mention she needed the exam at all. Then, her first scheduled appointment in February 2014 was postponed due to another medical provider’s “family emergency.” She said her make up appointment at the VA hospital in Fayetteville, one of the most backed-up facilities in the country, was abruptly canceled when she was nearly two hours into the drive from her home in Sneads Ferry on the coast.
Noel said she was so enraged, she warned the caller that she had post-traumatic stress disorder, she wasn’t going to turn around — and they better have security meet her in the lobby.
“I served my country. I’m combat wounded. And to be treated like I’m nothing is unconscionable,” she said.
The AP examined wait times at 940 individual VA facilities from Sept. 1 through Feb 28 to gauge any changes since a scandal over delays and attempts to cover them up led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in May and prompted lawmakers to pass the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act in August. The analysis included all VA hospitals and outpatient clinics for which consistent wait time data was available. It excluded residential treatment centers, homeless dormitories and disability evaluation centers. Data for individual facilities were not available for August.
It is difficult to quantify exactly how things have changed because the VA introduced a new method for measuring wait times at the end of the summer. VA officials say the new methodology is more accurate, but its adoption also meant that about half of all patient appointments previously considered delayed are now being classified as meeting VA timeliness standards. That means published wait times now can’t be directly compared with data the VA released last spring.
The trend, however, is clear: Under the VA’s old method for calculating delays, the percentage of appointments that took longer than 30 days to complete had been steadily ticking up, from 4.2 percent in May to nearly 5 percent in September. Under the new method — the one that counts half as many appointments as delayed — the percentage went from 2.4 percent in August to 2.9 percent in February.
The number of appointments delayed by more than 90 days abruptly jumped to nearly 13,000 in January and more than 10,000 in February, compared to an average of around 5,900 the previous five months. That’s not a change that can simply be blamed on bad winter weather; many of the places reporting the largest gains are warm year-round.
VA officials say they are aware of the trouble spots in the system. They cite numerous efforts to ramp up capacity by building new health centers and hiring more staff; between April and December, the system added a net 8,000 employees, including 800 physicians and nearly 2,000 nurses.
And they say that in at least one statistical category, the VA has improved: The number of appointments handled by VA facilities between May and February was up about 4.5 percent compared to the same period a year earlier.
But they also readily acknowledge that in some parts of the country, the VA is perpetually a step behind rising demand.
“I think what we are seeing is that as we improve access, more veterans are coming,” Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan Gibson told the AP.
He also acknowledged that the VA has historically been “not very adroit as a bureaucracy” in responding to those changes. It takes too long to plan and build new clinics when they are needed, he said, and the VA isn’t flexible in its ability to reallocate resources to places that need them most.
“We are doing a whole series of things — the right things, I believe — to deal with the immediate issue,” Gibson said. “But we need an intermediate term plan that moves us ahead a quantum leap, so that we don’t continue over the next three or four years just trying to stay up. We’ve got to get ahead of demand.”
He also asked for patience. President Barack Obama signed legislation in August giving the VA an additional $16.3 billion to hire doctors, open more clinics and build the new Choice program that allows vets facing long delays or long drives to get care from a private-sector doctor.
It will take time to get some of those initiatives expanded to the point where they “move the needle,” Gibson said.
Between Nov. 5 and March 17, according to VA officials, only about 46,000 patients had made appointments for private-sector care through Choice — a drop in the bucket for a system that averages about 4.7 million appointments per month.
In many parts of the country, the VA can boast of being able to deliver care that is just as fast, or even faster, than patients would get in the private sector. Relatively few VA facilities in the Northeast, Midwest and Pacific Coast states reported having significant numbers of patients waiting extended periods for care.
Of the 940 hospitals and outpatient centers included in the AP analysis, 376 met the VA’s timeliness standard better than 99 percent of the time. A little less than half of all VA hospitals and clinics reported averaging fewer than two appointments per month that involved a wait of more than 60 days.
The difference between the haves and have-nots can be stark.
The Minneapolis VA, one of the system’s busiest medical centers, completed 276,094 medical appointments between Sept. 1 and Feb. 28. Only 424 of them involved a wait of more than 60 days.
At the VA’s outpatient clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, a facility handling a third of the volume, 7,117 appointments involved a wait of more than 60 days.
That means there were more vets experiencing extended delays at that one clinic than in the entire states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut combined.
Equally surprising: The Jacksonville clinic is practically brand new. It opened in 2013 with the express intent of improving access to care in a fast-growing city with a lot of military retirees and a close relationship with three U.S. Navy bases: Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Naval Station Mayport and the Kings Bay Naval Base.
But like other VA facilities built recently in spots now struggling with long waits, the clinic took so long to plan and build — 12 years — that it was too small the day it opened, despite late design changes that added significantly more space.
“Even our best demographic models didn’t anticipate the rate at which the growth would occur,” said Nick Ross, the assistant director for outpatient clinics at the VA’s North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System.
In recent months, the clinic has been enrolling another 25 new patients per day — a growth rate that would require the VA to hire another doctor, nurse and medical support assistant every 10 weeks to keep up with demand, said Thomas Wisnieski, the health system’s director.
Officials are hoping to lease 20,000 square feet of additional clinic space while they begin the planning process for yet another new building.
Clinic construction is also underway in an attempt to ease chronic delays in care on the Florida panhandle. A new outpatient VA clinic is scheduled to open in Tallahassee in 2016, and a groundbreaking ceremony was held in August for a new clinic in Panama City.
A SLOW PACE OF CHANGE
The Fayetteville VA hopes to celebrate its 75th anniversary this fall with the opening of a huge new outpatient health care center that could ease the types of chronic delays that caused Rosie Noel so much anxiety. (After her canceled exam, the VA paid for Noel to get care at a private-sector clinic; she doesn’t have cervical cancer.)
With 250,000 square feet of usable space, the center will be almost as large as the main hospital building itself. The new campus will have 1,800 parking spots, a women’s clinic and scores of new treatment rooms. It is sorely needed for a region that is home to two of America’s largest military bases, the Army’s Fort Bragg and the Marines’ Camp Lejeune, and one of the highest concentrations of vets in the country. In two core counties, one in five adults is a veteran.
Yet the new building is also emblematic of the slow pace of change at the VA.
Planning for the facility began in 2008, and Congress approved funding the next year. Construction hadn’t even begun when the first target completion date came and went in June 2012. The VA’s Office of Inspector General said in a 2013 report that the VA’s management of the “timeliness and costs” of seven planned health care centers, including the one in Fayetteville, had “not been effective.”
The hospital’s director since 2010, Elizabeth Goolsby, cited the VA’s failure to expand quickly as a primary reason for why eastern North Carolina now has some of the longest waits for care in the country.
“The contracting and building time in the Department of Veterans Affairs is a lengthy process,” she said.
During her tenure in Fayetteville, Goolsby has opened new outpatient clinics in Wilmington, Goldsboro, Pembroke and Hamlet. All now rank among the VA locations with the highest percentage of appointments that fail to meet timeliness standards.
At the VA’s clinic in Jacksonville— a small medical office built in a shopping plaza near Camp Lejeune’s main gate in 2008 — nearly one in nine appointments completed between Sept. 1 and Feb. 28 involved a wait of longer than 60 days.
“It’s not big enough to accommodate the number of veterans we are seeing or the number of providers we need,” Goolsby acknowledged.
One solution, she said, has been to keep building.
A new 15,000-square-foot clinic is under construction to serve the area around Camp Lejeune. The VA also is trying to develop a clinic in Sanford, north of Fort Bragg. And there have been stopgap measures, like the construction of modular buildings at the Fayetteville hospital this winter to host mental health clinics, and an emergency lease for a temporary medical office that allowed it to bolster staff in Jacksonville.
Some vets whose doctors were moved over to the new Jacksonville space said things improved immediately, even if that has not yet been reflected in the statistics.
“It used to take me six months to a year to get a doctor’s appointment,” Jim Davis, a retired Marine who fought in the first Gulf War and now has Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Since he transferred to the temporary clinic, he said, “I’ve called, and within three or four days I can get in to see the doctor.”
He called the change a relief, because he preferred to stay within the VA system for care if he could.
“There’s not a pharmacist at Wal-Mart calling me at home and asking me if the latest change in medicine made me feel sick. But that is happening in the VA,” Davis said. “They are so much more respectful, because they know you served.”
RURAL RECRUITING CHALLENGES
After years of planning, a large, new outpatient center also is scheduled to open this fall to expand care offered at the VA medical center in Montgomery, Alabama.
That expansion also is long overdue. Among the VA’s full-service medical centers, the Montgomery VA had the highest percentage of appointments that took longer than 30 days to complete. More than one in 11 appointments completed between September and February failed to meet timeliness standards. A sister hospital, a short drive to the east in Tuskegee, was No. 2.
There’s no guarantee, though, that a new building will help the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System solve one of its other longstanding problems — a difficulty recruiting enough doctors and specialists needed to handle demand.
Both hospitals are surrounded by largely poor, rural counties designated by the government as having severe physician shortages.
“They are on the frontier of some of the most medically underserved areas of the country,” said Dr. William Curry, associate dean for primary care and rural health at University of Alabama School of Medicine.
That could mean that veterans who might otherwise get care in the private sector are more reliant on the VA. It also has historically meant big challenges recruiting physicians, who can make more money in metropolitan areas.
“Not a lot of medical students want to go work for the VA in a rural community medical clinic,” said Dr. Kevin Dellsperger, chief medical officer at the Georgia Regents Medical Center and former chief of staff at the VA medical center in Iowa City, Iowa.
Dr. Srinivas Ginjupalli, acting chief of staff for the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System, confirmed that recruiting is a challenge, but he said the VA has been boosting salaries since the summer in an attempt to be more competitive in attracting staff.
Goolsby cited similar rural recruiting problems in her enterprise, which serves a sprawling region of hog farms and tobacco fields. Other VA officials said difficulty attracting health care providers to remote or poor parts of the country was an issue throughout the system.
NO EASY FIX
A few places struggling the most with long waits did report improvements.
At the VA in Montgomery, Alabama, the percentage of appointments that take longer than 30 days to complete has fallen from 12.6 percent in September to 6.4 percent in February. That’s still a bad number compared to other VA hospitals but, looking at performance only in February, it would be enough improvement to take the hospital from worst to third in terms of the percentage of delays.
The VA’s most chronically delayed outpatient clinic throughout the summer and fall, located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, reported improvement, too. In September, 24 percent of its patient visits were delayed by at least 30 days. By February, that had fallen to 11 percent — still terrible, but much better.
The VA site that had the most trouble meeting the VA’s timeliness standard during the whole six-month period reviewed by the AP was a small clinic near Fort Campbell in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. One in five appointments took longer than 30 days to complete, and the rate has gotten steadily worse over time.
The centerpiece of the legislation signed over the summer was a plan to expand the number of veterans who are approved to get care outside of VA facilities. Yet the Choice program has barely gotten off the ground.
ID cards for the program were mailed starting in November, but many vets still don’t understand how it works. It theoretically is open to patients who can’t been seen within 30 days, or who have to drive longer distances for care, but enrollees still have to get VA approval to see a private-sector doctor and only some physicians participate in the payment system.
“It’s not working the way it needs to work,” said Gibson, the deputy VA secretary, though he added that he was enthusiastic about its potential. He said some consultants advising the VA said it might take 18 months to build the program.
In a meeting with congressional aides and state veterans service officials in March, Goolsby gave some figures to illustrate how the program was working in southeastern North Carolina: Of the 640 patients offered an opportunity for outside care through mid-March, only four were ultimately seen a private-sector doctor.
“We’re finding that a lot don’t want an outside appointment,” she said.
Reasons vary, she said, but one factor is that switching to a new doctor can be disruptive for someone with an ongoing medical issue.
In March, officials loosened the eligibility rules for the program slightly so it would cover more vets who have to drive longer distances for care.
The VA also has been trying to tackle long wait times in other ways.
The Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System, Ginjupalli said, has been promoting the use of “telehealth” systems that allow patients in rural or backed-up areas to see doctors elsewhere via video conferencing.
It also has reached an agreement with the Defense Department to help reduce long delays for care at its clinic in Columbus, Georgia, by moving some staff to a 19,000-square-foot building at the military’s medical center at Fort Benning.
Dr. Daniel Dahl, psychiatrist and associate chief of staff for mental health at the Central Alabama VA, said the new space will triple the VA’s capacity for mental health care in the area. In February, the average delay for a mental health appointment at the Columbus clinic was 25 days — seven times the national average.
Obama’s secretary of Veterans Affairs, Robert McDonald, has cautioned that it will take time for reforms to make a difference.
He also warned in recent testimony to Congress that the system may still be decades away from seeing peak usage by the generation of servicemen and servicewomen who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Total enrollees in the VA system have ballooned from 6.8 million in 2002 to 8.9 million in 2013. During that same period, outpatient visits have soared from 46.5 million to 86.4 million annually; patient spending has grown from $19.9 billion to $44.8 billion; the number of patients served annually has grown from 4.5 million to 6 million.
McDonald told Congress the number of mental health outpatient visits alone is up 72 percent from 2005.
“Today, we serve a population that is older, with more chronic conditions, and less able to afford private sector care,” McDonald said.
That could mean that without further change, waits will only grow.
The AP National Investigative Team can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org