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Saturday, June 18, 2011
June 18, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 11:14 AM :: 16731 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Kauai County News, DHHL, Maui County News, Congressional Delegation, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party, National News, Development, World News, Hawaii History

Feds: U.S. travel and tourism industry on pace for record-setting year

NASA-Funded Group Doctors Sea Level Data

A Summer of Robots: Fueling innovation for the New Economy

Hawaii Government Impact: The High Cost of Land Use and Housing

Greek Crisis: Moody’s warns of possible First Hawaiian Bank downgrade

Hot Water Restored At Mayor Wright Housing

Power Grab: Abercrombie now demanding Resignations of PUC, LUC, Housing Authority, BLNR, and Aloha Stadium Authority 

Gov. Neil Abercrombie (who should himself resign), seeking to reshape the state's policy and regulatory structure in his vision, has asked for the resignations of appointed members of the state Public Utilities Commission, Land Use Commission, Public Housing Authority and Board of Land and Natural Resources in addition to the Stadium Authority.  (Clue to appointees: Take a tip from Nancy Reagan and “Just say No.”)

Lingle, the first Republican governor in 40 years, did not seek courtesy resignations from appointees to boards and commissions after she took office in 2002. "We didn't do that," recalled Barry Fukunaga, who served as Lingle's chief of staff during her second term. "These guys had been selected, appointed and confirmed, so we didn't go through the process of asking for courtesy resignations," he said.

Former Gov. Ben Cayetano, a Democrat, said he also did not ask for wholesale courtesy resignations. He said there is the potential to lose experience by replacing so many appointees at one time. "I don't think it's wise to ask for wholesale resignations," he said..

Most of the appointees are unpaid volunteers, although members of the PUC are paid about $90,000 a year.

Travis Thompson, chairman of the state Public Housing Authority, said he worries about maintaining continuity if many appointees choose to resign.  "I think it's difficult at best for — I don't care who they are — to come in and change the direction of the agency," said Thompson, who added that he was shocked to receive Abercrombie's letter and has not decided how to respond. "And that's making an assumption that the direction we were currently going in was somehow not the correct one.  "Obviously, I don't agree with that."

Others said there might be reluctance among potential nominees to boards and commissions to accept appointments in the future if they think the process is purely political.

"Certainly an executive is free to ask," said Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Hawaii Kai). "I certainly can understand first of all any new chief executive wanting to suggest their nominees. I certainly understand Gov. Abercrombie's ‘New Day' initiative, but because the Legislature, and specifically the Senate, is involved and we spend a great deal of time in the hearing and confirmation process, I think that it's something both the board members and Legislature should give thought to."  (In other words, this will create more chaos for years until the appointments are refilled.)

As explained: Pro-Bowl: Collateral damage in Abercrombie’s war on Mufi?

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Mazie and Colleen: Million Dollar Babies

Hanabusa's six-page disclosure, which was filed with the House Clerk May 12, lists a Hawaii legislative salary of $47,092 and a gross income of $103,243 from her law firm, Colleen Hanabusa, LLC.

Her total assets (which do not includes homes) range between $1.3 million and $2.8 million. The interest income from those assets — including Central Pacific Bank and First Hawaiian Bank checking and savings accounts and IRAs — does not exceed $10,600.

Hanabusa's assets also includes a business called Pueo Trucking.  (nothing to see here, just keep moving)

Hanabusa filed a June 1 amendment to her disclosure that make clarifications regarding her personal line of credit and real property holdings.

The congresswoman's liability is a personal line of credit between $100,001 and $250,000 with CPB.  (Inouye’s bank)

Hirono's 13-page disclosure, filed May 16, lists $44,707 in pension from the state's Employees' Retirement System.

Hirono's total assets (not including homes) range between $1.2 million and $3.4 million. The assets are mutual funds, bonds, savings and IRAs.

The income from Hirono's fund dividends do not exceed $18,900, while capital gains income does not exceed $6,000.

Pueo Trucking:

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Ernie Martin's Rapid Rise to Council Power

Martin represents the North Shore. He beat John White in the general election with 11,056 votes, versus 11,009. In his campaign, he emphasized "local roots, strong family values."

Several colleagues at the city contributed to his campaign.

Planning and Permitting Director David Tanoue gave $200, former Community Services director Debbie Morikawa donated $1,000, former Parks and Recreation Director Lester Chang donated $150, Transportation Director Yoshioka gave Martin $125, and Design and Construction Director Collins Lam gave $300.

Lori Okami, who helped run Martin's campaign and has a planning contract with the city, gave Martin $600. Kimberly Ribellia, Martin's senior aide, gave $125.

Martin also got significant support from labor, including:

  • $4,000 from the Hawaii Operating Engineers Industry
  • $3,000 from ILWU 142, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union
  • $2,000 from the local ironworkers union
  • $1,000 from PSC Consultant, a group that consults to the electricity industry
  • $750 from Plasterers and Cement Masons Local 630
  • $750 from Lester Fukuda of Hawaii Pacific Engineers, which is contracted to design the city's rail stations
  • $200 from Hawaii Teamsters Local 996

Martin's ties to unions have been a sore point with those who question his independence.

Martin was the sole City Council member who explicitly said he did not see a conflict between Garcia's role as council chairman and his $60,000-a-year part-time job with the Kapolei Chamber of Commerce.

(Civil Beat wrote this entire article without saying “HUD” even once….)

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Inouye’s Central Pacific Bank after $60M Taxpayer giveaway:  Strongest financial position since Japanese Bubble

Central Pacific Financial Corp. said Friday it is in its strongest financial position in at least 17 years (1994, end of Japanese bubble) after a $325 million private recapitalization and a $135 million investment from the U.S. Treasury.

The parent of Central Pacific Bank, the state's fourth largest, addressed its condition amid concerns that arose after news that taxpayers could lose more than $60 million from the bailout package that the bank received from the U.S. Treasury in January 2009.

"The Treasury's involvement was critical to the recapitalization and turnaround efforts of our company," Central Pacific spokesman Wayne Kirihara said.

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Privatization of Historic Preservation Division $186,000 Contract Goes to Abercrombie Supporters

The state last month awarded a $186,387 consulting contract to a company with close political ties to Gov. Neil Abercrombie after rejecting another company’s $96,000 bid because it was submitted 11 minutes late.

The contract – to help straighten out a tangled bureaucratic mess at the State Historic Preservation Division – was awarded to Solutions Pacific, a firm headed by Abercrombie political ally Raynard Soon.

Soon was a key player in the Abercrombie transition team formed after the new governor was elected in November. Soon’s daughter, Solutions Pacific chief executive Rebecca Soon, worked on Abercrombie’s election campaign and helped stage a series of inauguration events held before and after the new governor was sworn into office in December.

A subconsultant working for Solutions Pacific on the SHPD contract is Don Hibbard, a former head of SHPD who left the agency in late 2002 after the state Auditor’s office issued a harsh assessment of his work there.

Hibbard’s “cavalier management style has put the state at risk of losing federal grants,” Auditor Marion Higa said in the report 02-20.

News Release: DLNR outsources Historic Preservation

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State D.O.T. spending $1 million on aluminum fencing

If you had a million dollars of state funds what would you spend it on? How about aluminum fencing?

For the next several months workers will continue to erect black aluminum fencing along harbor areas in Honolulu and Kalaeloa at a cost of $1,071,892. The 1.865 miles of fencing amounts to $108.82 per foot – a project that had been in the works for two or three years….

“There was really no mandate,” said Meisenzahl. “It was just something that the Harbors Division was looking at improving security.” 

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Hirono trying to pour more Federal money into Hamakua Ditch

There are currently four projects in Hawai’i authorized under the program including:

  • The Upcountry Maui Watershed irrigation project that benefits more than 170 farmers with approximately 500 acres of crops.
  • The Lower Hamakua Ditch Watershed project, that when complete will irrigate approximately 2,500 acres of cropland.  (IT WILL NEVER BE COMPLETED AND THERE IS +100” OF RAIN THERE EVERY YEAR.)
  • The Lahaina Watershed project is designed to protect homes and commercial buildings within the flood plain and reduce sedimentation along the shore.
  • The 540-acre Wailuku-Alenaio watershed in Hilo includes rural and agricultural lands, with 62 percent in agricultural use.

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AP Interview: Army general wants Makua as option

The top U.S. Army commander in the Pacific wants to be sure Hawaii-based soldiers have alternate locations for live-fire training before he'll write off using Makua — a valley many Native Hawaiians consider sacred — for that purpose.

In his first interview since taking command of U.S. Army Pacific, Lt. Gen. Francis J. Wiercinski told The Associated Press that he won't send soldiers to Makua Valley to train with live ammunition so long as the Army finishes building training ranges in central Oahu and the Big Island on time.

But Wiercinski said he would need to keep his options open on Makua in case the construction of new ranges at Schofield Barracks and Pohakuloa Training Area is delayed.

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OHA’s Luddites Attack: KIUC ballot to decide fate of Hydro contract

Asquith says it is a mistake to unnecessarily place the sustainability of Kaua‘i’s waterways in the hands of a federal agency rather than in the state’s, which is more sensitive to the needs of Hawai‘i’s farmers, wildlife and cultural water interests.

He also says that by engaging FERC, the co-op is inviting legal intervention by state and private organizations against the use of FERC-related projects. Such actions could delay hydro projects for countless years, says Asquith, who is a proponent of hydroelectricity.  (The State went thru this FERC issue under Cayetano and lost in court.) 

In a letter serving “as a legal notice to cease and desist,”Kingdom of Hawai‘i Prime Minister Henry Noa wrote: “This is an objection to the construction of proposed hydropower projects currently under consideration for the island of Kaua‘i.

“If constructed, not only will these projects permanently desecrate the land and waters, these would be built on lands that have been reclaimed by the Hawaiian Government of the reinstated Hawaiian Kingdom nation, without the Kingdom’s consent or authorization,”Noa said.

Felony Convictions: "Reinstated Hawaiian Kingdom?"

What this is about: OHA Trustees claim ownership of your drinking water

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Hawaii Attorney: Failure of Foreclosure Law Inevitable

I told you so.

That's what Hawaii foreclosure attorneys were probably thinking after the news broke that mortgage giant Fannie Mae said it was converting all of its non-judicial foreclosures into judicial foreclosures, essentially skirting Hawaii's new foreclosure law.  (Designed to fail while allowing Legislators to look like they’re doing something about foreclosures.)

Was SB 651 — what some called the nation's strongest foreclosure law — overhyped?

At least one foreclosure attorney thinks so. Gary Dubin says that while lawmakers were well intentioned, he warned them the bill wouldn't solve Hawaii's foreclosure mess. Two days after Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed SB 651 into law, Dubin predicted Fannie's move.

On May 8, Dubin emailed Civil Beat: "It is actually a cruel joke and virtually will not be used, as lenders will now merely unanimously elect judicial foreclosures and bypass the new DCCA moratorium/mediation procedures if and when they ever get going."

RELATED: Fannie Mae ends use of non-judicial foreclosure in Hawaii

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Elder Abuse: 60 Fraud cases this year

Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro said Friday he is expanding his office's unit that handles crimes against older citizens in response to a doubling of reported crimes against elders since 2009.

The focus will be on financial scams that target seniors, he said.

"The most prevalent type of crime against the elderly is financial abuse," Kaneshiro said at a news conference. "Thousands of dollars and property are stolen from the elderly, and these are people who have worked their entire lives to accumulate these savings."

The prosecutor's office reported that it handled 57 elder abuse cases in 2009, 102 cases in 2010 and 60 cases this year through May. Dave Koga, an executive assistant to Kaneshiro, said most of the cases involve financial fraud.

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Matson Documents Subpoenaed in Anti-Trust Probe

Horizons Lines was just one of at least five major American shipping companies under federal probe over the last few years, allegedly for antitrust and price fixing violations.

Hawaii-based Alexander & Baldwin (NASDAQ:ALEX) Inc. acknowledged in an April 28, 2008 statement that its documents related to its subsidiary Matson Navigation were subpoenaed by the U.S. Justice Department’s anti trust division — the agency investigating pricing practices of ocean carriers – even though Matson Navigation does not operate vessels in the Puerto Rico trade.

Analysts in American Shipper speculated at the time that the fact that Matson Navigation also was subpoenaed — even though it does not participate in the Puerto Rico trade — could either mean investigators are comparing their books or probing the industry more widely. …

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the entire domestic noncontiguous ocean shipping industry has been in violation of U.S. antitrust laws for the last few years. Five shipping executives, three of them from Defendant Horizon, have already pled guilty to antitrust violations. Those guilty pleas involved, among other things, “agreeing to fix the prices of rates, surcharges, and other fees charged to customers.”

Based on revelations from the plea discussions with these shipping executives, John Terzaken, the U.S. Department of Justice prosecutor stated in court, “…the ongoing investigation that these charges are a part of is far broader than simply the United States and Puerto Rico trade language these charges arise from. The ongoing investigation is far broader than simply the US and Puerto Rico trade. This is a nationwide investigation that involves other trade lines.”

“There will be charges in these other aspects of the case as well. And those are — those are to come down the road,” Terzaken added.

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Randy Iwase Tax Commission to propose Tax Hikes in 2013

Members of the voluntary board include three attorneys, two certified accountants and a bank executive and former bank executive.

Some are familiar names: Peter Ho is head of Bank of Hawaii. Randy Iwase is a local politician and former gubernatorial candidate, and Roy Amemiya is a former Central Pacific Bank executive. Commission member Gregg Taketa said the group could hold its initial meeting in July.

The commission, which meets every five years, last came together in 2005. Technically, the group should have come together last year, but former Gov. Linda Lingle only named two members. Gov. Neil Abercrombie named a third person this year, who was confirmed by the Senate in May, and four interim appointments, including two on Thursday. The four interim members must be confirmed by the Senate next year.

The commission is responsible for analyzing the state's tax structure and ensuring taxpayers pay their fair share, (if someone is paying more than his fair share, other taxes will be increased to match) according to Hawaii Revised Statutes 232E. It's required to produce a report and recommendations to lawmakers "30 days prior to the convening of the second regular session of the legislature after the members of the commission have been appointed."

That likely means lawmakers won't see a report until 2013. The commission's former chairman said it would be impossible for the new group to come out with a report before January's session.

Political Radar: Review

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Dopers: Univ of Hawaii should allow legal research marijuana

The writer is so confused it is hard to make out the point, but it appears  to be an effort to allow UH Profs to grow “research dope” legally.  That’s OK, nobody on campus is interested in marijuana so we can trust them to actually be doing research…..

KITV: Groups Rally To Mark 40th Anniversary Of War On Drugs

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Residual money from class-action suits will go to legal aid groups

A rule adopted by the Hawaii Supreme Court helps clear the way for money left over from class-action lawsuits to be given to nonprofit groups that provide legal services to the poor.

The rule takes effect July 1 and provides guidance on how to distribute money from lawsuits after the plaintiffs, attorney fees and expenses have been paid. Those residual funds include money for plaintiffs who cannot be located or who don't file claims.

But not immediately clear is how much money will be recovered for the nonprofit groups.

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Global Horizon demanded Thai workers pay fees on top of Illegal recruiting fees

The moment that GH learned of the excessive recruitment fees, they should have fired that recruitment company and reported them to the Thai Department of Labor. But, instead, in the U.S., GH supervisors (including Pranee) demanded MORE fees from the workers. In one instance, it was a $3,000 “renewal” fee for their next H-2A visas. Again, they were told if they went to authorities or complained, GH would simply just send them back to Thailand.

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Hyatt workers to launch boycott of Waikiki hotel

Apparently not too worried about downturn in Japanese tourism, eh?

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One in eight Hawaii bridges ‘structurally deficient’

One out of every eight bridges in Hawaii is considered “structurally deficient,” according to a recent report, and the cost to repair or replace state-owned bridges alone is estimated at $350 million.

But the state receives only $20 million annually in federal funds, far short of the money needed to fix all the bridges, said Hawaii Department of Transportation spokesman Dan Meisenzahl. To address the problem, the DOT created a program to rehabilitate or replace the bridges over the next 15 years with an emphasis on the structures that need the most work.

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KSBE Haleiwa redevelopment has businesses fretting over future

Looking for more sources of revenue through additional lease space, landowner Kamehameha Schools hopes to "revitalize" a block of historic Haleiwa Town that is home to the popular Matsumoto and Aoki shave ice stores — a change prompting some businesses there to rethink their future.

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Save Kailua Fireworks

Save Kailua Fireworks is counting on the show to go on- into its 63rdd year celebrating America and the 4th of July – Independence day. With just about $30,000 raised so far, the group hopes to raise the additional $30,000 needed in the next two weeks. “Donations have been slower this year and we’re counting on more donations coming in the next couple of weeks and also hoping sales of the new Kailua Fireworks Coupon book will help,” explains Brook Gramann, Save Kailua Fireworks coordinator….

List of offers in coupon, more information on event can be found at www.kailuafireworks.com

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Deepwater bottomfish catch limits are reduced

The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council reduced the annual catch limit for 2011-2012 for seven prized species of deep water bottomfish in the main Hawaiian Islands by 6 percent from 346,000 pounds to 325,000 pounds.  The 6-percent reduction was set to make sure the quota was not exceeded, the council said. (HUH?)

SA: Fishery council questions proposal to move Hawaiian monk seals

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Camping to go Camping: City Camping Permits Create Long Lines – last chance before fee

Kiwini Vaitai and his cousins were first in line, waiting since Tuesday night.

"We kinda got suckered into it," said Vaitai, with a laugh.

The goal was a prime spot at Waimanalo Beach and they were expecting it to be tough to get.

"We always camp at that spot, but this is the first year we're camping there for this Fourth of July," said Vaitai.

By the time the permits were handed out at 8 a.m. Friday, the line snaked around the municipal building.

"This is normal during the summer," said city and county volunteer Toni Robinson, who wasn't surprised by the long line.

For years, the city has offered camping permits for free on a first come, first serve basis.

But now it's looking to put the application process on line, making it more convenient, but also would require a fee.

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Deflecting EPA Lahaina Injection well sanction could cost Maui millions

If the Maui County Council agrees to avert a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sanction of its Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility, it will cost taxpayers and developers at least $4 million to safeguard a potential drinking water source that has not been and likely won't be tapped for human consumption.

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Sniping begins over Hawaii county budget

“If I were the mayor, if I were seeking that type of cooperation which he strives for, or he says he does, anyway, I would have called a press conference and declared victory,” Hoffmann said. “I would have thanked the council for agreeing with him on 97 percent of the budget. That’s a pretty good record. I mean, instead, we’re going to resort to what I can only characterize as political theater.”

To override Kenoi’s veto, the council will need to schedule a special session and muster a supermajority in favor of keeping the budget amendments that were passed unanimously on June 1. If the override attempt fails, or if no such session is scheduled, then the mayor’s proposed budget becomes law on July 1.

Hoffmann doesn’t think the budget does anything illegal. But Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida, in a memo to the administration, objected to the council’s amendment that “essentially mandated” the mayor to find $5.8 million in savings. Kenoi himself has called this an “unprecedented accounting gimmick.” blablabla

VIDEO: Hoffmann on the budget: Cooperation 'sayonara'

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Convicted Killer/Sovereignty Activist to be evicted from Squat

"We have the fraud of this fictional communication, alien correspondence which is evidenced by the deed not in conformance to the Hawaiian laws," Lui told West Hawaii Today after a recent hearing. "The United States Supreme Court knew they no have jurisdiction to rule on Hawaiian laws therefore the law books that are referenced in our case are the law of the lands."

That argument didn't hold water with the judge.

"Even when construing the defendant's pleadings liberally, and in light most favorable towards them, defendants fail to set forth a sufficient basis to find that title to the property is in question," Florendo wrote in his order. "First of all, the 1840 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii no longer governs the Hawaii State Legislature and the various constitutions of the Kingdom do not bind the government of the state of Hawaii. ... Secondly, any defect in the process of conveyance pursuant to the laws of the Hawaiian Kingdom were subject to review and objection in Okuna v. Apiki et al. ... Finally, defendants have failed to present any other material facts in dispute to plaintiff's assertion that plaintiff is the owner of the property."

Convicted Killer’s Blogsite: http://www.moku-o-keawe-ohana.com/kawaa-blog/ (Complete with fake yellow and green Jawaiian flag)

1979: State v. Lui (Like many sovereignty activists, Simeloa is a convicted felon and ex-con.)


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Climategate Part 2—“Renewable Energy”

…yet another instance of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change embracing non-peer reviewed literature, ripe with conflicts of interest, and making no apologies.

In May, the summary of a new IPCC report was released with the bold claim that 80% of the world’s energy could be met with renewable energy by 2050. Evidently, the study cited to support this claim was co-written by Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council. (the Wind-farm operators trade organization)

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UCLA Prof: Media Bias adds 10% to Democrat Candidates’ total

Groseclose opens his book quoting a well-known poll in which Washington correspondents declared that they vote Democratic 93 percent to 7 percent, while the nation is split about 50-50. As a result, he says, most reporters write with a liberal filter. "Using objective, social-scientific methods, the filtering prevents us from seeing the world as it actually is. Instead, we see only a distorted version of it. It is as if we see the world through a glass—a glass that magnifies the facts that liberals want us to see and shrinks the facts that conservatives want us to see."

He adds: "That bias makes us more liberal, which makes us less able to detect the bias, which allows the media to get away with more bias, which makes us even more liberal."

"Supposedly conservative news outlets are not far right. For instance, the conservative bias of [Fox's] Special Report is significantly less than the liberal bias of CBS Evening News."

"Media bias aids Democratic candidates by about 8 to 10 percentage points in a typical election. I find, for instance, that if media bias didn't exist, John McCain would have defeated Barack Obama 56 percent to 42 percent, instead of losing 53-46."

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Fast and Furious: ATF funneled illegal guns into Mexico

The lethal fallout from a botched operation by the US Department of Justice which allowed almost 2,000 illegally purchased firearms to be transported from the streets of Arizona to drug gangs in Mexico has been laid bare in a scathing Congressional report, which concludes that it resulted in countless deaths.

A mixture of arrogance, over-confidence, and staggering ineptitude by the Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives [ATF] was outlined in a 51-page investigation by two Republican members of a House panel charged with getting to the bottom of what went wrong during a two-year operation called "Fast and Furious".

It tells how, between 2009 and this year, the ATF instructed agents to turn a blind eye to hundreds of AK-47 assault rifles, sniper rifles, and revolvers purchased from gunshops in Phoenix and en route to Mexico. They hoped to eventually recover them from crime scenes and build a complex conspiracy case that might take down the leaders of a major drug cartel.

In the event, the operation resulted in the arrest of a handful of small-time crooks. But it exacerbated an already-huge spike in violence on both sides of the border. Two of the guns allowed to "walk" into the hands of criminals were used in a shoot-out that killed a US border patrol agent, Brian Terry.

Carney: Obama "Did Not Know About Or Authorize" Border Gunrunning Operation

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NYT: 2 Top Lawyers Lost to Obama in Libya War Policy Debate

WASHINGTON — President Obama rejected the views of top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department when he decided that he had the legal authority to continue American military participation in the air war in Libya without Congressional authorization, according to officials familiar with internal administration deliberations.

Jeh C. Johnson, the Pentagon general counsel, and Caroline D. Krass, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, had told the White House that they believed that the United States military’s activities in the NATO-led air war amounted to “hostilities.” Under the War Powers Resolution, that would have required Mr. Obama to terminate or scale back the mission after May 20. (Or request Congressional approval)

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