U.K. pushes Obama for power to serve warrants in U.S.

David Cameron (left) and President Obama (right)

David Cameron (left) and President Obama (right)

The Obama administration is in talks with British allies to give them access to electronic data on American servers.

The British domestic security service and MI5 are hungry for the authority to issue wiretap orders on companies like Facebook or Google. Negotiations are underway to see just how much data the U.S. could give them. Officials told the Washington Post that any deal would be mutually beneficial to intelligence agencies, which has privacy advocates worried.

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“What it means is they’re going to allow a country that doesn’t require independent judicial authorization before getting a wiretap to continue that practice, which seems to be a pretty fundamental constitutional protection in the United States,” said Eric King, and visiting lecturer in surveillance law at Queen Mary University of London, the newspaper reported Thursday. “That’s being traded away.”

Any deal agreed upon between the White House and the U.K. would need Congressional approval.

California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told Reuters on Friday that any agreement would need to ensure “British orders do not cover U.S. persons or individuals within the U.S., do not permit bulk collection, and have due process protections that meet high standards.”

An official who spoke on condition of anonymity to USA Today told the paper that rapid advances in technology have left governments scrambling to catch up.

“These communications are happening with the speed of light, and law enforcement agencies need to keep pace with these communications,” the official said.

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A draft of the negotiating document seen by the Post stipulated that records of U.S. citizens would not be disclosed if they appeared during U.K. investigations.

NSA leaker Edward Snowden revealed in June 2013 that tens-of-millions of Americans’ electronic records and “metadata” were being swept up by the federal government. The scandal eventually resulted in Obama shutting down the controversial program in November 2015, but not before the extreme measures the government will take to glean intelligence was exposed.

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Signs posted at school: Staffers carry guns

(MUSKOGEE PHOENIX) OKAY — New signs posted on the grounds of Okay Public Schools announce an “Armed School Employees” policy in place.

The Okay Public Schools Board of Education passed an “Armed School Employees” policy in August. On Monday, the district publicized that policy with signage in front of the school.

“The signs are more or less a deterrent,” Superintendent Charles McMahan said. “We don’t want to be a soft target.”

McMahan said his administration looks for ways to keep students safe and secure, particularly since the Okay Police Department was disbanded in December 2014. Although Wagoner County sheriff’s deputies are available, McMahan said it is “seconds, not minutes, that matter.”

Animal shelter blasted for euthanization by gunshot

(KOKI-TV) A local animal shelter is getting a lot of attention after Bristow residents discovered dogs there are being euthanized by gunshot.

Because of the size of the city, Bristow is legally allowed to euthanize however officials see fit, but state law does not clarify what is humane.

The mayor confirmed that three dogs, including a pit bull, were put down by gunshot in the last week.

Oklahoma law allows municipalities under 10,000 people to use any humane method to put animals down, but it does not define “humane.”

Ex-State IG: Hillary will never be indicted

Hillary Clinton (Photo: Twitter)

Hillary Clinton (Photo: Twitter)

A former State Department inspector general who served in that capacity from 2005 to 2008 said Hillary Clinton will never be indicted for her email server scandal because A, the State Department itself would be implicated and B, she’s being shielded from prosecution by four very powerful Democratic Party women.

Howard Krongard, in an interview with the New York Post, said Clinton was never actually assigned a state.gov email address, and that in itself shows the department was aware and at least tacitly approving of her private email system.

“That’s a change in the standard,” he said, referring to the fact she wasn’t given the same state.gov email account other secretaries received, the New York Post reported. “It tells me that this was premeditated. And this eliminates claims by the State Department that they were unaware of her private email server until later.”

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Krongard also said it was highly unusual for the inspector general of State position to remain unfilled for the entire tenure of Clinton’s term at the department, from 2009 to 2013.

“This is a major gap,” he said. “In fact, it’s without precedent. It’s the longest period any department has gone without an IG.”

One role of an inspector general is to ensure government entities aren’t committing fraud, waste and abuse; another, however, is to make sure government officials aren’t violating communications security provisions.

“It’s clear she did not want to be subject to internal investigations,” Krongard said, the New York Post reported.

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Currently, FBI officials are investigating whether Clinton and her deputies duplicated and moved top-secret and classified information from the State Department’s network to her unsecured private account. And federal officials have honed in on three of Clinton’s aides: her chief of staff, Cherul Mills and her deputy chiefs, Huma Abedin and Jake Sullivan.

“They are facing significant scrutiny now,” Krongard said, in the media outlet.

But, he added, “it will never get to an indictment,” the New York Post reported.

Why not?

Referrals for criminal prosecution would have to go from the FBI to the U.S. Justice Department, and “will have to go through four loyal Democrat women” who won’t allow the process to go forth, Krongard reportedly said.

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Those women, he said, were Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell, the head of the criminal division at the department, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and even White House aide Valerie Jarrett.

Krongard said the case would likely fade, but even if those four women took the referral, the most they would pursue would be a plea-bargain for misdemeanor counts, the New York Post reported.

Huckabee suspends campaign for president

(ABCNEWS.GO) — Mike Huckabee announced that he is suspending his campaign for the 2016 presidential race Monday night.

Since announcing his run on May 5, 2015, in his hometown of Hope, Arkansas, Huckabee ran a campaign centered on social conservatism, protecting entitlement programs from cuts and completely revamping the federal tax system.

While he struggled for attention and donations in a crowded Republican field, his controversial comments, at times, attracted attention.

Supremes set date to decide ‘what is sin’

The United States Supreme Court

The United States Supreme Court

It’s a case in which the U.S. government has been accused of claiming the authority to “determine what is in fact a sin.”

The critics, meanwhile, have accused the U.S. Supreme Court of tilting the playing field in advance.

But the Little Sisters of the Poor case against the Obamacare law is moving toward a resolution with the U.S. Supreme Court announcing arguments have been scheduled for March 23.

The nuns who run elder care centers worldwide are contesting the Obamacare requirement that their employee insurance plans cover abortion pills.

The Becket Fund, which is working on behalf of the nuns, said the high court will decide whether the Little Sisters of the Poor and other faith-based ministries can be forced to change their health-care plans “to offer drugs that violate their religious beliefs when those same drugs could be made available through healthcare exchanges.”

“After promising that the Little Sisters’ religious beliefs would be protected, the government created a new regulation requiring the Little Sisters change their healthcare plan to offer drugs that violate Catholic teaching,” the group explained. “One third of U.S. workers are employed by secular companies (e.g., Exxon and Visa) that the government has exempted from having to provide these same drugs in their plans because those employers did not try to update their health plans under ACA and are ‘grandfathered.’”

In the lower courts, the Little Sisters have argued that the requirement to participate in the government’s plan to distribute contraceptives violates their exercise of religious freedom. While an earlier Supreme Court opinion protected some for-profit companies from the law’s requirement, nonprofit organizations were left at risk.

The accusation that the government had become the arbiter of religious beliefs came in a friend-of-the court brief filed by the Thomas More Law Center on behalf of dozens of client.

“If this appeal is lost, the government becomes the head of every religious denomination in the country by its assumed authority to determine what is in fact a sin,” said Thomas More’s president, Richard Thompson.

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The organization’s brief argues that neither the government nor the Supreme Court “can determine whether an act does or does not violate a person’s religious beliefs.”

“Rather, the Supreme Court must accept the non-profits’ assertions that the notification requirement is indeed against their religion.”

To accept otherwise, the brief says, “is to supplant the church and the Bible with the government, allowing the Supreme Court and the government to interpret [tenets] of faith.”

“This slippery slope would subject all religious exercise to the whim of the government’s approval,” it said.

“The court is not the arbiter of sacred Scripture and cannot determine whether the notification form and letter are attenuated enough from the provision of contraceptives that they do not substantially burden petitioners’ religion,” the brief said. “Delving into this inquiry requires the court to interpret petitioners’ religious beliefs on the morality of the different levels of complicity with sin.

“Therefore, the court can only determine whether petitioners are being compelled to do something that violates their faith – here, filling out the notification form or writing a notification letter to HHS, both of which trigger the dissemination of contraceptives and abortifacients to their employees in connection with their employee health plans.”

It was the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that, according to the brief, assumed the authority of determining what is sin.

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Another recent brief explained: “Perhaps the apex among a host of acts of governmental arrogance in this case was displayed not by HHS, but when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit acted as if it had ecclesiastical powers of absolution, having decreed that by just signing a paper, Little Sisters would not be ‘morally complicit in providing contraceptive coverage.’”

The brief said one would expect that “on the issue of who the God of Heaven and Earth will hold ‘morally complicit,’ it would be the Little Sisters which would have the greater expertise than a federal judge.”

WND also reported when another brief charged that the Obama administration adopted the “secular amorality” of a committee from the Institute of Medicine in demanding the abortion pill coverage.

And it charged that the high court now has “tilted the playing field” by excluding First Amendment arguments from its discussion of the mandate that religious employers cover abortion pills in their insurance plans.

“It can be seen that this court, by excluding any briefing of the Free Exercise issue in this case, has tilted the playing field – making it virtually impossible for the petitioners to achieve a meaningful victory,” said the brief submitted by the attorneys at William J. Olson P.C. and the United States Justice Foundation on behalf of the USJF, Eberle Communications Group, Public Advocate of the U.S., Citizens United Foundation, Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall and others.

The Supreme Court has agreed to rule on whether the government’s interest in a private medical group’s “overarching objective of promoting and facilitating a secularized sexual lifestyle for women without the need to incur any out-of-pocket costs to prevent or terminate an unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease” warrants ordering religious employers to violate their First Amendment-protected right to exercise their religious beliefs, the brief notes.

The brief explains there are First Amendment principles supporting the Little Sisters and others, but the Supreme Court said the only arguments that would be reviewed concern the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which establishes conditions under which the government can make a demand that violates religious beliefs.

“This court’s refusal to consider the First Amendment constitutional issues takes the process of constitutional exclusion one step beyond that which occurred last year in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores,” the brief says.

In the Hobby Lobby case, the court decided the government could assign the cost of abortions demanded by employees to taxpayers rather than the company’s health insurance program, citing the RFRA law but excluding First Amendment discussion.

It said the law’s requirements for a “compelling interest” and a “least restrictive” method were not met, providing only a narrow window of protection.

“The protection of religious liberty promised by RFRA proponents was dramatically overstated. … [The law] actually makes it the law of the United States that, under certain circumstances, as in the seemingly unreviewable opinion of a majority of the nine unelected lawyers then sitting on this court, the government ‘may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion’ when the government’s claimed interest really mattered,” the breif explains.

The brief says the court “should revise the questions presented on which certiorari is granted, and ask the parties to participate in supplemental briefing on the Free Exercise Clause issue. Unless this court pushes this ‘reset button,’ it could easily reach a decision that RFRA provides no statutory protection for petitioners, forcing them to be morally complicit in facilitating abortion, even though a decision reached under the Free Exercise Clause would have demanded the opposite result.”

Such a conclusion, the lawyers warned, “would deserve no respect from the American people.”

The Supreme Court already has ruled several times on Obamacare, the first time redefining the “fees” in the law as “taxes” to avoid violating the Constitution. The justices also ruled that insurance exchanges “established by the state” includes federal as well as state exchanges, meaning subsidies can be granted in states that chose not to establish an Obamacare exchange.

However, the court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that religious employers cannot be required to participate in some parts of the law.

The justices recently refused to look into the fact that although the Constitution requires tax-revenue bills to start in the House, Obamacare was written and launched in the Senate. It was adopted by only Democrat votes in both the House and Senate, but it is expected to raise hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes.

Collapse of shale gas production has begun

(ZEROHEDGE) – The U.S. empire is in serious trouble as the collapse of its domestic shale gas production has begun. This is just another nail in a series of nails that have been driven into the U.S. empire coffin.

Unfortunately, most investors don’t pay attention to what is taking place in the U.S. energy industry. Without energy, the U.S. economy would grind to a halt. All the trillions of dollars in financial assets mean nothing without oil, natural gas or coal. Energy drives the economy and finance steers it. As I stated several times before, the financial industry is driving us over the cliff.

Very few Americans noticed that the top four shale gas fields combined production peaked back in July 2015. Total shale gas production from the Barnett, Eagle Ford, Haynesville and Marcellus peaked at 27.9 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in July and fell to 26.7 Bcf/d by December 2015.

Rubio warns against ‘mass deportation’

MUSCATINE, Iowa (AP) — Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio said Friday that if he is elected president, he will not look to deport 12 million people in the U.S. illegally, and will instead propose solutions to accommodate those who have no criminal record.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Rubio, campaigning in Iowa ahead of the state’s leadoff presidential caucuses, said that the realistic approach to America’s problems with illegal immigration is to round up only criminals, while finding ways to accommodate the rest.

“We’re not going to round up and deport 12 million people,” Rubio said, speaking on his campaign bus from eastern Iowa. “Criminals can’t stay. Felons, people who are dangerous — they are not staying.”

Trump-less GOP debate opens with Trump bashing

 

(Photo: Twitter)

(Photo: Twitter)

What would happen at the Republican debates without Donald Trump?

America is now learning the answer to that question – and whether Trump’s Republican rivals will wisely use their final opportunity to grab the spotlight before Iowans head out to caucus. The debate began with most of the candidates talking about Trump’s absence.

The first question from Fox News’ Megyn Kelly: “Donald Trump has chosen not to attend: What message does that send to the voters of Iowa?”

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz replied, “Let me say, I’m a maniac, and everyone on this stage is stupid, fat, and ugly. And Ben, you’re a bad surgeon.”

Cruz said, “now that we’ve gotten the Donald Trump portion out of the way,” I want to thank everyone for allowing the candidates to appear in Iowa.

“If Donald engages in insults or anybody else, I don’t intend to reciprocate,” Cruz added.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said the 2016 presidential campaign is “not about Donald Trump.”

“He’s an entertaining guy, he’s the greatest show on earth,” Rubio said, arguing that Republicans should be more focused on stopping Hillary Clinton from winning the White House.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said, “I kinda miss Donald Trump. He was always a little teddy bear to me. Everybody else was in the witness protection program when I went after him.”

Further into the debate, Cruz accused the moderators of trying to pit the candidates against one another – asking questions that provoke each contender into attacking rivals.

“If you guys ask one more mean question, I may have to leave this stage,” he said.

Cruz argued that the most important determination Americans will make is who is best qualified to be commander in chief. He said Fox should focus on those issues rather than attempting to get everyone to attack one another.

With the nation only four days from the first votes of the 2016 election season, Republican candidates are appearing in Iowa at a high-stakes debate that doesn’t include the front-runner for GOP nomination. The following seven candidates appeared at the debate: Cruz, Bush, Rubio, Dr. Ben Carson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

Cruz, Trump’s main rival in Iowa, is widely expected to be the main target on stage. But Trump, as the absent GOP front-runner, may also become the prey in the GOP contest.

The Republican debate began Thursday evening at 9 p.m. EST at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa. Fox’s Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace – all of whom hosted the fireworks-filled Aug. 6 event watched by 24 million viewers – are moderating. More recent debates, like the one hosted by NBC, have generally received closer to 10 million viewers. Tonight’s event is being broadcast live on Fox News and livestreamed online (without cable authentication).

The situation presents a unique opportunity for GOP candidates who haven’t captured much of the spotlight due to the long shadow cast by Trump. The question remains: Can they break out of the pack by generating a memorable moment that will leave a lasting and positive impression with undecided voters?

Trump is appearing instead at a veterans event alongside GOP rivals Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. It is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. EST at the Sheslow Auditorium at Drake University and will be aired on CNN and livestreamed on CBS and on YouTube (here and here).

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The latest Monmouth University Poll of likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers has Trump ahead of the pack by seven points, with 30 percent support. Sen. Ted Cruz has 23 percent; Sen. Marco Rubio, 16 percent; Dr. Ben Carson, 10 percent. The remaining candidates received less than 5 percent.

Fox is teaming up with Google and YouTube to ask the candidates questions.

As WND reported, among the YouTube “stars” selected to ask questions is illegal alien “Dulce Candy,” who came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1994, and Muslim activist Nabela Noor, who supports Democratic Party candidate Bernie Sanders.

In national polling, Trump was surging ahead of the rest of the GOP pack at 36.2 percent in the RealClearPolitics average Thursday. Cruz came in at 19.4 percent. Rubio garnered 10.8 percent. Carson had 8.2 percent. Bush remained at 4.8 percent. Christie came in at 3.8 percent. Kasich, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Paul and Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum all received less than 2.6 percent.

‘Happy hour’ debate: Hillary for ‘the big house’

Fox also hosted an undercard or “happy hour” debate at 7 p.m. EST featuring the following GOP candidates who failed to qualify for the main event due to low performance in the polls: former Fiorina, Huckabee, Santorum and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore.

The Trump-Fox drama even trickled into the undercard debate.

At that event, Santorum was asked: Is Monday night your last stand?

Santorum reacted to the question by complaining that there was no media coverage of the undercard debate.

“This is what the media has been doing over the last year to segregate and take Iowans out of the process,” he said.

Santorum said Iowans have an opportunity not to vote for “an entertainer” like Trump. He said news pundits were so concerned about whether Trump would show for the prime-time debate, they failed to address real issues that matter.

Pressed for his opinion of Trump, Santorum blasted, “I’m not going to throw mud at anybody on this stage tonight. I’m not going to throw mud at anybody later. I’m not going to attack Trump.”

Fiorina echoed some of Santorum’s concerns, saying she believes there’s a “yawning chasm” in the election is between what the media discuss and what Americans think is important.

“This is why we have to take our government back. The pundits think they own this country. The media think they own this country,” Fiorina said. “Citizens, the game is rigged. Take our country back.”

Fiorina also took on Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi lies, accusing her of sending a message to jihadists that “it’s open season” on Americans.

Fiorina also ripped into Clinton, saying the former secretary of state will do anything to gain power and hold onto it.

“If my husband did what Bill Clinton did, I would have left him long ago,” Fiorina said. “So here’s the deal: Hillary Clinton has been climbing the ladder to try and get in power. And here now she is trying for the White House. She’s probably more qualified for the big house, honestly. She’s escaped prosecution more times than El Chapo. Perhaps Sean Penn should interview her. The woman should be prosecuted.”

She concluded by saying the fact that Clinton hasn’t been indicted “tells us a lot about our justice system.”

Charges in death of woman who sat in chair for 6 months

(WYFF) Two relatives of an 82-year-old Greenville woman who authorities say died after she sat in the same chair for six months have been charged with neglect, according to arrest warrants.

Warrants obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press show that David Scott Howell (picture below) and Carole Beam Howell (mugshot not avaliable) were arrested Jan. 21 and charged with abuse or neglect resulting in the death of a vulnerable adult.

Barbara Beam died Jan. 2, 2015, at her Greenville home. She lived with her sister, Carole Howell and David Howell, Carole Howell’s husband.