Breaking: Top IRS official to plead the Fifth
There’s another twist in the ongoing scandal revolving around Internal Revenue Service staff improperly screening for conservative organizations applying for tax-exempt status.
Lois Lerner, the head of the exempt organizations division of the IRS who was scheduled to appear before the House Oversight committee tomorrow, will invoke the Fifth Amendment and refuse to answer questions.
From a letter her lawyer sent to committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.):
“She has not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation but under the circumstances she has no choice but to take this course.”
Stay tuned to the ever-evolving IRS mess at Politics Now.
Photo: Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg
A ‘monster’ tornado tears through central Oklahoma
Though the death toll following one of the worst tornadoes in history has ticked down to 24 after reports yesterday said as many as 51 had been killed, the scene remains grim in Moore, Okla.
Photos: Steve Gooch / Associated Press, Brett Deering, NOAA / AFP/Getty Images, Gene Blevins / Zuma Press / MCT
Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church
Libby Phelps was born into the controversial Westboro Baptist Church, famed for its inflammatory rhetoric against homosexuals and protests against military funerals. At an early age, she was thrust into the church’s us-versus-them mentality:
In the beginning, Libby saw the picketing as a play date with her cousins. Every week the children carried signs with messages of damnation and trudged around in a circle in Gage Park until a pattern was worn into the grass.
Sometimes in the summer it got so hot that Libby’s mother would wrap a wet washcloth around her neck. In the winter, getting their snow gear on took longer than the picket.
“I didn’t even know what a homosexual was,” Libby said.
Over the years, Libby protested an AIDS quilt tour, the Academy Awards, Jenna Bush’s wedding, soldiers’ funerals, actor Bernie Mac’s funeral, President Obama’s 2008 inauguration and more.
It wasn’t until she was 25 that she managed to break free from the church, severing her family ties in the process. The church, which has just 70 members, is heavily comprised of descendants of Fred Phelps, who was Libby’s grandfather.
Read more on Libby’s life since defecting from the church in our latest Column One feature.
Photos: Megan Phelps-Roper, Michael S. Williamson / The Washington Post
Brace yourself for another asteroid flyby
To quote science reporter Deborah Netburn:
It’s 1.7 miles long. Its surface is covered in a sticky black substance similar to the gunk at the bottom of a barbecue. If it impacted Earth it would probably result in global extinction. Good thing it is just making a flyby.
At approximately 1:59 p.m. PDT May 31, Asteroid 1998 QE2 will make a close (by galactic standards) pass by our home planet. Coming within just 3.6 million miles of Earth, the asteroid will be so close that many of its features will be visible on radar.
For more details on the asteroid, including its possible origin, at Science Now.
Photo: NASA / JPL / Caltech
Background on the Yahoo-Tumblr deal
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has been looking to revitalize Yahoo since hopping aboard last year, examining several companies for possible acquisition. But it wasn’t until early this morning that Yahoo’s big push to gain the trust of a younger online audience was finally confirmed with a $1.1-billion purchase of Tumblr.
But many of the Tumblr faithful are concerned about Yahoo’s shaky track record in properly handling fresh acquisitions:
Yahoo has a history of buying promising young companies only to let them waste away. Acquisitions under previous Yahoo chiefs such as Geocities, an early social networking site, and Flickr, the popular photo sharing website, were long neglected within the company.
Mayer, aware of the widespread concerns of an audience that contains many users who weren’t even alive when Yahoo began, maintains that Tumblr will be independent:
We promise not to screw it up. Tumblr is incredibly special and has a great thing going. We will operate Tumblr independently. David Karp will remain CEO. The product roadmap, their team, their wit and irreverence will all remain the same as will their mission to empower creators to make their best work and get it in front of the audience they deserve.
Read more on the Yahoo-Tumblr deal via tech reporter Jessica Guynn, or sound off below on whether Yahoo’s move is brilliant, or doomed to be a bust.
Dorothy Gambrell illustrates everything you wanted to know about California’s prison labor program, but were afraid to ask. They can only sell inmate-made goods to the state, and if the state cuts back, those prisoners lose their jobs. Jeez, in jail AND laid off? Can this prison sentence get any worse????
Prison labor, once best known for making license plates, has grown to 57 factories doing such work as modular building construction, toner cartridge recycling, shoemaking and juice packaging. Read more at Bloomberg Businessweek
test reblogged from pacificstand
Handing out Abercrombie clothes to shame a self-absorbed brand
Recent USC graduate Greg Karper, along with a friend, has taken to the street of Los Angeles to voice his disgust with comments from Abercrombie Chief Executive Michael S. Jeffries that have recently resurfaced.
“Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
To counter that “exclusionary” bend, Karper has purchased bundles of used Abercrombie clothes to hand out to the homeless of L.A., and is hoping that more people will do the same.
The Guardian has a multi-part, video heavy media set on climate refugees in America. I’d argue that the title “first” is a misnomer and would point to the coastal communities in Texas, New Orleans, and the Carolinas who’ve been retreating from the coasts for several years. But, the point is made - that sea-level rise and coastal erosion is much more aggressive than at anytime in history. Thus, tens of thousands of people are at immediate risk, especially the poor.
The above is one minute.
The people of Newtok, on the west coast of Alaska and about 400 miles south of the Bering Strait that separates the state from Russia, are living a slow-motion disaster that will end, very possibly within the next five years, with the entire village being washed away.
The Ninglick River coils around Newtok on three sides before emptying into the Bering Sea. It has steadily been eating away at the land, carrying off 100ft or more some years, in a process moving at unusual speed because of climate change. Eventually all of the villagers will have to leave, becoming America’s first climate change refugees.
Some great work here!
test reblogged from climateadaptation
Another rough day for the White House
Today continued the rough-and-tumble week for the Obama administration, following…
- Friday’s sudden discovery that the IRS had disproportionately screened conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
- The ongoing controversy over the administration’s handling of last year’s terrorist attack in Benghazi.
- And, finally, the sudden revelation yesterday that the Justice Department had secretly seized months of phone records from the Associated Press.
Attorney General Eric Holder today recused himself from the investigation into his own department’s probe of multiple AP reporters and editors, while announcing an extensive investigation into the IRS matter.
Holder also defended the seizure of AP records, claiming the AP’s leaked information posed a danger to the public:
“It put the American people at risk and that is not hyperbole. And trying to determine who is responsible for that requires aggressive action.”
White House Jay Carney refused to comment on the AP scandal, citing an ongoing investigation, but did say the White House, to his knowledge, had no idea about the IRS screening until just a few weeks ago.
Photos: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Mark Lennihan / Associated Press
“You don’t have to get my permission; go destroy them.”
Nader Haj Kadour, a classically-trained painter, always wanted to paint animals, landscapes and spoke to the Times at one point while painting a butterfly.
But for decades, the main subjects of his art were the late President Hafez Assad and his son Bashar, who is currently embroiled in the bloody Syrian civil war.
Their faces have dominated walls, storefronts and car windows all over Syria, a visual declaration of loyalty to the dictators. Their images — sometimes partially hidden behind sunglasses, other times in military uniform but always stern and slightly foreboding — were the ubiquitous reminders that Big Brother was watching.
Now, with the country in the midst of a longstanding civil war, and Kadour no longer under the thumb of the government, he works with rebels to paint caricatures of the Assads, and welcomes rebel fighters to tear down his representations of the brutal Syrian president and his family.
Read the full story in our latest Column One feature.
Photos: Raja Abdulrahim / Los Angeles Times
Allegations of brutality, coverup by police in death of Kern County man
David Sal Silva, 33, a father of four, was declared dead last week after being beaten by Kern County sheriff’s deputies. The grisly event was caught on tape by two individuals present, but in a move that has riled the area ever since, police detained them until they seized the footage.
The scene, according to witnesses, was grisly. Ruben Ceballos, who was woken up by the sound of screaming only to find deputies pummeling Silva described it:
“I saw two sheriff’s deputies on top of this guy, just beating him. He was screaming in pain … asking for help. He was incapable of fighting back — he was outnumbered, on the ground. They just beat him up.”
From another witness’ call to 911:
“The guy was laying on the floor and eight sheriffs ran up and started beating him up with sticks. The man is dead laying right here, right now. I got it all on video camera and I’m sending it to the news. These cops have no reason to do this to this man.”
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood told the Times that it was too early to reach any conclusions on the matter, and that the footage was taken to preserve the integrity of the evidence. But local station KERO-TV Channel 23 has broadcasted a security feed showing figures assaulting a figure on the ground.
Photos: Henry A. Barrios / The Californian
Justice Department secretly taps into AP reporters’ phone records
In a surprising declaration a short time ago, the Associated Press revealed that the Justice Department had obtained two months of phone records tied to numerous reporters and editors in various cities, in what the news organization is calling a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.”
The reason for the government’s actions, which the AP was alerted to in a letter Friday, are as of now unknown.
From the Associated Press’ story on the emerging scandal:
In all, the government seized those records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown but more than 100 journalists work in the offices whose phone records were targeted on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.
AP’s President and CEO, Gary Pruitt, issued a strongly-worded letter to Attorney General Eric Holder:
We regard this action by the Department of Justice as a serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news. While we evaluate our options we urgently request that you immediately return to the AP the telephone toll records that the Department subpoenaed and destroy all copies.
Photo: Molly Riley / Associated Press