Top News

Enlarge this image Michael Cohen, (right) Donald Trump's former lawyer, arrives at federal court, with his children Jake and Samantha, for his sentencing in New York on Wednesday. Julio Cortez/AP hide caption toggle caption Julio Cortez/AP Updated at 12:57 p.m. ET A federal judge sentenced Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen to three years in prison on Wednesday following Cohen's guilty pleas to a number of political and finance crimes. Those three years would be followed by three years of supervised release, and Cohen also is subject to forfeiture of $500,000, restitution of $1.4 million and a $50,000 fine. Cohen faced a potential maximum penalty of some 45 years in prison, according to information from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. Cohen had asked for leniency. The Justice Department asked a judge to give Cohen some consideration for the information that he has provided to prosecutors but argued that Cohen nonetheless still deserved a "substantial prison term." Cohen's sentence marked the latest drop in a precipitous fall from the elbow of the powerful man whom Cohen served for years, sometimes as a brutal but fiercely loyal fixer. Now, Trump's former lawyer has broken completely with his onetime boss and handed the president's political opponents new weapons that could have serious implications for Trump. First, Cohen told authorities that Trump had directed him to arrange payments to two women ahead of Election Day in 2016 to keep them quiet about sexual relationships they said they had had with Trump — allegations Trump denies. Federal authorities call that a violation of campaign finance law — one for which Trump also may be culpable. Later, Cohen admitted that he and other Trump aides continued negotiations with powerful Russians about a potential real estate project in Moscow well into the 2016 presidential campaign. Cohen had told Congress in 2017 that the talks ended in January, but his subsequent admission meant that Trump's aides had a channel open with Russia even as Trump was becoming the GOP front-runner and was denying he had any ties to Russia. Cohen "continues to tell the truth about Donald Trump's misconduct over the years," Lanny Davis, an adviser to Cohen, said in a statement issued after the sentence was handed down. "Michael has owned up to his mistakes and fully cooperated with Special Counsel Mueller in his investigation over possible Trump campaign collusion with Russian meddling in the 2016 election," Davis also said. "While Mr. Mueller gave Michael significant credit for cooperation on the 'core' issues, it is unfortunate that SDNY prosecutors did not do the same. To me, their judgment showed a lack of appropriate proportionality." Davis also suggested Wednesday that once the special counsel's Russia investigation was complete Cohen would "state publicly all he knows about Mr. Trump – and that includes any appropriate Congressional committee interested in the search for truth and the difference between facts and lies. Mr. Trump's repeated lies cannot contradict stubborn facts." Trump: Nothing to do with me Trump has dismissed Cohen's allegations. Although he has acknowledged arranging the so-called hush-money payments to one of the women, he denies the underlying allegations by both women of sexual encounters with him years before the 2016 presidential race. Trump called the payments a "simple private transaction" that had been elevated into something more serious by Democrats who are frustrated they haven't been able to find anything damaging to Trump in the Russia investigation. The president argued on Twitter that if Cohen broke the law in the payments, it had no meaning for him and might not even be a federal crime anyway. ....which it was not (but even if it was, it is only a CIVIL CASE, like Obama's - but it was done correctly by a lawyer and there would not even be a fine. Lawyer's liability if he made a mistake, not me). Cohen just trying to get his sentence reduced. WITCH HUNT!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 10, 2018 As far as the negotiations over a possible Trump Tower in Moscow, [...]
Wed, Dec 12, 2018
Source: Headlines -NPR Category: TOP NEWS
Enlarge this image A map provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows the region that felt Wednesday's magnitude 4.4 earthquake. U.S. Geological Survey hide caption toggle caption U.S. Geological Survey Before the sun rose Wednesday over Tennessee, some residents in the eastern half of the state got a wake-up call. But it wasn't a friend or partner shaking them awake, it was the very ground beneath their beds. A magnitude 4.4 earthquake struck at around 4:14 a.m. ET near Decatur, Tenn., about 150 miles southeast of Nashville. But Tennessee residents weren't the only ones to feel the temblor. More than 7,700 people (so far) have reported experiencing it, from Kentucky and northern Alabama to the western Carolinas. The earthquake made its presence felt even in Atlanta. "A lot of people were rattled awake — literally," Amy Vaughan, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey, tells NPR. She anticipates that, given the quake's mild intensity, it may have caused some structural damage or knocked objects off walls, but it likely did a lot more to shock residents than shatter their stuff. "I mean, this is probably not something people are used to." With good reason: Vaughan says that since 1973, this is only the sixth earthquake greater than magnitude 4.0 to affect the seismic zone around the southern Appalachian Mountains. And it was the second-largest on record in eastern Tennessee, behind only a magnitude 4.7 quake 45 years ago. This morning's M4.4 earthquake near Decatur is the second strongest on record in East TN, according to the USGS. The strongest was a M4.7 near Maryville in 1973. #earthquake— NWS Morristown (@NWSMorristown) December 12, 2018 It is not unusual, however, for such a relatively small earthquake to be felt so intensely and so widely — at least, it's not unusual when speaking of earthquakes east of the Rocky Mountains. "Not all magnitudes are created equal," Vaughan points out. Seismic waves travel more efficiently through the older, denser rocks of eastern North America, and thick deposits of sediment further amplify the shaking. And fewer buildings in the East are made to withstand potential earthquakes. "A magnitude 5.8 earthquake in 2011 in Mineral, Virginia, was felt up to 600 miles from the epicenter. Tens of millions of people in the eastern United States and southeastern Canada felt this earthquake," the USGS explains. "For comparison, a magnitude 6.0 earthquake in 2014 in Napa, California, was felt only as far as 250 miles from the epicenter. Despite the Napa earthquake releasing about twice as much energy as the Virginia earthquake and causing much more damage near the epicenter, it wasn't felt nearly as far away." In and around Tennessee, at least, the greater range also offered a greater opportunity for snarky comments on the Internet. We'll just leave you with a few of favorite quips shaken loose by the earthquake. We'll rise from the ashes. #earthquake #Atlanta pic.twitter.com/U7ci7wjcvn— EightB1ts (@EightB1ts) December 12, 2018 y'all feel somethin? #earthquake pic.twitter.com/lmq1RADS7n— Bianca Gunnz (@biancalgunnz) December 12, 2018 Me and my cat during the earthquake #atlanta #earthquake pic.twitter.com/BRb5EQfWOw— Kristina W (@NaVelleWrites) December 12, 2018 Let's block ads! (Why?) [...]
Wed, Dec 12, 2018
Source: Headlines -NPR Category: TOP NEWS
Enlarge this image Jobs with CBP have been notoriously difficult to fill, in large part because of the polygraph exam applicants are required to undergo. John Moore/Getty Images hide caption toggle caption John Moore/Getty Images A scathing report by the Office of the Inspector General revealed that a consulting company hired by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to fill thousands of new jobs to satisfy President Trump's mandate to secure the southern border, is "nowhere near" completing its hiring goals and "risks wasting millions of taxpayer dollars." The audit found that as of Oct. 1 CBP had paid Accenture Federal Services approximately $13.6 million of a $297 million contract to recruit and hire 7,500 applicants, including Customs and Border Protection officers, Border Patrol agents, and Air and Marine Interdiction agents. But 10 months into the first year of a five-year contract Accenture had only processed "two accepted job offers," according to the report. The inspector general called for immediate action. The report is titled: "Management Alert — CBP Needs to Address Serious Performance Issues on the Accenture Hiring Contract." It alleges the consulting company — which CBP agreed to pay nearly $40,000 per hire — failed to develop an "efficient, innovative, and expertly run hiring process," as the company pledged to do when it was awarded the lucrative contract. Instead, the probe concluded the company "relied heavily" on CBP's existing infrastructure, resources and experts in all of its recruiting. "We are concerned that CBP may have paid Accenture for services and tools not provided," the report states. "Without addressing the issues we have identified, CBP risks wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on a hastily approved contract that is not meeting its proposed performance expectations." According to the report, CBP has bent over backward to accommodate Accenture. When it became clear the company would miss a 90-day deadline to reach the "full operation phase" outlined in the agreement, the agency modified the contract granting Accenture another three months to ramp up operations to meet the terms of the contract. CBP also allowed the company to use the government agency's applicant tracking system when Accenture failed to deploy its own, leading to another contract revision. The result of both changes meant that as recently as July 1, CBP staff continued to carry out a "significant portion of the hiring operations," the OIG noted. And because there was no way to track which applicants were recruited through Accenture's efforts, CBP agreed to "give credit and temporarily pay Accenture for a percentage of all applicants." The OIG's conclusion: "CBP must hold the contractor accountable, mitigate risk, and devise a strategy to ensure results without additional costs to the Government." The Department of Homeland Security's internal watchdog launched the investigation after receiving complaints about Accenture's performance and management on an OIG hotline. A spokeswoman for Accenture Federal Service — a subsidiary of Accenture, a global security consulting firm based in Ireland — didn't answer questions from NPR, but instead emailed a statement that said the company remains "focused on fulfilling our client's expectations under our contract." Meanwhile, Henry Moak, a senior CBP official, disputed the OIG's findings in a letter dated Nov. 28. Moak argued that Accenture has successfully "created a hiring structure, tailored technology solutions to support and manage the hiring process" and has "recruited thousands of new applicants." Further, Moak claimed that the suggestion that the changes in the contract were due to a failure on Accenture's part is "inaccurate." He said the changes were requested by CBP "because it offered better overall efficiency in our mutual hiring activities." Additionally, for any cutbacks in Accenture's responsibilities, the agency "made equitable adjustments to decrease the cost-per-hire." Accenture was awarded the contract in November 2017 as a way to help CBP meet the Trump administration's Border Patrol staffing demands — a week after taking office Trump signed an executive order calling for an additional 5,000 Border Patrol and 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Border Patrol jobs with the CBP have been notoriously difficult to fill, in large part because of the polygraph exam applicants are required to undergo. The AP reported that 2 out of 3 applicants fail the exam. CNN reported: "The US Border Patrol, the CBP's law enforcement arm at the [...]
Wed, Dec 12, 2018
Source: Headlines -NPR Category: TOP NEWS