Cops have a new scanner that decodes DNA in 90 minutes — and they can’t wait to use it on you
20 Nov 2014 at 07:41 ET
A California tech company has developed a relatively small device that can scan DNA in a little more than an hour.
The RapidHIT 200 is a dramatic advancement over current methods, reported Mother Jones, which take at least two days to generate a DNA profile from a sample in a forensics lab.
The desktop printer-sized machine developed by Pleasanton-based IntegenX takes samples gathered from cheek swabs, cigarette butts, or fabric and generates a DNA profile in about 90 minutes that can be entered into a database and checked against other profiles to find a match.
The machine costs $250,000, and it’s already in use in several states and Australia, China, Russia, and other countries in Africa and Europe.
Initial research for the RapidHIT 200 was funded by the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and the Justice Department, and the website reported the company has spent about $70,000 over the past two years lobbying for its expanded use by local police departments.
The U.S. hopes to test the device in refugee camps in Turkey and Thailand to determine whether families seeking asylum here are actually related, the website reported.
The rapid DNA testing will be voluntary, said a spokesman for Homeland Security’s biometrics program – but asylum applications could be rejected without the test results.
Immigration officials are also interested in using the RapidHIT 200 to ensure children entering the U.S. are related to the adults with them, which they hope will curb human trafficking.
Homeland Security documents suggest that intelligence agencies and the military hope to use rapid DNA testing to identify factors such as sex and race that aren’t currently revealed by other machines.
IntegenX claims the device will prevent false arrests and wrongful convictions and cut deeply into the backlog of untested rape kits around the nation — although a spokesman admits the RapidHIT 200 cannot distinguish between individual DNA in mixed bodily fluids.
Privacy advocates fear the device could be used during arrests for even minor infractions – particularly once the price comes down and the RapidHIT 200 could be deployed in squad cars.
At least 28 states now maintain DNA profiles for anyone arrested for certain felonies, even if they’re not convicted.
The FBI database contains more than 11 million offender profiles and an additional 2 million for individuals who were arrested but not necessarily convicted of any crime.
No other federal agencies currently are permitted to maintain a national DNA database, but the FBI’s website shows federal investigators hope Congress expands the potential use of rapid DNA testing.
A spokesman for IntegenX said the FBI was working with lawmakers on a bill that would put “tens of thousands” of rapid DNA testing devices in police stations that would be linked to the national database.
Homeland Security insists it will not keep DNA records for refugees tested, but they have said there may be a legal case for mandating collection of DNA records for anyone granted legal immigration status under potential amnesty.
These seven corporations make billions in profit — and have tax rate of negative 2.5 percent
19 Nov 2014 at 11:43 ET
Seven of the 30 largest U.S. corporations paid their CEOs more last year than they paid in federal income taxes, according to a new report.
The study found that those seven companies — Boeing Co, Ford Motor Co, Chevron Corp, Citigroup Inc, Verizon Communications Inc, JPMorgan Chase & Co and General Motors Co. — reported a tax rate of -2.5 percent despite claiming more than $74 billion in combined pre-tax profits.
They paid their chief executives an average of $17.3 million, according to the study by two Washington think tanks — the Institute for Policy Studies and the Center for Effective Government.
The number of American companies that pay their chief executives more than they pay Uncle Sam is growing, researchers found.
The recently released report, “Fleecing Uncle Sam,” found that 29 of the 100 highest-paid CEOs were paid more in 2013 than the corporations they oversee paid in federal income tax.
That’s up from 25 of the top 100 in 2010 and 2011 surveys.
“Our corporate tax system is so broken that large, profitable firms can get away without paying their fair share and instead funnel massive funds into the pockets of top executives,” said Scott Klinger, co-author of the study.
Those 29 corporations operated 237 subsidiaries in tax havens, and only 12 of those corporations reported U.S. losses last year.
CEO pay at those unprofitable firms averaged $36.6 million — more than three times the national average for CEOs of large companies.
Representatives for the corporations cited in the report told Reuters they abided by all tax laws, but they claimed some tax obligations were deferred due to refunds, developmental investments or carry-forwards from heavy losses several years ago.
They also stressed the corporations paid taxes worldwide.
“Corporations are quick to complain that the U.S. tax rate – 35 percent – is the highest among industrialized nations, but they neglect to mention that the average large corporation paid only slightly more than half that rate – just 19.9 percent – between 2008-2012,” the researchers found.
The study’s authors found that job creation remained anemic, with more than 9 million Americans still out of work, while corporations were repurchasing their own stock at record levels and buying out competitors through mergers.
Citigroup — which exists only because of a taxpayer bailout during the financial meltdown — received the largest tax refund.
The firm paid its CEO, Michael Corbat, $18 million last year while claiming $260 million in IRS refunds, the report found.
Obama’s Immigration Plan Could Shield Four Million
By MICHAEL D. SHEAR and ROBERT PEAR
NOV. 19, 2014
WASHINGTON — Up to four million undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for at least five years can apply for a program that protects them from deportation and allows those with no criminal record to work legally in the country, President Obama is to announce on Thursday, according to people briefed on his plans.
An additional one million people will get protection from deportation through other parts of the president’s plan to overhaul the nation’s immigration enforcement system, including the expansion of an existing program for “Dreamers,” young immigrants who came to the United States as children. There will no longer be a limit on the age of the people who qualify.
But farm workers will not receive specific protection from deportation, nor will the Dreamers’ parents. And none of the five million immigrants over all who will be given new legal protections will get government subsidies for health care under the Affordable Care Act.
These new details about the broad reach of Mr. Obama’s planned executive action on immigration emerged as he prepared to speak to the nation in a prime-time address on Thursday night. On Friday, the president is to travel to Las Vegas to rally public support for his plan in a state where Hispanics are a growing and politically powerful constituency.
Republicans on Capitol Hill sharply rebuked the president for his executive actions even before the speech on Thursday, accusing him of vastly exceeding the authority of his office. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, in an opinion article Tuesday on the Politico website, assailed the president for embracing “the tactics of a monarch.”
At the same time, immigration advocates rallied behind Mr. Obama’s actions, describing them as a much-delayed victory for millions of people.
Administration officials have said the president’s actions were designed to be “legally unassailable,” which activists said led the White House to make some tough choices.
Farm workers, for example, will not be singled out for protections because of concerns that it was difficult to justify legally treating them differently from undocumented workers in other jobs, like hotel clerks, day laborers and construction workers.
The White House decision to deny health benefits also underscores how far the president’s expected actions will fall short of providing the kind of full membership in American society that activists have spent decades fighting for. The immigrants covered by Mr. Obama’s actions are also unlikely to receive public benefits like food stamps, Medicaid coverage or other need-based federal programs offered to citizens and some legal residents.
The health care restriction may be the most immediate concern for many immigrants and for activists who have urged Mr. Obama to act to prevent deportations. Advocates for immigrant rights were infuriated in 2012 when the White House ruled that Dreamers would not get subsidized insurance coverage.
But the restriction reflects the political sensitivities involved when two of the most contentious issues in Washington, health care and immigration, collide. It also suggests that the White House has decided not to risk angering conservative lawmakers who have long opposed providing government health care to illegal immigrants and who fought to deny immigrants coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Some advocates said this week that they saw a paradox in the president’s policy. On one hand, they said, Mr. Obama plans to provide relief to millions of undocumented immigrants so that they can come out of the shadows and be better integrated into American society. On the other hand, they said, the administration is shutting them out of the health care system that would help them become productive members of society.
“We would all benefit if more people had access to health care services,” said Angel Padilla, a health policy analyst at the National Immigration Law Center, an advocacy group for low-income immigrants.
Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell, said he believed the president had the legal authority to decide whether the immigrants included in his executive actions qualified for health benefits.
“Just as the president has broad discretion to decide whether to allow undocumented individuals to get a temporary reprieve from deportation,” Mr. Yale-Loehr said, “he also has broad authority to decide whether to grant them work authorization and health benefits.”
“In this case, it appears he is willing to grant the former,” he added, “but not the latter.”
Senator Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican who has vehemently opposed giving benefits to undocumented immigrants, disagreed with that assessment.
“It is plain that President Obama has no authority to grant lawful status to those declared unlawful by the duly passed laws of the United States,” he said. “Nor does the president have any authority to declare such individuals eligible to receive health benefits that have been restricted to lawful residents.”
The White House decision on health benefits may be intended to undercut one line of attack by Mr. Sessions and other Republicans. In recent days, as it became clear that Mr. Obama was preparing to announce an executive order, conservative commentators and radio hosts suggested that the president wanted to give health coverage to millions of immigrants who would be given legal status.
The question of whether illegal immigrants should have access to health care benefits has long been a central part of the immigration debate. Legislation passed in the Senate in 2013 would also have denied undocumented immigrants access to federal health benefits, including the Affordable Care Act, for as long as 13 years. But in that legislation, immigrants could eventually qualify for full legal status and for federal benefits.
Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of health and human services, was asked about health care coverage in a webcast with Latina bloggers last week.
She confirmed to the bloggers that immigrants who were covered by Mr. Obama’s 2012 executive actions could not receive subsidies from the HealthCare.gov marketplace. She called that decision “more than a health care issue” and said it had to be resolved in the context of immigration laws.
“I think everyone probably knows that this administration feels incredibly strongly about the fact that we need to fix that,” Ms. Burwell said. “We need to reform the system and make the changes that we need. It will lead to benefits in everything from health care to economics.”
However, she said that federal aid, including health care benefits, could be available to children who are United States citizens but living with parents who are illegal immigrants. Such so-called mixed families “should not be scared,” she said, because they may be eligible for coverage and financial assistance.
Immigration Has Republican Governors Seething and Facing Practical Challenges
By MICHAEL BARBARO
NOV. 19, 2014
BOCA RATON, Fla. — President Obama’s impending executive action on immigration is unleashing the fury of Republican governors who now control a clear majority of the nation’s statehouses — and not entirely for the reasons that partisans might expect.
The new legal protections that the president is poised to bestow on five million illegal immigrants Thursday will immediately thrust the issue back to the states, forcing dozens of governors who vigorously oppose the move to contemplate a raft of vexing new legal questions of their own, like whether to issue driver’s licenses or grant in-state college tuition to such people.
For Republican governors, the resentment is now as much operational as it is ideological.
The rapidly unfolding issue quickly overtook what was supposed to be a three-day victory lap here at a pink flamingo-colored resort where they have gathered for the annual meeting of the Republican Governors Association.
Instead of crowing about their electoral romp in the midterms, in which they captured 31 statehouses — the most since 1998 — the governors on Wednesday were bombarded by inquiries about how they would grapple with the practical and political repercussions of Mr. Obama’s action.
Many of them seethed visibly over the issue. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas accused the president of “sticking his finger into the eye of the American people” after an election that gave Republicans control over both houses of Congress.
Several governors threatened legal action to block the measure. “I would go to the courts,” said Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. “This is illegal.”
Mr. Perry called a lawsuit against the Obama administration “a very real possibility.”
But amid the promises of retaliation and obstruction, many of the governors began to confront the sheer complexity of the new legal landscape for millions of their residents.
Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas said that his Republican-controlled State Legislature would never stomach the concept of issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, even after Mr. Obama had given them worker permits and shielded them from deportation.
“That would be very difficult in our state,” he said.
For some of the governors, the issue took on a strikingly personal dimension. Gov. Paul R. LePage of Maine recalled the difficulty that he and his wife had encountered obtaining a green card for the Jamaican teenager they have taken into their home.
“It took us nearly 11 years,” he said. “Why should everybody just get one tomorrow?”
Asked if he would embrace greater legal standing for immigrants in Maine, such as worker permits, after Mr. Obama issues his measure, Mr. LePage swatted away the idea as “unacceptable.”
He then added, “I am fighting it, not helping it.”
For those weighing a presidential run in 2016, responding to Mr. Obama’s action requires some nimbleness: They must appeal to those conservatives who loathe Mr. Obama’s unilateral move without alienating Latino voters who crave a path to citizenship for people in the country illegally.
But here in Florida, before a crowd of devoted Republican donors and activists, the governors offered few of the compassionate overtures to Latino voters that have characterized their campaigns back at home or detailed alternatives to replace Mr. Obama’s action.
A number of those likely to run for president simply avoided offering direct or firm answers.
At one point, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana was asked if he supported deporting illegal immigrants. He demurred, saying that “we will deal with people here illegally compassionately and fairly” before calling for greater security at America’s borders, a message echoed by most of his colleagues.
As he has in the past, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey refused to specify a plan for dealing with illegal immigration, saying he would not articulate a plan until he had decided whether to run for president.
Going perhaps the furthest of any potential presidential candidate, Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio, when pressed on citizenship for undocumented people, said, “I’m open to it, I will tell you that.”
He added, “We have to think about what’s going to bring about healing.”
Both Mr. Jindal and Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana suggested that Congress could use its budget authority to deprive the president of the money required to carry out his immigration action.
Mr. Pence, a former House member, encouraged Congress to “use the power of the purse to work the will of the American people.”
Normally restrained, Mr. Pence could barely contain his frustration.
“Every major change in the life of our nation has been done with the consent of our government,” he said. “I think it would be a profound mistake.”
The Meltdown Begins: Boehner Responds To Immigration Action By Calling Obama a Lawless Emperor
By: Jason Easley
Wednesday, November, 19th, 2014, 2:53 pm
The Republican meltdown is off and running. Speaker of the House John Boehner’s office responded to the news that President Obama will announce his executive actions on immigration by calling the president a lawless emperor.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel responded to the news that Obama will make his immigration announcement in Dallas on Thursday night by saying, “If ‘Emperor Obama’ ignores the American people and announces an amnesty plan that he himself has said over and over again exceeds his Constitutional authority, he will cement his legacy of lawlessness and ruin the chances for Congressional action on this issue — and many others.”
Who do Republicans think they are kidding? Boehner and McConnell were never planning on cooperating with the president on anything. Mitch McConnell ran for reelection on the promise that if Republicans won a Senate majority, he would break Obama and force him to do the GOP’s bidding.
The whole idea that Republicans were ready cooperate, but Obama ruined it was a myth. Republicans thought that by winning the midterm election; they could force the president to sign off on their agenda. They have been shocked by the fact that the president has moved to the left. Instead of giving Republicans everything that they wanted, the president and Democrats have geared up for a fight.
President Obama’s speech on Thursday night will be a mushroom cloud that swallows up the Republican Party. Republicans have tried for years to avoid the immigration issues, but the party is deeply divided and being government by an incredibly unpopular position on the issue.
Obama’s executive action, which is well within his constitutional powers, is already triggering an epic meltdown. The Republican camps that are calling for a government shutdown or impeachment are reaching an uncontrollable boiling point.
John Boehner sat on the Senate passed immigration reform bill and refused to allow a vote. The gridlock and obstruction chickens are coming home to roost, and the Republican Party is going to collectively lose its mind tomorrow night.
Obama is still playing chess while congressional Republicans can’t get out their checkerboards.
White House Says Emboldened Obama Wears Republican Criticism As A Badge Of Honor
By: Jason Easley
Wednesday, November, 19th, 2014, 7:33 pm
According to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, President Obama wears Republican claims that he is lawless as a badge of honor.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest responded to Republican cries that Obama is behaving like a lawless emperor by saying, “We’ve heard this kind of rhetoric about lawlessness from the House Republicans for some time. I think their most recent statement referred to Emperor Obama. You know the fact of the matter is the president is somebody who is willing to examine the law, review the law and use every element of that law to make progress for the American people. If that is something that Republicans are critical of, then that’s, you know, maybe a criticism that the president wears with a badge of honor.”
The White House is taking the fight to congressional Republicans in a way that they never expected after their midterm election victory. One of the strategies that Republicans are kicking around as a potential way to stop the president’s immigration executive orders is to split the bill to fund the government into two parts. The first would fund the government, and the second would deny funding for the executive orders.
The administration’s position has been consistent. They aren’t going to back down. The government shutdown last year was caused by a Republican refusal to pass a clean funding bill. If Republicans try the same stunt again, Obama will likely veto the government funding bill, and Republicans will be left with a choice to either pass a clean funding bill or shutdown the government.
In other words, the country is zooming towards another government shutdown standoff. The president is being forced to take action on his own because John Boehner refuses to bring the bipartisan Senate passed immigration bill to the floor for a vote. Boehner could defuse the entire situation by allowing a vote.
Boehner and McConnell are swearing that they don’t want a government shutdown, but they are getting themselves into a battle with the president that they won’t win. Obama isn’t intimidated by the incoming Republican majority. In fact, the president seems emboldened by it.
If a president doing his job is “lawless,” Obama should wear the Republican howls of lawlessness as a badge of honor.
Liberal Democrats Form A Hell No Caucus To Block Republicans In The Senate
By: Jason Easley
Wednesday, November, 19th, 2014, 11:46 am
Liberal Democrats flexed their muscles by coming together to block approval of the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Last night’s vote was the first move by a group of Democrats that are set to give Senate Republicans major headaches over the next two years.
The defeat of the Keystone XL pipeline in the Senate marked a major show of muscle for next year’s new hell-no caucus: liberals.
It was a remarkable move for a group that has stood behind Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) over the years, as he sought to protect vulnerable moderates, like Landrieu and some of her now-ousted colleagues, from taking tough votes on divisive environmental, health care and social issues.
But red-state Democrats like Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska are on their way out, and liberals like Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders and Sheldon Whitehouse — with Elizabeth Warren leading the way on messaging — may cause as many headaches for Senate Republicans as tea partyers caused Democrats in the past four years.
The good news that comes from being in the Senate minority is that the Democrats who are still there are much more liberal and will play a bigger role in the caucus. Bernie Sanders, who is an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats, Elizabeth Warren, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Jeff Merkley are just four of the members of the Democratic caucus will play a larger role in shaping policy. The Democrats no longer have to protect and cater to red state Democrats.
For every Keystone XL that will pass with the support of oil and gas state Democrats, there are three Republican bills that won’t. The Hell No caucus isn’t going to obstruct everything, but they are going stand up for the principles and values of the left.
For example, Senate Republican attacks on regulations that protect the environment are going to be in trouble. Anything that tries to expand Citizens United will likely die, tax reform disguised as a gift to the wealthy will not go very far.
The rules of the Senate make it impossible for Mitch McConnell to do what John Boehner is doing in the House. In the Senate, the minority has power and rights. Republicans abused this power to stop the Senate from functioning. The liberals are promising not to do the same, but life is about to get very difficult for Mitch McConnell and company.
The rise of the Senate liberals in combination with President Obama’s leftward shift may result in the Republican congressional majority being boxed in.
Senate liberals are leading the fight towards 2016, and yesterday’s rejection of Keystone XL was a warning shot designed to let Republicans know that there is a new day coming.
*** Note: The Hell No caucus isn’t an official Senate group, but a collection of liberals who have a set of common ideas that will more often than not vote together.