NEWSSTAND

Equifax Gets Hacked, IRS Awards them a Contract

Well, this seems almost too dumb to be real. Equifax, the company that announced massive data breaches last month, has received a contract to work for the government.

The IRS awarded Equifax a contract to work on verifying consumer identities. The company has proven itself unable to keep personal data safe. Last month, Equifax announced that hackers had accessed the social security numbers of 145.5 million Americans.

No Alternatives Considered

Despite the company’s recent security failures, the IRS awarded it the contract without considering any other bids. The IRS claims that no other company can perform this sort of work. However, Equifax has competitors that may have better data security practices.

Tax Money to Equifax

The government has decided to send millions of our tax dollars to a company with dire security flaws. Not only that, but several Equifax executives may have profited from the scandal. Three of the company’s leaders sold $1.8 million in stock before the data breach became public. The three are under investigation for potential insider trading.

After Las Vegas, NFL Protests Continue

Following the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas, Americans rallied around treasured symbols. The White House lowered its flag to half-staff. The Empire State Building dimmed its lights in memory of the 59 people who died at the hands of Stephen Paddock. Country music stars and fans alike gathered at an amphitheater in Nashville for a vigil.

Several NFL players, however, continued to protest during the national anthem. Three Kansas City Chiefs players sat out the anthem before their game against the Washington Redskins. All of the Redskins players stood during the anthem.

Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters remained sitting on the bench while the anthem played. Television cameras picked up his protest, and fans booed the decision to sit after a national tragedy. Linebackers Ukeme Eligwe and Justin Houston also did not stand, but neither were shown on television. Eligwe sat on the bench; Houston seemed to pray while kneeling at the bench.

Protests against law enforcement have taken on a new tone following the Las Vegas shooting. Police officers ran towards the bullets to save lives and evacuate people from the Mandalay Bay venue. Several NFL players suspended their protests, at least while the nation grieves. These three players, however, continue to protest the anthem.

Victory! Justice Clarence Thomas Gets Spot in Smithsonian

The National Museum of African American History and Culture will finally include an exhibit about our nation’s first African American Supreme Court Justices.

One year after its opening, the NMAAHC has announced a new exhibit on Justice Thurgood Marshall and Justice Clarence Thomas. Thomas has served on the nation’s highest court for over 26 years. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush appointed Thomas to fill Justice Thurgood Marshall’s seat on the Supreme Court.

Thomas’ confirmation hearings included national controversy regarding the testimony of Anita Hill. Hill’s testimony had its own place in the museum, but not Justice Thomas – until now.

Conservative Exclusion?

When the museum first opened in Fall of 2016, visitors noticed that several prominent black conservatives were missing. Famed economist Thomas Sowell received no mention, nor did former GOP Chairman Michael Steele.

Some saw the oversight as intentional. A petition on StandUnited to include conservatives, including Thomas, in the museum garnered over 17,000 signatures.

One Year Later

Smithsonian’s exhibit on Justices Marshall and Thomas opened on September 24th – the museum’s first anniversary. 1.7 million people visit the NMAAHC every year. Starting this week, they’ll learn from the life story and achievement of Justice Thomas, too.

Net Neutrality: What You Need to Know

“Net neutrality” is the current government policy that keeps the internet open. The internet you are using now has net neutrality. Net neutrality means that any internet service provider must allow its customers to see the whole internet, and cannot block specific sites. In short, net neutrality is a government policy that keeps the internet open.

Without net neutrality, your internet service provider could choose to block or slow down certain sites. Internet companies could threaten to slow down Google and Netflix, for instance, unless those companies pay a hefty fee. Companies could stop you from reading certain news sites, too.

One of the most significant advantages of net neutrality for consumers is that it enables an array of protections such as freedom of expression. Thus, any legal content can be published online without fear of being blocked by internet service providers. Some additional protections provided via net neutrality regulations are:

• Extra Fees: Thanks to net neutrality, companies cannot charge you more for using vital services like email or online banking.

• Internet Fast Lanes – Some internet service providers want to establish two different types of broadband speed lanes. The fast lane would charge technology companies a premium in order to access it. If a small business or startup cannot afford the fast lane fees, internet companies will slow down their sites. This makes it harder for the “little guys” to compete with big web companies. The regulations within net neutrality help to ensure that the internet remains a level playing field.

Supporters

The Internet Association is one of the main proponents of the current regulations because they believe that ISPs should not be allowed to slow internet traffic down in an effort to showcase their own content. Opponents of the current rules argue that they make it too easy to access objectionable material that is also age-sensitive.

Critics

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai views net neutrality regulations unfavorably. He blames them for reducing investment in network expansion and slowing consumer access to the internet. Earlier this year, the FCC introduced legislation that would pave the way for internet companies to charge internet companies a premium in order to make their sites work faster.

What does this mean for you? If the FCC adopts the proposed rules, then streaming services would inevitably look for ways to recoup these costs. They would likely pass on the costs to consumer by raising subscription fees. Without net neutrality, you might be paying more for an internet connection that only lets you see “approved” parts of the web.

Next Steps

The proposed net neutrality rollback may come up for a vote at the FCC later this year. Until then, the battle on both sides of net neutrality continues.

California Political Correctness Endangers BART Passengers

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) has seen an uptick in robberies and assaults over the summer. On June 28, the public transportation service announced that surveillance cameras had been installed in every single rail car. The Bay Area spent $1.2 million to outfit its public transit with cameras.

BART managers don’t want you to see what gets caught on those cameras.

On April 22, between forty and sixty teens robbed seven passengers and beat up two. On June 28th, four teens assaulted a passenger and stole the victim’s cell phone. On June 30, one of a dozen teens snatched a phone away from a lone woman riding the train. Surveillance cameras captured footage of each of these crimes.

PC: Political Correctness or Prompting Criminals?

BART refuses to release the security footage out of fear that doing so would “unfairly affect and characterize riders of color.” In each of the three cases, the crimes were committed by riders of color.

Debora Allen, a member of the BART Board of Directors, acknowledges that “people are genuinely concerned” and “fearful about…the recent attacks.” However, Allen stands by the Board’s decision. She says that releasing the videos would “create a high level of racially insensitive commentary” and “create racial bias in the riders against minorities on the trains.” 

BART is endangering riders of all races by failing to take basic steps to enforce safety rules. The Board is prioritizing political correctness over passenger safety. The cameras see raw, unedited facts. The crimes themselves should offend people enough to push for expanded safety measures. The demographics of the criminals should not matter at all.

Armed IRS Agents Raid Bridal Shop

The IRS broke its own agency rules by raiding and pillaging a family-owned bridal store. The government is now fighting the couple on technicalities, after it sold away their livelihood without charging them with a crime.

IRS = Internal Raiding Service?

In March of 2015, the Thangsongcharoens, who own Mii’s Bridal & Tuxedo in Dallas, Texas, saw their life savings sold away in front of them. Twenty armed agents of the IRS stormed into the store seizing their entire inventory. They also seized items that didn’t belong to the shop, including video game consoles and other equipment. They even took and auctioned off a war veteran’s hat that was in the shop for alterations. The agents sold dresses for under $4 a dress. While the entire inventory was valued at $615,000, all of it was sold for a total of $17,000. This is less than half the $31,400 alleged tax debt.

The government never charged the Thangsongcharoens for their alleged crime in court. Therefore, the government assumed them guilty without even giving them a chance to prove themselves innocent. The IRS violated their right to due process.

Even if the couple had been charged with a crime, the IRS still violated its policy for seizing and auctioning inventory. A clause in the IRS Code (26 U.S.C § 6336) outlines rules for rapid sale of inventory. The IRS must wait to auction off inventory for at least ten days, unless the goods being sold is “liable to perish or become greatly reduced in price or value by keeping, or that such property cannot be kept without great expense.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that wedding dresses and tuxedos aren’t perishable goods.

Fighting the Feds

In spring of 2017, the Thangsongcharoens decided to sue the federal government for the IRS’s improper actions against their store. They are suing for $1.8 million in the Texas Northern U.S. District Court. However, the federal government is fighting them back, not on the claims that the IRS acted properly, but on a technicality. They hold that the Thangsongcharoens do not have standing because they filed the lawsuit in their name, not under the name of their shop, Mii’s Bridal & Tuxedo. This is a clear effort by the government to cover up what they know was a violation of due process and IRS procedure.

The IRS left the Thangsongcharoen’s with nothing and now they are rightfully suing for the actions against them. They will not let the federal government get away with this type of wrongdoing. The Thangsongcharoens are fighting back, and we are too.

TSA Faces Backlash for New Book Rule

This week, the TSA began requiring travelers at some airports to remove books from their luggage before going through the security scanner. The TSA says that thick papers block the view inside scanned bags.

In airports in California and Missouri, passengers are now required to remove books from their bags and send them through the scanner separately. Travelers already have to remove their shoes, send their personal belongings through a scanner, and walk through a metal detector. This new regulation, expanded over every single person in an airport, might means longer wait times at security.

Got a Book? They’re Gonna Look!

The TSA claims books and food make it more difficult for scanners to check bag contents. Even without the book rule, TSA agents have the authority to pull bags aside for further scrutiny when needed.

The TSA already faces criticism for privacy invasions and personal inconveniences, but flipping through travelers’ books reaches a new low. Civil liberties groups, even the left-leaning ACLU, has recognized the government’s overreach with this rule. An ACLU senior analyst cites the “long history of special legal protection for the privacy of one’s reading habits in the United States…through numerous Supreme Court and other court decisions, [and] also through state laws.”

The Right to Read

Travelers have the right to read what they please. They should not be embarrassed by having to turn over their private reading materials to government employees. For example, many individuals read books on self-improvement, coping mechanisms, or other deeply personal matters. They should not have to stand in shame while a stranger flips through their books, with bystanders looking on with judgement.

Increased travel around the July 4th holiday will put this policy to the test. TSA has not yet announced if, and when, the policy will expand nationwide.

CNN Politicizes Elmo to Drive Pro-Refugee Agenda

Do you remember Elmo as the cheery, sweet, Sesame Street character from your childhood? Well, now CNN has decided to politicize even the most innocent of Muppets. They are using Elmo to drive their open borders, refugee-centric agenda.

CNN’s Newest Analyst: Elmo?

This move comes in the never-ending string of moves by the mainstream media to attack President Trump’s travel ban. The Supreme Court agreed 9-0 to uphold large parts of the March executive order until SCOTUS hears the case in the fall. This vote is a huge win for the Trump administration. Following this, CNN and its leftist cohorts are trying desperately to find other lines of attack. But, Elmo? This is a new low.

In the Facebook Live video aired on Monday, Elmo appears alongside Sesame Workshop’s Sherrie Westin, International Rescue Committee’s David Miliband, and CNN’s Clarissa Ward. Elmo went to Jordan as part of a pilot program with Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee. He explains how refugee kids are similar to kids everywhere. “They like to play and learn just like Elmo and all his friends at Sesame Street,” he said.

Problems with Politicization

CNN’s panel with Elmo crafts a false narrative, simplifying the complex issue of refugees and national security into an issue of “helping children.” However, this is not the reality of the situation. While many refugees are children facing unfathomable adversity, allowing refugees into our country unvetted is a giant national security risk. The potential that even one terrorist comes into our country unnoticed is enough to cause a mass loss of American lives.

Using a childhood icon to guilt people into opening our doors to refugees promotes a falsely manipulative narrative. Additionally, it crosses nonprofit legal lines, showing engagement in political campaign activity. The main reason to oppose Elmo’s politicization, however, should be obvious and simple. Thousands of kids idolize Elmo, as a child-friendly Muppet. Sesame Workshop should not use him to advance a particular political viewpoint.

Applying for Social Security? You Might Be Judged On Looks.

The arm of the Social Security Administration that determines who can receive benefits is at the center of a major harassment scandal. Several employees from the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) report harassment, abuse, and neglect from their managers. Now, those employees are speaking up to end the mismanagement of such a vital part of Social Security.

Fear of Retaliation

The first of many ODAR employees to come forward, Mary Brister, endured years of inappropriate treatment before blowing the whistle in May 2016. Brister told the Wisconsin Watchdog that people in her office were scared to come forward, but bullying was rampant. Brister said that her supervisor inappropriately tried to invite her to his apartment. “He said, ‘As soon as I get my divorce, I’m going to be all over you,’” she alleged.

The ODAR facilities in Madison and Milwaukee suffer from particularly nasty incidents of misconduct. One employee in a Wisconsin ODAR office allegedly broke into another employee’s private records. The victim claims her male co-worker was bragging about information “he could have known only by reading [her] personal file.”

Another ODAR employee, a disabled veteran with PTSD, reported chronic bullying and harassment by a supervisor. The harasser targeted someone who had served our country and was still paying the price.

To make matters worse, an ODAR Administrative Law Judge allegedly decided who could receive benefits based not on the applicant’s case, but on the person’s appearance – even their race. Judge John Pleuss used words like “cute,” “buxom,” and “gorilla-like” when describing claimants, according to the Wisconsin Watchdog. Imagine having your Social Security claim denied because the judge has a gripe with your personal appearance. That miscarriage of justice unfairly targets people based on looks.

Ending the Abuse

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) says that it is making progress with its investigation of the SSA. However, an investigation means nothing unless someone acts on the results.

Members of Congress are beginning to take note. U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) sent a letter to SSA Acting Commissioner Nancy A. Berryhill, urging her to fix ODAR.  She urges the Commissioner to protect employees in their workplace and uphold the SSA’s commitment to taxpayers. In addition, she refers to the use of racist and sexist descriptions by judges as “abhorrent behavior.”

Republicans and Democrats alike want Social Security to clean up its act. Why, then, is change so slow to come to the Administration?

Homeowners Association Bans American Flags

A Georgia neighborhood’s homeowners association (HOA) is telling veterans that they cannot fly American flags outside of their homes. Any resident who flies the flag outside of 23 pre-approved days receives a “violation” from the HOA. Punishing expressions of American pride is offensive to all Americans, and especially to those who fought so that our flag can fly. Veterans living in The Village at Towne Lake feel disrespected. How could they not? The flag they fought under is being treated with no more respect than Halloween decorations.

First Amendment and the Flag

The First Amendment protects rights essential to life in America, including speech, religion, and press. Citizens’ actions regarding the American flag is a historically contentious issue. Ultimately, however, courts consider almost everything here protected speech.

The Supreme Court upheld citizens’ rights to desecrate the American flag in 1989 landmark case, Texas v. Johnson. Here, the court held that burning the flag is protected speech under the First Amendment. While many consider this act heinous, being the worst disrespect of the flag imaginable, it is legal. Also, the First Amendment protects other disrespects to the flag such as stepping on the flag, or displaying a tattered flag.

So, if the government protects such disrespect to our flag, it should protect proud displays of the flag as well. Fortunately, legislation says it does.

Freedom to Fly

In 2005, Congress passed the Freedom to Display the Flag Act.  This law ensures that citizens like the veterans in Georgia are able to fly the United States flag. It goes beyond requiring that the government never infringe on citizens’ rights to fly the flag, and requires that the private groups behave the same.

The law applies to “cooperative associations,” or HOAs, to protect their “members,” or residents like the Georgia veterans. Section 3 states that “[a] condominium association…may not adopt or enforce any policy…that would restrict or prevent a member of the association from displaying the flag of the United States on residential property within the association.”  Per this, it is clear that the Village at Towne Lake HOA is in violation of this law.

Our government is committed to protecting citizens’ rights to fly the American flag at all times. Additionally, we as private citizens must do the same.  Veterans especially deserve to take full pride in the country that they put their life on the line to serve.  Undoubtedly, this includes keeping the Stars and Stripes in their hearts and outside of their homes.

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