By Julia Seymour
Memorial Day weekend drivers will continue to take a hit as gasoline prices remain high.
May 20 marks the 1,245th straight day that the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline costs more than $3 a gallon, according to AAA data. That’s nearly three-and-a-half years above $3 a gallon.
USA Today reported last September that, for the first time ever, gas prices had been higher than $3 a gallon for 1,000 consecutive days – beginning Dec. 23, 2010, through Sept. 17, 2013. Unfortunately, that awful record streak of sustained highs has not been broken. Gas prices dipped in the fall, down to $3.179 (Nov. 12), but surged again.
The national average on May 20, 2014, for regular gas was $3.642 a gallon, slightly less than the $3.653 a gallon average one year earlier.
On May 18, USA Today turned to the issue of gas prices again writing that “rumors about the demise of U.S. gasoline demand have been greatly exaggerated.” Javier E. David of CNBC wrote for USA Today that international factors were keeping prices high and “defied the gravitational pull” of factors “that should blunt demand.”
AAA’s Memorial Day forecast predicted 31.8 million people will be driving over the holiday and that gas prices will be “relatively similar” to where they were Memorial Day 2013.
ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news shows haven’t spent much time on gas prices, lately. A Nexis search yielded only 11 stories mentioning what was going on with gas prices in the past three months.
by KEVIN GOSZTOLA | FDL | MAY 22, 2014
Journalist Jason Leopold obtained a “heavily redacted” report that was prepared in December by the Pentagon on the “damage” caused by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s disclosures. The government refused to not censor any portion of the report that might describe specific details related to allegations of “damage.”
It contains one sensational line: “The scope of the compromised knowledge related to US intelligence capabilities is staggering.” There are, however, no examples to support this sweeping statement.
Julian Sanchez wrote an excellent summary for The Guardian on how the Pentagon’s report on the “grave” threat posed by his disclosures is overblown.
…[T]he Pentagon damage report concludes that the “staggering” cache of documents that Snowden might have taken (most of which he probably didn’t) could potentially cause grave harm if disclosed to a foreign power (which, as far as we know, they haven’t been), and assumed that only genuinely super-sensitive information gets classified (which top intelligence officials concede isn’t true)…
Having extensively covered the military trial of Chelsea Manning, the contents of this “damage” report seem very similar to the claims about “damage” being made by the government in that trial.
Under Secretary of State of Management, Patrick Kennedy, testified that the “damage” from Manning’s disclosures to WikiLeaks could essentially be perpetual.
Agencies and departments in government were opposed to laying out specifics in open sessions during the trial and often statements about “damage” were vague or cryptic.
Manning faced multiple charges under the Espionage Act (of which she was convicted). The government’s refusal to put forward specific examples of “damage” prompted Manning’s defense attorney, David Coombs, to argue in one motion:
…The damage or injury that is contemplated under [Espionage Act] cannot be too remote or fanciful, or there is a risk that the section will be converted into a strict liability offense. Anything “could” happen – the world “could” end tomorrow; Kim Kardashian “could” be elected president of the United States of America; I “could” win the lottery. These are not the types of “could” that 18 U.S.C. Section 793 contemplates. Therefore, the Defense should be able to probe whether the witness’s testimony that the information could cause damage to the United States is remote, speculative, far-fetched and fanciful by examining such witnesses on the fact that two years after the alleged leaks, the conclusion is still merely that the information “could” cause damage – not that it “did” cause damage…
The court martial began to unfold two to three years after the leaks occurred and the government was still insisting that “damage” had not occurred that would occur in the future.
This is what Snowden can expect. Even if there is no evidence of “damage” that the Pentagon is willing to share with the American people, he will always face the allegation of “grave” damage because the Pentagon believes anything could happen in the future and, if something did, they would try to link it to his disclosures.
By Jeffrey Meyer | May 20, 2014 | 19:15
ABC has failed to cover exclusive reporting from its own Jonathan Karl, ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent, when he caught White House Press Secretary Jay Carney distorting the American Legion’s position on the VA controversy.
For the second night in a row, ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer ignored the latest in the scandal engulfing the Veterans Administration. On Monday, May 19, the Washington Times released documents that showed the Obama Administration was warned about the problems surrounding the VA as early as 2009, yet ABC has yet to cover these revelations.
In a report filed exclusively on the ABC News website on Monday, Karl revealed:
At the White House briefing today, Press Secretary Jay Carney repeatedly suggested the American Legion had praised the Department of Veterans Affairs for the resignation Friday of top VA health official Dr. Robert Petzel. It turns out, however, the American Legion had issued a statement dismissing the resignation as “business as usual.”
The ABC reporter continued:
The American Legion put out a statement on Friday about Dr. Petzel’s resignation saying almost exactly the opposite of what Carney suggested. “This move by VA is not a corrective action, but a continuation of business as usual,” American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger said in a statement. “Dr. Petzel was already scheduled to retire this year, so his resignation now really won’t make that much of a difference.”
The statement — which can be found on the at the top of the American Legion’s website — goes on to say the real problem is at the top of VA. “Secretary [Eric] Shinseki and Under Secretary [Allison] Hickey remain on the job. They are both part of VA’s leadership problem, and we want them to resign as soon as possible.”
Instead of covering the White House’s distortion of the American Legion, the Tuesday, May 20 World News found time to talk about the dangers of germs on airplanes, how Sandra Bullock dances to music every morning, a full story promoting its Dancing With The Stars program, and played a video of a bear rescuing its cub from a highway three times. On Tuesday morning, Good Morning America spent 12 minutes discussing strippers, models and TV shows but skipped the VA scandal entirely.
ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Dr. Jose Mathews says he’s paying the price for being a whistle-blower at the VA hospital in St. Louis.
He didn’t hold back as he told his story to KMOX.
Mathews was head of psychiatry at the VA before he came forward to say that doctors were treating only half the mental health patients they had the capacity to handle.
After, he says he was promptly removed from his position and specifically instructed not to contact any of the psychiatrists he was leading.
But even though he was re-located to a basement office, Mathews continues going to work at the VA as scheduled—but says there has been harassment from some co-workers.
“They’re sometimes mocking,” he says. “There are sometimes people who make it a point to come into my office and laugh. Seriously, this is not a joke.”
He points out it’s only a minority of his VA co-workers that seem to be taking pleasure from his predicament.
Mathews’ allegations have prompted a call for an investigation by Missouri Senators Blunt and McCaskill.
WASHINGTON, May 21, 2014 — The last decade has seen increasing reports on the arming of federal agencies, the militarization of local police forces, and the alleged hording of ammunition by government agencies. The Bundy ranch standoff highlighted the levels that the government is willing to go to enforce regulations and intimidate the public.
Other reports claim that stories about the Department of Homeland Security buying over a billion rounds of ammunition are false, or that the contract was to be spread over several years. Public concern with the issue has died down.
But the story is back. It seems that the federal government is not finished buying ammunition.
In at least three separate posts to the Federal Business Opportunities website, the federal government has placed bid solicitations for over 270 million rounds of ammunition over the next five years.
The smallest volume bid, posted by the Department of Justice, is for 46,000 rounds of .223, 4,750 rounds of 12 gauge buckshot, and 95,000 rounds of 9mm.
The next highest volume bid, posted by the Department of Homeland Security, is for 4.8 million rounds of .357 ammunition a year, with 24 million rounds total in the contract.
The highest volume bid is again posted by the Department of Homeland Security, for 50 million rounds of Smith and Wesson .40cal ammunition, for a total of 250 million rounds over duration of the contract.
That is over 270 million rounds of ammunition.
These amounts are absurd. DHS has roughly 160,000 armed agents, including the Coast Guard. At the rate the DHS is purchasing ammunition, over the next five years they will have roughly 1,600 rounds of ammunition per armed agent. This does not include the millions of rounds already purchased under previous contracts over the last few years. The exact ammunition stockpile of the DHS is unknown.
These bid solicitations come at a time when the United States is attempting recovery. Tensions between the government and the people are high, the majority of Americans believe the government is too big, and that it oversteps its power.
At the same time, the government is increasing its size, they are training new agents, they are ordering more guns, and they are buying more ammunition.
Violent crime is down in the United States, and has been going down for years. Expanding the Department of Homeland Security in terms of agents and assets seems to be unnecessary in the face of a safer America.
We are trying to recover from economic turmoil; the recession hit many people hard. The government is in massive debt, they are cutting benefits to the military, they have cancelled White House tours, and they are threatening to shut down roads if certain funds are not rejuvenated. Yet the government sees no problem in spending millions on ammunition that it does not need, for agents it does not need.
What does the Department of Homeland Security do? They keep us safe, and they assist in hunting down terrorists. But according to the White House, al-Qaeda is on the run and radical Islamists are not a threat, so this acquisition seems excessive.
The DHS already has many millions of rounds stockpiled. Just as the government tells civilians all the time that they do not “need” a 30-round magazine, the government does not “need” 200 million rounds of .40cal ammunition, especially when we apparently don’t have money to fix roads or fund Social Security, or continue to provide the promised benefits to our veterans. It is also possible that they are attempting to create another ammunition shortage. The .357 and .40 rounds are very popular for self-defense, so that’s plausible.
This will not be the last of these purchases; no doubt the DHS will claim that they need these rounds for training purposes, they will explain that they really do need this ammunition because they train year-round, and they will explain that everything is alright, and there is nothing to see here.
4:24 p.m. CDT, May 22, 2014
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Hewlett-Packard Co plans to cut as many as 16,000 more jobs in a major ramp-up of CEO Meg Whitman’s years-long effort to turn around the personal computer maker and relieve pressure on its profit margins.
On Thursday, the company posted a disappointing 1 percent drop in quarterly revenue, as it struggled to maintain its grip on the shrinking personal computer market while protecting profit margins. That marked its 11th consecutive quarterly sales decline.
Shares in HP closed down 2.3 percent at $31.78, after the company inadvertently posted the results on its website more than half an hour before the closing bell.
HP, whose sprawling global operations have more than 250,000 employees, had originally planned to shed 34,000 jobs as part of its corporate overhaul. On Thursday, it estimated 11,000 to 16,000 more positions needed to go, scattered across different countries and business areas.
Whitman said HP continues to find areas to streamline across the company’s broad portfolio, which encompasses computing, networking, storage and software. But research jobs, which are vital for innovation and long-term growth, will continue to grow.
HP is looking to cut back more in “areas not central to customer-facing and innovation agendas,” she said in an interview, rather than areas like research. “That’s not what we’re doing here. You need to look at the R&D spending, which is up.”
The Silicon Valley company is trying to reduce its reliance on PCs and move toward computing equipment and networking gear for enterprises, part of Whitman’s effort to curtail revenue declines and return the world’s No. 1 PC maker to growth.
HP recorded sales of $27.3 billion in its fiscal second quarter, ended April 30, just shy of the $27.41 billion Wall Street had expected.
Whitman said China remained a challenging region, though revenue from that country rose in the quarter. U.S. companies like International Business Machines Corp and Cisco Systems Inc have blamed recent lackluster performances on a backlash against American companies in China, in the wake of U.S. spying allegations.
On Thursday, HP forecast full-year earnings of $3.63 to $3.75 a share, compared with Wall Street’s estimate for $3.71.
It reported non-GAAP diluted net earnings of 88 cents a share in the fiscal second quarter, up 1 percent from a year earlier and about level with what analysts, on average, had expected.