Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Maryland ammo dealer: 'Mafia-style' feds 'starving manufacturers out of business'

A Maryland ammunition business owner who was just denied banking services says she suspects the federal "Operation Choke Point" is at play -- that feds are trying to starve out the gun and ammo makers.

"I believe the failure of Congress to enact strict gun control led to this method of starving manufacturers out of business," Kat O'Conner, owner of TomKat Ammunition in Gaithersburg, said to The Blaze. "I also believe this is an unfortunate abuse of power. Sadly, I don't see how this is any different that a mafia-style shakedown, promising to leave banks and card processors alone if they 'play along' by foregoing money from certain industries, regardless of their legal status."

O'Conner said she has been unable to obtain a credit card gateway for her clients, or an online pay portal. Meanwhile, she also says that she has always abided federal and state laws, The Blaze reported.

"I do not believe this is mere coincidence," she said, The Blaze reported. "It would not make good business sense and is counter-intuitive for banks and card processors to drop or deny legitimate business activity on their own, unless it was somehow in their best interest to do so."

Operation Choke Point is a Department of Justice and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation program that weeds out so-called high risk businesses -- like casinos, payday lenders, pornography shops, debt collection agencies and gun and ammo dealers -- and stops them from conducting financial transactions.

Senate Republicans just this week asked that Attorney General Eric Holder put an end to the program, saying some establishments are being wrongfully swept into the mix and prevented from doing lawful business. 

"This list appears to have been created with no public input, no compliance guidance or metrics for private entities to follow and with disregard for the legality of a merchant's operation," a letter from Republicans to Mr. Holder read, The Blaze reported. "Further, the list has been used as a pretext by DOJ to limit essential banking services for industries out of favor by this administration."

Meanwhile, the U.S. Consumer Coalition has been lobbying to end Operation Choke Point for some time. 

"This is not a popular program whether you're on the left or the right," said Brian Wise, a senior adviser for the Consumer Coalition, to The Blaze. "What you're talking about is harming a lot of consumers across the country."

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Police skate on charges for blowing up toddler in botched drug raid

A grand jury in Georgia said no -- police will not face charges for mistakenly tossing a flash grenade into a toddler's crib and blowing off his nose and in his chest during a drug raid gone wrong in May.

Then-19-month-old toddler Bounkham "Bou Bou" Phonesavanh was sleeping in his crib when SWAT members initiated a no-knock raid at the home he was visiting with his mother, hoping to catch a reported drug dealer. The suspect, it was later learned, wasn't at the home at the time but was apprehended without incident shortly after. 

The toddler, meanwhile, was taken to the hospital for treatment of several injuries -- his nose was detached and his chest had a massive hole in it, and his body suffered serious burns. His mother, visiting the home from out of state, said he's due to have several more surgeries in the coming years. And an attorney for the family said "Bou Bou" received 60 stitches on his face and another 70 on his chest in a surgery conducted just a few weeks ago, Raw Story reported.

In the end, officers didn't even find any drugs or weapons at the home. 

But a 23-member grand jury panel that heard six days of testimony ultimately ruled that none of the officers involved in the raid should be charged, Raw Story reported. WGCL-TV reported that officials were planning to hold a press conference to give more details about the grand jury's decision sometime this week. And Reason reported that the grand jury did find that the officers had been negligent in the serving of their warrant, and had acted in a "shoddy" manner -- but were nonetheless innocent of any criminal wrongdoing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

John Kerry: Climate change as dangerous as ISIS terrorism

Climate change ... as dangerous as ISIS, our fearless leaders say ...

Secretary of State John Kerry made clear during recent remarks with foreign leaders: Dealing with climate change demands the same level of "immediacy" as dealing with ISIS terrorists, he said.

Kerry faulted global warming with the creation of "climate refugees" and maintained that weather changes were causing the world's nations to battle over dwindling and precious resources, like water, The Hill reported.

"We see people fighting over water in some places," he said, The Hill reported. "There are huge challenges to food security and challenges to the ecosystem, our fisheries and … the acidification of the ocean is a challenge for all of us. And when you accrue all of this, while we are confronting ISIL, and we are confronting terrorism and we are confronting Ebola and other things, those are immediate."

Kerry also the long-term consequences for ignoring the problem of climate change would lead to tremendous costs.

"This also has an immediacy that people need to come to understand, but it has even greater longer-term consequences that can cost hundreds of billions, trillions of dollars, lives and the security of the world," Kerry said, The Hill reported.

This isn't the first time Kerry has drawn a parallel between terrorism and climate change. In past weeks, he's angered several on Capitol Hill for painting climates change in the same dangerous light as terrorism, and suggesting the two were equivalents in terms of the risks they bring the United States.

He made the recent comments just ahead of Tuesday's U.S. climate summit in New York, where it's expected President Obama will urge 125 leaders to take on global warming with "ambitious" proposals and reforms, The Hill said.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

San Diego school takes MRAP to 'store medical supplies' and 'teddy bears'

Are schools sending the message they're "at war with students?" This is crazy!

The San Diego Unified School District is facing plenty of criticism from the community over its acceptance of a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle  -- an MRAP -- from the Department of Defense.

But the school and local police are saying not to worry -- the vehicle will be used for the likes of storing teddy bears and medical supplies, and not for conducted military-type operations, NPR reported.

The Pentagon 1033 program allows the federal government to transfer cast-off military equipment, including armored vehicles, night vision goggles and high-powered weapons, to local police departments around the nation -- leading into criticisms and concerns of a growing militarized police force. But the school district's acceptance of the MRAP has ratcheted concerns further.

One school board trustee, Scott Barnett, called the decision to take the MRAP a "misguided priority," and suggested it was better off with local police, NPR reported. He made the remarks in context of discussing the school's payment for the vehicle, which came in at $5,000 for shipment costs. The vehicle itself is valued at $733,000, but the school obtained it for free, NPR reported.

A day before the school district was to take possession of the MRAP, administrators and local law enforcement held a press conference to stave off criticisms from the community.

"There will be medical supplies in the vehicle," said San Diego Unified School District Police Chief Ruben Littlejohn, in NPR. "There will be teddy bears in the vehicle. There will be trauma kits in the vehicle in the event any student is injured and our officers are trained to give first aid and CPR."

KPBS reported that school officials say they're going to store $20,000 to $30,000 worth of donated medical supplies in the armored vehicle.

The school district, meanwhile, also present artists' renderings that show the MRAP could be painted white and include images of the American Red Cross.

But not all in the community are happy with the school's latest buy.

"They can call it a 'love buggy,' a 'student patrol limo,' or a 'campus polio fun bus' and then paint it pretty colors," one wrote on the KPBS website, where the story of the school's new MRAP was posted. "But that doesn't change the fact it's a piece of military equipment that is unnecessary and sends the message that local officials are at war with students."

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Yes, Congress, our police have become a 'standing military'

Sen. Tom Coburn from Oklahoma perhaps said it best.

“There is no role in for the federal government in local and state police forces in our country,” the Republican said, during a recent hearing, the “Oversight of Federal Programs for Equipping State and Local Law Enforcement,” of the full Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Interestingly, his comments were followed minutes later by a statement from his Democratic colleague Sen. Claire McCaskill.

“I am confident militarized [police] tactics are not consistent with the First Amendment rights of free speech and free assembly,” she said, reminding how Ferguson, Missouri, streets were recently overwhelmed with camo-dressed police carrying military-grade weapons and riding atop an armored vehicle. And one more point the Missouri Democrat raised: Florida police departments, for example, maintain among their equipment stocks dozens of MRAPs, or mine-resistant, ambush protected vehicles. But Florida’s National Guard?

None, she said.

Her statement alone is shocking enough. Why are police obtaining, storing, maintaining and using cast-off equipment from the military – but our state-run military forces are not? Good question.

The militarization of police has taken front and center because of the shooting death of Ferguson’s Michael Brown, 18, and the subsequent Department of Justice civil rights investigation into the shooting officer, Darren Wilson, and into the response of police to street protesters. And the fact that Republicans and Democrats seem equally outraged at the growing threat from military-outfitted police riding armored vehicles through the streets of America’s communities is heartening. 

Nonpartisanship is a good thing, in this case, because it means the congressional talk may not be simply political talk. Action and reform could result.

But what’s not so heartening is that this issue is only coming to Capitol Hill and widespread national light now, after the white-officer-on-black-teen shooting in St. Louis. 

What about a few months ago, when the toddler baby “Bou Bou” saw his face and chest half blown off when police, dressed in SWAT gear, stormed the Atlanta home where he was sleeping and tossed a flash bang grenade into his crib, all in pursuit of a drug suspect? He spent weeks in a medically induced coma and faces years of more hospital treatments – and for what? The drug suspect wasn’t even in the home at the time, but was later located at another site a short distance away.

Or how about a few years ago when 26-year-old former Marine Jose Guerena was killed in his home when a drug-sniffing SWAT team busted through his front door and riddled him full of bullets? Guerena thought his home was under attack and he rushed his wife and 4-year-old son into a closet, while he grabbed his rifle. Storming police saw him with a weapon and fired – 71 times, it seems. Again, it was all a mistake. Police found nothing illegal in the Guerena family home. Guerena’s family was awarded a settlement of $3.4 million in 2013 – about $2.4 million of which was paid by Pima County taxpayers – but police involved in the botched raid weren’t ever disciplined.

Civil rights groups have chronicled dozens of other such cases in recent years where SWAT-type police with an overzealous mindset have mistakenly injured or killed innocent Americans – mistakes that are most often chalked up as little more than “oops,” absent any repercussions to the offending officers.

As Coburn said: “I am brought constantly and frequently back to the position of our founders, not only their wisdom, but their vision” and the vision of police is to “protect and serve.” Among one Founding Father who definitely would have been alarmed at the trend toward police to take on a more militarized look, role and mindset was James Madison.

The pertinent quote, from Madison during a speech to the Constitutional Convention in 1787: “A standing military with an overgrown executive will not long be safe companions to liberty.”

How is this ominous warning not true today?

We have a president who brags about the power of the pen and phone to bypass Congress, an attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, who practically conducts surveillance operations on the press – and taps into Associated Press and Fox News telephone and email correspondences – to find out the source of supposed information leaks, and a federal Environmental Protection Agency that wants to rewrite Clean Water Act rules that clamp down on private property rights even further, with or without congressional permission. 

That’s just a drop in the bucket of executive overreach – of an “overgrown executive” branch Madison feared.

Now add in a nationwide shift in police departments so that officers dress like soldiers, train like soldiers and use gear like soldiers. The Pentagon’s 1033 program alone has awarded more than $4.3 billion of cast-off Department of Defense equipment to police stations around the nation since 1997 – and nearly half a billion in 2013 alone. Granted, some of that equipment is of the office-supply type. But the rest is armored vehicles, tactical weaponry, night vision goggles, body armor and Kevlar and the like.

Now send those officers into the streets, and by all appearance, they look like soldiers – full-time law enforcement agents who serve as a “standing military,” just like Madison warned.

Again, Coburn had a good point when he said, “I think we need to recenter where we are” with these police departments and the use of military equipment by civilian law enforcers.

Ditto. It’s high time to slow the tide of police purchases and free receipts of military gear, reassess what the equipment’s needed for, and restrict law enforcement’s use of their overzealous tactical responses to certain situations tied to terror – not simply serving drug warrants. Police shouldn’t have the power to ride MRAPs into our neighborhoods and through our suburban streets citing simply the need to keep themselves safe on the job. After all, a police officer’s first and foremost duty is to the public – to keep the innocent-until-proven-guilty American safe, and those who can’t keep those priorities straight have no business serving in the civilian law enforcement sector.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Restaurant owner fends off atheist attack over meal discount for church-goers

Why are atheists so afraid of something they say doesn't exist?

A restaurant owner in Arkansas has come under fire from atheists for offering a 10 percent discount to church-goers — but bluntly says: I’m not stopping my policy.

Steven Rose, the owner of Bailey’s Pizza in Searcy, said to The Blaze that he only offers a 10 percent discount to those who bring in church bulletins as a “marketing tool,” similar to that given to Boy Scouts or military members.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation disagreed and said Rose is violating federal law.
Rose, however, said he’s not excluding anyone and that he has no plans to discontinue his discount.

“It was just like giving a discount to the Boy Scouts or the military, and they made it an ugly thing,” Rose said of the atheist group. The Blaze reported. “From their argument, if I’m giving a discount to the elderly, it’s ageism. If I give one to police officers, I’m prejudiced against people who aren’t police officers.”

Rose continued, The Blaze reported: “Short of a [judge’s ruling], there’s nothing that they’re going to say to me that makes me waiver on what I believe,” The Blaze reported.