Federal Trade Commission files complaint against four cancer charities alleging $187 million fraud

The Federal Trade Commission filed a 148 page complaint against four cancer charities yesterday accusing them of diverting $187 million contributed by donors to the founders of the charities and their family members to pay for vitally necessary personal items, such as cars and luxury cruises. Charitable contributions also were diverted for all-expense paid trips to Disney World for members of the boards of directors of the four charities.

The LA Times reports,

The pitch was simple, and played on the images of a devastating disease to tug on heartstrings and open pocketbooks.

One of the websites featured pictures of smiling children, some of them in hospital beds, one in a tutu and a scarf covering her bare head.

The money, people were told, would go directly to helping women and children sick with cancer, paying for wigs, pain medications, and transportation to chemotherapy appointments.

All of those claims were “outright lies,” . . .

The founder of the four charities is James Reynolds, Sr.

According to the complaint, the donations were solicited from people in all 50 states and the District of Columbia by mail and telephone calls during the period 2008 through 2012. Less than 3% of the donations went to cancer patients.  From the LA Times,

Meanwhile, the little “support” the charities actually provided to cancer patients came in the form of “cancer boxes” of “seemingly random items,” the complaint says.

The packages, packed by volunteers and sent to cancer patients, included sample-size soaps and shampoos, small amounts of Carnation Instant Breakfast drink, adult briefs and bed pads, disposable plates, iPod covers, batteries, blank greeting cards, and Little Debbie snack cakes, according to the complaint.

The Little Debbie cakes were provided, Reynolds Sr. said, because “they make people happy,” according to the complaint. At one point, the charities switched to purchasing Moon Pies instead, because Reynolds said they “make you happier.”

The four corporations are:

1) Cancer Fund of America,

2) Cancer Support Services,

3) Children’s Cancer Fund of America and the

4) Breast Cancer Society.

According to the complaint,  the four corporations are registered with the IRS as nonprofit organizations with tax-exempt status.

I hope none of our readers donated any money to these ‘charities.’

 

Obama Signed Bill to Help Protect Police From Threats, However, Police Are Not Under Attack in America

Obama signs "Blue Alert" system bill

President Barack Obama signed legislation that creates a “Blue Alert” system for law enforcement in the United States. It establishes a network for alerting police expeditiously when there are “active threats” against police. However, police are not under attack and have not been under attack in the US, despite recent tragic deaths of officers.

The passage of this legislation is the product of the continued exploitation of the deaths of Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, who were killed by a mentally ill black man, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, on December 20. It provided a sensational example of an ambush killing that local and national police associations could seize upon to undercut the “Black Lives Matter” movement, which has been drawing attention to police violence directed at black Americans.

It also is one of the first recommended “action items” by Obama’s appointed police “task force” to be implemented. In contrast to many of the policy suggestions, this does nothing to reform police but rather reinforces the false presumption that police face some kind of threat because of increased opposition to police conduct.

“Leveraging the current Amber Alert program used to locate abducted children, the Blue Alert would enlist the help of the public in finding suspects after a law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty,” the report recently released by the “task force” indicates. “Some similar state systems do exist, but there are large gaps, a national system is needed. In addition to aiding the apprehension of suspects, it would send a message about the importance of protecting law enforcement from undue harm.”

Except, there is no debate in the United States. Just about all citizens agree that law enforcement should not face “undue harm.” Far fewer, unfortunately, agree that strong measures should be taken to protect people of color from “undue harm” from law enforcement.

The bipartisan legislation, named after Ramos and Liu, establishes that a system will send out alerts when an officer is seriously injured or killed. The system will send out an alert when an officer is missing. “At the time of receipt of death,” the suspect should be “wanted by a law enforcement agency.” The suspect should not have already been apprehended. There should be “sufficient descriptive information of the suspect involved and any relevant vehicle and tag numbers.”

More problematic is the fact that an alert will go out when there is an “imminent and credible threat” that “an individual intends to cause the serious injury or death of a law enforcement officer.”

The criteria for sending out this type of “blue alert” includes “confirmation” that a threat is “imminent and credible.” How threats are to be confirmed is not outlined in the legislation.

Ashley Yates, co-founder of Millennial Activists United and an activist who was part of protests in the immediately after Mike Brown was killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, declared, “I am absolutely disheartened and honestly terrified,” by the “Blue Alert” bill President Obama signed. Yates worries it could be used by police to suppress protest.

She fears that the system will “encourage vigilantes and place possibly innocent ‘suspects’ in serious danger” because “you only need to be suspected to get blasted out via this system. There is a grave potential for mistaken identity and false accusations.” (Yates shared this harrowing story of 23-year-old Cornell McKay, who was falsely accused by St. Louis police of being involved in a robbery that ended in a murder. Authorities insisted he was responsible, even as it became evident there was evidence McKay was never involved in the robbery.)

The “Amber Alert” system is now capable of sending alerts to millions of cell phone users. It has a page on Facebook, which makes it possible for users to share alerts about missing children. Will the “Blue Alert” system harness technology in this same manner? And what information about suspects will be in any public alerts?

How will citizens be certain that this system will not be manipulated to undermine protests explicitly directed at police departments by hyping threats (as happened in Baltimore when police wrongly attributed violence to a flier urging teens to take part in a “purge”).

What if someone sends an angry tweet that police construe as a “threat” against police? How might that be put into the “Blue Alert” system and what might the effect on freedom of expression be?

More significantly, as writer Ryan Dalton stated, “Police are not being systematically targeted and murdered in America. Black people are.”

No statistics come close to supporting the notion that police are under attack and in need of urgent protection. (more…)

Ukraine Corruption Problems Remain As US Plans New Propaganda War

A year after a US-backed coup forced out the democratically elected government in Ukraine under the banner of “anti-corruption” the state of affairs in Kiev remains unchanged as those in power continue to use their position to advance their private interests at the public’s expense.

The post-coup officials running the government have not only failed to reform the political system but appear to have exacerbated the problem. A new committee has been formed to investigate whether Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and friends have embezzled more than $325 million from a government already flirting with bankruptcy. The investigation comes as Ukraine’s oligarch president, Petro Poroshenko, starts another round of lobbying for foreign financial assistance which includes promises that the money will be used to clean up Ukraine politics.

Combine the corruption problems with a series of suspicious killings of journalists and dissidents in Kiev and Ukraine does not look like it is on its way to becoming a modern liberal democracy.

So what to do? The answer coming out of imperialist circles in DC is to double down on propaganda under the pretext of countering propaganda. The plan is to step up “information warfare” against Ukraine and NATO critics – especially on social media platforms – in the hopes that thwarting dissent will somehow fix post-coup Ukraine’s internal contradictions. Seems unlikely.

While the US government has already been engaging in social media “information warfare” to promote government talking points for years, the gears appear to be in motion for a new offensive. Unfortunately, the government has proven to be terrible at manipulating social media akin to how it manipulates the corporate media and the even harsher truth is that the US and NATO’s problem is with reality itself – a difficult opponent in the media space but one that has been defeated before.

In any case, this is going to get hilarious rather quickly. It is going to be nearly impossible to wage a social media “information warfare” campaign without getting exposed. As is custom the government will likely hire private defense and intelligence contractors to do the dirty work in hopes of removing its fingerprints. And, as is custom, those firms will surely screw up and embarrass their paymasters.

Get your popcorn.

The Roundup for May 19th, 2015

We move on to Venezuela. Three finals down, two to go!

Happy Birthday to Malcolm X! He would have been 90 if he was alive.

International Politics

Overall

– The United Nations warned at least 2,000 refugees were trapped at sea for weeks off the coast of Myanmar

– At least 170 Islamic State fighters in Syria died as a result of U.S.-led airstrikes

– The United Nations will use “realistic options” to get Israel to speak with Palestinian leaders

Middle East

Part one of two with scholar Norman Finkelstein about Israel’s abilities to use violence in its history

– Syrian rebels captured the Syrian government’s largest military base

– After the expiration of the truce with Yemeni rebels, a large number of airstrikes hit Sana’a

Africa

– Jeremy Scahill: “How Somalia’s Al Shabaab Turned Against Its Own Foreign Fighters

– At least 22 militants tied to ISIS were killed by Algerian forces in Algeria (more…)

Over Easy: Texas War Veteran Dies in Custody Saying “I Can’t Breathe” 20 Times

On July 13, 2012, Sgt. James Brown, an active duty Fort Bliss soldier, self-reported to the El Paso County jail to serve a 48-hour sentence for a DUI. Brown, who had served two tours of combat duty in Iraq, wrote on a jail form that he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress. According to a news report, Brown contacted his mother after he checked in to the jail, and explained that the jail now wanted him to stay for a week, and that he had decided that he “just wanted to pay the court fine and get out of here.” His mother sent the money for the fine, but James Brown never returned home. He was 26 years old.

The autopsy report said that Brown died of natural causes related to “sickle cell crisis.” Local news station KFOX14 fought “all the way to the attorney general” to obtain the video showing what happened in the jail in the moments before Brown’s death.

At some point, Brown experiences an episode of bleeding, although it is unclear where on his body he is bleeding. A staff team wearing riot gear storm the cell, restrain and shackle Brown, and perform a forced cell extraction- but Brown is not fighting. He pleads repeatedly, “I can’t breathe.” The staff carries Brown to the ‘infirmary,’ and even though Brown is audibly short of breath and his condition is obviously deteriorating, no ambulance is called. Instead of summoning help, the guards place a spit hood over his head. James Brown’s family attorney B.J. Crow described to KFOX:

B.J. Crow: “When a 26-year-old active military person checks into jail for a court-imposed sentence on a Friday, and he leaves Sunday, you know, in a casket, something went horribly wrong there. … He was bleeding out the ears, the nose, the mouth. His kidneys shut down. His blood pressure dropped to a very dangerous level. And his liver shut down.”

In the end, James Brown dies naked in a cell, not blinking or responding.

The family is suing for wrongful death.

James Brown, who survived two tours of duty as a combat soldier, was murdered. The autopsy report may also be suspect- because he would likely be alive today but for the torture at the hands of jail guards, his death was more accurately a homicide. The jail fought hard to keep the video secret. There are various versions of ‘sickle cell crisis,’ a condition that requires immediate medical attention. Brown needed to be in an ICU, not a torture chamber. I believe that the staff should be indicted, because they are dangerous.

Late Night FDL: Delilah

Florence + The Machine – Delilah

Ahead of their new album, How Big How Blue How Beautiful, they released another track…

In less than two weeks, Florence and the Machine will return with their much-anticipated new album, How Big How Blue How Beautiful. Already we’ve heard a handful of its tracks, including “What Kind of Man”, “Ship to Wreck”, and “St. Jude”. Now, the UK outfit has offered another preview in “Delilah”.

Frontwoman Florence Welch may still be nursing a broken foot, but her voice is as mighty as ever. Here, Welch goes high and low with ease — a sultry sorceress one minute, a falsetto-blessed nightingale the next.

How Big How Blue How Beautiful arrives on June 2nd through Republic Records.

What’s on your mind tonite…?

MENA Mashup: Pentagon claims Ramadi a mere setback are ‘delusional’

McClatchy published this excellent report yesterday…Experts: U.S. claims Ramadi a mere setback are ‘delusional’

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration Monday called the fall of the capital of Iraq’s Anbar province to the Islamic State a temporary setback that Iraqi forces would reverse with U.S. support. Experts dismissed that assessment as ludicrous.

“Delusional, really, is the better word,” Ali Khedery, a former U.S. official who served as an adviser to five U.S. ambassadors to Iraq and three heads of U.S. Central Command, said of the administration’s statement. “It’s unbelievable, frankly. I now know what it’s like to have lived through Vietnam, I guess.”

Experts called the loss a stunning blow to the Iraqi government and U.S. strategy.

It wasn’t clear why the administration clung to an upbeat message three days after the Islamic State overran most of Ramadi and a day after Iraq’s best special forces unit fled the city with other troops, local police and tribal fighters. The message was delivered in nearly identical verbiage by White House, State Department and Pentagon spokesmen and was reinforced by a statement from Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“ISIL’s gains in Ramadi are a serious setback for its long-suffering inhabitants. It is also a setback for the ISF (Iraqi Security Forces),” said Dempsey. “Setbacks are regrettable but not uncommon in warfare. Much effort will now be required to reclaim the city. We will continue to support Iraq’s security forces with U.S. airstrikes, training and equipment.”

It wasn’t until Monday that the administration and U.S. military officials acknowledged the fall of Ramadi after several days of insisting that the situation in the city of 900,000 was fluid and contested and that the Islamic State was on the defensive in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

“This is something we’ve known was possible for some time,” said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. “Ramadi has been surrounded for probably a year now.”

Vietnam Vet and Middle East expert, Col. Pat Lang, took a very dim view on all the spin… The Borg speaks with one voice. (more…)

Government Seeks ‘Emergency Stay’ of Decision Ordering Release of Thousands of Torture Photos

The United States government requested an “emergency stay” of a federal court decision, which ordered thousands of photographs of detainee abuse and torture in Iraq and Afghanistan to be released.

In March, Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the US District Court of the Southern District of New York was no longer willing to tolerate the government’s secrecy arguments or the government’s refusal to individually review each photo and explain why each photo would pose a national security risk if made public.

The judge immediately issued a temporary stay and gave the government 60 days to file an appeal.

With that 60-day period about to elapse, the government abruptly announced it would appeal on May 15 and filed a motion requesting a stay.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has pursued the release of records related to detainee treatment and “the death of prisoners in United States custody and abroad after September 11, 2001,” since October 2003, objected in a letter to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals [PDF].

“The government simply does not explain why it could not have made its decision long before the eve of the expiration of the stay granted by the district court,” the ACLU declares. “Its last minute decision to do so is abusive of both the court and counsel and should not be rewarded by the routine grant of this kind of motion which the government expressly seeks.”

Back in August, when Hellerstein ruled that the Secretary of Defense’s certification for keeping the photos secret was “inadequate,” the government was instructed to individually review the photographs and inform the court of why each photograph could not be released. Government attorneys rebuffed his request.

In October and February, the court reminded the government that the Secretary of Defense had to certify each picture “in terms of its likelihood or not to endanger American lives.” It explained again afterward that the government could not certify a mass of photographs as a risk to national security. The government never complied, which led to the judge’s decision in March.

The Protected National Security Documents Act (PNSDA) was passed in October 2009 to amend the Freedom of Information Act. It was the prime measure supported by President Barack Obama to ensure torture photographs remained secret.

The law established that “photographs could be made exempt from disclosure for a three-year certification by the Secretary of Defense to the effect that publication would endanger American lives.” Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked President Barack Obama not to release photographs of detainees abuse, for “fear of the consequences.” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates filed a certification to prevent the release of photographs and the court upheld that certification.

Three years later, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta renewed the certification, even though US troops had withdrawn and the war in Iraq had been declared over. (Military operations against ISIS were not ongoing at the time.)

The ACLU points out in the letter to the judge, “PNSDA did not strip courts of the power to review the basis for the secretary’s suppression of otherwise public documents.” The Secretary of Defense “must provided some basis to believe that he reviewed each photograph and evaluated its individual risk in advance of certification.”

Only a “sample of photographs” were ever reviewed by the government for this lawsuit, and the ACLU argues an “emergency stay” should not be granted because the government is not likely to succeed in its appeal.

The government maintains in its motion that an “emergency stay” will cause minimal harm to the ACLU. On the other hand, no stay will mean the photographs are released and the “status quo” is destroyed. It will harm the ability of the government to appeal.

“The absence of a stay will cause the disclosure of records that the Secretary of Defense has certified to be exempt from disclosure under the PNSDA, a statute that was enacted by Congress in order to protect U.S. citizens, members of the US Armed Services, and US government employees from harm while overseas,” the government argues. (more…)

Rand Paul Says Iraq Surge ‘Worked’

Something strange is happening to Senator Rand Paul. Since the beginning of his presidential campaign Paul has started to change his positions on a number of issues related to foreign policy and defense spending – issues that previously helped define his political identity.

First, in a surprise to many, Senator Paul signed on to a public letter to Iran that attempted to sabotage a nuclear weapons deal and start a war between the US and Iran. Then Paul argued – in complete contradiction to his history and purported libertarian beliefs – for increasing the defense budget.

Now Senator Paul is claiming the surge in Iraq “worked” despite the overwhelming evidence that the program merely emboldened a corrupt government in Baghdad to pursue unrestrained Shiite domination of Iraq – a dynamic that ultimately paved the way for ISIS to enter the country with Sunni support.

“Whether or not the surge worked–obviously, it worked,” said Paul, responding to a question from Bloomberg. “It was a military tactic and it worked. In fact, some of the ideas from the surge could be used again. In fact, the main problem we have with ISIS is that the Sunni population is either indifferent, supportive, or hates the Shiite government more than it hates ISIS.”

It is hard to figure out which part of this statement is worse – the complete abandonment of previously held principles or the idiotic analysis that claims something “worked” while acknowledging it did not fix the underlying problem. In any case, neither aspect of Paul’s statement is very confidence inspiring for a would-be president.

Senator Rand Paul may have never been a serious candidate for president, but he is proving to be more of a joke with each lame split-the-baby pandering attempt. He seems to have forgot that the reason people were interested in him was his breaking with Republican establishment orthodoxy, not the embracing of it.

The Roundup for May 18th, 2015

Today we move on to Spain!

International Politics

Overall

– Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa announced the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States will accept refugees stranded off the coast of Thailand

– Gareth Porter: “The Misfire in Hersh’s Big Bin Laden Story

– The Vatican said the “angel of peace” comment on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was words of encouragement for peace with Israel

– The U.S. threatened to impose more sanctions against North Korea as they are “not even close” to reducing its nuclear weapons (more…)