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26 Dec 2011 11:16


U.S.: Post-Christmas present: The Justice Department bends on online gambling

Back in September (and made public Friday), a Justice Department opinion changed its interpretation of the Wire Act of 1961 so it no longer bars online gambling, but only betting on sporting events or contests. source

22 Dec 2011 01:03


U.S.: Countrywide will pay massive settlement over subprime crisis

  • $335 million settlement over discrimination charges source
  • » They allegedly steered minorities towards bad mortgages. The company, something of the focal point of the subprime housing scandal, now has to face the music. Bank of America, the parent of Countrywide Financial, had to settle claims from before it purchased the company, a four-year period during the housing boom when loans were handed out very easily. In the case of Countrywide, however, there is evidence that while white homeowners got offered normal mortgage, black or Latino homeowners of similar stature received a subprime mortgage instead, meaning that they were given higher interest rates and unfavorable terms for loans, making it easier to default. As part of the settlement with the Justice Department, the company denied the charges, while Bank of America distanced itself from the housing-boom-era actions

25 Nov 2011 11:38


Biz, U.S.: Off the table (for now): The AT&T merger with T-Mobile

  • what After a long back-and-forth with the government over the implications of the merger, AT&T said Thursday (that’s right, on Thanksgiving!) that they would not pursue FCC approval of a merger with T-Mobile.
  • why It looked very unlikely to get through regulators’ clutches. The merger would have effectively marginalized Sprint in the market, leading the FCC to call a hearing on the merger, and the DOJ to file an antitrust suit.
  • however Both AT&T and T-Mobile have much to lose from the stunted deal — AT&T in penalty fees (reaching into the billions) and lost infrastructure, T-Mobile in declining business. They will probably try again soon. source

09 Oct 2011 21:15


Politics: Rep. Darrell Issa may issue subpoenas over “Fast and Furious” program

  • Clearly, he knew when he said he didn’t know. Now the question is what did he know and how is he going to explain why he gave that answer.
  • Rep. Darrell Issa • Asking on “Fox News Sunday” why Attorney General Eric Holder gave Issa, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman, a seemingly false answer on his knowledge of Operation Fast and Furious, a failed gun-tracking program. The program has since been tied to numerous murders in the U.S. and Mexico — and the results of which are still showing up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Issa wants answers. “People at the top of (the) Justice (Department) were well briefed, knew about it and seemed to be the command and control and funding for this program,” he claimed. Holder told him during a May Judiciary Committee hearing that he had only known about the program for a few weeks — an answer which doesn’t please Issa, and may lead to him issuing subpoenas to the Justice Department later this week. source

30 Sep 2011 22:12


World: Anwar al-Awlaki killing approved in secret Justice Department memo

  • As a general matter, it would be entirely lawful for the United States to target high-level leaders of enemy forces, regardless of their nationality, who are plotting to kill Americans both under the authority provided by Congress in its use of military force in the armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces as well as established international law that recognizes our right of self-defense.
  • A vague, anonymous U.S. official • Discussing and defending the American role in killing key al-Qaeda figure Anwar al-Awlaki, whose killing was sanctioned in a secret memo put together by the Justice Department. As we pointed out earlier, al-Awlaki was a U.S. citizen, making his assassination very controversial for some, most notably Glenn Greenwald. Does the explanation above hold water? source

30 Sep 2011 16:55


Politics: “Muffingate”: Quick on the rage, slow on the follow-through (even um, us.)

  • Muffingate still provides a telling illustration of how relatively minor revelations can be turned into blood-curdling controversies. It also shows how the political and media communities move much faster to trumpet an outrage-inducing story than to set the record straight.
  • The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein • Offering a sobering take on the issue of $16 muffins from a story from a couple of weeks ago. Stein’s point: Despite the early coverage of the initial story, based on an infuriating Justice Department report, the follow-up coverage (where Hilton pointed out that the $16 wasn’t for “muffins” but a continental breakfast, written as shorthand on receipts), was a bit lacking. As a site, we admit that we didn’t even see the follow-ups ourselves (Editor’s note: I intended to do more with the story, but never got to it. Total fail on my part. — ES), but as this was a key fact, it throws the whole study into question. In retrospect, it feels more like a political hit piece — one that might have some truth to it, but blew its most important factoid. source

20 Sep 2011 20:28


Politics: The Department of Justice spends lots of money on conferences

  • Editor’s note: Please see this update to the story for more information that came out after this study was published. In short: Those muffins weren’t $16.
  • Playing to the biases people have about government: The Justice Department obviously has a very important job that requires them to herd a lot of cats into a lot of cages. However, when those cats are government workers and those cages are hotels like The Capital Hilton, a swanky hotel one block away from the White House, the costs leap quickly. Hence this report, which rips the wasteful spending happening all over the place. This, friends, validates every person who complains about wasteful spending. Just to give you guys an idea:
  • $121 million spent on 1,832 events in 2008 and 2009
  • $600,000 the amount spent on planning services for just five conferences
  • $490,000 the amount spent on food and beverages for ten conferences
  • $16 the amount spent on muffins — EACH — at one conference
  • $8 the amount spent on each cup of coffee at another conference
  • $32 the amount spent on snacks — per person! — at one conference source
  • » Absurd consulting fees, too: Why did one consultant charge $3,454 to fly back and forth between a conference site three times? And why didn’t he just go once? And why did the planners have to travel from across the country to stay at the hotel where they’ve had the conference numerous times in the past, incurring $29,000 in charges in the process? Do phones not work? And why did it cost the OCDETF Conference in D.C. $102 per person to feed 1,348 people over four days, incurring over $137,000 in charges? And why wasn’t there oversight on all this until after the study was implemented? It makes our head hurt.

07 Sep 2011 17:24


U.S.: Government files charges over millions in Medicare fraud

  • 91
    charged with Medicare fraud by the U.S. Justice Department, doctors and nurses among them
  • $255 million the value reaped from the alleged frauds — another crackdown in the hundreds of millions this year source

31 Aug 2011 23:34


Biz, Politics: Rick Perry: Totally backed that AT&T merger with T-Mobile

  • $500,000 from AT&T to Rick Perry source
  • » AT&T’s contributions = Rick Perry’s support? Back in May, Rick Perry told the FCC he backed the AT&T/T-Mobile merger. “I believe that this merger will continue to provide for great consumer choice, offer a wide range of service options, and spur continued innovation,” he wrote. He might’ve had a little help from those campaign contributions over the past decade. AT&T has a bit of a history of going out of its way to turn public favor its way, going so far as to bizarrely convince GLAAD to support the merger. With the Justice Department coming out against the merger and AT&T’s contributions to Perry coming under scrutiny, will Perry back down? (Strangely enough, BTW, the Justice Department’s James Cole made a statement that reads like the polar opposite of what Perry wrote: “We believe the combination of AT&T and T-Mobile would result in tens of millions of consumers all across the United States facing higher prices, fewer choices, and lower-quality products for their mobile wireless services.” Hrm.)

31 Aug 2011 11:15


Biz: Justice Department attempts to block AT&T merger with T-Mobile

  • then A while back, AT&T announced it would attempt to purchase T-Mobile for $39 billion, in an attempt to shore up deficiencies in its wireless network. Other companies and consumer groups, most notably Sprint, loudly complained.
  • now Now the Justice Department’s trying to block the merger. “AT&T’s elimination of T-Mobile as an independent, low-priced rival would remove a significant competitive force from the market,” their complaint said. *BOOM.* source